Samsung Galaxy Nexus review
Android 4.0, 4.7in 720x1,280 display
The Galaxy Nexus is the first smartphone to run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which is Google's attempt to unify the smartphone and tablet operating systems; instead of having separate versions, as happened with Android 2.3 Gingerbread for smartphones and 3.0 Honeycomb for tablets, Ice Cream Sandwich is designed for both types of portable devices. The new operating system also has a raft of new features, such as face unlock, app folders, browser sync, and a host of small improvements.
The interface is designed to be used without hardware buttons at all. The new Favourites bar, the software buttons for Back, Home and Recent Apps and the merging of the Apps and Widgets collections into one interface are the most obvious changes - you can now scroll through trays of Widgets to preview how they'll look on your home screens.
Ice Cream Sandwich, Android 4.0, is finally with us
Many of the more notable changes are behind the scenes and are aimed at developers rather than end users. Desktop scaling has been improved, so that the Android desktop and apps will display consistently across different screen sizes. A new system-wide font has been introduced as well as new screen furniture - for example, application menus are now found in the top-right or top-left hand corners of the application, and are denoted by a vertical broken line.
The Nexus is also an impressive piece of hardware, with a 4.7in 1,280x720 resolution screen and 1.2GHz dual-core processor. While it's positively bristling with new technology, it looks rather plain, the texture on the back of the case providing the only distraction from otherwise smooth plastic and glass. Samsung claims the phone is 9mm thick, but like Motorola's RAZR it tapers at one end into an 11mm bulge, and viewed from the side you notice the screen is slightly concave.
It's a slender handset with a slight bulge towards the bottom
The Nexus is incredibly light for its size thanks to all that plastic, and is comfortable to hold; its curved shape makes it particularly easy to slip it into a pocket. There's now a new way to unlock the phone's screen - it will recognise your face and unlock for its owner. This is remarkably clever, distinguishing between members of the Shopper team quite convincingly, and even at odd angles it works instantly.
The screen's large resolution means that, even on the 4.7in display, you won't ever see a pixel - even the smallest text is pin-sharp. It's not particularly bright, however, even at the highest setting, and we had to turn off automatic brightness which made everything too dark. At full brightness colours are vibrant and contrast is superb. The buttons for back, menu and home are now rendered in software, which takes up screen space, but the Nexus' display is so large this never really bothered us.