Galaxy Nexus

After months of speculation and hype, we finally have the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the first device to ship with the brand new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS. The phone recently went on sale in the UK, and we’re hoping to hear something (anything) out of Verizon about the Nexus’s US availability over the next week or so. We’ve already given you a first look at the device based on pre-release units at the recent Samsung Galaxy Note World Tour, but today we can bring you our initial thoughts on the GSM retail version that’s slowly becoming available across Europe.

We’ll have a full review in due course, but here’s a little spoiler: this is a phone we think you’ll want to buy. Read on to find out why.

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Much has been made of the size of the Galaxy Nexus, and at 4.65 inches diagonally, it’s certainly one of the larger Android phones out there. But it’s designed in such a way that it doesn’t really feel appreciably larger than a standard 4.3-inch device. Screen bezel has been kept to an absolute minimum, and it also helps that the phone is unbelievably light, weighting in at just 135 grams -- that’s a mere four grams heavier than the Nexus S. As you’ll see in our photos, it’s also fairly thin, although the upcoming Verizon LTE variant is reportedly a little girthier.

We’ve covered HD SuperAMOLED before in our Galaxy Note review, but it’s worth re-stating just how sharp and clear this display tech is. Colors are bright and vivid, and black are so dark they fade almost seamlessly into the bezel.

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We’ve also been over the Nexus’s specs countless times previously, but in case you’re new around here, you’ll find a 1.2 GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460 chip inside, along with 1GB of RAM and (in the UK, at least) 16GB of internal storage. Solid internals for a high-end smartphone. Some were expecting it to be powered by a faster Exynos or Tegra 3 chip (or unicorns and sunshine), but the Nexus line has always been more about the software than the hardware.

Speaking of which, our initial impressions of Ice Cream Sandwich are overwhelmingly positive -- this is the big step up for the platform, and, looking back, on that Android direly needed. Matias Duarte and his team have created a beautiful piece of software with a consistent design language that’s new and fresh, but still very much Android. In addition to the new gallery, people and browser apps that we’ve touched on in our first hands-on feature, the Nexus comes loaded with re-designed ICS-optimized versions of Google favorites like Gmail, YouTube and Google+.

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The overall speed of ICS is striking in almost every area of the software. We’d say that in terms of general responsiveness, it’s on par with Samsung’s excellent Galaxy S II. On the whole, using Google’s new flagship phone is an enjoyable and lag-free experience, with one exception. We noticed that certain live wallpapers still had the potential to slow down the launcher considerably, making things much less responsive than with a static wallpaper. It's unfortunate that this is still the case with ICS, especially when you consider how smooth the rest of the UI is.

We can’t wait to get to know the Galaxy Nexus a little better over the next few days, and we’ll have a full review written up very soon, so keep watching. If you have any specific questions in the meantime, sound off in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them.

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