Samsung and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) introduced the Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone, the first handset equipped with Google’s Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” operating system.
The collaborators unveiled the Galaxy Nexus, which has a 4.65-inch, HD 720p (1280×720) Super AMOLED display and is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual-core chip, at an event in Hong Kong Oct. 18. The device, which runs on 4G LTE and HSPA+ networks, was originally set to debut at the CTIA show in San Diego Oct. 11, but was delayed out of respect for the passing of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.
The phone will be available in the United States, Europe and Asia in November and will gradually roll out to other markets. Pricing is not yet available, though judging from the price tags of its high-end predecessors such as the Motorola Droid Bionic and Droid Razr, the Galaxy Nexus could likely cost $299 with a two-year deal.
From a hardware perspective, while the screen is large and long for a smartphone, the device is only 8.94 millimeters thin. It also moves past the contoured design of last year’s Samsung Nexus S phone to use a rounded shape. The device features a “Hyper-skin” enclosure on the battery cover to reduce slippage from the palm to the ground. The handset also has 1GB of RAM, 16GB of memory expandable to 32GB and a 1,750 mAh battery for long life.
As a flagship Android device, the handset offers the “pure Google” experience, which means those who purchase the phone, which has not been priced or assigned to carriers, will be the first to receive software upgrades and new applications.
But the Galaxy Nexus will be best known for being the first ICS phone in the market, one year after the Nexus S was the first Android 2.3 Gingerbread gadget put in play. ICS combines some of the holographic user interface features from the Android 3.0 Honeycomb build, including new multi-tasking and notifications, as well as software navigation buttons usually reserved for tablets.
“With Ice Cream Sandwich, our mission was to build a mobile OS that works on both phones and tablets, and to make the power of Android enticing and intuitive,” Google Senior Vice President Andy Rubin wrote in a blog post Oct. 18. “We created a new font that’s optimized for HD displays and eliminated all hardware buttons in favor of adaptable software buttons. We also dramatically improved the keyboard, made notifications more interactive and created resizable widgets.”
The Android Webkit-based browser has also gotten a speed boost, and includes a better tab manager and the ability to sync bookmarks with Google’s Chrome desktop browser.
ICS’ Face Unlock employs facial recognition to let users unlock their phone by smiling at the device. Android Beam uses near field communications to let users share applications, Web pages and YouTube clips by tapping their phones together.
The new People app allows users to flip through high-resolution photos of contacts such as friends, family and coworkers, and check their status updates from Google+ and other social networks. The new, 5 megapixel, rear-facing camera includes single motion panorama mode and 1080p video capture and playback. There is also a 1.3 megapixel front shutter for video calls.
To see the Galaxy Nexus and ICS in action, check out this demo video, which features the Android mascot robots racing on Google-colored motorcycles that recall the 2009 science fiction movie “Tron: Legacy.”