Thursday, January 12, 2012

TECH TIME REVIEW: Verizon's long-awaited Galaxy Nexus Prime smartphone ushers in impressive new Android 4.0 system WITH VIDEO

There are a ton of Android-based smartphones released on the market each year, so when one comes out there’s usually not a lot of fanfare.
The opposite couldn’t be more true with the Galaxy Nexus Prime — the newest superphone from Verizon that boasts an extra-large screen and the debut of the Android 4.0 operating system, aka Ice Cream Sandwich.
With all of the hype it’s gotten, literally for months, it’s going to get a lot of looks from potential buyers. I recently gave it a trial run and I’ll fill you in on all the details and who might be interested in taking it home.

Phones are getting bigger and bigger these days, but the Nexus Prime takes the cake in this category. Forget 4.3 or 4.5 inches, this one tops the charts at 4.65 inches, making it a really big boy.
For the crowd not into huge phones, this will be a disqualifier for sure. But for the crowd who likes as much real estate as possible for viewing movies, playing games and other media viewing, it’s a big plus. Despite the large size (official dimensions are 5.33” x 2.67” x .37”), its thinness helps it keep the weight down, and it’s only 5.1 ounces. So while it is large in width and depth, it’s not a heavy load to carry.
The Galaxy Nexus Prime features a textured back cover with a decent grip, but still felt kind of plasticky to me, and had a lower quality feel than some other smartphones I have tested. (This, unfortunately, is a trend with Samsung products, and Samsung makes this one too.)

With all that real estate, you would hope for a high-quality screen, and you get it. The Galaxy Nexus Prime delivers an HD Super AMOLED screen with bright and stunning visual quality in 720p HD. Whatever you do on this phone will look very, very good.
The large screen provides room for an ample-sized on-screen keyboard for all your messaging purposes.
The phone features options for text, picture & video messaging, has threaded messaging to keep conversations together, and has a Speech to Text feature.

Yes, some people still do want to talk to people and not just text them. For those folks, I’m happy to report that I had no issues with disrupted or weak connections or call quality during my time using the Galaxy Nexus Prime.

While the Galaxy Nexus Prime isn’t the ultimate champ in this category (some other smartphones go even farther and have a 1.5 GHz processors), its 1.2 GHz dual-core processor is very impressive and will provide you with fast and problem-free multi-tasking. Web browsing was very fast and easy.
One minor issue I have with the phone is that it takes too long to start up, which can be annoying if you want to do something real quick and it’s off.

The operating system on this phone is one of its selling points – as it is the first Android phone with Ice Cream Sandwich.
Before I get into the upgrades in ICS, I have to note that this is a phone with the plain, ‘vanilla’ Android OS, meaning no user interface from Samsung has been put on top – which is a good thing.
Android 4.0 upgrades include:.
— You get Near Field Communications sharing with Android Beam, making it easier to share between Android phones with this feature.
— The lock screen now offers you a choice between opening to the full phone, or opening to the camera function.
— The phone app features new options such as “frequently called” and a list of all your contacts with phone numbers.
— The apps list now includes all of your widgets too, in a separate list.
— The user interface features software navigation buttons, as well as a “recent apps” button to make multi-tasking easier.
— Face Unlock allows the usue of facial recognition to unlock the phone, which increases security.
— Android Beam allows you to share content with others by tapping two compatible phones together.
— Google+ integration is new on this phone, and will become a staple on future Android phones, as they hope to grow that social network, which lets you divide your friends into circles.
This was my first experience with Ice Cream Sandwich, so I didn’t have too much time to explore, but as it reaches more phones I’ll give it a closer look. Upon first glance, it’s a very cool upgrade with some impressive features.

4G network
Verizon’s 4G LTE network was very fast as always. There have been reports of some recent outages, but I wouldn’t be too concerned in the long run. The network is getting more and more traffic, but they should be able to figure it out and get the bugs out. Downloads and uploads are extremely fast (5 to 12 Mbps download speed, 2 to 5 Mbps upload speed).

The Galaxy Nexus Prime comes with 32GB of internal storage. There is no removable SD card or upgradable memory, but I don’t think most customers will need any more storage, as 32GB is a lot of space.
There’s not a lot of preinstalled programs -- often referred to as “bloatware” -- from Verizon here, so you have more room to play with

There are some pretty good camera specs on this phone.
The rear camera is 5 megaapixels, which is short of the 8 megapixel offerings on other phones, but still takes very clear and impressive shots. It features auto focus and a LED flash.
The front facing camera is 1.3 MP and is used for video chat primarily. I used Skype and it looked pretty good.
In terms of video, the rear camera shoots 1080p full HD video, and the front camera shoots 720p HD video
My favorite aspect of the cameras on this phone is the panorama feature. Simply move the phone across a wide area, and the entire area will be captured in a photo. This is very cool, and could be great in situations like nature photos or a sports event, allowing you to capture large areas.

The Galaxy Nexus Prime can serve as a mobile hotspot for an extra monthly fee (providing a 4G or 3G connection to up to 10 other devices). This is good for people on the go who aren’t always in areas with WiFi, but it’s not cheap.
You get a ton of Google stuff built in, including Google+ integration for those who have embraced the new social network. You also get Google Books, Google Earth, Gmail, Google Latitude, Google Maps, Google Music, Google Navigation, Google Places, Google Search, Google Talk, Google Videos, YouTube.
The phone is also WiFi and Bluetooth capable.

The integration of Google Music was a favorite of mine. That meant all the thousands of songs I have uploaded to my Google account were instantly accessible on this phone. That’s a big score for a music lover.

Google’s Android market offers hundreds of thousands of apps, so basically anything you want – from games to business apps – is here for the finding.

The battery life was decent, but not what I would have liked – apps such as Skype and Pandora drain it quickly.

The Galaxy Nexus Prime will cost you $299.99 with a 2-year contract; this is on par with other top new phones on Verizon. A data package, which start at $30 monthly, is required.

Android phones have come a long way in a short period of time, and have grown to take the lead in the smartphone market. The first phone with Ice Cream Sandwich is an impressive one that offers lots of cool new features, for a price of course, but you won’t be disappointed with the latest version of Android.
Despite some small flaws, the Galaxy Nexus Prime is a true superphone that can compete with the best of them, and should be a hit for Verizon.

Matt Myftiu can be reached at or 248-745-4617. Follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu or become a fan of the Facebook page “OPTechTime”.

On the Web
For more information on the Galaxy Nexus Prime, visit


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