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Samsung Galaxy Nexus provides first lick of Ice Cream Sandwich

by Marty Gabel

The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the latest Google-branded super phone and the first to sport the significant Android software update, version 4.0, better known to the world as Ice Cream Sandwich. It’s a stellar device, with software destined to change everything we know about Android.

There is still no exact release date for this device in the USA. It’ll be on Verizon, most likely by the end of November, but customers (and plenty of reviewers) in the UK are already getting their greasy mitts on this flagship Android device.

Back home, we really enjoyed the review from Joshua Topolsky at The Verge. It’s a very in-depth article, full of details, with plenty of pictures and lots of crucial information. In addition, The Verge offers this great video review which we’ve embedded here:

You have probably read all about this device’s tech specs already, but away from all the numbers and stats, it’s fast, powerful, has a huge high-def screen and the new Ice Cream Sandwich UI is impressive and a significant upgrade and change from previous Android incarnations.

Positive opinions

Reviews, as we mentioned, are overwhelmingly positive. Topolosky himself calls it “one of the best smartphones ever made... and it could be the best ever.” That’s high praise indeed, and you know you’re really onto something special when the quibble most reviewers have with the device so far is a relatively poor camera (it’s still good and fast, just perhaps not iPhone 4S good), or the rather imposing size.

Charlie White at Mashable calls it the “best Android phone we’ve seen yet,” praising both its hardware and software, while CNET’s Kent German and Jessica Dolcourt in their video review call it a big step forward for Android (if perhaps not a giant leap).

Ice Cream Sandwich is tasty

Quibbles over the tech specs of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus compared to other smartphones have mainly been thrust aside by the almost universal praise currently being heaped on Ice Cream Sandwich. This finally looks like the complete, polished operating system Android has promised for a while.

Over at the newly-revamped Android.com website, there’s a lot of great information about all the new software has to offer. The revamped UI is classy and sharp and unified across all apps. It's not perfect yet, but it's getting better. Widgets are resizable, there’s improved text input and spell-checking, better camera capabilities, gallery features, and newer innovations like NFC-capabilities and face unlock.

This is more than just a refresh, this is a whole new experience and so far, it looks promising. Sure, there are a few quirks here and there and perhaps some elements don't really work. But the UI is smooth and integrated enough now, for example, that the need for manufacturer skins could be deemed unnecessary. However, those who love to tweak should note that there’s still likely to be all manner of aftermarket enhancements and launchers once Ice Cream Sandwich is pushed out on more devices. This should keep customization fans happy, after all, that has always been the Android way.

Some final words of caution

Bear in mind that a lot of these early reviews are based on the European Pentaband version of the new Samsung Galaxy Nexus. There are a few bugs that need ironing out, but it’s still a positive reception overall. When the phone finally arrives in the US (and that date is still not confirmed) it will hopefully be as well received and work as effectively here, but there’s always the possibility of delays or issues.

Other manufacturers promise that their phones will be updated to Ice Cream Sandwich too, and once the software is pushed out to all manner of different devices (including tablets), we’ll finally begin to see whether it will be a success and tackle previous Android issues of fragmentation.

One great Google device running Ice Cream Sandwich is certainly welcome, but the true test will be how it runs across the entire Android fleet of devices worldwide so everyone can enjoy its spoils.