[tech/review] I finally got a smartphone, the Galaxy Nexus, but I keep having second thoughts..

My Galaxy Nexus, the first smartphone to ship with Android’s Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS), arrived three days before Christmas. I have had time to tinker with it, to be pleased and highly frustrated with it.

The Galaxy Nexus is my first smartphone, though not my first brush with a smartphone operating system; with my iPod 4th Generation, I used iOS to do everything but physically call (I could text and receive voicemail via Google Voice app).  I figured after a year of using iOS and my obsessive use of Google products, perhaps I should switch to Android.

Nonetheless, I keep thinking maybe I should have gone the safe route and gotten an iPhone 4S, because it is the little things that irk me about Android that I have gotten so used to in iOS 5.

notification system

On iOS, you get a little blurb on your lock screen of what the notification was. On Android, you get a little icon at the top indicating what the notification came from, like Gmail or Facebook or a missed call, but you do not get information on what that email was about, what shenanigans happened on Facebook, who called you. To find out, you actually have to open up the phone, extremely irritating if all that happened was a free coupon from CVS, somebody tagged you in a mass holiday card, your mom called you about cleaning your room.

To be fair, I use Boxcar for push notifications on iOS, but to also be fair, Android has nothing like push notifications for the lock screen, native or third-party.

lack of timer; lack of recorder

In iOS, the alarm clock also includes a timer. In Android, there is no such thing! I used the timer primarily so I can listen to music as I go to sleep, and have it automatically shut off after a certain period of time. I went trawling through the Android market to find a timer, and not one of most downloaded alarm clock apps did this function, and eventually I ended up installing this sketchy Korean app whose app title is, “Music Off, I’m Sleeping~!”

There is also no recorder included with vanilla ICS, and all apps from third parties are downright ugly. How am I supposed to record myself playing piano (badly)? Really now.

music player

Google Music does not sync my most played playlists, and cannot create ‘most played’ playlists right now. Also, it does not sync with my iTunes’ played counts after the initial syncing with iTunes. Call me OCD, but I like knowing which tracks I play the most.

Also, the volume only goes in gradation levels of 15, and my comfortable listening range is somewhere between 3/15 and 4/15, but Android does not allow me to go between 3 and 4, so it is either too soft or too loud.

Moreover, when I switch from the phone’s speaker to listening in my headphones, the volume does not adjust. So if I had the volume all the way up using the phone’s speakers and then switch to headphones, and forget to change the volume, I am rendered deaf for the next few seconds. This does not happen with iOS, which automatically changes to a suitable volume.

screen aesthetics / camera

The Galaxy Nexus’s screen really just does not look as pretty. For example, Tohoshinki’s Tone is this horrible lurid color on my Nexus while it looks amazing on my iPod. The camera too; for some reason, photos taken on my Nexus are vastly subpar to those taken on the iPhone.

apps on the iPhone are not on Android; apps do not all work on Ice Cream Sandwich; apps I have bought for iOS do not transfer to Android

The biggest app I use that is not on Android is Instagram. Phooey. Also, why does having the latest version of Android render some apps unusable? This would never happen on iOS. For newest versions of iOS, apps will always be able to run. Even some apps developed by Google themselves cannot run on my Nexus (defeats the purpose of the Nexus being the “Nexus” phone). Lastly, and perhaps most obviously, apps that I have purchased for iOS cannot transfer and are not compatible with Android. This is a serious problem if you are one of the users who bought a lot of apps; the more serious money you have plunked down, the less you are willing to move from your current phone operating system.

keyboard / languages

Let’s say I want to tweet in Chinese, but my keyboard is in English. I need to go through three steps to actually get to Chinese in Android. However, in iOS, I only need to press a button and slide. One step!

Even more infuriating, to get Chinese / Japanese / Korean input, I actually need to go to the Android store and download another app. It is not already included in Android, like it is already included in iOS. My Galaxy Nexus also does not support Italian (che cazzo!).

To sidestep this problem, you can download other keyboards like GO (which I did) which have shorter pathways and feature Italian autocorrect, but honestly, these keyboards are pretty ugly, which brings me to my next point.

ugly apps

There are so many different types of Android devices out there, and the developer has to consider them all when developing apps, right? Wrong. They consider some devices but then leave other devices to die in ugliness, like my Galaxy Nexus.

menu button is too small

From left to right, the nav. buttons are: back, home, recently opened apps, app menu (the three dots). The app menu button is really small considering the generous size they gave to the preceding three apps, so sometimes I end up tapping the recently opened apps instead. Irritating.

Now, after airing all of those grievances, I suppose I can say some good things about the Galaxy Nexus.

screen size

The iPhone is absolutely puny next to the Galaxy Nexus; looking at the Galaxy Nexus and then the iPhone makes you wonder how you ever survived with such a small screen. Though the larger screen may take some getting used to, it is definitely easier on the eyes.

ultimate google integration

I never have to login again! Google logs me into everything automatically. Calendar, Gmail, Latitude, Voice, all perfectly integrated. I can finally call others using my Google Voice number without having to open my Voice app first. Also, the Gmail app is simply beautiful, and even can log me into my Apps account that I use for college.

google sky, google navigation, youtube remote

The other night, I saw two bright planets in the sky. I knew one of them was Jupiter, but I had no clue what the other one was. I whipped out my Galaxy Nexus and opened up Google Sky app for Android and I pointed my phone towards the unknown planet and voila! It was Venus. I then proceeded to identify Cassiopeia, Auriga, Aries, etc. Imma nerd. I love looking at the night sky.

