Thursday, December 22, 2011

Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless)

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Home Reviews Smartphones Samsung smartphones Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) Review User Reviews Specifications Check Coverage Compare CNET Editors' Rating 4.5 stars Overall score: 9.0 (4.5 stars)


Average User Rating 4.5 stars

29 reviews

As shown: $649.99

See manufacturer site for availability Set price alert Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) - Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) - Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) - Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) - Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) Play Video Scroll Left Scroll Right .overviewContent .mediaGallery .prodPhotoWrap { display: block !important; } Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) - Video Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) - Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) - Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) - Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) - Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) CNET Editors' Review Want it ( ) Got it ( ) Had it ( ) CNET Editors' Rating 4.5 stars Outstanding Overall score: 9.0 (4.5 stars) Design: 9.0 Features: 9.0 Performance: 9.0 Reviewed by: Jessica Dolcourt and Kent German Reviewed on: 12/14/2011 Updated on: 12/15/2011 CNET Editors' ChoiceDec 11

The good: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus marries the power of the Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS with the speed of Verizon's LTE network. The phone's beautiful screen and internal performance are top-notch.

The bad: The Galaxy Nexus lacks a slot for expandable memory, and the 5-megapixel camera isn't Samsung's best. There's no support for Google Wallet, and several Ice Cream Sandwich features take some getting used to.

The bottom line: As the first U.S. phone with Ice Cream Sandwich, Verizon's Samsung Galaxy Nexus takes a coveted, solitary step forward. However, once other premium handsets receive the updated Android OS, the Galaxy Nexus will lose some of its competitive edge.


Editors' note: We recently reviewed the unlocked version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus intended for European markets. Due to the phones' similar build and components, applicable portions of that review will also be used in this Verizon-specific evaluation.

Photo gallery:
Samsung GalaxyNexus

When Samsung announced the Samsung Galaxy S II line for every major carrier except Verizon, we knew something was up. That something is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Verizon's ace-in-the-hole 4G LTE smartphone, and the first of its kind in the U.S. to introduce Google's Android 4.0 operating system, better known as Ice Cream ... Expand full review

Editors' note: We recently reviewed the unlocked version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus intended for European markets. Due to the phones' similar build and components, applicable portions of that review will also be used in this Verizon-specific evaluation.

Photo gallery:
Samsung GalaxyNexus

When Samsung announced the Samsung Galaxy S II line for every major carrier except Verizon, we knew something was up. That something is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Verizon's ace-in-the-hole 4G LTE smartphone, and the first of its kind in the U.S. to introduce Google's Android 4.0 operating system, better known as Ice Cream Sandwich.

In the weeks since reviewing the unlocked version of the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich (henceforth known as ICS), we've come to really enjoy both the handset and the OS, and the two of them together.

The Verizon version has erased at least two complaints--its Galaxy Nexus is substantially weightier than the unlocked GSM version and it doubles the internal storage capacity. Yet, no phone is perfect, and the Galaxy Nexus has its flaws. We'll get to those later, but they include camera performance that was less than Samsung is capable of delivering, no expandable memory, a disjointed OS that requires some study, and no support for Google Wallet.

On the plus side, LTE speeds are impressive. When you add up the screen, the exciting (but still not totally perfect) ICS operating system, the nice in-hand feel, and the fair cameras, you have one compelling phone that vies with the likes of the Motorola Droid Razr and the HTC Rezound, Verizon's other two killer phones of the season, though you should also consider the drawbacks.

What's different
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus has a few notable differences on Verizon. First, it runs on the network's 4G LTE network. Second, it's thicker: 0.37 inch versus 0.35 inch thick for the unlocked version. (The LTE chip accounts for the extra girth.) It's also a heavier 5 ounces versus 4.76, which felt especially light for the phone's size. It still isn't an astoundingly hefty device, but I appreciate the more solid build. Fourth, it has 32GB of internal storage versus 16GB. The battery is also larger, 1,850mAh versus 1,750mAh for the unlocked version. Finally, there are a few Verizon applications preinstalled, and no support for Google Wallet, one of Google's main NFC scores.

A few years ago, we used to joke that Nokia kept building the samephone design while slightly tweaking it for each subsequent model.These days, however, we're more likely to apply that jest to Samsung.Ever since the company started making Galaxy devices last year, manyof them have looked a lot alike. Indeed, the Galaxy Nexus has much incommon with its predecessors, especially last year's NexusS (a Galaxy device if not by name).

