Jelly Bean or Android 4.1 has arrived on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and it is smooth. So smooth that this dual-core phone feels quad-core, the experience feels more refined and it gives you even more Google for your buck. With such a great reception to the operating system and no clear time-frame when it will land on other flagships like the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC One X, is the newly revamped Jelly Bean Samsung Galaxy Nexus the best phone out now?
Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Jelly Bean): Design
We've already reviewed both these phones and they ranked very well. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus got 4 ½ stars in November and the Samsung Galaxy S3 5 stars in June. The Galaxy S3 is a slightly wider phone thanks to its 4.8-inch screen, in contrast, the Galaxy Nexus’s screen is 4.65 inches. The S3 is 0.3mm thinner than the Nexus and feels much smoother thanks to the high gloss body.
The design is less characteristic on the Samsung Galaxy S3 though, and while it’s slick, the Nexus is more cohesive. The buttonless fascia was made for Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean, the wedge shape and curved glass gives it character and all in all, it feels like a more nuanced device.
Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Jelly Bean): Screen
When it comes to the screens, both the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus pack 720p Super AMOLED displays. The Galaxy S3 is larger, so the screen will be slightly less sharp. It’s also a touch less bright than the Galaxy Nexus, though does offer slightly better whites and considerably better viewing angles. Both screens deliver the trademark AMOLED high saturation and deep blacks to great effect, beaten only by the HTC One X.
Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Jelly Bean): User Interface
Despite Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean having similar key elements, Samsung has totally overhauled Ice Cream Sandwich. TouchWiz Nature UX acts as a cushion, softening the blow between the user and stock Android as found on the Nexus. This was totally understandable in the days of Froyo and Gingerbread, however since Ice Cream Sandwich, stock Android has been something of a coveted jewel only a few phones bore.
TouchWiz Nature UX however is not without its merit. Once you get accustomed to all its quirks, it turns the Samsung Galaxy S3 into the most customizable and intuitive device on the market. The smart actions and shortcuts make it shine in a sea of otherwise identikit skins and 3D transitions make everything look slick. Visually, we do prefer stock Android and HTC Sense, however there’s no getting around the fact that it has pizazz that might impress a lot of non-purists out there.
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus user experience has improved with Jelly Bean. It builds on Ice Cream Sandwich, (which looked great with the Roboto typeface and Holo theme) with full-bleed notifications, an improved gallery and what can only be described as a stroke of genius in Project Butter, a set of refinements to ensure a constant 60fps framerate throughout the UI. This makes everything look sensational and feel infinitely more responsive. To say Google has pulled it out of the bag is an understatement.
Google Now is also taking on the Samsung Galaxy S3’s S-Voice head on. While it is partially voice-based, its utility also extends to a card system that looks and feels more complete than S-Voice. It’s holistically useful, giving you weather without you asking for it, also picking out key highlights relevant to your surrounding area.
Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Jelly Bean): Camera and Mutlimedia
The Samsung Galaxy S3 packs one of the best cameras on the scene right now. At 8-megapixels, images are detailed and clean, it offers a burst mode with 3.5 fps shooting and on board HDR. The UI is also customizable and give you a range of shooting options. Shots taken on the Nexus tend to be great in good lighting with the 5-megapixel sensor being sufficiently detailed, however noise isn’t handled well at all when the lights go down.
In every respect therefore, the Samsung Galaxy S3 camera wins over that of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, both capture full HD video and the results are very comparable, you can see examples of the S3 here and the Galaxy Nexus here. Jelly Bean doing very little in way of improving it.
Samsung’s on board video and music player improve over Android’s stock offering. Jelly Bean doesn’t pack the codec support Samsung's TouchWiz does. Samsung’s S3 video player also offers a fantastic innovation that allows for your video to float in order for you to get on with other tasks while watching video.
Both devices offer very comprehensive music players. Google Play Music offers cloud integration, and advanced playback options including equaliser settings and playlist support. Samsung’s music player is more old school. It offers a classical yet refined UI and is simple to navigate around. Equaliser support is great so it will suit the majority of users more. Anyone looking for a more futuristic look and feel with wireless sync will be better suited with Play Music.
Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Jelly Bean): Connectivity and Storage
Both phones are virtually identically connected and offer a very comparable web experience. They pack 3G, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, GPS, Bluetooth and NFC. Chrome browser works like a charm on both phones and makes for an intuitive web-browsing experience across both large, bright and vibrant displays. Unlike the Nexus, the Samsung Galaxy S3 has expandable storage. The S3 is available in 16, 32 or 64Gb varieties whereas the Galaxy Nexus is available with 16 or 32GB.
Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Jelly Bean): Performance and Battery
Despite the Nexus running on dual-cores instead of quad-cores as found on the Galaxy S3, Project Butter makes the Samsung Galaxy Nexus with Jelly Bean feel faster and smoother than any Android phone we’ve used before. With the Samsung Galaxy S3 packing the most processing power on the market right now, it’s fast and pretty smooth, however is nowhere near as smooth feeling as the Jelly Bean Nexus. Don’t get us wrong, you won’t be subject to painful hanging and slowdown on the Galaxy S3, however Jelly Bean and Project Butter really do make the Nexus entirely cutting edge all over again.
Battery wise, Jelly Bean is also said to be more efficient. You’ll get a day out of the 1750mAh battery though heavy screen use and data use may curb this slightly. Despite a larger 2100mAh battery, the Samsung Galaxy S3 battery won’t last much longer, seeing you through from morning to night. Both have replaceable batteries, so anyone looking to carry a spare can pick one up for anywhere in the region of £15.
Samsung Galaxy S3 vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Jelly Bean): Conclusion
Whichever way you look at it, Samsung is winning right now. On the one hand, it offer users the most consumer focused Android phone out there - the Samsung Galaxy S3. It’s usable, fast, performs well, packs charming features, a great camera and not least of all it’s skinny with a big screen. That said, the Galaxy Nexus is undeniably the phone to own if you’re into your Android. Jelly Bean makes the Nexus the smoothest Android phone on the market. It’s had a host of useful features and charming UI flourishes pumped into its already handsome Ice Cream Sandwich, and it’s buttonless fascia just feels cohesive and makes the design look rich. All in all, the Galaxy S3 wins out in terms of tech-specs and features, however with no indication as to when Jelly Bean will arrive on the S3, anyone looking to be at the cutting edge of Android has an easy decision if torn between the two.