I watched the unveiling of Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus live-streamed from Hong Kong on October 18th. I’m surprised it hasn’t garnered more buzz actually!
The most significant highlights:
- 4G! I can’t believe Apple doesn’t get more heat for not making the jump to 4G yet. I saw surprisingly little criticism of this aspect after the 4S launch. Apple seems to be having a tough time solving whatever roadblocks are keeping them from making this jump.
- Candid acknowledgement from Matias Duarte, Android’s head of UX, that “People like Android, and people need Android, but people don’t LOVE Android.” – which leads nicely into…
- Android 4.0! New UI, new font, and new commitment to being “enchanting.” It looks very slick, and it’s sitting on some solid hardware too. A major win in this new OS is that they’ve brought mobile and tablet device variants back under a single version, whereas 3.0 had been carved out specifically for tablets.
- NFC built into the OS and not just the device. With the distribution that Android has, this could represent a tipping point for NFC, and not just in mobile payments. They’ve provided Android Beam as a method for transferring all sorts of content intelligently between devices that utilizes the NFC technology as well. This could make things interesting, especially considering the iPhone has been reluctant to make a commitment to NFC.
- Ability to monitor (and presumably manage with apps in the future) your data usage from the device itself. This is a big deal as unlimited data pricing plans are heading for extinction it seems.
- Unlike the new iPhone 4S, the Galaxy Nexus is not an all-in-one world phone. It comes in two different flavors of antenna like the iPhone 4, and you have to choose between carriers that support LTE or HSPA+. While I have nothing against Verizon, the only U.S. carrier to be confirmed to carry the Galaxy Nexus so far, I travel to the UK quite a bit, and I would like a device that will still work there.
- For a long time, the iPhone camera looked weak next to some of the other device cameras that have been in market, but this time around, the 5Mpx camera on the Galaxy Nexus seems a bit underwhelming by comparison to the iPhone camera’s 8Mpx upgrade.
There were lots of UI improvements and new bells and whistles added to the Google suite of apps and on-device apps like the camera, which are nice. The facial recognition to unlock the screen is clever if it works well in practice. At times during the demo, the tiles on screen seemed to scream of Windows Phone 7 styling. At other times, the “swipe to discard” and “social contact” features reminded me of WebOS.
The Galaxy Nexus may be my next device. The handset is slick and the new Android OS seems very exciting. I’m just going to keep an eye out for other Android 4.0 devices that may hit the market before the holidays that may address a couple of the key disappointments first before jumping onboard.