Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Android Ice Cream Sandwich unveiled [Video]
The Galaxy Nexus -- which will hit stores this November in Asia, Europe and the U.S. -- will be the first device to run Ice Cream Sandwich, an operating system that will eventually make its way to tablets too.
The look and specs of the Galaxy Nexus, which had been rumored for months under the name Nexus Prime, are slick and mostly meet the standard of higher-end smartphones today.
The Galaxy Nexus carries over the curved glass screen look of the Samsung Nexus S smartphone that launched last December. The new phone looks slim too, coming in as thin as 8.49 millimeters, though some versions of the phone may be a bit thicker depending on the internal hardware used, Samsung said.
On the hardware side, the new Samsung smartphone will feature a 1.2-gigahertz dual-core processor, a massive 4.65-inch touchscreen with a resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels, a built-in barometer, NFC technology for mobile payments, 1 gigabyte of RAM and a 1.3-megapixel camera on the front for video chatting.
All of that is up to par with the top smartphones on the market -- the Samsung Galaxy S II, the Droid Bionic and the iPhone 4S -- but one lagging feature is the Galaxy Nexus' 5-megapixel rear camera. The rear camera can shoot an impressive 1080p video at 30 frames per second, and there is an LED flash too, but top competitors nowadays are offering all that with 8-megapixel cameras, leaving the 5-megapixel choice as a bit odd.
Details on how much built-in storage memory the Galaxy Nexus will get or how much it will cost have not yet been released.
The Galaxy Nexus will feature no physical buttons on the screen of the device, a departure for Android. Every Android phone so far has come with four buttons across the bottom of the screen for search, home, back and menu.
Now, the buttons Android uses are part of Ice Cream Sandwich and appear and disappear as the operating system or an app need them. This is a similar tactic to that of Android Honeycomb, Google's first tablet-specific operating system, which has been on the market since March.
Ice Cream Sandwich will use a new font called Roboto, which Google said will be easier to read and was designed specifically for clarity and beauty on smartphone and tablet displays.
The Galaxy Nexus falls into Google's Nexus program, which means the new phone will run a pure, unaltered version of Ice Cream Sandwich with no preinstalled apps from carriers and no user-interface changes from Samsung.
The new version of Android features a rotating list of recent apps that allows for easy switching between apps and works similar to Honeycomb in this regard.
The ability to take screenshots is finally part of Android. To take a screenshot, a user simply needs to hold down a phone or tablet's power button and volume down buttons.
Google is promising an improved keyboard in Ice Cream Sandwich, as well as improved cut, copy and paste, improved talk to type and a new "face unlock" feature that uses facial recognition technology to secure a phone rather than traditional passwords.
Matias Duarte, who heads Android's design and user interface, attempted to demo face unlock at the Hong Kong event (streamed on YouTube) on a Galaxy Nexus handset, but he couldn't get the feature to work.
Another useful feature added to Ice Cream Sandwich is the software's ability to save large amounts of recent emails for offline search. By default, offline search will save the last 30 days of a user's email on a phone or tablet, but users can change that time period as they see fit.
Data usage controls are also being added in the new operating system, which enables users to choose if and when their phone alerts them that they've passed a certain amount of data consumed.
Users can even set their phone to stop using cellular data altogether once they've passed a certain limit. All of this will help them prevent over consuming data and racking up high phone bills.
The influence of Apple's iPhone and popular iOS apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic can be seen in the addition of new built-in photo editing options for Ice Cream Sandwich, which were described by Google engineers in the presentation as adding "hipster" photo filters and adjusting angles in photos.
Wireless sharing between two phones (for transferring contacts, links or even apps between phones within an arm's reach) can occur using a feature called Android Beam, which uses NFC or near field communication technology to transfer data between devices.
Google said it would include Android Beam technology in its Ice Cream Sandwich developer tools, which were released Tuesday.
[Updated: Google has posted the video of its unveiling of Ice Cream Sandwich and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus to YouTube, which can be seen below.]
-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles
Top Photo: Andy Rubin, left, Google's senior vice president of mobile, and J.K. Shin, president and head of mobile communications business from Samsung, unveil the Galaxy Nexus smartphone in Hong Kong. The Galaxy Nexus is the first smartphone to feature the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. Credit: Bobby Yip/Reuters
Middle images: Screenshots of Android Ice Cream Sandwich. Credit: Google
Bottom image: The Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone. Credit: Samsung