Galaxy Nexus: Apps, Tips, and Opinions

The Galaxy Nexus is one hell of a good phone. Running ICS (soon upgraded to JellyBean), it is lightning quick and has tonnes of cool features which not everyone is aware about. A  few of my friends recently bought a Nexus of their own and have been constantly asking me for applications and help. So without further ado, I present my list of must-have apps and widgets for the Galaxy Nexus, some tips and tricks to help get the most out of your Galaxy Nexus, and my final thoughts and opinions about the phone.

PART 1: MUST-HAVE APPS AND WIDGETS

  1. LightFlow LED

    This one is definitely one of the best applications you could possibly have for your phone. What it does is that it allows you to fully control your notifications. You can set different notification colours for your different applications and can even set vibrating patterns for each one so you know what notification you are getting without having to take your phone out of your pocket. For example, you can set Emails to have a Green notification light and vibrate 4 times while having Facebook set to have a blue notification light without any vibration etc. You can set a notification for pretty much anything with this app; battery levels, missed calls, email, Facebook, Twitter. Available in both free and paid versions.

    Light Flow Lite – LED Control: FREE
    Light Flow – LED Control: PAID

  2. Battery Widget Reborn Beta

    This is a sleek battery widget which matches ICS’s blue colour scheme. It provides a clean, sophisticated look at your remaining battery, temperature, battery usage and battery history as well as a few other features. It also allows you to set a battery notification in your status bar so you can check your battery level from within any other application. To help save battery, it also has various power saving settings like timed Flight Mode during the night. One really cool feature is that it also provides battery information any connected docks (Asus Transformer Prime keyboard dock, for example) as well as the main battery.

    Battery Widget Reborn Beta

     

  3. Flipboard

    Flipboard is a fantastic app that harmonizes world news and social news in an intuitive interface. As the name suggests, you simply flip through the pages and see the latest news, as well as your Facebook or Twitter contacts’ social updates. The application has a polished interface with smooth transitions and excellent fonts and animations. You can search for anything – people, topics, hashtags, blogs, your favorite sites – and flip through articles, updates, photos and videos in a beautiful magazine format. The application also provides different widget sizes for quick access from your homescreen. Seen on the Nexus’s 720p screen, this application is absolutely gorgeous! I use this application daily simply because of the fantastic interface and because I need to stay updated on world news (but mainly for the interface :P).

    Flipboard

     

  4. ES File Explorer

    This one speaks for itself. Unfortunately, the Galaxy Nexus does not come with a default file explorer. ES File Explorer is the best file explorer currently on the market. It allows you to connect to cloud services like Dropbox, sets up LAN connections, and has a built-in Application Manager. I use this almost every day for syncing files between my laptop and phone on the LAN connection without having to connect my phone to the laptop and manually transfer files that way. It also has extra features for people who have rooted their devices. The application works quickly and smoothly without any lag, no matter how quickly you jump from folder to folder. Tapping on any file will bring up a pop-up asking you which programme you’d like to open the file with. The application also has a built-in music and video player. Definitely one of the first applications you should download.

    ES File Explorer

     

  5. MoreQuicklyPanel and MoreQuicklyDock

    MoreQuicklyPanel is a fantastic little app that sits in your notification panel. You can check and toggle various widgets without having to navigate through the settings. It has 15 different buttons and toggles like Flight Mode, Silent Mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, Brightness and much more. You can change the look and feel of the panel to suit your needs and can set the application to start at boot. This application fits perfectly for the Galaxy Nexus and is can be accessed from anywhere. Although the Galaxy nexus comes with a “Power Control” widget, that doesn’t have as many options as the MoreQuicklyPanel does.

    MoreQuicklyDock is another brilliant application from the same developer. While MoreQuicklyPanel provides toggles and settings, MoreQuicklyDock allows you to pin your most used applications to the notification panel for quick access from any app. Need to make a quick call but you’re in the middle of an Angry Birds game? No problem. Just slide down the notification panel and click on the phone icon to make a call. No need to go to your homescreen or application drawer. The application supports multiple pages for those of you who have a lot of apps which you  use regularly.

    Such fantastic applications come at a cost, however. You can grab them both from the Play Store for $1.30 each. Well worth the price, in my opinion.

    MoreQuicklyPanel

    MoreQuicklyDock

     

PART 2: TIPS AND TRICKS

There are quite a few tricks which you can do to help ease your Galaxy Nexus experience.