You'll see the same dark color, tapered edges, and "contour" shapethat's supposed to follow the curve of your head. The handset is large(5.33 inches long by 2.67 inches wide) so it may be too much for someusers to handle. Samsung, however, squeezed off every inch it could tomake it as thin as possible (0.37 inch for this LTE version).

The Galaxy Nexus fits comfortably in the hand (as long asyou have large paws), but it feels too fragile.

It's eye-catching, yes, but like other Samsung phones before it,the Galaxy Nexus also looks and feels like it's just on the wrong side of fragility. Luckily, the thicker Verizon version is also stouter, weighing 5.1 ounces, unlike its trimmer unlocked cousin at 4.76ounces. Here again we fear that we have to be extra careful not todrop it even once on a hard surface. A case is an option, but thatwould fatten up the phone. The "hyperskin" material on the back coveradds some texture, but it's not quite the Kevlar material that's onthe Motorola Droid Razr.

On the right side you'll find a power control/lock button and threemetal contacts that will be used for a future dock accessory. Over onthe left side is the volume rocker and on the bottom end are theMicro-USB charge/syncing port and the 3.5mm headset jack. We'd preferif the jack were in a different place. The camera lens and flash siton the top end of the back cover.

Display and interface
The display measures 4.65 inches, though on the home screen only 4inches of that space is usable given the programmable shortcut traythat sits at the bottom (the tray also shows up on some, but not all,internal screens). Even with that quirk, the display is plenty big fora smartphone, but not quite big enough for ICS. We'll explain in theICS section.

With a 1,280x720-pixel Super AMOLED resolution, the HD display iswonderfully bright and vivid with eye-popping colors. Everything looksgreat, from graphics to photos to menu icons, and you can customizethe five home screens with the Google Search bar, menu icons, andwidgets. ICS brings new folders and new widgets, but we'll get tothose later. The main menu shows the traditional icons, and internalmenus have the familiar list structure. This is a clean, elegantdesign that especially shines in the texting and e-mail apps, whereit's dead simple to append an attachment, audio, video, and photos.Bravo, Google.

Like other Nexus devices, the Galaxy Nexus has a pure Androidinterface that isn't hidden by a manufacturer or carrier skin. It'sgreat for users and developers alike as it lets Android's true gloryshine through. Developers also will love the dedicated "Developeroptions" in the main menu, which offers access to such features asshowing CPU usage, setting a background process limit, and activatinga visual feedback for the touch screen. Truly, personalization optionslike these set Android apart.

Though we were hoping that it would be different, the Galaxy Nexusstill has that slight laggy effect that we've seen on other Androidphones. Indeed, you'll notice it here when scrolling through lists. Itis better than we've seen on previous models, so it doesn't ruin thetouch interface, but you do notice the difference when switching froman iOS or Windows Phone 7 device. You can change the brightness,backlight time, and font size. The display also has an accelerometer,which you can turn off, a proximity sensor, and a light sensor.

At the very bottom sit three touch controls for moving backwardthrough a menu or feature, returning to the Home screen, and openingyour list of recently viewed screens. Yes, you lose the dedicatedsearch button that's on earlier Android phones, but that's a traitthat the Galaxy Nexus inherited from Honeycomb (the search field isavailable in almost every native app and home screen). And as inHoneycomb, these ICS controls will fade in some apps to three pointsof light, until you tap them again. What's more, the controls rotate90 degrees when you reorient the phone.

Touch this new navigation button to see the apps yourecently opened.

Otherwise there are no physical controls on the front of the phone.Yet, you'll notice a glowing indicator light when you have a call andreceive messages, e-mail, or notifications. Besides it being rathersoothing, we're just glad it's there since that was a big omission onthe Nexus S.

The virtual keyboard takes up the whole width of the display,whether you're using it in portrait or landscape mode. The primaryscreen has three rows of alphabetic keys with main punctuation justabove. On the bottom row there's a huge spacebar smack in the centerwith a voice-activation key just to the left (when entering an e-mailaddress an "@" key takes its place). You'll need to click through tothe additional keyboard for more punctuation and numbers, but thekeyboard is spacious and easy to use. Unfortunately, it does notsupport Swype. The dial pad shows huge numbers, but tiny text.

