Google and Samsung’s joint presentation of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and Android Ice Cream Sandwich just wrapped up in Hong Kong, and I’ve got to say that while much of it was expected, I was overall pretty impressed, especially with the huge huge changes with this latest version of Android.
Starting off with the phone itself, this is a Google phone in all its glory just like previous Nexus phones, only moreso.
The Galaxy Nexus is a gorgeous device, with the same curved body as previous Nexus phones, a crisp, high definition display and a 4.6” screen with a teeny tiny bevel of only a few millimeters. It’s got a 1280x720 AMOLED display, a 1.2GHz dual-core processor, 5 megapixel rear camera (with LED flash), a 1.3 megapixel front-facing cam, 1080p video recording and playback, a newfangled panorama mode, a 3.5mm headphone jack and Bluetooth 3.0. You’ll also find USB 2.0, 802.11a/b/g/n WiFi, an embedded NFC module, accelerometer, compass, gyro, proximity sensor and even a barometer — yeah, a barometer. Finishing things out, there’s 1GB of RAM, 16 or 32GB of internal storage space and a 1,750mAh battery. As for radios? There’s an HSPA+ model on tap, while an LTE version will “be available depending on region.”
As I was writing this, IHCer DrWak1 asked a question about battery life, and no, I didn’t really hear anything about battery life other than that the AMOLED display uses very little power.
And for those of you who were maybe hoping for an 8mp camera, from what I saw during the presentation, the 5mp camera and 1080p video looks spectacular and you probably won’t even notice a few fewer pixels.
I recently switched to an iPhone after 3 years of Android phones, having gotten one right after they came out, and I was perfectly happy to drop Android for the simple reason that all the gigahertz and jiggawatts in the world don’t mean shit if the phone is difficult or unintuitive to use on a regular basis. If the phone feels cheap and plasticky and the OS is dull and uninspiring, it doesn’t matter how fast the hardware is. One of the first points Google brought up is that when they went to redesign Android, they did so with a very Apple approach (they didn’t say Apple, but that’s what they meant).
The problem, which I encountered, is that while people appreciate Android, almost no one actually loved Android. Android is useful, but up to Gingerbread, it wasn’t inspiring and was often incredibly unintuitive and annoying to use, especially when it relied heavily on third party apps to do even the most simple things like easily being able to close an program—in ICS by contrast, you just tap the Honeycomb open windows button and swipe a window away to close it. With Ice Cream Sandwich, Google just knocked it the fuck out the park, bringing many of the best features of Honeycomb while adding plenty more.
Here’s a quick rundown of some of the really cool new features in Ice Cream Sandwich (much of it via TechCrunch because I don’t feel like typing all of it… there’s a metric shit ton of new shit):
-Roboto: Goodbye Droid Sans, a new typeface called Roboto is here to rule the roost.
-Landscape Controls: We knew that the Galaxy Nexus has traded distinct buttons for ones on the touchscreen, but they smartly disappear when viewing video or in widescreen mode.
-Flexible Widgets: Ice Cream Sandwich’s stock widgets are resizable and more robust than previous versions. They now occupy a separate space in the app drawer.
-Folders: Dragging apps and contacts on top of each other create re-arrangeable folders a la iOS.
-Favorites Tray: Users can stow their favorite apps, links, and folders into a new Favorites tray for quick and easy access.
-Taking Screenshots: This one has been a long time coming. Hold down the power button and the volume down button to snap a screenshot.
-Notifications: Hefty revamp here, as the contents are much more customizable. Music controls have been integrated, and notifications are also easily dismissed with a quick swipe left or right.
-Improved Copy & Paste: Copying and posting content is made much easier, as you can now move around entire blocks of text. Very useful.
-Face Unlock: One of the most ambitious is Ice Cream Sandwich’s new Face Unlock functionality, which allows users to unlock their handsets just by looking into the front-facing camera. This feature didn’t actually work during the presentation, but it looks much slower and more annoying than just swiping to unlock anyway.
-Enhanced Talk-to-Text: Voice input seems much smarter this time around, as it’s more accurate, requires less time, and even accounts for pauses.
-Browser: The stock browser now sports tabs, with a maximum of 16. Web pages can now also be saved offline for later perusal, and users can directly request the desktop version of a site.
-Gmail: Gmail now supports two-line previews, and sports a new context-sensitive action bar at the bottom of the screen. Gesture support allows you to swipe left and right between emails.
-People App: A new spin on the contact list. The phone’s owner has their own profile, and people’s contact details are sourced from Google+, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Users can define favorite contacts, and individual people can be placed on the homescreen or in folders for quick access.
-Calendar: Features a redesigned UI and includes pinch-to-zoom to vary the level of detail on a calendar page.
-Data Usage: Users can now drill down into their data usage over a certain period of time, including the ability to see which apps are the biggest data hogs and the ability to limit data usage to a certain threshold.
-Camera: There’s a lot to love here. It features image stabilzaion, improved autofocus, integrates with other apps for sending photos, allows for instant upload to Google+, and packs panorama modes, time lapse modes, photo retouching and enhancements. You’re also now able to swipe left from the lock screen to go straight to the camera.
I was also really impressed with the new gallery layout, making it really easy to share photos. The video camera is equally impressive, with built-in features like time-lapse. There’s also built-in photo and video editing and you can snap a still photo while you’re shooting video.
-Android Beam: An secure NFC-powered sharing platform that lets users share nearly any kind of content, save for applications (sends a link to the Market instead)
-A third call answering option: When someone calls and you’re busy, instead of just having Accept/Decline, you now have the third option of shooting them a quick, pre-composed text message like “In a meeting”, “One second, jerking off” or whatever. Really cool looking.
So much new awesomeness with Ice Cream Sandwich, it makes me now a bit jealous, like how when I first got to use a Honeycomb tablet and much of it felt so fresh and cutting edge versus iOS. It looks like Google went back to the drawing board, took the best features from previous versions, the best features from Honeycomb, the best features from iOS, the best features from Windows Phone 7 and put them in one really, really sexy package. It’s honestly the Android I was looking for when I first bought an Android phone three years ago. The Galaxy Nexus is a super sexy phone running a super sexy OS.
Screenshots via Engadget
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