  1. Turn on GPU Acceleration: Found under the Developer Options in the settings menu, this option allows you to force acceleration for applications with a simple toggle. Apps will scroll smoother and transitions will be quicker and prettier. This doesn’t really affect your battery life but it may affect some stubborn applications who don’t like being forced to do things. I haven’t come across any such problem so far and my Nexus has never been quicker.
  2. Screenshots: You can now take screenshots without having to download an external application or rooting your device. No matter what application you’re in, just press and hold the Volume Down and Power button at the same time for two seconds and it will take a screenshot.
  3. Customize Your Dock: You can add whatever you want to your dock. Most people assume that the dock icons are unchangeable but they are just like homescreen icons; you can drag them off and add whatever you want. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to get widgets on the dock but it’s still useful.
  4. Settings: With ICS, there is no settings/menu button so the easiest thing is to put the Settings app on your homescreen. You can get individual setting shortcuts like Battery Settings or Display Settings and make a folder on your homescreen with all your Settings shortcuts.
  5. Data Usage: For those of you stuck on a limited data contract, you can set up data usage. Depending on your contract, you can pick your plan dates, and set the orange line to a bit less than your monthly quota. You can also activate data limits, where the phone will automatically shut off data when you hit that limit. By setting it just below your monthly limit, you can ensure that you won’t exceed your data limits. You can also choose which apps use data and how much data they can use. Very useful.

PART 3: FINAL THOUGHTS OPINIONS

THE BAD

Yes, I’d like to start with the bad because there aren’t many problems with this phone and I’d just like to get it over with. These are more annoyances and quibbles rather than major dealbreakers. Either way, there are a number of things I didn’t like too much about the phone.

Firstly, the highest volume level on the phone is too low! While the phone makes up for the low volume with a killer vibration, it does get annoying if you want to watch a YouTube video or if you leave your phone on the table since you can’t hear the ringtone.

Another thing which I blame Google for is that ICS (or JellyBean, for that matter) don’t show the battery percentage in the notification panel. It just shows the battery icon. How am I supposed to know exactly how much battery time I have left?

Thirdly, there is no native file manager. Although manufacturers like ASUS often provide their own file manager applications, it would be nice for Google to provide a nice polished app as well.

The battery life fluctuates a lot for me. Sometimes it’ll last a good 8 – 9 hours while other times it’ll die within 4 – 5 hours. Of course, this depends on how you use the phone but I would have loved to have seen a much bigger battery.

Additionally, the phone does not have an FM Radio receiver. This one came as a bit of a shock for me since I assumed that it is a standard feature included in every phone now. Although this isn’t a problem for me (thanks to unlimited internet and TuneIn Pro), it might be a problem for people who prefer to listen to music on the radio. If you have a big music collection, your phone’s storage will get full quickly.

Lastly, the phone gets very hot. I’m not sure if this might be a problem with my specific phone or if this is a problem which many other Galaxy Nexus users face. Either way, the phone often gets very hot while in my pocket and this seems to drain the battery really quickly.

THE GOOD

I like almost every aspect of the phone, both hardware and software. Many people have complained that Samsung and Google gave the phone a 5MP shooter rather than the now-standard 8MP. Honestly, I think the phone takes really good pictures in well-lit areas. Although it has problems with low-light shots, what it lacks in hardware, it makes up with software. I love the zero shutter lag on the phone since it allows me to take photos in quick succession. It also takes 1080p video and the quality is great.

And I’m surprised no-one ever mentions this in their reviews but the screen-off animation is in one of the best things I’ve seen on a phone. Yes, while most of us would take it for granted, that screen-off animation is in one word: COOL. Similar to the CRT monitors of old, the screen animation is just brilliant. I often randomly turn the phone on and off again just to see that animation. 🙂

All in all, this is a fantastic device. The size is perfect; it sits comfortably in my hand and doesn’t feel too big or heavy. It’s lightning quick and I have to say, I am absolutely smitten with this phone. It’s truly a delight to use, the software is slick and intuitive and have you seen that screen?! I just can’t stop looking at it! I often find myself turning the phone on just to look at that gorgeous 720p HD screen. Another plus is that you get stock Android with the phone which is very underrated. In my humble opinion, while it may not have the specs to destroy the competition, the Galaxy Nexus is the best phone money can buy!

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