Basic features
The phone book size is limited by the available memory. Each entryholds multiple fields for phone numbers, as well as e-mail and streetaddresses, a company name and title, an instant-messaging handle, abirthday, a nickname, a URL, and notes. You can pair contacts with aphoto and organize them into groups. Unfortunately, pairing individualcontacts with one of the 25 polyphonic ringtones is another nonobviousfeature. You'll have to open the person's profile "card," then tapinto the Menu to set the ringtone or send all that person's calls to voice mail.

Of course, the Galaxy Nexus has all of the other essentials you'dexpect from a smartphone, like text and multimedia messaging, e-mailsyncing (both Gmail and not), calendar syncing (both Google and not),a calculator, an alarm clock, and a news and weather widget. Alsoonboard are Bluetooth 2.0 (with A2DP), Wi-Fi (802.11 a/b/g/n), and adownload and file manager. We're not pleased, however, that eventhough ICS supports USB mass storage, theGalaxy Nexus does not. However, it does let you transfer images and connect as a media device. The speaker-independent voice commands letyou do just about anything using only your voice. They work fine aslong as you speak clearly and use the phone in a place without a lotof background noise.

Google features and apps
Google fans have plenty of Google apps and services to use andexplore. The list is no different from the handset's Nexus ancestors,but they're worth repeating: Google Talk, YouTube, GoogleSearch (with voice), Google Latitude, Google Places, Google+, GoogleMaps with Navigation, and Google Messenger.

Maps also gets a little more 3D treatment with ICS. Zoom in far enough(with two fingers) and you'll see the buildings start to get some 3Dshape. Glide two fingers up and down the screen to tilt the screen fora better view.

The headset jack and Micro-USB port sit on the phone'sbottom end.

GPS features performed well, though we were a little wary given theGPS issues that have plagued previous Samsung Galaxy devices. On thefirst try it located us about a block away from CNET's offices, whichis normal. On the second try, however, it pinpointed our locationprecisely. For the best experience, you should activate Wi-Fi and theGPS location feature in the Settings menu. The Galaxy Nexus has agyroscope and a compass and a big leg up over the iPhone: it supportsreal-time turn-by-turn voice directions out of the box. The built-inbarometer could be partially to thank for that, as its purpose on the Galaxy Nexusis to assist with GPS locking.

With a pure Google experience, you have the freedom to usewhichever apps you want through the Android Market. Almost. Verizon adds a few apps of its own, including a backup assistant and MyVerizon. While you can disable these to make the icons disappear, you won't actually be able to uninstall the apps. Just keep in mind that theVerizon's Galaxy Nexus has 32GB. Yes, that's a lot, but we say"just" because the Galaxy Nexus does not have an external memory cardslot.

Camera, video, and music
The main camera has a 5-megapixel resolution, but you also can shootin 3 megapixels, 1.3 megapixels, QVGA, and VGA. There's also afront-facing 1.3-megapixel camera for photos and video calls.

The shooters come with a fair, but not overwhelming set of editingoptions you can use while taking the photo (more options are available in thephoto gallery). You'll find a digital zoom, face detection, locationtagging, four white-balance choices, seven exposure settings, and four"scene" modes (action, night, sunset, and party). The flash on therear side is powerful to a fault. In dim environments it can wash outthe lighter colors. You can set the flash to auto, keep it always on,or turn it off completely.

ICS brings a host of camera improvements, which we'll discuss in moredetail below. We'll say here, though, that the lack of shutter lag isremarkable. In fact, when took the first photo, we didn't realize thatthe shutter had closed. Believe us when we say it's really that quick.Nice work, Google.

We're glad to see Google investing in photo-editingtools.

More interesting and useful in our eyes is the full suite of built-inediting tools in the photo gallery: cropping, red-eye reduction, faceglow, straightening, rotating, flipping, and sharpening. There arealso effects you can add like warmth, saturation, and sepia tones. Intotal, there are 16 color and style effects, and another four optionsfor adjusting lighting. Google could have easily stopped short andcontinued to let the manufacturers add their own filters, but onboardediting makes the Android OS that much stronger on its own.

The camcorder shoots clips in three resolutions: 1080p HD, 720p HD,and 480p. You can adjust the white balance, you can use the flash as arecording light, and ICS added zooming while recording and severaltime-lapse intervals, from 1.5 seconds up to 10 seconds. Exactly howmuch you can record will depend on the available memory.

