The New Phone
Posted on March 24, 2012 Posted by John Scalzi 35 Comments
I noted on Twitter the other day that I had upgraded my phone from my Droid X to a Galaxy Nexus, which precipitated a rash of queries about the phone and what I thought of it (and also of Ice Cream Sandwich, the latest iteration of the Android OS). Because I cannot refuse you all anything, here are some brief thoughts.
Generally, I like it quite a bit. In a general sense, it’s a substantially more capable phone than the Droid X, which was in itself not a slacker. The screen is slightly larger (it’s a 4.6-inch screen with 720 x 1280 resolution), which means the phone itself is a bit wider (although thinner) than the X. I think this size phone is about as large as I want to carry around; I can use it one-handed but it’s a close thing. The screen is bright and gorgeous; its dpi is not quite that of the iphone (316 vs 326), but it’s close enough that you’d have to be a super nerd to complain. The screen was ultimately the deciding factor for me on the phone; it came down to it and the Motorola Razr Maxx. The Maxx has a significantly larger battery, which is not a trivial consideration, but the screen was jaggy.
The Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android is in fact much better than previous versions; it looks prettier, seems more capable and makes it easier to deal with the phone and its various apps. I particularly like the dedicated button that shows you all the programs that are open at any one time; it’s substantially easier to multitask now, and also easier to find which things are sucking your battery dry and kill them as a process. It also kicks ass in camera management; unlike every other camera phone I’ve used, which featured an at least two second lag from when you pressed the button to when the thing took the actual picture, ICS has almost no lag at all. It’s a little thing, but it’s a little awesome thing.
So those are a couple of things I like. Some of the things I’m not 100% happy about: The camera, although faster, isn’t as good as the one I had on my Droid X, either in resolution (is 5mp vs 8mp for the X) or in general quality of picture. The resolution would not be an issue if the general picture quality were better, since from a practical point of view most of the pictures I take with the phone end up being viewed on my site in 500 x 333 anyway. But the picture quality does matter. Second, I’m not in love with how quickly the battery drains; if you have location services and syncing on, you’ll chew through your battery amazingly fast. I’ve invested in one of these — I was planning to get one anyway because I travel with a ridiculous number of electronic devices these days but watching the Nexus slurp down its battery got me to pull the trigger.
(The other small, annoying thing which is not the fault of the phone is that it’s 4G capable but Verizon hasn’t installed its LTE service out where I am yet (it’s supposed to arrive in May). Stupid 3G. The good news for me at least is that I have a grandfathered in unlimited data plan, so when 4G arrives I’ll get to see how much they’ll actually let me blast through the pipe before the throttle me back. That’s some nerd fun right there, son.)
But overall I’m happy with my purchase and figure that this will get me through the next couple of years just fine, by which time I’m sure phone will have gained intelligence and launched our own nuclear missiles at us. Whatever, man. As long as I can read the Internet on the phone until the very last second, I’m good.
I’ve been looking at that phone since my son started salivating over it last Christmas (he’s the in house tech). Unfortunalty my (leave a cell phone company here space) doesn’t have it, yet or soon… I’ll just have to wait until something else comes along.
You can greatly improve the battery life by letting it discharge completely then charge fully three times. It just about tripled how long my Galaxy Nexus lasted after I did that.
I’ll tell you something… Verizon’s 4G is fun-times fast. When I moved to Richmond last year, I was without cable/Internet for a few days while I waited to get it hooked up. I tethered the XBox and two laptops to my Samsung Droid Charge and was able to stream Netflix HD while my wife surfed with no noticeable lag time. We were getting something like 10-12 mbps through the phone to the laptops.
I’ve had a “4G capable” Sprint phone for nearly two years now, and the only place I actually get 4G today is in a few square blocks of downtown San Francisco.
Sure is fast, though.
I have one of these for my HTC EVO both at home and in the office as it is hard to make it through a working day on a charge if I actually use it.
Good news! You won’t be throttled. Verizon Wireless only applies “network optimization” to 3G phones. Once you have 4G, even with the grandfathered unlimited data pack, you get to use as much data as you want.
(For anyone on a 3G phone: throttling only applies if you’re in the top 5% of users and on a congested cell site and on the unlimited data pack. If the site becomes less congested, say because it’s 2 am, the throttling stops. It only applies when absolutely necessary.)
Regarding battery life: There’s a wonderful application called SetCPU that will alter your min & max processor speeds based on several factors like remaining battery charge. Slight issue: it requires Superuser permission, which means you have to root your phone. It does wonders for battery life, though, scaling down the phone’s processing power as its battery power wanes.
Would you like to play a game?
Perhaps Global Thermonuclear War?
Every time I get a new smartphone, I get pissed off about the crappy battery life. Then my husband reminds me that smartphones often take a few charge cycles to achieve their advertised battery life.
John, you have Macs, am I right? If so, any issues interfacing a not-an-iPhone with Apple devices?
I don’t yet have a smartphone, and wonder if I’m limited to the iPhone.
I don’t often connect the phone to the Mac in any event, but so far haven’t had any problems.
I just got my nexus in the mail. It replaces a mytouch from tmobile that had developed screen problems and a wonky charging port. Comparatively, this thing is a beast, almost too big to work with one hand. On the plus side, I can read ebooks on the big screen without developing a permanent squint or blowing up the pages an unusably large amount.
The NFC gizmo looks like it may be quite fun. It may take a trip to the library to see what bumping the phone into the rfid tagged stuff might yield
Speaking as a manager of a team developing Android software who uses a Mac, there are no issues using the two together. I’ve actively used three different tablets, four different phones and an Android TV with my Mac.
