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Galaxy Nexus & Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” Reviewed, Compared to Galaxy S II & iPhone 4S

grand master

Galaxy Nexus Large.jpgThe Galaxy Nexus is the world’s first smartphone running Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” – the latest version of Google’s Android operating system. Android 4.0 includes new features such as improved multitasking, a data usage monitor, real-time voice dictation and spell checking, improved web browsing and using facial recognition to secure your phone.


In this article, we explore the Galaxy Nexus and the new features of Android 4.0. We’ll look at how the Galaxy Nexus compares with smartphones such as the Galaxy S II and the iPhone 4S and how to find out whether Android 4.0 will be available on your existing handset. Finally, we’ll look at how you can giffgaff your Galaxy Nexus.


What is the Galaxy Nexus?


The Galaxy Nexus (Samsung GT-I9250) is the first smartphone in the world to run Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”. Manufactured by Samsung, the Galaxy Nexus is the latest in the line of Samsung’s “Galaxy” range of Android devices (other devices include the Galaxy S II, Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Galaxy Note). The Galaxy Nexus differs from the rest of the Galaxy range in that it doesn’t feature Samsung’s “TouchWiz” user interface – instead it runs “stock” Android 4.0 with Google’s “Holo” user interface. One key benefit of “stock” Android is that Galaxy Nexus owners will always get Android updates immediately, making this phone ideal for anyone who wants to be on the cutting-edge.


Like many of the other devices in Samsung’s Galaxy range, the Galaxy Nexus sports an organic LED touchscreen display. With the Galaxy Nexus, the size of the display has been bumped up to 4.65-inches and the resolution has been increased to 1280x720. This positions the Galaxy Nexus’ display somewhere between the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Note both in terms of size and resolution (the Galaxy S II features a 4.3-inch display with 800x480 resolution whilst the Galaxy Note features a 5.3-inch display with 1280x800 resolution). The design of Android 4.0 is such that hardware navigation buttons (e.g. back, home, menu) have been replaced with on-screen buttons instead. As the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t feature hardware buttons like other Galaxy devices, it is able to make use of that space to feature a larger display. The on-screen buttons are also contextual and will hide automatically when you’re browsing photos or watching videos.


Size Comparison.jpg
The Galaxy Nexus has a 4.65-inch display: somewhere between the Galaxy S II’s 4.3-inch display and the Galaxy Note’s 5.3-inch display. However, because there are no hardware buttons in Android 4.0, it is able to accommodate a larger display in the same form factor.


Behind the display, the Galaxy Nexus also features a dual-core 1.2 GHz processor, a 5 megapixel rear-facing camera with LED flash, a 1.3-megapixel front facing camera for video calling, a LED notification light, GPS functionality (with a barometer to speed up GPS operation) and NFC (Near Field Communication) technology which will eventually allow mobile payments.


What’s new in Android 4.0?


Key enhancements in Android 4.0 include:


  • Improved multitasking. On older versions of Android, holding down the home button would bring up a list of the 6 most recently used applications. Tapping on the relevant icon takes you into the application. In Android 4.0, there is a dedicated “task switcher” button in the bottom right corner of the screen. Rather than simply bringing up application icons, the new task switcher features screenshots of the recently used applications. The new task switcher also allows applications to be closed by swiping them away to either side.

    Multitasking New.jpgMultitasking Old.jpg
    Multitasking in Android 4.0 (left) has been improved with screenshots of running applications and the ability to swipe away applications. The task switcher in older versions of Android (right) is much more basic.
  • Data Usage Monitor. Android 4.0 features a “Data Usage Monitor”. This allows you to see how much data each of your applications has been consuming and allows you to restrict background data usage for individual applications. The data usage monitor can also warn you if you’re close to approaching your monthly download limit (useful if you don’t have unlimited internet on giffgaff goodybags).

  • New keyboard, spell-checker & voice input. Like many other Android devices, the Galaxy Nexus features an on-screen software keyboard. Text input has been improved in Android 4.0 with built-in spell-check, a new keyboard and real-time voice input. Voice input makes use of Google’s cloud voice recognition service and is accessed through a dedicated button on the keyboard. Unlike in older versions of Android, your speech is recognised in real-time and appears as you speak.

  • New user interface. Android 4.0 features a new user interface dubbed “Holo” and a new font called Roboto. Key applications such as Gmail and Google Maps have also been given a facelift. Note that manufacturers often like to develop a custom user interface for their Android devices (e.g. Samsung Touchwiz, HTC Sense, Motorola’s MotoBlur) so not all Android 4.0 devices will feature the “Holo” user interface.

    Holo 1.jpgHolo 2.jpg
    Android 4.0 has been redesigned with the new “Holo” user interface. Pictured is the Galaxy Nexus home screen (left) and the Google Maps application (right).
  • Android Beam. It is possible to share webpages, applications and contact details between two Galaxy Nexuses by touching them back-to-back. The “Android Beam” feature makes use of the NFC (Near Field Communication) functionality in the Galaxy Nexus.

  • Facial Recognition. Rather than entering a code or pattern each time, it is possible to unlock your phone using facial recognition in Android 4.0. The Galaxy Nexus makes use of the 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for facial recognition. However, this is a low-security option as “Face Unlock” can be fooled by a photograph.

In addition to all of the new features in Android 4.0, you’ll still have access to the same applications that are available on earlier versions of Android. This includes preloaded applications such as Gmail and Google Maps with free GPS navigation. 400,000+ applications are also available for download from the Android Market.