If you really want to get creative, the camcorder has several effectsthat will add some zaniness to your videos. Some of the options arenothing but fun--the sunset, disco, and space effects will add abackground to your clips--but others are weird and pretty freaky. Forexample, a "big nose" effect will give your subject an enormoushonker, "big mouth" will do the same for the smackers, and "big eyes"will give your friend vaguely disturbing bug eyes straight out of aLady Gaga video. Here's one great hidden feature: you can tap the screen while recording a video to capture a still shot.

Photo quality on the Galaxy Nexus was mixed. Our standardstudio shot showed muted colors.

Photo quality was mostly satisfying, but color accuracy was uneven. Insome shots the brighter hues were faded, while in other pictures, wehad too much saturation. There was also some questionable focusingfrom time to time. You can see some comparisonshots with the iPhone 4S, Samsung Skyrocket, and HTC Vivid.

Videos were a mixed bag. HD clips were crisp and bright, though quickmotions were blurry. Lower-res clips are usable in a pinch, butnothing appropriate for your wedding. The Galaxy Nexus also has anintegrated Movie Studio app for creating your own video projects.

When you're not using the camera, the Galaxy Nexus has a Slacker radioapp and a music player (MP3 and AAC files) that's linked in with thenew Google Music. Features aren't extensive, but it's easy to use, andloading music on the phone is a seamless process, either wirelessly orusing a USB cable. We'll explore Google Music in a future post.

We love the new video rental store that operates through the AndroidMarket. We haven't plowed through the store completely, but theselection appears to be broad and the prices ($3.99 for a standardtitle and $4.99 for HD) are fair. In any case, an easy way to getvideos is something Android has badly needed for a long time. GoogleBooks also gives you access to plenty of titles.

The basic shell of the Web browser is the same, though ICS adds"Request desktop site," which opens the full version of a Web site andsyncs with your bookmarks. You also can save Web pages offline, viewyour browsing history, share a page, and find text on a page, and useup to 16 tabs. And in true Android fashion, you can change thebrowser's settings down to the smallest detail. All of this adds up tomake a useful and powerful mobile browser that's very much like oneyou'd use on a computer.

Another new feature is an "incognito" mode that allows you to browsepages without them appearing on your history or search bar and withoutleaving traces like cookies. Third-party apps have done this before,but now Google has baked it right into the browser.

Even with all the new features, the browser user experience doesn'tfeel too different. The interface isn't cluttered or difficult to learn. Both mobile and full versions of Web pageslook great. There's pinch-to-zoom multitouch, you can change the textsize, and you can change how far you'd like to zoom when youdouble-tap.

Ice Cream Sandwich screenshots

Ice Cream Sandwich
By all accounts, Ice Cream Sandwich is the Galaxy Nexus' starattraction. More a full-on revamp than update, an OS bump this deepand broad brings with it a truckload of new goodies that (aswe've said before) make Android 2.3 Gingerbread look like a stalecookie. However, Google has somehow missed the cherry on top. But moreon that later.

Ice Cream Sandwich is so packed with such a laundry list of detailedchanges that it's easy to drown in the minutiae. As a result, we'regoing to keep this review focused on the bigger-picture features thatare new to ICS, including that crowd-pleasing favorite, Face Unlock.Later, we'll expand the review after some more time getting to knowthe OS more fully. As for the rest of the additions andenhancements--of which there are many--we think the pictures in the screenshotsgallery will be worth several thousand words.

New look and feel: Say goodbye to the Android you thought youknew. Google has all but transformed the visuals, leaving almost noscreen as it was before. Instead, it blends many Android Honeycombtablet sensibilities--the navigation buttons, tabs for recent apps,darker colors, and a more assertive look--with reworked Android flair.

The Galaxy Nexus has a thin profile and a contour designthat's slightly curved. On the left side, the power control restsabove three metal ports for a future dock accessory.

Google's goal is to unify the smartphone and tablet designs, sothat Android looks like Android at any screen size. From a featuresstandpoint, it seems to work. From a design position, much of the newlook is simple, elegant, grown-up, and, dare we say, sexy. Just lookto the new menu button and menu lists, the redesigned notificationspull-down, the highly organized settings menu, and the photo-editingGallery app for examples.

Yet, there's also a side of Ice Cream Sandwich that suffers fromconflicting design ideologies, like a Honeycomb Mini that's alsotrying to make sense as a smartphone OS.

