Here's everything you need to know about Samsung's latest smartphone

Verizon Wireless may be the most expensive carrier when it comes to traditional smartphone data rates, but its double data holiday promotion has transformed it briefly into one of the cheaper carriers.  Add in its industry-leading customer satisfaction and you have what seems to be a winning combination.

I. The Galaxy Nexus is Upon Us

Today the carrier is at last, after much anticipation, launching the Galaxy Nexus from Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930). Priced at $299 with a new two-year contract, the phones are expected to be a hot seller.

Here's what you need to know about the phone's hardware specs:

Galaxy Nexus
  • 1.2GHz OMAP 4460 ARM Cortex-A9 dual-core processor from Texas Instruments, Inc. (TI)
  • 4.65" 720x1280 HD Super AMOLED (only 2 subpixels)
  • 1GB RAM
  • 16GB of memory (optional 32GB)
  • 5MP rear camera with LED flash plus a 1.3MP front facing camera
  • 1080p (30fps) video recording
  • LTE
  • NFC hardware
  • 1850 mAh replaceable battery
Here's some of the improvements you'll get with Android 4.0 ICS:

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Drastically refined GUI
  • New camera app with improved image stabilization, facial recognition, and one-motion panerama shots
  • Improved default Webkit browser.
  • Better auto-correct
  • Upgraded contacts app
  • Fancy graphical data manager app for dealing with life on capped connections.
  • Quick access to text message response to incoming calls
  • Swipe-dismissal of notifications
  • Facial recognition unlock
  • Universal voice typing
  • Wi-Fi Direct (allows faster, easier connections)
  • Google Beam/Near-Field Communications (NFC)
(A full list can be found here.)

Many bemoaned that the Verizon opted not to pick up Samsung's sleek flagship smartphone, the Galaxy S II.  Well fear not, the Galaxy Nexus is more or less the Galaxy S II with a slightly different feature set.  It has a lower resolution camera and lacks the microSD expansion found in most Galaxy S IIs.  But on the other hand, you get a slee, gently curved packaging that screams distinctive.

If you can get past the Prime's strong battery life, (temporarily) exclusive Android 4.0 support, and sleek packaging, there's a couple of other phones you should consider.  Take a peek at the world's thinnest Android -- the Motorola Droid RAZR.  It features a lower resolution display, but the world's best form factor and weight.  Also check out the Rezound from HTC Corp. (TPE:2498).  It features improved audio hardware/software, a faster (albeit older) CPU, and a better 720x1280 display that has the proper 3 subpixels, as opposed to Samsung's slightly gimped 2 subpixel version.  It's all about the tradeoffs -- your personal priorities, what's in stock in your region, and which phone's design calls to you the most.

Yes, for now ICS gives the Nexus a key edge over the competitors as the OS dictates smartphone usability, and the Nexus could enjoy near-exclusive access to ICS for a month or two.  That said, within three or four months expect most flagship models to have jumped to ICS or be preparing to.  So one of the phone's biggest selling points will soon be a pedestrian feature.

II. Verizon Bumps LTE Coverage to 200 Million Americans

In related news Verizon has now expanded [press release] its nationwide LTE network to include multiple new regions.  It writes:

On Thursday, Dec. 15, the company will turn on its 4G LTE network in Dover, Del.; Lafayette, Ind.; Fitchburg/Leominster, Mass.; Duluth, The Rochester Area and St. Cloud, Minn.; Manchester/Nashua, N.H.; Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Findlay/Tiffin and Youngstown/Warren, Ohio; and Indiana, Pa. The company is also making expansions on Dec. 15 in San Diego and San Francisco; Washington, D.C.; Savannah, Ga.; Chicagoland, Ill.; and Baltimore and Hagerstown, Md.

Verizon is winning the coverage battle with AT&T, Inc. (T), the other current U.S. proprietor of LTE 4G coverage.  AT&T, who got a late start, offers faster service in most of its regions, but will  cover only about a third of the number of Americans that Verizon does by the end of the year.

AT&T hopes to cover 70 million Americans, Verizon already now covers 200 million Americans.  Which service is better depends on where you live, but for the majority of buyers Verizon is the best carrier to experience next-generation 4G on.

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

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