I’ve had my Galaxy Nexus for about 5 days now.  My first impressions are:

Ice Cream Sandwich

Very slick.  I’ve been using Gingerbread on my tablet (a little awkward since it’s primarily a phone OS) and ICS really does take Android to a new level of polish, unification (in UI, at least), and beauty.  As I use the UI there are times where I can’t help but smile at how well done some things are and the overall cleanness, beauty, and simplicity of the UI.  That’s the experience you want to give your users.  I do what I can at work to do that, and I’ve really started to expect it out of any product that proclaims or wants to be top-of-the line.  I think we’re at a point in our computing experience where there’s not much excuse any longer to get the simple things wrong.  We’re using so many different devices now that it’s time that more of what we do is simple and glitch-free.  It’s hard to do (I don’t always get it right at work), but it’s gotta be the goal.

I’ve had many of the core apps crash on me and other little glitches, but the experience is top notch in my opinion.  I’m not a big iOS user, but it’s certainly often been the top dog in clean and visually appealing interfaces.  Android has often been characterized as giving the user more control (or giving the option for greater customization) but with a bit less polished/beautiful UI.  Android 4, in my opinion, gives me both a beautiful UI and the customization/details I want.

The Hardware

My phone’s got an issue with the earpiece.  I dropped by the Galaxy Nexus area of Samsung’s booth at CES on Thursday and was glad to discover that it was just my phone.  I’ll have to work with LetsTalk to get it exchanged.  Since I already waited almost a month to get my backordered phone, I’m hoping that LetsTalk will upgrade my exchange process and send me a new phone before I send mine back.  I don’t want to be without a phone for a couple of weeks (not gonna just give away my money to Verizon for nothing).  They claim they’ve centered a lot of their business model on a great customer service experience, so let’s see if they pull through on that promise.

Anyways, back to the hardware.  The phone is surprisingly light.  It’s not too light, but lighter than you’d expect when you look at it.  It’s also big.  Almost too big (in my opinion), but I’ve gotten used to it.  I think it’ll spoil me and I won’t be able to use a phone with a smaller screen if that’s what’s offered in the future.

The screen is pretty awesome.  I’m still jealous of the HTC Rezound’s screen in some respects (no pentile matrix, more subpixels for the same resolution).  The hardware buttons are replaced with on screen buttons making the difference between the Rezound’s screen and the GNex’s screen less significant (since the Rezound has dedicated hardware buttons).  You’ll get the full screen on the Nexus when watching a video or doing a few other things, but that’s not a huge deal to me.  So in my book I might not go as far as to put it as the best screen out there,t it’s certainly one of the best and meets my pretty high standards.  I love high resolution screens–seeing the square edges pixels is a dying experience and this screen moves in the right direction.  (So did the experimental 8K TV I saw at Sharp’s booth at CES.  That thing was absolutely amazing.  I want it.  The no-glasses-needed 3D tech is a move in the wrong direction as far as resolution goes.  That’s the sacrifice, I guess.)

Battery Life

Not too good.  Even though it is a 4G phone and I knew to expect a lot less than my old dumb phone, I still expected more.  The first few days I’d see my battery drop throughout the day with very little usage with the 4G and WiFi on.  I’d give it about 8-10 hours with really light usage.  I’m testing more today to see how it fares with those same settings, but I’m not too impressed.  I’d expect that if I’m not using it, that it’d drop maybe 10% throughout an entire day (even with WiFi and 4G on).  Maybe 15-20%, but certainly not 80%.  Again, we’re at a point where I shouldn’t have to worry about turning on and off WiFi and toggling 3G/4G settings.  It should just work.  (Man, I’m sounding like I should be more of an Apple fan, since that’s how things often work over there to a certain extent.)

Yesterday I turned off the 4G and WiFi and things were much better.  I took a few videos, photos, made some short phone calls, used some of my apps, texted, and made the trip from Vegas to Provo.  The battery lasted from about 8 that morning until after I got home at around 9:30 that evening (with still around 15% battery life).  Not too shabby.  I didn’t listen to music or play games while I was traveling (which I would have wanted to do if I didn’t have my tablet handy).  If I had done that, I don’t think I would have made it.  The Droid Razr Maxx sounds like it will be pretty awesome with respects to battery life.  Google/Samsung take note.  We want that experience on our phones.

Some of the issues might be attributed to a bug in ICS that can be fixed up (the device often stays awake with the screen off for longer than it seems it should), so my experiences might get better with some software patches.  I hope so, because I don’t like feeling nervous that if I use my device now I won’t be able to later.  My tablet has spoiled me, I guess.  I can use that thing pretty heavily all day long and still end up with 40% at the end of the day.  15-20% if I’m really hard on it.

When I went to CES I took my GNex, HP Touchpad, and old dumb phone.  The GNex didn’t last all day unless I turned off WiFi and 4G.  The Touchpad went the whole trip without needing to be charged (I didn’t use it a ton, but it sat there with WiFi on and occasionally searching without huge battery drains).  I also used it for web browsing over a WiFi hotspot in my car on the way down and music and games on my way home and was still completely fine.  My dumb phone is sitting next to me as I begin the process of transferring my photos and other info off of it.  I last charged it Sunday night and used it about half the day Monday before my GNex arrived.  It’s now Saturday afternoon and the 3G’s been connected (well, as much as a deactivated phone gets connected) and it’s still got 50% battery left.  Why can’t my new smartphone be as smart at going to sleep and conserving power when I’m not using it?  Sure it’s got more going on, but it shouldn’t be doing that much more that it can hardly last a day even with light usage.  They’re both Samsung phones.  The Galaxy Nexus has a 1850mAh battery (upgradeable to a slightly larger 2100 mAh battery), while my old phone had a measly 960 mAh (and a 800 x 480 AMOLED pentile matrix screen–obviously less power hungry than the beautiful display on the Galaxy Nexus, but really an older version of the same technology).  You’d think the Galaxy Nexus would be much better than it is.

Overall

I like it a lot.  I hope that when I’m ready for an upgrade two years from now that there’s a similar phone with a large, non-pentile-matrix, high-res screen, much better battery life (4G’s already been out for over a year–gotta figure out how to make more efficient radios eventually, right?), and perhaps some other new gizmos.  I’ll stick with the Galaxy Nexus even if I do have to live with it as 3G only for the battery’s sake.