Interface and home screens: Right off the bat, the default homescreen is just gorgeous. It's the first place you'll encounter a newtypography called Roboto--itlooks crisp and clean as promised, but unless you're looking forchanges, most users won't notice a huge difference.

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From the top to the bottom of the main home screen, other ICS changesinclude a transparent search bar, a stylized clock, and a round icondenoting a folder that's been filled with Google services. You cancreate and name your own home screen folders by dragging app icons ontop of one another. The implementation is easy to use and looksterrific.

The new home screen is just gorgeous and clean, and we lovethe folders.

Resizable widgets are another Ice Cream Sandwich addition. You candrag and drop them onto the home screen from the app tray (morelater), and press and hold the widget to surface the selectionhandles. Most of the time, a widget will resize when you drag it onthe X or Y axis, but some widgets, like the one for the photo gallery,don't resize. Overall, the home screen's look is clean and familiar,but also new, and it pushes Android into edgier, less cutesyterritory.

Sharp-eyed smartphone fans will notice that Google appears to haveborrowed some touches from a few of its competitors. The main menucontrol (the only icon in the shortcut tray that isn't editable) looksvery BlackBerry, for example. Also, in another touch from Honeycomb,the pop-up menu control disappears entirely and is replaced by a verycleanly designed menu button that looks like a triple-tiered colon(that's a page from the Windows Phone 7 design book). We have togripe, though, that this control moves to the top or bottom of manyapps, which can be hard to track. It would be better if it wereconsistently at the top.

The main menu has a simple, easy-to-use interface.

The apps launcher looks essentially the same as Gingerbread's, thoughit has a slightly different layout and a fancy graphical transition asyou swipe horizontally through your apps. We really like that theMarket app is persistently accessible on the top of the screen, andthat the app launcher has expanded to include widgets. However, the"tiled look" for widgets that Google proudly showed off at the IceCream Sandwich launch event looks cluttered and confusing.

Screenshots: If you like this screenshottour of Ice Cream Sandwich, you can thank, well, Ice CreamSandwich, and its new native screenshot capability in particular. Lateto the game compared with Apple's iOS (and even some Android phones,like the SamsungGalaxy S II), the feature is nevertheless a boon for appdevelopers, for us journalist types, and for anyone who wants todiagnose an error or save a snap of a game for bragging rights.

The trick is pressing the hardware combination of the volume-downbutton and power button in the right way to trigger the nativescreenshot tool. Unfortunately, it took time to get the feel for it onthe Galaxy Nexus. The action was awkward, and not always successful,especially at first. The ease of snapping screenshots will vary by ahandset's individual proportions.

The new panorama mode works well, but is it worth turninginto its own mode?

Cameras and video: The panorama feature in the Ice CreamSandwich camera was one of the first secrets to leak. SeveralAndroid-bearing phones have seen the feature before, but only as anaddition to a Samsung or HTC camera, never as a blood-and-bones partof Android. Now, Google has made it front and center, one of yourthree camera "mode" choices, in addition to the standard camera andvideo.

As helpful as it is that the software instructs you as you shoot(telling you to slow down, for instance), we wonder how many peoplewill take panorama shots often enough to warrant its prominence in theapp. At any rate, the tool worked smoothly in our tests.

The joint photo and video gallery gets a few tweaks, most notably the"magazine tile" look we also saw with widgets. This time, the photosare even more cluttered, a barrage of thumbnails with little roombetween them to let your eyes take it in. In addition, when you openan image, you'll also see a ticker of other gallery images along thebottom. The utility of being able to scroll through them is nice, butthe visual noise it creates is not.

The newly redesigned calling screen puts contacts frontand center, but may also make them blurry.

People and calling: Google has completely reworked the lookand feel of its Contacts app--down to the color and layout--and welike it. Photos are more prominent, a good thing so long as they'rehigher-resolution or you don't mind a little graininess. The drop-downmenu lets you set the ringtone or send all calls to voice mail. Goneis the alphabet on the right-side rail, though if you touch the scrollbar while scrolling quickly through your contact list, you'll still beable to skip through your contacts.

