Samsung Galaxy Nexus, Android 'Ice Cream Sandwich' Finally Debut

Google and Samsung unveiled the Galaxy Nexus, as expected, at the Asia D conference in Hong Kong icecream_0yesterday, after a postponing a CTIA launch following the news of Steve Jobs' death. The super-slim Google-branded handset is the first to run Android 4.0, known as Ice Cream Sandwich, which has been designed to work equally well on smartphones as tablets.

"You won't believe what we've managed to get done in this release," Google CEO Larry Page enthused during Google's earnings meeting last week (CP: Google puts Q3 emphasis on Google+ and Android Ice Cream Sandwich), building hype for the device.

What it managed was the inclusion of "life effects," a feature that, during video chats, can have fun-house style fun with friends' faces, and a smile-detection technology that can unlock the phone. Or, ideally. During a demonstration at the event, the phone stayed locked for a stranger but also didn't recognize its owner, the Washington Post reported.

More likely to impress are Ice Cream Sandwich's:

-- Android Beam feature, which, using NFC technology, lets users share YouTube videos, maps and apps by tapping their phones against friends';

-- a desktop-class browser, said to be "significantly faster" and allow the synching of bookmarks with Chrome;

-- "the best Gmail experience to date," per Google, with a quicker way to swipe through the inbox and search offline;

-- a redesigned Calendar, with a cleaner look and the ability to zoom into details with a pinch;

-- a brand-new font, optimized for HD displays;

-- built-in Google+;

-- adaptable software buttons that take the place of physical buttons; and

-- resizable widgets and and notifications that are more interactive.

These are paired with, again as expected, a svelte, 8.84mm-thick handset with an ever-so-gently curved 4.65-inch display, a dual-core 1.2GHz processor, and compatibility with LTE or HSPA+ 4G technology.

Just as Apple markedly improved the iPhone's camera on the 4S, the Galaxy Nexus bumps things up a notch with the ability to shoot panoramic images, as well as "zero shutter lag," improved low-light performance and the ability to shoot video at 1080p.

Speaking of the iPhone 4S, the Galaxy Nexus certainly doesn't have Siri. Though in addition to options like the Android-friendly Speaktoit Assistant (CP: Android app Speaktoit Assistant growing with talk of Siri) it does offer "voice typing," allowing users to dictate emails, SMS or text messages. Good thing the phone looks so pretty.

Closing out a blog post on the announcement, Andy Rubin, Google's Senior Vice President of Mobile, threw in his own news, nudging up the "half million" Android devices that Page, last week, said are activated each day, to now "more than 550,000." 

The Galaxy Nexus will begin shipping in the United States in November. Pricing details have to be shared, though the rumor mill is putting it at three bills, with a contract.

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