Saturday, December 24, 2011

1 week with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus - first impressions

Today is one week since I've bought the first Android phone shipped with Ice Cream Sandwich, the new major OS update that has the ambition to unify the UI and the OS of Android smartphones and tablets.

The reasons that induced me to buy the Galaxy Nexus where many but the main were:

  • a brand new OS (new major Linux kernel, competely new UI)
  • some unique hardware features (720x1280 pixel screen), new sensors (NFC, barometer)
For a developer like me this new HW/SW configuration represents new challenges and potential opportunities and I wanted to be involved in such things as soon as possible.

Today I want to share my impressions as user, but in the following weeks I'll try to post some more tecnhical stuff as well.
The first thing I've noticed when I've switched on the phone is the new UI. It is really well made, very smooth. They have done a great job graphically. The screen is huge (4.65''), but the phone fits well in my jeans pockets, since it is also very slim (I think is 8mm thick) and the surface is a bit curved.
The things I like more are the special effects on photos and videos (expecially the runtime effects that can be applied to mouth, nose and eyes). But I'm sure the "wow effect" feature is without any doubt the face unlock feature. It is simply astonishing. Every time I face unlock my phone, I think "how can this be possible" and actually forget why I wanted to unlock it.
The battery life has also been improved: I often have 50% of power left when I switch it off at night, after a normal daily usage.
Another great thing is that starting with  Android 4.0, apps can be fully installed on the SD card, and this is a fundamental improvement that will allow to download hundreds of apps. This was a feature that was lacking in Android 2.x and maybe it is the main complaint I have to move against the previous version of the OS.
Lets' talk about the negative things I've noticed so far: first of all, it is a development phone; you get the updates quickly, but often the release is not as stable as one may hope for. Last week I had to manually reboot the phone a couple of times. The 4.0.1 release has a bug that prevents me to work with blank NFC tags, because the phone expects to work with already NDEF-formatted tags. I hope in a fix in the near future. Another downside I have noticed is that simetimes the UI becomes a bit sluggish. Many discussions have been made on this topic (see this interesting post by Andrew Munn and the reply made by Android guru Dianne Hackborn ) but i think the main culprit here might be the super huge display: the Galaxy Nexus shares the same HW configuration of the SGS 2, but it has twice the pixels of such phone. Plus, Android 4 has introduced some very nice animations (e.g when you switch between the home screen and the apps/widget screen) that might introduce some lags.
In conclusion, this is certianly a great phone, probably the best and most technologically advanced smartphone you can get today.

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