Saturday, December 17, 2011

The phone we've been waiting It's the Galaxy Nexus!

Posted by vishnu vardhan reddy boda at 10:10 AM

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It's the Galaxy Nexus. It has LTE. It's the phone we've been waiting (and waiting) for. Sure, some of our more globe-trotting members of the staff were suitably sated by the HSPA+ version that shipped a few weeks ago, but the rest of us domestic types simply need more bandwidth. Or, at least, we like to think that we do, and this $300 (on-contract) Verizon release certainly has that in spades.

However, there's something missing: Google Wallet. That company's attempt at reinventing commerce isn't here and, while nobody's saying for sure, it surely has something to do with Verizon not wanting to kneecap the Isis payment service it has invested in. That leaves us wondering: with restrictions on what apps can be installed, and some rather prominent carrier branding on the back, is this really a Nexus device at all? And, more importantly, is it a good phone? Those answers and more wait for you below.




If we had to guess, we'd say the Verizon Galaxy Nexus is a compulsive eater -- you know, if it feels sad or guilty it just can't help but eat. Surely it's a bit down on itself for making all you gadget lovers wait, gnawing its way through a couple-dozen crullers as it suffered through delay after delay after delay. We're only speculating, of course, but the phone has definitely put on some weight since the HSPA+ version was released.

This LTE release is 9.47mm (.37 inches) thick and hits the scales at 150g. That's 15g heavier than the 135g HSPA+ version and a half-millimeter thicker than its 8.94mm predecessor. A half a mill may not sound like much, and it isn't, but that's not to say it isn't noticeable. The weight is more of a concern, extra heft seeming to imbalance the phone somewhat. The HSPA+ version feels like it has much more of its mass situated at the bottom, so it rests nicely in the hand. The LTE version, annoyingly, is just a bit more top-heavy.
It's the Galaxy Nexus. It has LTE. It's the phone we've been waiting (and waiting) for. Sure, some of our more globe-trotting members of the staff were suitably sated by the HSPA+ version that shipped a few weeks ago, but the rest of us domestic types simply need more bandwidth. Or, at least, we like to think that we do, and this $300 (on-contract) Verizon release certainly has that in spades.

However, there's something missing: Google Wallet. That company's attempt at reinventing commerce isn't here and, while nobody's saying for sure, it surely has something to do with Verizon not wanting to kneecap the Isis payment service it has invested in. That leaves us wondering: with restrictions on what apps can be installed, and some rather prominent carrier branding on the back, is this really a Nexus device at all? And, more importantly, is it a good phone? Those answers and more wait for you below.

Hardware
If we had to guess, we'd say the Verizon Galaxy Nexus is a compulsive eater -- you know, if it feels sad or guilty it just can't help but eat. Surely it's a bit down on itself for making all you gadget lovers wait, gnawing its way through a couple-dozen crullers as it suffered through delay after delay after delay. We're only speculating, of course, but the phone has definitely put on some weight since the HSPA+ version was released.

This LTE release is 9.47mm (.37 inches) thick and hits the scales at 150g. That's 15g heavier than the 135g HSPA+ version and a half-millimeter thicker than its 8.94mm predecessor. A half a mill may not sound like much, and it isn't, but that's not to say it isn't noticeable. The weight is more of a concern, extra heft seeming to imbalance the phone somewhat. The HSPA+ version feels like it has much more of its mass situated at the bottom, so it rests nicely in the hand. The LTE version, annoyingly, is just a bit more top-heavy.

That said, these are all incredibly subtle distinctions that don't make for an LTE phone that's too heavy but, if you had your choice, the HSPA+ version is definitely the one you'd want to hold in your hand or pocket.

Some of that extra weight comes from the healthy 1,850mAh battery nestled in the back beneath a typically flimsy plastic cover, just the sort that we've seen on plenty of other superphones from Samsung. That's a slight boost from the 1,750mAh model in the HSPA+ phone, but the difference in size and weight between the two cells is so minor that the extra girth and heft are definitely coming thanks to the boosted internals here. This is most noticeable at the top, where phone is visibly thicker.
Also under that battery cover lies a micro SIM card, smaller and in a different location than the HSPA+ SIM, which is up next to the camera assembly. Look closely and you'll see the screws, connectors and other details are all very differently positioned between these two devices, leaving us wondering just how similar they are internally. We're very much looking forward to iFixit's prying eyes and tools to tell us.


Interestingly, the differences are enough to make the near-identical looking backplates non-interchangeable. So, if you were hoping to pick up an HSPA+ cover to get rid of the Verizon branding, you're out of luck. And yes, we'll say that again: there's Verizon branding on this thing. That's the first strike against this being a true "Nexus" device. The second is the loss of Google Wallet, which we'll cover in a bit.

Despite the lack of Wallet there is still NFC here, as is the 1.2GHz dual-core processor paired with 1GB of RAM. Our phone is offering 32GB of built-in storage, but still there's no USB mass storage mode, meaning you'll still be relying on MTP or PTP for file transfers -- not the end of the world, but certainly an inconvenience.

To transfer files you'll be connecting over the micro-USB port built into the bottom, which is situated next to the 3.5mm headphone jack. The power button is on the upper-right side, volume rocker on the left, and not much of anything is up on the top. There is no dedicated micro-HDMI output, but the micro-USB port supports MHL, so that's almost as good. Also, we're fans of the three-color LED situated in the bezel below the display. It fades in and out gently and looks a good bit classier than your average blinking email notifier.

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