When you place a call, the photo enlarges. The colors here arebold, with strong color blocking, a deliberately hipper look than whatwe've been seeing for the friendly green Android. While everythingfeels more open and breezier, it also doesn't feel like it visuallymirrors the rest of the Ice Cream Sandwich design. This may not botheryou on a day-to-day basis and it doesn't impede usability.Nevertheless, it's an oddity of (in)cohesion that shouldn't exist in apolished OS.

The virtual keyboard is big and we like the clean design.

One thing that is missing is the ability to long-press a contact'sname while you're in the phone view to see options for sending atext--something you could do in Gingerbread. Instead, Google hasreplaced this with a different kind of behavior. Now, to text, call,and even e-mail contacts from any native communications app, just tapthe photo icon. The logic is easy to follow once you remember it, butit isn't immediately apparent.

Google+ integrates with ICS, of course. As a perk for your Googlesocial network, contacts you have starred as "favorites" will show upwith a high-resolution image, so long as "sync contacts" is enabled inthe separate Google+ app. (Warning: using a lot of high-res photos canaffect data usage.)

E-mail: Many small changes add up to a smarter, cleaner, morestylish, and overall improved Gmail experience. Fresh icons and spaceto read certainly help, but it's the new way that your contacts'e-mail addresses (and photos) pop up that we love, along with theability to drag and drop highlighted text along the screen withoutfirst using onscreen controls to cut and paste. Gmail will now alsolet you search offline messages dating back to 30 days.

If you misspell a word, you'll have the usual options to let Androidautocorrect, or to pick from an autosuggested word right below thecomposition window. With Ice Cream Sandwich, you can also tap themisspelled word (it'll be underscored in red) and choose from aselection of related choices, or even add a new word to thedictionary.

Facial unlocking is the fun, but not particularly secure,way to unlock your ICS phone.

Facial unlocking: We've known since last May that Google'sfacial-tracking software would make it into Ice Cream Sandwich one wayor another, and here it comes in the form of Face Unlock, a securityoption that lets you unlock the phone by holding it up to your facefor a few seconds. It's one of those quirky features that's fun toplay with, but even Google's copywriters warn in the software thatit's less secure than a PIN or pattern, adding that someone who lookslike you may succeed in unlocking your phone.

In fact, we were able to hold up a photo of a face (taken with the HTCRezound) to the Galaxy Nexus to unlock the phone. If thefacial-recognition engine fails, however, you'll still have a four- tonine-digit PIN or a traceable pattern as a fallback.

We should note that neither a pattern nor facial unlocking works if yourIT group requires a PIN in order for you to access your corporatee-mail. For security purposes, every time you disable Face Unlock,you'll have to set it up again in order to use it. It worked in thedozen times we used it.

The back of Galaxy Nexus has a 'hyperskin' material. Thecamera lens and flash sit up top.

Android Beam: One of the most interesting new features inIce Cream Sandwich, Android Beam uses NFC to transfer things likemaps, contact information, and the name of a running game or appbetween two compatible phones within the same proximity. To make itwork, go into the Settings, and find the More menu under Wi-Fi. Makesure NFC is enabled, and that Android Beam shows that it's ready totransmit. Learn more, and watch a video of AndroidBeam in action.

Visual voice mail: Remember the visual voice mail demo fromthe ICS launch event in Hong Kong? So do we. We have not been able totest this yet for the simple fact that the Google Voice app in AndroidMarket does not yet use the compatible developer API. So stay tuned.

Extra stuff: Other ICS additions include the ability toswipe alert messages away one by one from the pull-down notificationsmenu, recent apps list, and Internet bookmarks (they call it"gestures"); double-tapping the clock on the home screen to set analarm; new Gmail messages that flash the name of the sender in thenotifications bar; and more options for deflecting unwanted incomingcalls.

For now, at least, the Galaxy Nexus is a Verizon exclusive.

Where Ice Cream Sandwich soars, falls short
Nobody can accuse Google's Android team of putting forth a weak orinsubstantial OS update. ICS has tweaked Android's style from head totoe, giving it a far bolder identity than ever before, often with apolished look. For the most part, Google has succeeded in splicingtogether Gingerbread and the tablet-centric Honeycomb OSes to create asingle experience that can work identically on both phones andtablets. It can't have been easy merging two OSes with differentidentities, and unfortunately the seams sometimes show.

On the one hand, the OS has surfaced many previously buriedfeatures, like adding the Market icon on the top of each screen in theapp tray, making the search bar persistent, making it easy to call uprecent apps via a navigation control, and moving widgets to the apptray where they can be seen. The long-press will still unearth morefeatures at times, but Google is moving away from that commoncomplaint overall.

