Well, it finally happened – my contract upgrade became available on Monday, so I was able to get a new phone. And yes:
it is an Android.*
A Galaxy Nexus, to be exact. After the last year or so of waiting for independent developers to come out with custom ROMs for my LG Optimus S so I could get better versions of Android, I decided that I wanted either a Nexus device, or something that would be easy for the devs to build custom ROMs for quickly. I also wanted something that hopefully won’t be pushing the boundaries of usability for the last six months of my contract like the Optimus was (it was a good phone when it was released, and the fact that I it could run ICS well despite its age speaks well for the design, but it was released just before manufacturers started shoving multi-Gigabytes of memory into everything – it only had 140MB of internal memory, and only 127MB of that was available to the user – and I never did put more than a 2GB SD card in it, but apps have gotten bigger and bigger since then).
My final choice was between Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus (GNex) and their Galaxy SIII (S3). Both are fairly easy to root and flash ROMs to. My biggest reason for considering the S3 was that the Nexus doesn’t have an SD card slot, but I also wanted a clean (though not necessarily “pure”) Android Jellybean interface, and the S3’s TouchWiz overlay just didn’t impress me. On the other hand, the S3 is both popular enough and close enough to the Nexus hardware-wise that ROMs are easy to find (a pure Jellybean ROM for the S3 was available within just a few days of the source code being released, I believe, and I think a CyanogenMod 10 ROM for it was released not long after that), so fixing the TouchWiz issue wouldn’t really be a big deal. I did like the look and feel of the GNex better. In the end, I went with the GNex, both for look and feel, and more importantly because the price was significantly better. I figure with the GNex’s 32 GB of memory I should be okay even in another year and a half or so.
So, now that I’ve had for it a couple of days, what are my early impressions?
- Screen quality: Pretty good, as long as you turn of the automatic brightness control and set it to your liking. Otherwise, it seems to set it pretty low (probably to save battery life), which, since it’s an AMOLED screen, causes the colours to be off – whites look a bit yellowish, etc. I seem to get the best results at about 75% – 80% brightness. The oleophobic coating seems to perform as advertised as well, making it pretty easy to keep the screen clean.
- Responsiveness: Quick and smooth, thanks to Project Butter. The S3, with its slightly higher-end hardware (quad-core vs. dual-core), might have been even better, but I’m quite happy with the GNex’s responsiveness.
- Overall build: It seems pretty solid to me. More so than I felt with the S3.
- Cameras: I haven’t really played with them much yet, but both the front and back camera seem pretty good. Again, the S3 apparently has higher-end cameras, but what the GNex has seems perfectly okay for my needs so far.
- Software: It’s a Google Nexus device, so it will get updates pretty quickly. There’s going to be a little bit of a delay while Sprint adjusts the update for it’s network, but that’s unavoidable with any CDMA Nexus device due to some of the patents involved with CDMA, and I could probably flash a CyanogenMod ROM if I got impatient.
- Size: I was a little uncertain about this. My old phone was just the right size for me to use one handed, and it fit in my pocket pretty well, so I was leery about getting a phone where the screen was as big as my entire old phone, but it actually works out okay. It’s not as thick as my old phone, which means the larger height and width don’t make a significant difference in my pocket. It’s a stretch to do some things one handed, but the larger screen is definitely worth it (to me, at least).
- Google Now: I am loving it, so far. The voice search and how it handles results are wonderful. I think the cards will grow into a great resource. There are security and privacy concerns, but that’s a personal balancing act that each individual will have to do.
- This phone is slippery. I was really, really making an effort at being careful with it for the first couple of hours, and then I got fed up and bought a gel case so I would have something with some grip to it. Pulling it out of my pocket before that was challenging. Seriously, Samsung, put some of that “soft-touch” rubberlike coating on the back for the next one, would you? Holding the GNex without a case is like trying to hold on to a wet ice cube.
- Screen colour: As I noted above, while it’s a nice, sharp image, unless the brightness is turned up the colours are off, especially whites or brighter colours. The problem being that this affects the battery life. AMOLED is a trade-off in mobile devices, with different pros and cons than the more standard LCDs.
Neutral or Uncertain:
- Battery life: I’m not sure how the battery life will stack up, yet. I’ve read that some people have issues and some don’t, and my usage so far hasn’t been my typical usage, because I’ve had to reload all my apps and fine tune my settings. I’ve also been prowling the Play Store for new apps or apps I had wanted but couldn’t fit on my old phone without deleting something else, first. Additionally, I didn’t realize it, but when I rooted it (so I could use Titanium Backup to restore my apps and keep future backups), it reset the network mode to CDMA/LTE from the CDMA only mode they set it to at the store (Sprint doesn’t have LTE in my area, yet). LTE mode is apparently one of the biggest power drains on this phone, because it uses a separate processor. Without LTE coverage, that’s a pointless power drain.
- Signal strength: Another thing some people seem to have had an issue with. I’m not really noticing any difference from my old phone.
- Call quality: Seems okay, but I haven’t made enough calls to really tell yet if it’s any better or worse than my old phone, or if it’s the same.
That’s about all I can think of, for now! I’m certainly enjoying having enough memory to load (or even update!) apps without having to delete something else.
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* Sorry, I couldn’t resist.