Review: Galaxy Nexus smartphone a worthy upgrade

The scoop: Galaxy Nexus smartphone, by Samsung (Verizon Wireless service), about $300 (with two-year contract, plus voice and data plans).

What is it? The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the latest Android smartphone from Samsung, utilizing the new Ice Cream Sandwich (Version 4.0) operating system from Google and running on Verizon's 4G LTE network. The phone has a very thin 9.47mm profile and a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED display, making it larger than the Apple iPhone 4 or 4S smartphones. The Nexus is powered by a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and includes 1GB of RAM to run apps that can be downloaded from the Android Market. The phone can store 32GB of data files, including music, movies and photos. An 802.11n connection lets you connect to a Wi-Fi network if you don't want to utilize the 4G or 3G network.

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Why it's cool: The new OS has some redesigned features, including a lock screen, homepage screen and an improved phone app. The 5-megapixel digital camera includes 1080p video capture and a panoramic photo mode that lets you take almost-360-degree photos. A front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera allows for video chat or self-portraits.

If you or your users are completely in the Google camp with its apps (Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps, Google Music, etc.), the smartphone completely integrates with those offerings -- after signing in with my Google account, each of the Google apps quickly synchronized with my data from those services.

In my tests of the Verizon 4G LTE network (with the Speedtest.net app) in a few different locations, I achieved an average of 18.13Mbps of download speed, and 6.48Mbps of upload speeds. This is super-fast compared with existing 3G phones, and even surpasses some home broadband speeds (especially my lousy cable service at home). In addition, you can use the phone as a mobile hotspot, allowing up to 10 devices to connect to access the 4G network.

The fast network speeds made it much easier for me to upload video from the phone to sites like YouTube and Facebook. For example, a 30-second clip of my kids at 1080p resolution had a 27MB file size, which would take a long time uploading over a 1Mbps 3G connection. With the 4G network, it took less than a minute. This opens up more opportunities for sharing video with others, rather than having them sit on the phone or transferring them to a PC for sharing later.

Some caveats: With speeds like that, it's easy to fall into the trap of utilizing the 4G speeds instead of relying on your home broadband and Wi-Fi network, but the 4G speeds come at a cost with bandwidth caps from the carrier. For most of the apps, using Wi-Fi at home is preferable, and won't incur those data charges. But if you're out and about and have good 4G LTE coverage, you won't be disappointed by the fast downloads and upload speeds.

Bottom line: While many smartphone users continue to wait for a 4G LTE iPhone, Android fans can already experience the next-generation speeds of 4G LTE on an advanced OS. If you have been considering making the switch from the iPhone to Android, the Galaxy Nexus is a great phone to consider.

Grade: 5 stars (out of five).

Shaw can be reached at kshaw@nww.com.

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This story, "Review: Galaxy Nexus smartphone a worthy upgrade" was originally published by Network World.

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