Samsung Galaxy Nexus/Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich first impressions (Update: ICS updates, pricing announced)

The keynote is over, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is official and Ice Cream Sandwich finally has a version number, but how does it all look?

Firstly, the phone. The Super AMOLED HD 1280 x 720 16:9 screen sounds fantastic, even if at the mahoosive size of 4.65 inches. The 8.49mm deep handset houses a full gigabyte of RAM, a 1.2GHz Texas Instruments dual core chip and 2 cameras. The 1.3MP front shooter is standard fare but one expects better than a 5MP lens on the back, especially in comparison to the fantastic cameras on the Samsung Galaxy S II, Nokia N8 and of course the iPhone 4S. An NFC chip is incorporated for Android Beam tap-to-share and of course Google Wallet whenever it launches on this side of the pond. The phone will ship with Android 4.0 and will come in both LTE and HSPA+ variants, depending on location and demand. No pricing has been announced, but NTT DoCoMo will be carrying the phone in Japan along with it being another Verizon exclusive stateside if earlier leaks are to be believed.

Ice Cream Sandwich was announced to bring Honeycomb and Gingerbread together. It is designed for resolutions of 1280 x 720, pretty much ruling out upgrades for the current crop of Android phones but good for Honeycomb users wanting upgrades. A new face unlock feature failed to work during its demo tonight, but the new instant talk-to-text feature seemed useful. Many pre-installed apps have been updated such as Gmail, Phone and People. Camera now has zero shutter lag and allows for panoramic shots while pictures can be thoroughly edited in Gallery and autoshared to Google+ (if you jumped on that bandwagon). I did love the data usage setting, allowing for data usage to be projected and restricted – something that I would find extremely useful on my Froyo-flashing HTC Wildfire. Widgets can be resized and folder creation is now even simpler, even if the mechanism is taken straight out of iOS 4. iOS 5 also inspires a ‘save for later’ feature in the browser and swiping to remove notifications from the drawer. Prepare for more lawsuits.

Ice Cream Sandwich doesn’t grab my attention like Mango or iOS 5, but then again I have never been an Android fan. If priced at around the same iPhone 4S then I can see this selling very well and, again if priced right, is in a position to destroy the Motorola RAZR and become the flagship Android device until we see quad-core Tegra 3 Jelly Bean Devices. I don’t see ICS as being as large an upgrade as iOS 5, but the minor updates should improve the end-user Android experience. In my opinion, Matias Duarte, head of Android User Experience, said it best – Ice Cream Sandwich knows your face. I would rather it kept away.

Update: Google’s Gabe Cohen and Matias Duarte have confirmed that the Nexus S will be receiving an Ice Cream Sandwich and that it is theoretically possible for any device running Gingerbread to be upgraded to ICS. Version 4.0 is designed around 1280 x 720 but can still work in lower resolutions.

Update 2: UK retailer Phones4U has announced pricing for the Galaxy Nexus. It will be yours free on a whopping £46 per month contract. Pay £29.95 up front for a £41 per month contract as well. 3, Vodafone and O2 have confirmed that the device will be hitting their shelves in November, with Everything Everywhere (that’s T-Mobile and Orange to you and me) expected to announce the device at some point before November. This phone is seemingly reserved for millionaire giants with a mahoosive price to accompany the mahoosive screen so, if you still want one, head to eBay and sell your soul.

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