On the other hand, there's that recurring issue of cohesion andoccasional clutter (which the tablet design will surely resolve forlarger devices). Ice Cream Sandwich is a patchwork of visual themes,and one that lacks flow throughout the entire experience. The eleganthome screen and notifications menu have one motif, the crowded photoand widget tiles another, and the high-contrast address book andcalling screens a third. It's as if three separate groups of designerscame together in the 11th hour. No, the sometimes disjointed look andfeel don't detract from Android's usability (unless you find itconfusing), but it's also not a problem you see in iOS, Windows Phone,or BlackBerry OS 7, as tame as it is.

Moreover, even as Ice Cream Sandwich simplifies some actions, it alsoadds other features that aren't obvious. True, Android always tuckedaside hidden features to reward power users, and we're not talkingabout Easter eggs. For instance, there's no indication that you canswipe away notifications in the pull-down menu, and that action isn'tpersistent across the OS.

From left, the Galaxy Nexus, the Motorola Droid Razr, theiPhone 4, and the Samsung Galaxy S II.

It also isn't clear that the grid numbers you see next to a widget inthe app tray (1x1, 2x4) correspond to a grid that shows up on the homescreens when you move around app icons and widgets. When you answer aphone call, it isn't until you press the incoming ring button that youcan drag it to answer, hang up, or reply in a text. Our point is this:though Ice Cream Sandwich solves some problems with the learningcurve, it also creates a few others.

The first piece of good news is that these are all issues that Googlecan tackle in successive updates, while also working to make the backend more powerful still. The second piece of good news is that there'splenty of room for invested hardware makers like Samsung, HTC, andMotorola to continue creating custom graphical shells to run on top ofAndroid. Ice Cream Sandwich is no longer plain old vanilla, and wesuspect its design will be more polarizing, not less.

At the end of the day, Ice Cream Sandwich does succeed in movingGoogle forward, and establishing it as having staying power in themobile OS space. As conflicted as the OS' personality may be, it'salso emblematic of Google leaving less of its cultivation to thehandset makers, and taking a stronger stand on defining its 'Droidypersonality.

The 1.2GHz dual-core processor is a big step above the Nexus S'. Menusopened instantly and most features took a couple of seconds to powerup. Even the photo gallery, which took about 5 seconds to open on theNexus S, was up and running in 2 seconds. The phone also kept upduring a day of heavy use. We switched between applications quicklyand without any hiccups.

When we tested the Galaxy Nexus next to the iPhone 4 we got varyingresults. Some apps, like messaging and maps, for example, openedfaster on the Galaxy Nexus, while other features, such as the camera,opened faster on the iPhone. And to make things even more confusing,it was a tie between the phones for the settings menu. We'll divedeeper into the processor over the next few days.

Call quality
We testedthe dual-band (CDMA 800/1900) Samsung Galaxy Nexus in SanFrancisco using Verizon's network. Call quality was respectable on thewhole. The volume was plenty loud and voices sounded natural, though a little garbled. At one point, volume temporarily dropped off on a call. However, we appreciated the otherwise clear line. On their end, callers said volume was great and the line was clear. Although we sounded a tad flat, we were easy to understand.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon) call quality sampleListen now:

Speakerphone volume was slightly lower, but there was no background noise. Voices did acquire a tin can effect, however: a little hollow, echoey, and tinny. For their part, callers agreed about the slightly lower volume and unmistakeable speakerphone quality, but also thought it was a relatively positive experience, without any background noise.

Data speeds
The Galaxy Nexus supports Verizon's 4G LTE network, which promises download speeds ranging from 5Mbps to 12Mbps. Speeds were impressive in our early tests, consistently ranging from 6Mbps up to 17Mbps using Ookla's app. The New York Times' mobile-optimized site loaded in 7 seconds, with the full site arriving in just 6. CNET's own mobile site was ready to use after just over 8 seconds.

We're still checking with Samsung to get the rated talk and standby batterytimes. Of course, we'll also conduct official tests with CNET Labs. According to FCC radiation tests, the Galaxy Nexus has a digital SAR of 0.63 watt per kilogram.

