Posts tagged Ice Cream Sandwich
Posts tagged Ice Cream Sandwich
I have quite the track record with Android.
Bought a HTC G1 aka HTC Dream in November 2008, a T-Mobile Vibrant (Galaxy S) at launch in 2010 and now a Galaxy Nexus, also at launch. I’ve been one of the G1’s numerous beta testers, (bravely) relying on a half-baked OS as a daily driver. I also witnessed Samsung’s many failings, mostly leaving the Vibrant stuck with Android 2.2 and shipping a very buggy OS, unstable and prone to bizarre behavior.
The G1. This was the definition of cool if you were a geek in late 2008
Still, I love Android. From the very beginning, Android offered me the same qualities of Windows Mobile (customization, flexibility, freedom) with none of its limitations (resistive interface, terrible browser, lack of apps). The Vibrant, warts and all, made me a believer. While deeply flawed, the performance was well-ahead of my first Android phone (the G1), a thoroughly modern “superphone” capable of running circles around the the barely adequate hardware found in Google’s first Android phone. And that screen… Super AMOLED rocked my world.
Which brings us to the Galaxy Nexus, Google latest halo device and the first Android 4.0 device in the world.
One of the wallpapers shipping with the Galaxy Nexus, a perfect showing of Super AMOLED power
The Galaxy Nexus is a beautiful phone. The design is clean, organic and devoid of any logos/trademarks above and below the (massive) screen. Monolithic-looking when off (think 2001: A Space Odyssey), the Galaxy Nexus is a black slab of high-grade plastic built around a rigid metal frame, giving it the feel of a premium device.
My phone stays inside a hard case, so I don’t really deal with the back cover. I hear it’s “plasticky,” like most Samsung phones, obviously far behind the chic glass in the iPhone 4S. The back cover is a non-issue for me.
Being a native Android 4.0 device, the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t have any physical buttons. Of course, it does have a power button and volume slider but no Back, Menu, Home or Search buttons like previous Android phones. The power button is more solid than the one on the Galaxy S. Same for the volume slider. In general, the phone feels great in the hand and it’s also very light.
Those looking for Galaxy S III-grade specs on the Galaxy Nexus will be disappointed. Nexus devices were never about specs alone; the Nexus One was the fastest Android phone in the planet for a whole month. Likewise, the Galaxy S II has a much faster GPU than the Galaxy Nexus, the Mali-400. In the Galaxy Nexus, the PowerVR SGX540 GPU found in the Galaxy S makes an appearance once again, albeit running at 384 MHz this time. The CPU on the other hand is among the fastest circa Q4 2011, an OMAP 4460 with two cores running at 1.2 GHz.
Then, the screen. Allegedly the first true HD display on a smartphone, the 720p Super AMOLED panel in the Galaxy Nexus is quite a sight. Bright, colorful and over-sized, the 4.65-inch display puts most smartphones to shame. The iPhone 4S looks like a toy next to a Galaxy Nexus at full brightness. However, this is a PenTile display we’re talking about. At low brightness grays get muddy, with a textured look, and vertical lines stretching from the top of the screen to the very bottom are easily observed. Some consider it a huge issue, going as far as returning the phone but it doesn’t bother me. I love it so far, with the added sharpness of 720 lines of resolution making reading ebooks and browsing the web easy on the eyes.
My home screen. I like how folders keep everything organized. Top notch icon design as well
But is it fast? I’m used to the typical Android slowness, where the OS fails to respond to touch, freezes or goes to sleep — never to return. Both the G1 and the Vibrant suffered from those ailments. Well well well… Consider it fixed. This phone is not fast… It’s insanely, back-pressed-against-the-seat fast. Smooth as butter, eerily similar to iOS devices like the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4S and oh-so-different from all Android devices before it. It has never kept me waiting and 1.5 weeks after buying it, I have never had to restart it. No SD card? No problem. If that’s the price for out-of-this-world performance, I’m all for it.
