The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the first smartphone to run version 4.0 of Google Android — aka "Ice Cream Sandwich". The Galaxy Nexus is probably the best Android phone on the market, with a fantastic operating system, an excellent display and great hardware.
The phone uses has a Super AMOLED HD screen that measures a whopping 4.65 inches, with a high-definition resolution of 1280x720 pixels. The display is incredibly sharp and crisp. The iPhone 4S is still slightly better when it comes to rendering text, but the difference is barely noticeable.
The Galaxy Nexus' super-large display means it's excellent for reading books, viewing videos and browsing websites. However, the automatic brightness adjustment can be erratic; it's possible this issue could be fixed by a software upgrade.
Unlike the usual touch-sensitive buttons (home/menu/back/search) on most Android phones, the handset integrates controls into the display. This means the phone is not significantly larger than its Samsung stablemate, the Galaxy S II.
The real star of the show is Ice Cream Sandwich. The user experience offered by version 4.0 of the Android platform is entirely on previous versions, with a refreshed interface, a new typeface and improved speed. This phone is easier to use than any other Android phone we've ever tested.
Ice Cream Sandwich is not as elegant as Windows Phone 7.5 or as simple as Apple's iOS, but it runs swiftly and it's easier on the eye than any previous versions of the OS. During the whole week that we tested the Galaxy Nexus, the phone didn't crash or stutter.
Ice Cream Sandwich features a tweaked lock screen that lets you easily access the camera as well as notifications. The notifications menu offers access to settings and you can create folders on the home screen. Instead of the typical hardware shortcut buttons, Ice Cream Sandwich uses on-screen buttons at the base of the display; typically back, home and multitasking. In some apps, you can access other settings when three small dots appear in the lower right corner of the screen. This can be confusing, and it's often a too easy to bump one of the buttons by accident, but we quickly adjusted.
Android 4.0 features the best on-screen keyboard we've seen on an Android phone, with a great layout and accurate word correction. It's easily on par with Apple's iOS keyboard.
Similarly, the Galaxy Nexus' Web browser is fantastic. It scrolls and zooms smoothly and it's even slightly faster than the iPhone 4S' browser. It doesn't support Flash yet, but a future update will remedy this.
Some apps in the Android Market aren't compatible with the new version of Android; for example, the Facebook app works but you can't access the options menu due to the lack of hardware buttons on the smartphone. Some apps didn't work at all, but this will be less of a problem in time.
The Galaxy Nexus is equipped with a 5-megapixel camera that has an LED flash. It's extremely quick to shoot photos, with virtually no shutter lag. There's also a a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls.
The Galaxy Nexus is by no means a bad camera: In many instances it produces natural looking photos, and macro performance is excellent. However, images tend to lack detail and have a fair bit of noise, and shots taken in dim lighting aren't exposed very well.
Perhaps the most annoying aspect of the Galaxy Nexus is the volume of the external speaker. It's not loud enough, and ring tones and notification tones can be difficult to hear when the phone is in your pocket. Samsung might be able to fix this with a software update, but it is likely that it's a hardware issue.
The phone has 16GB of internal storage, and sadly there is no card slot for adding memory.
Light users should be able to get a full day's worth of use from the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, but heavy users will probably have to recharge it before the end of the day. On a day of light to moderate use we managed to make the phone last about 19.5 hours.
The biggest drain on the Galaxy Nexus' battery is its screen, often accounting for more than half of the battery usage on a day of heavy usage. Unlike with many other Android smartphone, using the Internet and synchronising applications in the background doesn't seem to be a huge battery drain.
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus isn't officially available in Australia through a carrier just let, but can be purchased online though mobile phone retailer MobiCity.
This is the Android phone on the market right now. The camera is not fantastic, battery life is less than thrilling and the speaker is a little too quiet, but the Samsung Galaxy Nexus has excellent software, ultra-fast performance and a wonderful screen.
Review: Ross Catanzariti