By Space Cowboy
I must say, I’m quite excited to be writing for the ‘Vandals’. I feel as though I have a lot to offer the tech section, owing to my up-to-the-minute, verging-on-obsessive knowledge of all things gadgety, smartphones and tablets in particular. I know things about cellphones that aren’t even in the country yet, and which of those phones will make it here or not. I trawl the internet daily in my pursuit of the latest, most cutting-edge technology on the international market, from Apple’s squeaky-clean and admittedly excellent products, to virtually unknown independent Chinese manufacturers starting to stir things up in the smartphone world. And so, as my first article contribution to this site, I have decided to review an old phone.
Admittedly, it’s not even a year old yet (having been released in November of last year), but as anyone with a vague interest in these things would know, a smartphone year is like a decade in human years. The phone in question is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, or as us geeks say, the G-Nex.
There are a number of reasons I’ve decided to review this phone. One of them is the smartphone pedigree that comes with it: the Nexus series are essentially Google’s flagship gadgets, namely the original Google/HTC Nexus One, Google/Samsung Nexus S, and the sensational Google/Asus Nexus 7, with the curious Nexus Q heading our way in the near future. The software giant approaches any one of the hardware giants out there (rumour has it that LG is next in line) and works closely with them to create a pure, un-modified Android experience. And in my mind, ‘Vanilla Android’ is the tastiest Android.
Another reason is that I feel this phone simply did not receive its fair share of the spotlight, having been overshadowed by the admittedly excellent HTC One X, the painfully boring iPhone 4S, and rumours of the hideous and hilariously ostentatious Samsung Galaxy SIII (apologies to any owners out there, but it’s not my concern that you have shit taste) that would be released soon after the G-Nex. In essence, I’m using this article to champion the Google Nexus, and argue that in many ways, it is the superior of any of the aforementioned phones. I shan’t bore you too much with numbers. I’m going to appeal directly to the geek in you and talk about games and gimmicks on this phone. Numbers don’t matter in the face of such perfection. And for those who need to know the specs, here is a handy link to said info: http://www.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_nexus-4219.php
Let’s get stuck in then. When I first heard the rumours and saw the teasers, I knew that this phone was the one for me. I haven’t been that rigid with anticipation since I realised I was about to get my very first freak on. The form factor was interesting and elegant – the screen has a very slight concave curve to it. The hardware was more than adequate for its time, and still is by most accounts. Google had worked hard to keep the price reasonable, as they are wont to do with their Nexus range. And best of all, it came with Ice-Cream Sandwich out of the box, the next big number in the Android lineup and a complete overhaul of the UI.
However, upon my first hands-on experience with the G-Nex, I was sadly underwhelmed. Having been on the cusp of ice-cream ecstasy for so long, my turgidity retreated rapidly and painfully to a shameful place. Had Google let me down? In a manner of speaking, yes. Google had let me down on account of not flogging the hell out of this little masterpiece. But the true trouble lay with Android. ICS was simply no good. The phone performed sluggishly considering it’s dual-core, 1.4Gh, TI OMAP 4480 processor and 1gig of RAM, specs that would have seemed reasonable on a PC just a couple of years prior. The interface itself looked great, but lacked some of the magic of the earlier iterations of Android. It was dangerously clinical – and that right there is Apple’s game.
Fortunately, I would not have to suffer much longer. Scouring the internet for gadget-related news, I saw rumours of a successor to ICS, and it’s code-name would be ‘Jelly-Bean’, or JB as I shall refer to it from now on (not to be confused with Chan-related ‘Jailbait’). When the OTA updates started rolling out, I was giddy with excitement. I had a feeling this would make all the difference. The wait, however, was longer than I expected, and I continued in disappointed misery for some time. But finally it arrived, and everything changed.
The update came to the South African G-Nex just 2 or 3 weeks ago, I really can’t count. It was not an overhaul. In fact, the look and overall functionality had remained very much the same. But ‘Project Butter’ as Google had cheekily named it came built in to Jelly-Bean, and suddenly this phone sprang to life. The lag and sluggishness had completely disappeared. Animations between screens were fluid and effortless, and the touch responsiveness so sharp, it seemed as though the phone was reading my mind, sliding over to the next screen before I’d even performed the gesture. The newly-programmed kernel also meant longer battery life. And for this review, I really did try to fuck this battery good and hard, without the courtesy of a buttery lubrication. But compared to ICS, JB’s battery-life is so deliciously improved, it seems like a new phone altogether. Same for the overall performance of the thing. To test the battery and performance of the phone under JB, I decided to seek out the most graphically impressive, and thereby taxing mobile game to date. That game is Dead Trigger.
Look at those screenshots. This game was made for the smartphone rapes. Not only are the textures rendered in HD, there is dynamic lighting and even particle rendering happening while I play this ridiculously fun zombie killing game. More screenshots for the zombie-haters out there:
Right. So the gaming is great on the G-Nex. But what REALLY makes JB such a pleasure is Google Now. I won’t lie, one needs to do a bit of reading up on it to fully appreciate how it works. But once you get it working in the way YOU want it to work, it is too goddamn sexy for words. For instance, it learns where you live automatically by using network information on your data plan and seeing where you spend the most time at night. Then, if you are a student or one fortunate enough to be employed, the phone will also learn where you study/work, again by triangulating coordinates of your university/offices. What it does next is quite simply astonishing (turgidity nearing 100% again). When you climb into your car and set off, the car will sense that you are on the move, and then immediately provide you with Google Maps-powered directions to your destination. It will also find out traffic information for you, and provide an alternate route for you to use if necessary.
It also provides you weather information in the area you are located at the time, can inform you of places of interest nearby, give you public transport information when you near a public transport point (not as useful in South Africa, admittedly), keep you updated on the sports in real time, or even translate for you if it realises you are in a country where a foreign language is spoken. The list goes on and on, but the point is that Siri can honestly go and suck a dick. Her quips do not amuse.
If you are not impressed by now and have not decided to throw your money at Google for a chance to own one of these fantastic devices, it’s because I don’t have enough word count to fill you in on more. In terms of bang-for-your-buck performance, functionality, aesthetics and all-out geek-appeal, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus simply cannot be beat. Some of you may want to ignore me and spend your life-savings on the new iPhone 5. I won’t stop you, you ridiculous cocks. But know that for half the price you could have had a prettier, sexier, more personal smartphone experience at half the price.
As this fiercely obvious anime reference would imply, Space Cowboy is a fiercely enthusiastic geek, and as such, brings something fresh to geek-journalism. That is to say, freshly squeezed wads of man-berry juice, frantically issued all over anything tech, gaming, and/or Japan related. He does hope you enjoy said bukkake-esque levels of enthusiasm.