The camera on the Galaxy Nexus is a 5.1 megapixel unit. Sadly, it is not the second coming of Christ — the one on the Galaxy S II, an 8 megapixel unit, is still the king among Android smartphones. The camera is very fast, though: no startup lag, no lag between shots. On top of that, the built-in editing tools are easy to use and effective. Finally, uploading pictures to the cloud with Instant Upload and Google+ is a piece of cake. The camera could be better, yes, but I deem it good enough.
Starbucks in December. The camera is no slouch, but not “awesome” either
Since this is the LTE version, it would be a major omission not to talk about Verizon’s network and battery life. If you never tried an LTE phone, prepare to be amazed. It’s 2 to 3 times faster than my home connection, a 10 MB cable modem. Some have clocked it past 40 Mbps down and almost 20 Mbps up. It redefines “mobile connectivity” — sites load in an instant and streaming high-quality YouTube videos is never an issue. At the same time, however, the LTE modem requires a fair amount of CPU usage, resulting in reduced battery life when compared with the GSM version. I get about 6 hours of “screen time” (everything on, listening to music and browsing the web) and around 20 hours or so of standby. I’m a power user and play with the phone a lot, so others might see better performance from the battery. Still, it’s not like 4G is required 24/7. If I know I’ll be out for a whole day — or the whole night — I can simply turn 4G off and fall back to Verizon’s 3G network. It’s no speed demon, but more than enough for email/browsing and maybe even Google Music streaming.
ANDROID 4.0 aka Ice Cream Sandwich
The latest version of Android is old news at this point, with literally hundreds of blog posts dissecting the OS back in November (and a very detailed write-up on Ars Technica). I’ll approach Android 4.0 from the point of view of someone stuck in Android 2.2 instead, focusing on the main differences — and improvements — in Ice Cream Sandwich.
The Recent Apps button makes it easy to switch between applications with live snapshots
Android 2.2 was a milestone release for Android, unlike 2.1. FroYo featured Wi-Fi tethering for the first time, as well as Dalvik JIT compiling and proper Exchange support. It was much faster than 2.1. I know from experience because the Vibrant shipped with 2.1; the performance boost attributed to 2.2 was certainly there. In short, Android 2.2 was a great release, maybe the greatest before Android 4.0.
If my Vibrant had “stock” Android, maybe it would end there. But Samsung messed with it, added TouchWiz and, in short, broke a lot of stuff. As a result my phone was always a mess. Freezes were common, SD cards (two, one acting as internal storage) had to be “read” every time I deleted/added a file — and at every boot — or the phone would suddenly slow to a crawl for no reason. Occasionally — and often — it would crash when running Google Maps. I once had to do a battery pull while stuck in traffic (!)
Android 4.0, up to now, is a revelation. Streamlined, fast and stable, it’s very Apple-like without the annoying Apple limitations. It just works. No crashes, not a single one (I know I’m repeating myself, but it’s a big deal). Smooth scrolling, perfect multitasking — a big improvement over all previous Android versions — and Google apps redesigned to make things easier while giving the user more control. I really can’t put into words how much better Android 4.0 is.
Android 3.0 introduced true dual-core compatibility at the OS level. Android 4.0 made it perfect with hardware acceleration for the interface. Finally, Android is as responsive as iOS. I haven’t had enough “street time” with the phone (using it in public) but I’m already planning on showing it off to friends and family, particularly those carrying with fast-but-tiny iPhone 4S’s. No wonder Joshua Topolsky, editor-in-chief at The Verge, bought one.
The icing on the cake is the newly-added Data Usage feature plus goodies like NFC (near field communication) and Face Unlock. Android 4.0 is an embarrassment of riches for Android users.
This is the best Android phone ever made — period. As hard as I try, I can’t find anything wrong with it. Old Android annoyances have been fixed, performance is mind-boggling and the phone looks and feels great in the hand. It’s a tour de force, the new standard in smartphones and what they can achieve in software, hardware and design.
If you have an upgrade approaching, this is your next phone. If you have an iPhone 4, this is your chance to switch to Android without making compromises. The iPhone 4S might have the performance edge for now, but Android 4.0 is a game-changer on its own right, before even looking at the top-notch hardware assembled by Samsung.
The Galaxy Nexus is a must-buy and it gets a 9/10.