Features & Performance - Part I
Thawing the Ice (Cream)
One of the major selling points of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is undoubtedly the ICS Android 4.0 OS. The presence of Google’s newest update not only serves as a cornerstone for the introduction of new technologies (facial recognition, NFC-based Android Beam), but more importantly, as a platform that bridges the differences between Android smartphones and tablets. The Android OS is infamously known for its fragmentation and we see this as a positive step taken to make the user experience as seamless as possible.
Hence, it is unsurprising to see traces of the Honeycomb 3.0 OS in Android 4.0 operating system. The smartphone experience slightly differs from the one on a tablet, so head down here if you are interested to know how the OS works on a slate. For those looking for a short overview on the different OS and what they offer, do take the time to check out our breakdown here.
Similar to HTC Sense 3.0, the new lockscreen allows users to do two things - unlock your phone or start up your camera by sliding to the appropriate icon. The new Face Unlock feature lets users unlock their devices with their faces and the team took a quick shot at the Face Unlock feature when we first got our hands on the smartphone.
We found that while the Face Unlock process was extremely speedy and fuss-free, it was easily bypassed by using a picture (printed or on a screen). Our advice is to turn off the Face Unlock feature; if you are looking to secure your phone with a screen lock mode, select Pattern, Pin or Password instead.
The row at the bottom is reserved for three on-screen buttons - Back, Home and the Recent apps. A Menu icon button (in the form of a small tab on the right with three dots) will make an appearance, but only in apps that require it. On top of it is a dock that's coined as the Favorites tray.
There are four shortcuts that you can customize here (you can add or remove them just like the regular shortcuts) and you can also add folders here. Folders are simple to create - simply drop another shortcut on top of another. You can name the folder by editing the "Unnamed folder" label. Then tap on it to take a look at the folder's contents.
The main page now has two tabs - Apps and Widgets, allowing users to easily access and place widgets on the homescreen, just like how it is in the Honeycomb OS. Press on them to place it on the homescreen. Android widgets can be resized in the Ice Cream Sandwich OS, though some phone manufacturers have already implemented this in their user interfaces. Simply long press on the widget and release it. You can usually resize them both vertically and horizontally. Want to remove an app shortcut or folder? Simply long press the object and drag it to the dustbin icon at the top.
Earlier Android versions require you to perform multiple steps to access the task manager within settings. The Recent apps list, however, trims this down to one step: simply kill apps by swiping it to either side. It looks similar to the Honeycomb's own apps list, where thumbnails of running apps are shown in a vertical scrollable list.
To do a screen capture, simply long press the power and volume down buttons together. After capturing it, you can easily access the image from the notification bar. The screenshots are saved in a folder that's easily accessible from the Gallery App.
Benchmarking the Samsung Galaxy Nexus
To give readers a gauge of what to expect in terms of performance from the Galaxy Nexus, we'll be using Quadrant, which is downloadable via the Android Market, to measure the device's performance based on its CPU, I/O and GPU. Simply put, Quadrant is a benchmark that gives you a general idea of how your device performs against other Android devices. Do note that the benchmark is not absolute in measuring performance, but it gives you a rough estimate of where the device stands against the competition.
Our tests were conducted on devices from a fresh reboot on their respective stock firmwares. To show how the Galaxy Nexus performed against similar smartphones, we compared its results against the following high-end Android devices - Motorola Razr, HTC Sensation XE, and Samsung Galaxy S II.
|Motorola RAZR||HTC Sensation XE||Samsung Galaxy S II|
TI OMAP 4460
|TI OMAP 4430
|ARM Cortex-A9 Exynos
|GPU||PowerVR SGX540||PowerVR SGX540||Adreno 220||Mali-400MP|
|OS||Google Android 4.0||Google Android 2.3.5
(Upgradeable to ICS)
|Google Android 2.3.4
(Upgradeable to ICS)
|Google Android 2.3
(Upgradeable to ICS)
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus comes equipped with a dual-core 1.2GHz processor and 1GB of RAM, which puts it on par with the Motorola Razr and the Samsung Galaxy S II in these two aspects. Typically, dual-core devices tend towards a score of over 2000 points on Quadrant and manage an average of 60fps for Neocore benchmark results. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus, however, scores a relatively low 2048 with its predecessor scoring almost twice of that.
Fortunately, its actual performance isn't reflected by the scores. Overall, the Galaxy Nexus performed admirably when it came down to real life usage such as surfing the web or running apps, be it apps like Facebook or games like Angry Birds, Clouds and Sheep and the 3D-rendered Dungeons Defenders. However, the user experience is bogged down by frequent sudden closing of apps. We hope it's just a matter of small bugs, an issue that often comes hand-in-hand with a new OS.