Straight out of sci-fi, Google and Samsung unveiled an unlocking mechanism based on facial recognition as one of several new features of the long-anticipated Galaxy Nexus. The companies showed off the new phone — the first to come with Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich — late Tuesday at an event in Hong Kong.
Galaxy Nexus users will be able to do away with passcodes and other security measures, though the phone itself warns you that it’s not exactly the best option. In Google’s introduction video, a screenshot of the phone says the feature is “low security, experimental.” The feature didn’t work in Google’s on-stage demonstration, either: while the phone didn’t unlock when it saw a stranger’s face, it didn’t seem to recognize its owner, either.
The Galaxy Nexus has a ton of other features as well, including voice typing, baked-in Google+ integration with hangouts and Messenger and the ability to take a panoramic photo with a single motion. Some were disappointed that the phone didn’t have the drastically curved profile Samsung hinted at in its promotion images for the phone, though the new phone sports the same “contour design” of the Nexus S.
Other specs for the phone include a slightly slower-than- expected 1.2 MHz processor and a “high-end” camera with a 5MP resolution. As CNET’s Jessica Dolcourt pointed out in her hands-on writeup from the event, that spec is a little puzzling, since Samsung has put 8MP cameras in its Galaxy S line. Then again, the companies said that this phone has better camera software, which may make up for the lower resolution.
Many analysts see the combination of the Galaxy Nexus and Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) as powerful enough in computing power and usability to challenge Apple’s newest smartphone. Joshua Topolsky reviewed ICS on the Galaxy Nexus and wrote:
The new software is striking. I’m in love immediately. Everything in the OS has been touched by the designers at Android. Nothing looks the same.
Along the bottom of the homescreen you have a “favorites tray,” which can be customized, in the center is a button to get to your applications. Google search is always present on homescreens in the launcher, kind of like “Just Type” in webOS. When you want to create a folder now, you simply drag an icon onto another icon, similar to iOS. Inside folders, app icons will rearrange themselves, also like Apple’s software. Widgets can scroll and be resized, as in Honeycomb. Everything is smooth and fluid; new animations have been added throughout the system.
The multi-tasking icon pulls up a list of app snapshots similar to Honeycomb, but those applications can now be killed by swiping them to the right — like vertical cards. Gestures are all over ICS. “Gestures are much more fun than hitting buttons. Touching and moving things; way better than buttons,” Matias says while moving around the device. Even the calendar app didn’t escape the touch treatment; you’re now able to pinch-to-zoom on your schedule to expand or contract the view, which seems incredibly helpful.