Generally, Joshua Topolsky’s review at The Verge is pretty accurate and fair. It surprises me that the camera quality is so poor, but that’s probably the biggest complaint about the phone. The action and features of Ice Cream Sandwich take some adjusting. Here’s some short takes:
Phone feel: The unit by itself is slim and only relatively thickened if you buy an extended battery (which you should). It’s a little weird to get a grip on without some form of case on the back. I feel a lot better holding it with the silicon case on than without. I’m still getting used to having the power button on the right side (where the volume was on my old Droid) and the volume on the left. It feels a bit plastic — which is kind of a Samsung thing from what I understand. I wish it was sturdier in my hands, but I’ll get used to this and the case helps.
Screen: Really nice and eye-catching to look at. Futz around with the live wallpapers and you’ll really like it.
Camera: 5 megapixels? That’s it? Not that I care heavily about camera or picture quality from a cell phone, but considering the advances in cameras this is underpowered, especially with the pic editing features Google showed off with the phone announcement. The regular and front cameras are pretty easy to operate, but the camera quality’s a bit of a disappointment considering the screen quality.
Internal space: It’s 32 GB with no slots for SD cards or extra space. Unless you use your phone for music this isn’t going to matter terribly.
User interface: Slick stuff and fun to play around with. Organizing apps into groups is easy and saves a lot of space for app widgets. You’ll have trouble filling five screens if you use it properly. It takes a while to get used to ICS’ lack of a dedicated menu button and not holding down the home to see all the apps you’ve used recently. The feature to swipe away individual notifications and swipe away programs to close them is great. The “bloatware” that Verizon put on the phone is minimal and actually useful — VZW Backup Assistant is another back-up for your contacts and My Verizon Mobile is pretty much what I use to pay my bill (if you do not have unlimited data, you’ll want it to check your allowances, although you can do this internally in the phone’s settings as well.) If you really don’t want either of them, you can kill them in the settings. I hate skins with a passion, so it’s been a nice experience so far. Running apps has been largely a stress- and slowdown-free experience save some repetitive contact “joining” that crashed the “People” app a couple of times.
Apps: some of your favorites may not have ICS-ready versions yet, but most of them run fine and are ready to go.
Keyboard: Vast improvement over the last virtual keyboard on Android, a bit more touch-sensitive and better auto-complete options. As a dedicated Swype junkie, I’m re-adjusting to using straight-up standard Android keyboards since the latest version of the Swype beta for Android doesn’t work with these screen dimensions. I suspect I may go back as soon as it’s available, but the standard keyboard is quality.
Contact synchronization: Minor annoying bugaboo due to the slap fight going on between Google and Facebook — you can’t sync FB contacts any more unless you root. Expect to spend a bit of time “joining” together contacts from Google accounts, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and even the Verizon Backup Assistant if you happen to have that.
Battery life: Buy an extended battery. The phone made it 15.5 hours on moderate usage until it demanded I charge it (less than 4% left) on the extended battery. I imagine the regular battery’s about half that. There is a way to turn off 4G LTE in the “Wireless and Networks” settings if you want to conserve battery or know there’s no 4G in the area — 3G is more than enough in most settings anyhow. That switch should be in the Power Control widget, though.
In the car: Car mount’s sturdy, you’ll have to take it out of any case to mount properly. The base holding the phone can be loosened or tightened to your specifications. Navigation works well — Maps has always been one of the big appealing features of Android because you don’t have to pay for an extra GPS device any longer. Android users pre-ICS are all familiar with Google’s “Car Home” app — there isn’t an ICS compatible version yet, which I think’s a bit of an oversight. Hopefully that’s upgraded for ICS soon.
Data speed and making phone calls: There are two major things that keep people like me paying somewhat high monthly bills for Verizon service: the data speed and call quality. Rest assured that web browsing on the Nexus is remarkably zippy — while it’s dealing with less information than my home internet connection at all given points and times, it often feels faster. As for phone calls: no dropped calls yet and the quality’s pretty crisp. Hanging up by accident can be an issue as the bar to end a call stretches across the screen and you can bump it by accident.
I’ve not tried out the Beam sharing feature because I’m the only person I know here with the phone, so that’s kind of hard to test.