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#ThrowbackThursday: My Galaxy Nexus gateway to Android

There’s a time when we all switch over to Android. Whether it’s from an iPhone, a BlackBerry – or something worse – we all share that moment when Android enters our lives. For me, that moment was with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

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The Galaxy Nexus almost five years after release. / © AndroidPIT

Flicking the switch

I had owned an iPhone 3G for several years before buying the Galaxy Nexus. The iPhone made me a smartphone convert, even though a friend had described them as “bricks” due to their large size in comparison to feature phones. Sure, the 3.5-inch iPhone was considered large – but not for long.

After watching each iteration of iOS – from version 2.0 to 4.0 – make the iPhone 3G increasingly slow and useless, I decided it was time to upgrade. I was curious about Android and the tech-savvy community behind it, so I went out and bought a Galaxy Nexus.

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At 4.65 inches, this is no longer a large phone. / © AndroidPIT

A worthy upgrade

When it was released in November 2011, the Galaxy Nexus immediately caught my attention. But what were the reasons for it? It had a lot of power, a large display and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. When compared with the iPhone 3G, it's easy to see why I became desperate for these things. Take a look:

  iPhone 3G Galaxy Nexus
Display size 3.5 inches 4.65 inches
Pixel density 165 ppi 316 ppi
Processor 412 MHz ARM 11 Dual-core 1.2 GHz Cortex A9
Storage 8 GB 16 GB
RAM 128 MB 1 GB

You can see the huge differences between the two. Then there’s the operating systems. With the iPhone 3G incapable of running even a home screen wallpaper, the Galaxy Nexus and its beastly hardware, all running Android 4.0, was like a dream. In my opinion, Ice Cream Sandwich was the first proper competition Android threw up to iOS for the overall quality of its design.

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One phone, many memories. / © AndroidPIT

Calling Android home

You have to remember something. Back in 2011, the Galaxy Nexus was a big deal. was quite a large device. It was a sister model to the Galaxy S2, which had a poorer display but better processor, graphical capabilities and cameras. But the Galaxy Nexus also ran stock Android. It wasn’t the best phone you could buy, and it was followed a few months later by the blockbuster Galaxy S3, but it was the perfect Android gateway device for someone like me.

The Galaxy Nexus was the perfect Android gateway device

Google was still building up Android at the time. In 2011, Google Play was still called the Android Market. Chrome wasn't available on smartphones. The industry was changing so fast that Apple had become the biggest smartphone seller in April 2011, only to be replaced by Samsung in October of the same year.

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It's a little beaten up, but the GNex is still usable today. / © AndroidPIT

Software journey

With the Galaxy Nexus, I had a pleasing hardware-software experience. I upgraded to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean in 2012 before eventually moving up to Android 4.3. The issue was, however, that the Galaxy Nexus stopped receiving software support from Google around 18 months after its release. There was no upgrade to Android 4.4 KitKat, but that didn’t stop me.

There was no upgrade to Android 4.4 KitKat, but that didn’t stop me

Even though I was stuck with Jelly Bean forever, I decided that stock Android was no longer enough. Where I used jailbreaking to unlock my iPhone, I decided to flash a ROM onto my ‘GNex’. I went with CyanogenMod, the most popular Android ROM. The best part of this, aside from extra customization options and significantly better battery life, was that I could upgrade to KitKat.

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Nexus phones are great gateways to using Android. / © AndroidPIT

Essentially, this meant that the Galaxy Nexus had a longer lifespan – it was ‘new’ all the way until Android 5.0 Lollipop was released in November of 2014. But developer support eventually dried up and there was no immediate way to upgrade to Lollipop.

With my next phone, the Snapdragon 801-packing Moto X (2014), I quickly realized that Lollipop's numerous animations would be too taxing on the Galaxy Nexus. So, in early 2015, I bid goodbye to the GNex and continued the Android journey with newer and more powerful devices – but more on that another time.

What was your first Android device? Did you switch over from another platform? Let me know in the comments.

Every Thursday night we publish articles for #ThrowbackThursday. In this series, we look back at feature phones, smartphones and other gadgets that have been with us the longest. But what comes next week?


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  • nexus phones are always good to play with them.

  • Mark G. 3 months ago Link to comment

    My first "smartphone" was the Sony Vivas running Symbian S60. It had a 3.2" screen 229ppi with a 8MP camera. Getting apps for it was a bit of a nightmare.

    Next was my old faithful Galaxy S3.... Everything changed... Life was so.. Much better

    Peace ✌

  • My first smart phone was the first generation Blackberry Storm. Remember back in the dark ages of smart phones, the iPhone was only available on AT&T. So the Verizon faithful were on the outside looking in.

    The Storm was a great device and I loved it, up until OS 5. It made the original Storm a sluggish brick. And if you left it on 4.9 you couldn't access the new features of the app store. Blackberry and I parted ways after that and I'll never return.

    My next device was the 1st generation Droid Incredible by HTC. Another great device for its time and the first time I had something that felt like the iPhone.

    After that came my Galaxy Nexus. A device I still own and have running Marshmallow. And running it well, I might add. I finally had a phone on Verizon that was the envy of my iPhone welding friends. It even made a few converts. While it's not my daily driver (my Moto Nexus 6 still holds that title and will for some time) this was and still is a great little device.

    I can't imagine going forward that I would ever own a non Nexus device again, but something I won't do is go below the 6" mark, even if that means moving to a 7" tab. I like screen real estate.

    • Thanks for sharing, Sean. I can totally relate to your software update updates to the iPhone 3G made it slower every time. It took more than two years for my GNex to start getting slow.
      How do you find running Marshmallow on yours? Is battery life ok? I haven't tried it out but I'm curious!
      I'm actually going the other direction regarding display size - I want a smaller display. Something smaller than 5 inches, just for practicality reasons.

  • Gnex was my first smartphone. I loved how ahead of its time it was. The screen was big and with a high resolution, the camera was fast, the software was a brand new Android software with direct Google updates. I still have two friends that have it and use as a secondary device, and also have a friend that bought a galaxy s2 instead of gnex and really regretted his decision.

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