The year 2011 was a year of powerful Android phones, and as the year nears its end, we hear the Android phone wars reach an ear-splitting crescendo, especially with the arrival not just of dual-core smartphones but also of high-definition touchscreen displays.
In a previous post, we pitted two of the most recent–and hottest–Android phones from HTC and LG in order find out which smartphone in the battle of the HTC Rezound vs the LG Nitro HD would end up victor. In today’s post, we take a look again at the HTC Rezound and see whether it is a better option against the pioneer Android phone for Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the Samsung GALAXY Nexus.
The HTC Rezound is a 4G LTE device available exclusively through U.S. mobile carrier Verizon Wireless. The Nexus phone from Samsung, on the other hand, is also exclusively available for a time on Verizon Wireless. The Verizon model of the world-renowned GALAXY Nexus is also a 4G LTE device, although there is also a non-Verizon GSM model. Being 4G LTE Android phones, you can expect the GALAXY Nexus and the HTC Rezound to deliver superfast Internet connection speeds–said to be ten times faster than normal 3G speeds.
Plus, with superior design and hardware coupled with the cream of the crop in software, these two Android phones ought to be on your year-end shopping list if you have enough dough to spare not just for the devices themselves but also for the 2-year contract on Verizon.
What exciting features and comforts do the HTC Rezound and Samsung GALAXY Nexus offer you? Read on to find out.
Display and Touchscreen
If you thought the HTC Rezound’s 4.3-inch screen was already huge, you’ll probably find the GALAXY Nexus’ 4.65-inch screen mammoth. If you’ve been from the 3.7-inch or 4.0-inch camp, the sizes of the touchscreen on these two Android phones may need some getting used to.
Though, on the one hand, a bigger screen size is always a welcome feature for those who need bigger screen estate for stuff like Web browsing. However, it can also probably require some finger calisthenics–especially if you have short fingers.
The HTC phone’s touchscreen has the full protection of Corning Gorilla Glass, which makes the screen resistant to scratches, scrapes, and abrasions. So, even if you dump your Android phone along with your keys and other sharp objects inside your bag or pocket, the tough protection of Corning Gorilla Glass will make sure that your Android phone’s screen stays safe.
The GALAXY Nexus, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to use Corning’s fabled glass cover. The Samsung phone’s official specs sheet doesn’t mention it. Instead, Samsung’s Android phone uses some kind of fortified glass, which assuredly provides tough cover for the device.
Both the HTC Rezound and the Samsung GALAXY Nexus are two of the very few Android phones these days with the best displays. In the case of the HTC Rezound, what this Android phone lacks for in thinness, it makes up for in display prowess. It is the first true HD Android phone that the U.S. ever tasted, and it will most likely set the precedent for future handsets in the U.S.
Prior to the HTC Rezound, the best displays hovered around the qHD resolution (960×540 pixels), but the Rezound raised the bar by bringing 1280×720 pixels onto its 4.3-inch screen. Android phones with qHD resolution would likely linger a little bit longer, but once you’ve tried a true HD display such as that on the Rezound, you will no longer look back. Meanwhile, the GALAXY Nexus also comes with an HD display, just like the Rezound.
However, since the HTC Rezound has a smaller screen compared to the GALAXY Nexus, the former practically outnumbers the GALAXY Nexus in pixel density. The higher pixel density results in sharper, crisper, and more vivid display of images and videos on the phone’s screen. The Nexus phone from Samsung packs a pixel density of about 316 ppi, which is already sharp, but apparently not as sharp as the display on the Android phone from HTC with its absurdly crisp pixel density of about 342 ppi.
Although the two Android phones use different display technologies (S-LCD on the Rezound and HD Super AMOLED on the Nexus phone), both of them perform superbly even in brightly lit conditions. The contrasts, color temperature, and brightness on these two phone’s displays are nothing less than near-perfect.
Size, Build, and Design
Owing to its screen size, the Samsung GALAXY Nexus is taller and wider than the HTC Rezound. Yet, it is also lighter than the HTC Rezound by about 35 grams and thinner by about 4 millimeters. The Samsung phone’s full physical dimensions are 135.38 mm x 67.82 mm x 9.4 mm, with a weight of 144.58 g. HTC’s Android phone, on the other hand, has physical dimensions of 129.03 mm x 65.53 mm x 13.72 and weighs 170.1 g.
Are these two Android phones difficult to grasp in one hand? Definitely not. The back of the GALAXY Nexus is covered in textured plastic, while that on the HTC Rezound is still plastic but with a soft touch finish and ribbing surrounding the HTC logo.
When it comes to physical build, the choice is between high-quality plastic and elegant metal finish. The GALAXY Nexus, being a product of Samsung’s mill, uses the former–as do many of Samsung’s numerous Android phones. I personally find the Samsung phone rather fragile to the touch–and for such a costly Android phone, I’d rather go for something more durable. In contrast, the HTC Rezound’s bezel is wrapped around with a polished metal finish, which is a design that it shares with many other HTC Android phones. The HTC Rezound looks and feels more solid and easier to grasp.
