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Tomorrow, or tonight, is the big US Verizon launch of the Galaxy Nexus LTE so I figured I’d better get my HSPA+ review up already.  The short version: The HSPA+ version is the best Android device on the market today.  Buy it.  You’ll be ahead of everyone else software-wise for the next year or so.

The long version:

I’ve been using the Galaxy Nexus HSPA+ version with both AT&T and T-Mobile SIMs and here are my takeaways.

  1. In my particular neck of the woods (Westchester just north of  NYC), AT&T is faster and has better coverage.  However, when I train into the city, T-Mobile has better coverage and is significantly faster as a broad generalization.  Both SIM phone numbers are tied to Google Voice so the change is pretty smooth otherwise.  What’s nice is the Google Nexus HSPA+ isn’t a BSer – it tells you when you have regular 3G or when you have HSPA+.  Most phones I’ve tested tell you you have 4G whenever you have a connection at all.
  2. The 720P 4.65 inch pentile screen is the best in the business, bar none.  I realize that the Rezound has a IPS LCD true 720P display and just about everyone is producing some sort of 720P display but Samsung’s is the best I’ve yet seen.  The only display I liked more?  Samsung Galaxy Note’s 720P 5.3″ display but that is a freakishly big “phone”.  With limited bezel, the 4.65 inch display “works” for the GN.  I still think the Droid RAZR is the coolest looking phone and won’t fault anyone for picking one up, especially at the significantly discounted price it was on offer for a few weeks ago.
  3. The GPS, like all Samsung Android  devices, is still behind HTC and Motorola as far as accuracy.  Samsung has been improving since the Captivate and Vibrant debuted over a year ago but they aren’t there yet and it sometimes takes 30 seconds for the phone to kick into navigation.  On the up side, you can use a normal charger and actually charge your phone while using GPS.  On the HTC Rezound, I actually lost charge while the device was plugged in and used GPS (and Pandora and Tethering).  So upside is low power GPS.  Downside is low power GPS.
  4. ICS is fast, feature-packed and a pleasure to use.  Android, like iOS, had gotten boring but there are a lot of cool new hooks inside Android 4.0.  Favorites include the new social contacts lists, screenshots, rapid fire camera shooting, dictation, and the improved CHROME browser.
  5. The Google Wallet omission thing is lame.  I understand Verizon blocking it.  But why can’t I use it on the International unlocked version?
  6. The camera is fantastic, even at “only 5 megapixels”.  The affects are fun, the movie quality and ‘steady shot’ are great and stills, as I mentioned before, come off fast.  One interesting note: I found that I was blurring my own picks when I was trying to rapid fire the pictures because I was pressing so hard (you know, for speed!).  Panoramic mode is also nice.  The front camera does video conferencing well and even takes more than acceptable videos.
  7. Maybe the biggest single improvement over any other Android phone I’ve used is the keyboard.  I’d say it was online with the iOS keyboard except the screen is so much bigger, it makes typing even easier.  For the first time when I go back and forth from iPhone to Android, I know I can type easier on Android.  That’s a big psychological barrier.
  8. I don’t like the face recognition.  It often works but fails enough to make it annoying.  I’m trying to get used to it but I don’t think this will be a very popular service unless it gets more accurate (or less accurate as it were).
  9. Battery life is fantastic.  I can’t yet say for the LTE variant (stay tuned) which won’t likely be as efficient, but the GN HSPA+ does all day pretty handily.  While tethering and using maps heavily, I’ve had just one day where the battery ran out before the day did.
  10. At $299 on Verizon, it is a bit pricey.  As with most phones, Amazon, Let’s Talk and others will have discounts.  In the larger scheme of things, your plan is going to cost you way more. You might as well have the best phone on that expensive plan.
Get the Galaxy Nexus for $199+2 year commit for $199 at Amazon or $299 at Verizon.

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