Ghost in the machine: Six months with the Galaxy Nexus

After six months with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus smartphone I can honestly say I love it. And I hate it. I bought the Nexus because it uses an unadulterated version of Android (most vendors customize Android with their own look and feel) -- and because I loved the screen. I still do, but...

On the pro side, the Nexus' display is brilliant and works great. On the other hand, with a 4.6-inch screen, the device is more akin to a small tablet than a cell phone. That small sheet of plate glass does not fit well in a pants pocket, and it's pretty awkward to have a 4.6 - inch slab of glass attached to a belt clip, particularly when getting in and out of the car. If you carry a purse or wear a sport coat, however, a phone of this size would be just fine.

Another downside: That big, bright screen has been a major power drain. Battery life has been a huge disappointment with this phone, mainly due to the display. To make matters worse, the device uses power faster than my car power adapter can replenish it.

When using Google Maps as a GPS on a 3 1/2 hour trip (admittedly a pretty heavy duty app), my phone died well before I got there - even though I started with a full charge and the device was plugged into the car's accessory jack the entire time. Verizon suggested that the aftermarket charger was to blame. However, a second charger fared no better, and I've seen at least one similar complaint online stating that even the Verizon charger can't keep up. I never did buy the Verizon adapter and would be curious to hear from other Galaxy Nexus owners as to whether they've had better luck in this regard.

From where I stand, the optional extended battery is a must. But even that only marginally increased my battery life during heavy use.

My Nexus has also suffered from intermittent problems with lost data connections, usually when I travel to areas with 4G service. Powering the phone down and back up sometimes cured the problem, if only temporarily. Sometimes data service would come back for a few hours. At other times I'd lose the connection again within a few minutes. To fix the problem I tried wiping and resetting the phone, to no avail. Then I tried replacing the SIM card, and wiped and reset the phone again. At that point all seemed OK. But before I could really test it on the road, the touch-screen failed. The replacement unit seems to be performing fine, so far.


Ghost of Nexus Past

Replacing the phone also created some minor issues with Google Play. After moving the SIM card over to the new device and connecting the phone to my Google account, I found that none of my apps restored to the phone automatically. What's more, Google Play showed two identical Nexus phones on my account: a ghost phone image and a new one. But which was which? Each showed a different mix of installed apps -- and neither actually matched was was on my new phone!

To my pleasant surprise, I was able to talk to a live human at Google Play almost immediately. The scoop according to Google: The app inventory online didn't match what was on the phone because Google Play can take up to 24 hours to update (I had already downloaded a few apps directly to the phone). The ghost image was a puzzle -- not supposed to happen, he said. But issues with the automatic restoration of apps are a known problem."We are working on that," the tech said. In the mean time, I had to select every one of my 30 some-odd apps individually to restore each one at a time.

By attempting to restore an app from each device image on Google Play I was able to determine which was the correct image and which was the ghost. But the ghost device is not removable, nor are any previously owned phones that you've registered with Google Play. That's something Google is also working on fixing, according to the Google Play tech. You can, however, rename the old device image or hide it from view (You do this by clicking on My Orders and Settings at the bottom of the My Android Apps tab in Google Play and clicking on the Settings tab).

Do I like the Galaxy Nexus? Yes. But all things considered, I think I might have fared better with the Samsung Galaxy S3.

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