We will not get entangled in a never-ending debate on whether metal or quality plastic makes for a classy and premium feel. After all, that area can get pretty subjective. Nevertheless, either Android phone looks elegant, feels sturdy, and are undoubtedly well-built.
One noteworthy feature of the GALAXY Nexus’ design is its curved display. The screen curves (concaves) downward, making the Android phone look less like a boring slab of electronic gadgetry. The Nexus S, its predecessor, also had a similar curved design.
There’s no clear reason for the curvature, though. Some say it has practical benefits. For instance, some say it’s meant to prevent extra smudging from your cheeks when you hold the phone to your ear. Others claim that the contour conforms rather well to your upper thigh or backside, which means comfort when putting the phone inside your front or back pocket (good news for fans of skinny jeans, eh?). Other reports say that the curved design is intended to reduce glare and reflection.
Some others also say that the curved design has ergonomics in mind–to allow the Android phone to nestle comfortably on or “hug” your face when making calls. This reminds me of the way the receivers on rotary phones were designed. Remember them? Their design places the microphone closer to the mouth–a design logic that is also probably at work in the Nexus phone from Samsung.
The HTC Rezound, in contrast, has an unsurprising form. It looks similar to many of HTC’s high-end Android phones, which generally look like plain slates with rounded corners and curved back covers. Yet, though unsurprising, the HTC Rezound exudes elegance that parallels its sturdiness.
Some users have reported a few disappointing moments with voice calls on the GALAXY Nexus. Among the reported disappointments include some fluctuation in volume, as well as slight scratchy noise while making voice calls–although signal reception can possibly also contribute to such conditions. The speakerphone on the phone does an excellent job in quieting down any background noise. And, the Samsung phone works excellently with wireless headsets such as the Altec Lansing 903 BackBeat headphones or the Aliph Jawbone ICON Bluetooth headset.
Making voice calls on the HTC Rezound seems to be hitch-free. Although there were also reported disappointments (e.g., some momentary audio loss), the sound levels are adequate and white noise seems minimal. The noise-canceling secondary microphone discreetly positioned at the left edge of the HTC Rezound is most likely responsible for the phone’s ability to provide nearly noise-free voice calls.
As for processing power, both Android phones are muscle-filled giants. The Samsung GALAXY Nexus comes with a dual-core Texas Instruments OMAP 4460 processor, while the HTC Rezound comes with a dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S3 processor. Both phones have 1 GB of RAM to ensure smooth and silky processing.
The Nexus phone’s processor is clocked at 1.2 GHz, while the HTC phone is clocked higher at 1.5 GHz. However, the difference in clock speed do not seem to take away from the pleasure of lag-free, near-instantaneous, and responsive processing which both phones are capable of.
For storage, the HTC Rezound simply beats the GALAXY Nexus. Although the GALAXY Nexus has bigger (32 GB) internal storage than does the HTC Rezound (16 GB), that’s the only storage you’ll ever get on the GALAXY Nexus. Why? It does not have a microSD card expansion slot, which the HTC Rezound does. Thus, you can add 32 GB more storage on the HTC Rezound. That’s a pretty huge room for all your music and video files.
As for battery life, the mileage varies with actual use. Although, on paper, the GALAXY Nexus has bigger battery capacity–1,850 mAh compared to the HTC Rezound’s 1,620 mAh battery. With normal moderate use, the GALAXY Nexus can last through about a day before you’d need to reach for the power charger. The HTC Rezound affords more or less the same battery life. But, then again, battery life will vary with your actual use of either Android phone.
Camera and Multimedia
The HTC Rezound’s camera is hard to beat, but the GALAXY Nexus poses as a serious contender in this area. On the Rezound is an 8-megapixel main camera with f/2.2 aperture, 28-mm wide angle lens, and backside-illuminated (BSI) sensor–all of which are more than enough for you to use the Rezound as a replacement for your point-and-shoot camera. Hands-on reviews have spoken nothing less than praise about the HTC phone’s fast autofocus, quick shutter speed, and exceptional macro shots (even up to as close as 1.5 inches).
On the other hand, the GALAXY Nexus carries a 5-megapixel primary camera. Comparing numbers, it looks like the Nexus phone is the underdog in this comparison, but nothing could be farther from the truth. The Nexus phone’s camera is said to have zero shutter lag, which means no waiting time before the photo subject is actually taken from the time you tap on the shutter button. Also, thanks to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, the Samsung GALAXY Nexus natively supports panoramic photo shooting.
Both phones are capable of recording 1080p Full HD videos, too. So, with such powerful cameras in tow, these two Android phones would be perfect for capturing special moments in high definition.
As for audio playback, the HTC Rezound lets you enjoy fuller sound with rich bass and crisp audio levels. Thanks to hardware and software integration of Beats Audio technology, the Beats software kicks in whenever you plug in the accompanying iBeats earphones into the phone and start playing music or video on the built-in media player. Although I’m not a music critic or an audiophile, I can say that the fruit of the joint hardware and software processing afforded by Beats Audio technology results in fantastic audio that is much better-sounding than any I have ever heard on other devices.
