December 23, 2011

Shawn Blanc Reviews Galaxy Nexus S

Shawn Blanc’s Galaxy Nexus review, distilled to the critical hardware flaws:

I never got comfortable with the Galaxy Nexus. I cannot comfortably use the Nexus with one hand because it is just too big. It is too tall and too wide for a comfortable grip, and so the phone never feels balanced and safe in my hand. Professional basketball players may prefer the Galaxy Nexus and its 4.65-inch screen, but I prefer the size of the iPhone.

This is the most subjective of the flaws Shawn found. A larger screen makes watching video more comfortable, but that’s the only benefit for a mobile phone device.

Personally, I’d just use an iPad for video on-the-go and leave my phone in my pocket. Three inches, four inches, they’re both too damn small for extended video viewing.

“On average, however, the 4G speeds on Verizon’s LTE network turned out to be comparable to the 3G speeds of AT&T’s network (at least here at my house in Kansas City).”

That’s damning. There’s less appeal to Verizon’s 4G if AT&T’s 3G provides nearly the same speed (Shawn cites his test numbers). Why suffer the battery drain of 4G for little better speed?

The default of the Galaxy Nexus is to run on LTE and fallback on CDMA. But you can turn off the LTE connection altogether if you want. Which is your only hope if you like battery life.

It’s bad enough having to manage computers. I don’t want to have to manage my phone. I want it to work when I need it without fiddling.

With 4G simply being enabled, even if I am at home where I have Wi-Fi, and if I use the Nexus very little, the battery will be dead by the end of my day (about 10 hours). With 4G disabled the phone would last for more than 20 hours with light usage.

Here’s the crazy part: when I am actually using the 4G network for tasks — such as turn-by-turn navigation or video streaming — it will drain 1-percent or more of battery life per minute.

Shawn goes on to note that his car charger could not keep up with the battery drain of using turn-by-turn GPS navigation on a Nexus with 4G enabled. Imagine that … the battery does not last for an extended period when the device is used as designed.

And all these were hardware problems. He hadn’t gotten to the operating system, Android 4.0, but the time I decided I’d never buy one of these phones.

Now consider all the Verizon customers whose purchases are swayed not by thoughtful reviews, but rather by marketing. They walk into a Verizon store looking for the latest, fastest, flashiest phone and walk out with one of these.

What I’d really like to see is the rate of return numbers for this (and other) Android phones. That’s likely the only metric a new customer would need to know.