As you may remember, I began a search for my next smartphone several months ago. I started by looking at the different US carriers, because as much as I wish it weren’t so, that is currently the first thing you need to decide when buying a smartphone. I planned to also examine my choices by platform, then manufacturer, then finally choose the actual device, but obviously that never happened. The problem with that plan is that while I wanted to take an objective look at the different platforms, I already knew I wanted an Android device. And once you know that you want an Android device on T-Mobile, you have very few official choices. When I was buying my next smartphone, the best Android devices on T-Mobile were the HTC Sensation, HTC Amaze, and Galaxy SII. Very slim pickings, especially with the next generation of each coming just around the corner. Of course, one of the advantages T-Mobile has (and one of the reasons I picked them) is that as a GSM carrier, you can also use international edition devices on their network.
That left me with a few more options, but I didn’t really want to wait for the Galaxy SIII or get one of last year’s HTC devices, which left me with a choice between the exorbitantly priced HTC One X and the easily accessible and now cheap Galaxy Nexus. As you obviously already know from the title, I ended up with the Galaxy Nexus, just like Calob. Some may put this up to my use of nearly all of Google’s services (dare I say it, fanboyism), and that is certainly part of the picture. I find most of Google’s services quite useful, so until I switch to something else it makes sense to have a phone that syncs easily with my other utilities. Still, there are quite a few other, more practical reasons that I picked the Nexus as my next long term smartphone, even in the face of some newer devices.
One of the primary reasons that I ended up with the Galaxy Nexus is the quad-band GSM connectivity, which makes the Nexus about as near to a universal device as you can get. Not only is it one of the few devices to support T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network, it will also work on AT&T’s HSPA+, as well as pretty much any other international GSM carrier for 3G, voice and messaging. The Galaxy SIII has this same feature, but the international One X lacks T-Mobile HSPA+, making it a no go for me. Although I don’t need LTE, I do want a device with HSPA+ speeds rather than just plain old 3G. Plus, the ability to switch carriers or go international at any time is always a plus and, since the Galaxy SIII wasn’t yet out when I made my purchase, one of the big reasons I chose the Nexus.
Updates from Google
Secondly, there’s the age old problem of updates with Android. As I am sure many of you know, Android smartphones don’t always get updates to the latest version in a timely manner, especially if they are carrier branded. With the Nexus, that shouldn’t be a problem, as Google is supposed to be able to update the device directly and quickly, without any interference. This should mean that my Galaxy Nexus will be getting the latest OS updates in a timely manner, and well into the future, as well. Now, you might wonder why this is important to me, since I plan on rooting and installing custom ROMs. Well, even though custom ROM developers are fast, when Google first releases a new OS, it will likely take them just a short while to catch up. With the Galaxy Nexus, I won’t have to wait, and should be able to always try out the latest Android software right away.
Active development community
In addition to getting updates from Google, as a Nexus device the Galaxy Nexus already has a big developer following behind it. This means that there will be plenty of custom software, ROMs, kernels, and tweaks for quite a long time in the future. For some, this may not be a big deal, but for me it is quite important. A good developer community can make an average device work great and last for a long time, whereas a device without a developer community is stuck with the same features it sold with. Just look at the HTC EVO 4G: the developer community is huge, even though the device is old in technology terms. Still, these people keep working to make the EVO better, and as a result you can still use the EVO as your daily device with the latest Android software, even though Sprint and HTC abandoned it long in the past. Plus, a good developer community is lots of fun, and can mean that there will be all kinds of tweaks and mods for a device that would otherwise never have come about. With most devices, it’s hard to tell at first if the developer community will last, but with a Nexus it is a fair bet that you will have a lot of people behind the device for quite a long time.
Enough hardware for the long haul
It may not have the very latest or newest hardware, but the Galaxy Nexus does have some very good specs, and checks all the boxes that I was looking for with a device. The smartphone has a dual-core processor, 720p display, 1GB of RAM, SGX540 GPU, and good enough camera and battery. Like I said, it might not top out the spec sheets or benchmarks, but it does have all the makings of a next generation phone. This isn’t a concrete concept, but instead of being the last of the single-core, qHD generation of smartphones, in my opinion the Galaxy Nexus is the beginning of the dual-core, 720p generation of smartphones with big displays. It isn’t the best of the best, but it should certainly be good enough for quite a while.
Cheap and easy to buy off contract
What finally pushed me over the edge into getting the Nexus was when Google offered it up for sale in the (still poorly named) Google Play Store. It may not be hard to buy devices elsewhere, but a fully unlocked smartphone for $400 with all the above features, easily available from Google makes everything just a little more convenient. Because I already have my information in Google Play to buy apps, finally purchasing the Nexus was as easy as a couple of clicks. It wasn’t an impulse buy, but after looking for so long, seeing a smartphone with almost all of the right features up for sale at the right price finally convinced me to pull the trigger. And so far, I don’t have any buyer’s regret.
The Galaxy Nexus is a very nice smartphone, and even in the face of Samsung’s new offering, there is little reason to actually switch to the much more expensive SIII. With software tweaks and custom development, the Nexus should last me quite a while, so you can expect to see quite a bit of Nexus customization in the coming months. I will be buying an unlocked HTC One X in the next few weeks to test, but I doubt that will convince me to switch. Right now, I’ve got all the features I want, and it will be nice to settle down on one device again instead of switching every two weeks.