The day proceeding, my parents and I were having trouble getting out of New York City. The Garmin GPS kept saying the wrong directions, and I whipped out Google Navigation, which got us going in the right direction.

If I go to youtube.com/leanback, using YouTube Remote, I can connect my Android to my computer and control what I am viewing on YouTube. Very slick.

These free (!) apps are just so cool, and extremely useful– apps which have no good free counterparts in iOS.

google wallet

Google Wallet is also a free app, but upon downloading, I got $10 from Google to use on my prepaid Google debit card. Snazzy. Free money is always cool by me. I cannot wait to use it.

(However, my phone is from Verizon Wireless, so technically I am not supposed to have Wallet because VZW gods have forbidden it because they are propping up a rival payment service Isis. Nonetheless, you can still install it on your Galaxy Nexus without rooting your phone by following these directions.)

of course, my pattern is not this!

pattern unlock

Of course, the Galaxy Nexus’s most touted unlock is the face recognition. I am not in the mood to smile at my phone all the time, so I chose connect-the-dots, which I find easier and faster than punching in a PIN, as you can quickly swipe instead of punching each number individually.

live backgrounds

In Android, your background can actually move and interact with your fingers. My live background is simply gorgeous. It makes me feel like I am floating on clouds. Gorgeous and trippy.

can browse the Android Market on the  computer and have everything automatically download to the phone

Whereas you need to physically press the sync button for an iOS device.

In the end, do I recommend the Galaxy Nexus? It depends on your needs, really. iOS and Android are two different operating systems with different strengths and weaknesses. If all those grievances I listed before do not really bother you, maybe the Galaxy Nexus or any similar Android phone is right for you. If you are seriously considering a smartphone, walk into any carrier store, the Apple store, and play around with the phones; ask people you know how they like their smartphones.

Of course, I personally am slowly adapting to life as the owner of an Android, but it will be a while before I stop thinking longingly of iOS (especially my most played counts! that really hits me hard).

If you would like thorough reviews of the Galaxy Nexus, about things like battery, software, design, I recommend TechCrunch (Jason Kincaid, MG Siegler), The Verge, Engadget, and Gizmodo.

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6 thoughts on “[tech/review] I finally got a smartphone, the Galaxy Nexus, but I keep having second thoughts..

    • YES! it absolutely is! and in some ways, much prettier and functional than Android’s notification system.. I think a lot of bloggers actually said that Apple ripped off Android’s notification system and made it better :P I have to say I agree a bit.

      thanks for stopping by!
      Michelle

  1. Notifications:
    When you receive a notification while using the phone it will direclty show up. If it’s a text message for example it will show the sender and the message. Swiping away notifications is much more easier than closing them one by one.

    Recorder/timer:
    As you said, if it’s not there out-of-box you must download it.

    Music Player:
    Try Google Music, it actually syncs your playlists music and even how many times a song has been played with iTunes. No cables required.
    Unfortunately I don’t have any ideas how your problem regarding volume could be solved.

    Camera – agree

    Screen aesthetics:
    Seriously what the f*ck? Did you ever compare an iPhone and Galaxy Nexus while playing the same video? The contrast, the colours are so much better on the Nexus, and it’s not only my opinion. The iPhone’s screen looks dimmed, yellowish compared to the Nexus’.

    Apps – iOS apps not working on android
    Haha, why do you even expect that? Does Windows programs work on Mac? When you move do you want to move your tapestry too? In the most cases a substitute exists for android to every apps on iOS, mostly multiplatform ones too.

    Keyboard:
    Agree with that most third party keyboards are ugly, I prefer the original and swype.
    About chinese/korean/japan input, I don’t speak any of these languages so I didn’t mind about it. Changing languages is although pretty simple.

    Ugly apps – agree, you have to find the ones that are not too ugly. iOS has the edge here.

    Tiny menu button:
    So this is tiny, but the “backwards”-button on the iPhone placed sometimes randomly is not. I guess you will get used to it.

    Actually, I just came here for an image but stayed and read your review. Anyway, a good review, some interesting opinions you’ve got there.

    • about apps from iOS not working on Android, I didn’t mean specifically that, I said that apps available for iOS ‘do not transfer’.. i.e., there is no app for Instagram on Android! I cannot transfer my Instagram life over to my Nexus.

      I’m not sure if you misread, but I AM using Google Music. In fact, I used it since its inception as an invite-beta. hmm, from what I’ve been seeing, Google Music will only sync the played counts at first but will not keep syncing it. For example, I will have played song 10x on my iPod, maybe another 10x on Google Music. Initially, there are 20 plays of the song. The end result on Google Music is 30 plays, not 40 plays.

      Yes, the contrast is better but I have to disagree with you on the colors. That’s actually the color I hate the most on the Galaxy Nexus– yellow. It comes out lurid but very pretty on the iPhone. Actually, I would also say the same to you, I’m not the only one who thinks the iPhone has the best screen in the market. >___<

      thanks for stopping by!! ^^
      Michelle

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