Android has always pushed doing all app purchases through the device and publishing to “the cloud” though, so the typical user rarely needs to connect them to a PC.
For battery consumption I use JuiceDefender.
It does a great job of improving battery life by doing things like when the screen is not on (asleep in your pocket) it turns off data (wifi, 3G, etc…) but leaves on phone/sms so you can still get calls/notifications. You can turn on an option to periodically re-enable data while the screen is off so that you can still sync (15min, 30min, 60min, etc…)
Then there’s a related tool JuicePlotter which will graph over time the status of your battery level. it’s been quite useful in understanding what’s using juice on your Android.
Steven Burnap: Thanks. I may be stuck in the past, when I had to use a hardwire connection to sync my PDA with my laptop. I forget that things are different now.
Good to know I’m not limited to an iPhone, either.
What can the Nexus wireless tether WITHOUT paying an extra blood fee to Verizon?
I’m not giving those devils another vein.
I remember a time when you didn’t have a cell phone at all… #livinginthefuture
That’s a screensaver / wallpaper image, not a reflection, right? One of my chief complaints about my current Android model is the appallingly shiny screen. That, and it’s a really bad phone, although that’s really not what I use it for, anyway.
What app is on her nose?
And does she approve?
I love my Nexus and ever since I got the larger battery (and battery door) – it lasts a long time. I usually turn off 4g (so the phone doesn’t look for it) and turn the 4g on when I want fast internet connections – get the larger battery…you’ll be happy you did. I usually go 2 days between charges and I talk a lot…on the phone too.
My Galaxy SII is plagued with poor reception and laughable GPS; I hope your new Nexus is better.
1. re: killing processes, there is no need! There is an actual setting for that under developer options, you can if you wish destroy every process on exit, or set a background process limit.
2.a. battery: it’s so cool, it keeps track of which app uses how much battery. Tap the battery graph to embiggen it. 2.b. data usage: keeps track of which app uses how much data. There’s an eye opener for ya. Biggest battery drain I’ve found? The damn screen. And I have the extended battery.
3. volume: the volume sucks. It can be made better by rooting, but that’s the only way so far, I believe.
4. notifications: did you see that notification lights come in DIFFERENT COLORS?! Many different colors! There are apps (like Light Flow) for making them blink for you.
5. did I mention Hulu Plus doesn’t work? *mutters darkly*
Looks like a nice phone. I’m due for a new one myself, but I’m actually thinking of making the switch to iPhone (I have a Droid 2). I have an iPad, so I’d be able to take advantage of all the cloud stuff and what not. Plus, I’m just a little over android. Sometimes I just need something new and refreshing.
That is not a list of running programs, nor does removing items from it do anything. It is a list of most recently used applications, and only that.
Hope that lasts. Got a RAZR MAXX last week, complete to lapdock and car dock, and discovered that I really can burn through a lot of data, especially using Netflix and internet radio. But I jumped through all the hoops to keep my unlimited data …
Why not an iPhone?
I promise not to argue with your answer. I’m weary of religious wars about technology. I’m much more interested in finding out why people make the technology choices they do than arguing with them about it. I figure Apple has enough marketing people of its own. They don’t need me.
Unless you WANT me to argue with you about it. I can do that. I can throw tantrums too. I’m very accommodating that way.
Because I don’t want one.
So you resist becoming an iDependent?
I upgraded from my iPhone 3GS to a Motorola Atrix 2 about a month ago. I ain’t goin’ back, no way, no how, not ever.
How easy is it to adjust to Ice Cream Sandwich after Gingerbread? AT&T promises me they’ll be getting around to an upgrade one of these days. It took me a while to get accustomed to Gingerbread after iOS 4/5 and even though the new system looks pretty, it also looks like it will take some getting used to.
I bought the extended battery 2100mAh vs the standard 1850. It is a little bit heavier and maybe a tiny bit thicker but neither are truly noticeable. And it was 25$ with free shipping at Verizon right now. http://www.verizonwireless.com/b2c/store/accessory?action=accessoryDetails&accessoryId=49870
To heck with these external devices. I want me a BrainPal.
I switched from my IPhone 3GS to the Galaxy Nexus just over a month ago, I even wrote a 1 month on blog post
It’s a good phone though there’s room for improvement as with all.phones.
Huh, I should have been keeping up with Whatever this last week. I made exactly the same decision–to upgrade to a Galaxy Nexus from a Droid X–for many of the same reasons. I actually feel like the lens on this camera is better than the one on my Droid X, but my X had major camera issues (as did the replacement they sent) so maybe that’s just me. What I’m disappointed about is the lack of Hulu Plus support for it, though. Everything else works great–and now that I figured it out, the ability to make folders of your icons on the home screen actually works better for me than the three-click organizational categories in the previous OS. But I watch a LOT of Hulu Plus, and I’m also grandfathered in on unlimited data, so it annoys me that this phone feels like a bit of a downgrade in that respect. Otherwise, though, it’s been fun to have the upgrade.
By the way, the Verizon guy told me that the battery issue is a software issue that should be resolved by the newest ICS update coming out in the next week or two. I’m also planning to get an extended battery, which should help with the problem.
+1 on the juicedefender. Got it for my wife’s phone, and it instantly doubled the battery life. Also, at least for my blackberry: enable the wifi, link it to your house wifi. It causes the phone to use less juice, since it can use the wifi for certain tasks instead of the cell modem. Gave me (surprised the heck out me, more like) a shock that it would Improve the battery life, and by better than 50%.
“good for the next couple of years…” heh.
and yes, John, I realize I am only tempting the TechKarma gods to switch their attention from you to me. Maybe I should have posted anonymously.