Galaxy Nexus VS Samsung Galaxy S II & Apple iPhone 4S: Comparison


Compared to the Galaxy S II and the iPhone 4S, the most noticeable difference is that the Galaxy Nexus has the largest display (4.65-inches compared to 4.3-inches and 3.5-inches). Other key differences include the screen resolution and the inclusion of Android 4.0 as the operating system.



Galaxy Nexus

Galaxy Nexus Large.jpg

Samsung Galaxy S II

Samsung Galaxy S 2.jpg 

Apple iPhone 4S

 iPhone 4S Siri.jpg


1.2GHz dual-core

1.2GHz dual-core

1GHz dual-core


4.65-inch AMOLED (organic LED)

4.3-inch AMOLED (organic LED)

3.5-inch TFT display

Screen Resolution




Operating System

Google Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich)

Google Android 2.3 (Gingerbread)

Apple iOS 5


16GB/32GB internal memory

16GB internal memory & up to 32GB micro-SD

16GB/32GB/64GB internal memory


5 megapixel with LED flash

8 megapixel with LED flash

8 megapixel with LED flash

Video recording

1080p, 30 frames per second

1080p, 30 frames per second

1080p, 30 frames per second


1,750mAh (8.3 hours talk time)

1,650mAh (8.7 hours talk time)

1,430mAh (8 hours talk time)

Text Input

On-screen software keyboard

On-screen software keyboard

On-screen software keyboard

Approx. price

Approx. £500 SIM-free

Approx. £400 SIM-free

£499 SIM-free

SIM card size

Standard SIM

Standard SIM

Micro SIM


All three devices are compatible with giffgaff and some great savings can be had by buying these devices upfront and using one of our giffgaff goodybags.


Updating your smartphone to Android 4.0


One of the key benefits of owning a “Google experience” device such as the Galaxy Nexus (or its predecessor the Nexus S) is that you’ll be first to receive updates to the latest version of Android.


Ice Cream Sandwich.jpgOwners of other Android-based devices may also receive a software update in the coming months to Android 4.0 – however the exact schedule will depend on the phone you own and the mobile network that you purchased it from (mobile networks often make their own changes to the software). The update schedule for various Android devices are as follows:


It is also expected that many of the smartphone and tablets announced at next month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona will also ship with Android 4.0 pre-installed. This will dramatically increase the choice of Android 4.0 handsets available.


Using Galaxy Nexus on giffgaff


The Galaxy Nexus can be used on giffgaff providing it isn’t locked. It’ll take a standard-sized giffgaff SIM card and unlimited internet is available on your Galaxy Nexus from £10/month with one of our giffgaff goodybags. For details on setting up your Galaxy Nexus on giffgaff, see our guide to setting up internet on your Android device. If your Galaxy Nexus is locked, see the unlockapedia for articles on how to unlock Samsung smartphones.


Your thoughts…


Have you tried out the Galaxy Nexus? What did you think of Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich” and what are your favourite features? In your opinion, how does Android 4.0 compare to iPhone and Windows Phone? Drop us a comment below – we’d love to hear your thoughts!


Any ideas on when HTC are releasing Android 4?  I have a Sensation and have heard its one of the first, but wonder when....any ideas folks?


what is the difference between honeycomb and icecream sandwich? 


Another great article Ken,


I think you "sold" me the NOTE in your previous blog, the screen on my E71 is just too small now to enjoy, and any sort of browsing  has to be limited..............  Now, where's me specs?    Aghh!  I think I'm turning into my DadSmiley Very Happy


The samsung galaxy s2 has an upper hand with it's exynos chip-set

@ a71, honeycomb is android specifically for tablet devices. ICS is the new version of the mobile phone android software replacing Gingerbread.

grand master
Thank you all for your lovely feedback on the article! @a71 Just to add to what @cinami said, Ice Cream Sandwich is replacing *both* Gingerbread and Honeycomb (it'll be the same version of Android for both smartphones and tablets going forward). I guess Honeycomb was a bit of a "crash landing" as Google realised they needed certain key features for Android to work well on a tablet (e.g. multi-pane layouts which better utilise space e.g. your e-mail list on the left with e-mail message on the right), buttons which rotate with the display, better web browser, visual multitasking, etc. Ice Cream Sandwich iterates on Honeycomb by improving these features and adapting them so they work for smartphone users too :-) Ken

According to their facebook page ICS is coming first to the HTC Sensation, Sensation XE, XL and a few others some time in january, now they say early 2012, unless they change their mind, again!

I've had this phone for a couple of weeks - it was (may still be today) available at the Carphone Warehouse for £199.95 SIM Free.


I upgraded from a rooted HTC Hero - the screen is much clearer, the phone is much faster and responsive (no surprise though from a Hero!).  

I'm not on Ice Cream Sandwich.  I read somewhere that Google paused rollouts.  When I check for updates, I get "your phone is up to date" on 2.3.1!  


There's no LED on the phone at all; so you wouldn't always know when its charging or you have a message/email/etc.  However, the excellent NoLED app on the marketplace more than solves that problem.


I agree with the camera not being great (it's rather grainy, and there appears to be no zoom functionality).


Just a few things to be aware of.  I'm only using it as an interim phone and I'm not a heavy Android user - I merely use Twitter, SMS and call on it; not much more, so for me it's fine as a phone.  It doesn't blow an iPhone out of the water by any standard, and the lack of expandable storage was a backwards step from me, having had a microSD card in my Hero.


I may change my mind if ICS gets pushed to my phone, but I've no idea when that will be...


Now your talking.. My favourite device! Wonderful slender design, super fast, good battery life and a stock OS that is simply beautiful. Well done Samsung & Google


My phone for a long time...


(or until the s3 haha)


I have been an ardent Apple user but ICS is surely getting me curious! I might give in to the temptation Smiley Tongue