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Hands on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus

Luckily for us, Google’s Nexus arrived prompting for a treat of Jelly Bean update – it may not be the first to run on JB, but was indeed the first phone to run on the Gingerbread OS early last year. The Nexus combines Samsung’s slick hardware with Google’s Android 4.1.1’s seemingly endless features, and the result is a candy worth nibbling.

Android Jelly Bean OS

One of the biggest features that comes with Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is the improved user interface. And I’m not talking about cosmetic changes. I’m talking about improvements to its speed and to its fluidity.

There were times when I would lag when switching between home screens in Ice Cream Sandwich. I also experienced sluggishness when trying to open up applications. It was never horrible but there certainly was room for improvement.

Android 4.1 Jelly Bean is that improvement. With Jelly Bean and Project Butter, the overall speed and performance of Android on my  Galaxy Nexus has improved immensely. Seriously, there is a noticeable difference between the UI in Ice Cream Sandwich and the one in Jelly Bean.

For example, now, when I tap a widget or switch between home screens, it’s virtually instant. Thus far, I’ve experienced very little lag while opening up apps or moving between my different home screens.


Besides the tweaked interface, Jelly Bean’s most significant features might not be of much use to many users.

For example, the Nexus supports NFC (Near Filed Communication) it’s a wireless technology that let’s you wave your phone around near NFC-enabled stickers to do things like prompt a browser session. Mostly for marketing purposes etc. Altough NFC is not entirely new, it still does not have a ‘important’ use in my life. Another similar feature is the S beam, introduced to us when the SIII launched earlier this year, which just lets you share files (images, music etc.) with other S beam users by the tap of the rear.

With the Jelly Bean also comes Face Unlock, Face Unlock on the Galaxy Nexus lets you unlock your phone with a smile, or blinks of an eye. This eliminates having to remember complicated passwords, but ironically enough, there are times when it will not recognise your face and prompt for a pin…

The Galaxy Nexus looks and feels like its sibling the Galaxy S, it has the same plasticky, oddly curvaceous case and gorgeous HD Super AMOLED screen which manages to be as vivid as a standard AMOLED screen but this time more blindingly reflective in bright light or when outside in the sun.

We were unsure about the Galaxy S when we first caressed its curves, because we weren’t used to a smart phone being so light, especially one with such a big screen. But, now that we know a phone can be both light and luscious, the Nexus  feels fine. It’s much lighter than the average large smart phone, such as the HTC Desire HD, since such phones tend to have metal cases. But, if you like heavier, really solid-feeling phones, you can always slap a case on the Galaxy Nexus.

The Galaxy Nexus ditches the chrome trim that made the Galaxy S look like an iPhone clone. When the screen is off, the backlight on the touch-sensitive buttons turns off, and the Galaxy Nexus has a pleasingly black, monolithic appearance

The Galaxy Nexus has an unusual curved screen that’s meant to feel comfortable against your face. We welcome this feature, since we find talking into a big touchscreen phone is often like pressing a fridge door against our bonce. After a face-on test, we can’t say the curve is that noticeable — in fact, you can barely see it. But, whether it’s psychosomatic or not, we do feel that the Galaxy Nexus is comparatively comfortable to chat on, and the call quality also proved good in our tests.

The 5-megapixel camera is turn-off on paper, but once you get the camera rolling and set the flash ablaze, it produces crisp, clear and beautiful pictures.

Power and Memory

Just as is the norm with iPhone, Windows and other Android devices, the Galaxy Nexus also followed the trend of not offering a memory-card slot, which is a pity. But it does have 16 GB of built in memory, which should be enough for most people. Also, with Android its dead easy (no pun there) to slap pictures, music and videos onto your phone because you can connect it to your computer like a flash drive, rather than using syncing software like iTunes.

The Galaxy Nexus has got a slamming 1.2GHz processor – although we’ve tested better. Plus, it has a specialised GPU that takes the strain of cranking out 3D graphics off the main processor.


The Galaxy Nexus is just a glorified, pumped up and refreshed Galaxy S with slightly curvier hardware. Android’s Jelly Bean makes the phone a speed demon.

Android’s Jelly Bean refresh won’t set the world on fire, and the software isn’t as easy to use as some competing operating systems. But, if you’ve got slightly deep pockets and a yen for a phone that’s smarter than you are, the Galaxy Nexus won’t disappoint.


* pricing not availabe at time this review was published.

Papi Mabele
Tech enthusiast at heart. Lover of all things digital. Papi is the founder of SA Vibe and has been sharing his love for gadgetry since 2010. Papi sees no need for wearable tech in his busy schedule and considers the Xbox One as non existant. He may come across as bias at times, and still holds a grudge at BlackBerry for creating the 8520.