The Samsung Galaxy Nexus — Google’s next flagship phone — has been getting strong early reviews ahead of its as-yet unannounced U.S. launch date. The phone hit stores in Britain Thursday, and reviewers are calling it the best Android phone yet. The Galaxy Nexus will launch in the U.S. on Verizon’s LTE network, but the review units handed out by Google run on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network — the international version.

Mashable’s Charlie White said that the hardware and software on the phone are fantastic, though he cautioned that the 4.65-inch screen may be a bit too big for people with smaller hands. The on-screen buttons that are baked into Google’s latest operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich, also eliminate the need for a bezel on the phone, apart from the space needed for the camera.

Edward C. Baig at USA Today called the phone a major upgrade, though he said that he doesn’t feel as if he’s had the phone long enough to give it a thorough review. His early impression, though, is favorable. He likes the phone’s camera, which shoots without lag thanks to Google’s new camera functionalities. He said that the phone is snappy and light, though he thinks the battery life will be short. Baig did, however, like that the phone gave him information on what was draining the battery (no surprises here: it’s mostly the screen) and on data consumption.

At Engadget, Myriam Jorie said that the phone is “shaping up to be an impressive flagship phone” for the new operating system and a step forward for Google. She also had high praise for the screen, though said that she’s seen an issue with the auto-brightness adjustments.

There’s no clear word on when, exactly, the phone will be released in the U.S. Speculation after its launch indicated that it would be on Verizon by the end of November.

The phone has a 1.2 Ghz dual-core processor, 5MP rear camera, and 1.3 MP front-facing camera. It also has a near-field communication chip, which lets customers use Android Beam, a new service that lets users share Web pages, apps and videos by tapping their phones together.

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