Audio quality on the GALAXY Nexus is wonderful, as well, although you will need a really good set of headphones to be able to enjoy it. What I liked most among the audio features on the Nexus phone is the 5-band graphic equalizer built into Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The graphic equalizer allows you to set sound levels to your liking. Another nifty feature in the GALAXY Nexus is the availability of music controls in the notification bar and the lock screen, which means you have quick and easy access to playback controls even if you’re away from the media player app.
Software and User Interface
The GALAXY Nexus is a Google Experience Device intended to let its user have a “pure Google” experience. It is the first Android phone to use Android’s latest major update–Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, which, in itself, carries drastic improvements over earlier versions such as Android 2.3 Gingerbread for smartphones or Android 3.2 Honeycomb for tablets.
The most noticeable improvement in Android 4.0 is apparent in the user interface, which now has a more approachable and friendlier charm. Google took pains to strike a careful balance between graphic elements and resting spaces for the eyes (also known as “white space”), giving the entire Ice Cream Sandwich interface a more unified and more cohesive appearance that is as easy on the eyes as it is easy to use.
Another visual feature, albeit also functional, is the removal of any physical or capacitive buttons. In their place are onscreen virtual buttons for Back, Home, and Multitasking. The GALAXY Nexus, courtesy of Android 4.0, has also shed off the dedicated Search button and Menu button because these two functions have been integrated as in-app options. In fact, the Google Search bar has gained omnipresence, since it is available all the time on all five homescreens–and it’s not removable either (unless you hack your phone).
Many other new and improved features are tagging along with Android 4.0, but they deserve a more elaborate treatment in a separate article. To name a few, there’s the improved lockscreen, which looks more like the one in Honeycomb than in Gingerbread. There’s also the consolidation of settings and options, to make configuration easier and faster. Widgets are now resizable and organizing app icons on the homescreen is a breeze with drag-and-drop folder creation. That is, just drag and drop an icon over another icon in order to group them into a folder. Live previews of recently opened apps are displayed via the multitasking tray, and you can easily dismiss items just by flicking items to the right. The notification bar is also more functional, especially with its newly acquired ability to remove notifications one-by-one through flicking gestures.
The GALAXY Nexus is also the first Android phone to enjoy the new People app for managing contacts. It’s more than just the usual contact list or address book since it gives you a preview not just of your contacts’ info and high-resolution photos but also of their social media streams from Twitter and Google+.
There’s also Android Beam, which lets you beam files and data through Near Field Communication (NFC). Just tap two NFC-enabled phones against each other to share photos, images, videos, bookmarks, apps, business cards, and so on.
Being the flagship device for Android 4.0, the Samsung GALAXY Nexus is the first to enjoy all the blessings of Ice Cream Sandwich, and will also most certainly be the first device to receive future updates to Ice Cream Sandwich. Android 4.0 is practically one of the more serious advantages that the GALAXY Nexus has over the HTC Rezound.
The HTC Rezound, meanwhile, still has dedicated buttons–capacitive ones tinted with red–for Home, Menu, Back, and Search. They all lie in a row at the bottom of the Rezound’s screen and are always accessible regardless of what screen is being displayed.
Yet, even if the HTC Rezound still runs only Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread, it is slated for an upgrade to Android 4.0 some time in early 2012. Don’t get me wrong–Android 2.3.4 Gingerbread is a rock-solid Android version. Plus, with HTC’s highly praised custom user interface, HTC Sense 3.5 (the latest version), running on top of it, your user experience on the HTC Rezound stays pleasurable and breezy nonetheless.
While the GALAXY Nexus has the latest major Android version, the HTC Rezound has HTC Sense 3.5 to buffer the big blow–at least until Ice Cream Sandwich arrives on it. HTC’s custom user interface may not hold a candle to the nifty new nuggets of sweet goodness brought about by Android 4.0, but it remains a straightforward, intuitive, and easy-to-use interface for both expert smartphone users and newcomers alike. HTC’s Sense 3.5 user interface, in fact, is well-loved by many Android users around the world.
The HTC Rezound and the Samsung GALAXY Nexus are two powerful devices, and choosing between them can require some significant amount of hair-pulling.
The HTC phone is ideal for those who are enamored by hardware strength, solid build and elegant design, exceptional entertainment (especially with audio) capabilities, eye-popping high-definition display, amazing photo-snapping prowess, and snappy performance. Though yet to be upgraded to Android 4.0, the HTC Rezound is already a force to reckon with.
The Samsung phone, on the other hand, has magnetic appeal towards those who crave for bleeding-edge features. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich onboard the Samsung GALAXY Nexus brings to life what would otherwise be just another Samsung phone. The Nexus phone from Samsung will be a good choice for those who want to be always first in line for Android updates, as well as for those who want an Android phone whose hardware and software work in perfect tandem–just as in the Samsung GALAXY Nexus.
Got one of these Android phones yet? Or still planning to buy one? If so, which one and why?
Images courtesy of SlashGear, GSMArena, The Verge, MobileBurn