The iPhone craze continues unabated with the recent release of the iPhone 4S in Taiwan, but the competition is catching up.
The most recent contenders are certainly good enough to make you think twice about getting an iPhone. Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus, a smartphone co-branded and co-designed with Google, runs on the latest version of the Android operating system, 4.0, or “Ice Cream Sandwich,” and is a huge improvement for Android devices.
Nokia, looking to make a comeback, has made a similar splash with its stylish Lumia 800, which runs on Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7.5 operating system.
The Taipei Times recently tested these smartphones, which are available in stores nationwide.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus: Sci-Fi Smooth
Google and Samsung have nailed it with the Galaxy Nexus — it’s by far the best Android phone I’ve ever used and one of the nicest smartphones currently available.
Top-notch software and hardware make the Galaxy Nexus a state-of-the-art device. Ice Cream Sandwich improves the Android 2.3 operating system (aka Gingerbread) with its cleaner design and user-friendliness, while a 1.2 gigahertz dual-core processor makes for a speedy smartphone.
The Galaxy Nexus is an eye-catcher, with a sleek slab shape and a huge touchscreen that measures 4.65 inches. The added viewing space is a boon for using apps in general, and particularly good for browsing the Web and viewing photos and videos. The Galaxy Nexus might look and feel oversized in comparison to the iPhone, but it has a thinner profile, measuring 8.94mm, and still fits into a trouser pocket with relative ease. The Galaxy Nexus feels nice in the hand, too. The phone is easy to grip, thanks to its slightly curved shape and a textured rubber back.
Samsung Galaxy Nexus (3G version)
NT$21,900 without a data plan; available only through Taiwan Mobile
Nokia Lumia 800
NT$18,900 without a data plan
With its 1280-pixel-by-720-pixel resolution, the Galaxy Nexus’ display is one of the best around, sporting the same ultra-sharp look of the iPhone 4 and 4S’ so-called retina display. As with the iPhone 4 and 4S, stare at the Galaxy Nexus’ screen close up with the naked eye and you won’t be able to see any pixelated dots. Some might notice a slight blue hue when the phone is tilted at an angle — this is a product of the AMOLED display — but it’s easy to get used to, as everything on the screen looks buttery smooth. Ice Cream Sandwich uses a sans serif font that’s easy to read, and gives the phone a futuristic sci-fi appearance a la Tron.
Call quality is very good, and the battery life is average for a smartphone. During the week I used a Galaxy Nexus demo model, which was loaned from Samsung, I usually managed a day and a half before I had to recharge. The time spent between charging included checking e-mails and my Facebook account, surfing the Web on the train, listening to several albums a day on the music app, watching an hour’s worth of YouTube videos and snapping a handful of photos and a few videos. I had 3G and Wi-Fi on the entire time.
Ice Cream Sandwich makes the Galaxy Nexus a pleasure to use. Apps run fast — I encountered quick loading times for most, and the Web browser felt zippy in comparison to the iPhone 4. I’m not enamored with Android’s basic interface of five home screens, which is awkward to navigate and easily gets clogged up with widgets, folders and apps, but the overall look is cleaner, especially if you stick with Google’s stock design. The search bar sits at the top of all five screens, but its transparent outline makes it look less intrusive than it did on previous versions of Android. Near the bottom of the screen is a favorites tray, which you can now customize by placing shortcuts for the four apps you use most, such as the phone keypad and text messages. As usual with Android, the entire look of the main screen is customizable.