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is unmistakably an Android phone. It'spowerful, you can tinker with it down to its core, and it offers somefeatures the iPhone can't touch. Without a doubt, Android fans willsee the Galaxy Nexus that way and they're likely to savor every morselof Ice Cream Sandwich. Without ICS, the phone is more or less just aNexus device, but with it you're looking at a sleek and powerful smartphone that soars on Verizon's network.

As we said, ICS is a big leap forward in making Android friendlier toentry-level users while satisfying the pros. Google has struggled tofind that balance in the past, with some devices being too simple andothers being too geeky. The trouble is, though, that iOS and WindowsPhone, with their manual-not-required interface and attention to theuser experience, are waiting to scoop up consumers who find the newAndroid to be too much. By taking a step forward, ICS will win a fewof them back, but it also keeps a foot in Android's cluttered past.

Editors' note: This review has been updated with the FCC's digital SAR rating for the Galaxy Nexus.

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Editor's rating: 4.0 out of 5 Kent German Kent German is a section editor for mobile device reviews at CNET. When he's not testing the newest handsets on the market, he's blogging about wireless news, appearing on the Dialed In podcast and watching planes land at the airport (yes, really). In his On Call column, he answers reader questions and gives his take on the rapidly changing mobile industry.

Follow @KentGerman Jessica Dolcourt Jessica Dolcourt pits phone against phone in the ongoing epic battle of the latest and greatest smartphones. Before that, she sat in judgment of smartphone and desktop apps. In her personal life, Jessica remains tireless in her quest for the world's most perfect cheese.

Follow @jdolcourt User Reviews See all user reviews Average User Rating 4.5 stars out of 29 user reviews Rating Breakdown 5 star: 27 4 star: 0 3 star: 2 2 star: 0 1 star: 0 My Rating 0 stars click stars to rate product CNET Community This product is on 7 user lists. Add to my list Most Helpful User Review

5.0 stars 7 of 7 users found this review helpful

"Unlike some I actually own the phone -- It's great!" Dec 15, 2011, 2:57 pm By jayrleblanc

Pros Speedy phone, great resolution, ICS is very pretty and definitely a better than Gingerbread. Camera takes nice photos and certainly better than I was expecting due to pre-release reviews.

Cons Wish handset was made of metal but it does seem very sturdy.

Summary Awesome phone and great experience with version 4 Android!

Summary: Awesome phone and great experience with version 4 Android!

Most Recent User Reviews (Showing 2 of 29 reviews) 5.0 stars ""The best SmartPhone in the world"" Dec 17, 2011, 11:38 am By tommynator 5.0 stars "The Best Phone in the Market Today" Dec 17, 2011, 10:22 am By gauts15 Thanks for your submission! Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community. Write a Review Quickly sign in with: or Log in or create an account to post a review. You are logged in as . Please submit your review for Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon Wireless) 1. Rate this product: 0 stars 2. One-line summary: (10 characters minimum) Count: 0 of 55 characters 3. Pros: (10 characters minimum) Count: 0 of 250 characters 4. Cons: (10 characters minimum) Count: 0 of 250 characters 5. Summary: (optional) Count: 0 of 15000 characters Add Your Opinion The posting of advertisements, profanity, or personal attacks is prohibited. Click here to review our site terms of use.

Where to Buy MSRP: $649.99 See manufacturer site for availability Set price alert Specifications See full specs Quick Specs Service provider: Verizon Wireless Cellular technology: CDMA / LTE Combined with: With digital camera / digital player @import ""; Sponsored Premier Brands on CNETVerizon WirelessT-MobileBlackBerrySprint Phones .mad_center {text-align:center;} .mad_center div, .mad_center table, .mad_center iframe, .mad_center a img {margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;} Where to Buy MSRP: $649.99 See manufacturer site for availability Set price alert Related Stories Galaxy Nexus heading to Best Buy on December 11? Buy the Samsung Galaxy Nexus now or wait for something better? Google, Samsung unveil Ice Cream Sandwich-powered Galaxy Nexus Galaxy Nexus coming to the U.S. in December, if not sooner Canada's top carriers readying Galaxy Nexus Cell Phone buying advice Cell Phone Finder

Buying a cell phone is more than a matter of choosing a handset--you also have to pick a service provider, or carrier, as well. Each carrier in the United States offers a different selection of technologies and services, so it's important to think about your needs when making a choice. In this guide, we will provide you with all the necessary tools for making the best choices for your needs.

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