Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S II

Picture the Galaxy Nexus as a tabby and the Samsung Galaxy S II as a group of birds pecking around at Trafalgar Square. Now set that cat amongst theose pigeons and you’ll have some idea of the effect of the launch of the latest Nexus phone on those who already own or were looking to buy what is, was, or still might be Samsung’s top TouchWiz branded Android mobile phone. What we’re trying to say is that there might just be a new best handset in town.

Until the Galaxy Nexus review is in, the very best way to sort this one out, and provide some sage advise for those looking to make a purchase, is by running through the spec sheets of these Android handsets with a fine tooth comb to see which we reckon has more to offer. Ready? Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S II.

Form Factor

1st: Galaxy S2
125.3 x 66.1 x 8.49mm, 117g

2nd: Galaxy Nexus
136 x 68 x 8.9mm, 135g


Once could argue that the aesthetics and ergonomics of the Galaxy Nexus are a touch more pleasing than those on the SGS2 and its pretty, straight forward, black slab design. One could argue this, but it wouldn’t be fair. Both look decent and will be good in the hand and, seeing as they’re each put together by Samsung, they actually share quite a bit of design in common. Just take a look at the thin, hatched battery covers to see what we mean.

As far as the numbers go, though, it’s the SGS2 that is the thinnest and the lightest by quite some way and those are the headline specs that count. So, round one to the old guard.

Display

1st: Galaxy Nexus
4.65-inch, 720x1280px, 316ppi, AMOLED HD

2nd: Galaxy S2
4.27-inch, 800x480px, 218ppi, Super AMOLED Plus


If you want to see an arse kicking, then look no further. The Samsung Galaxy S II has a fantastic screen but the Galaxy Nexus has just blown it out of the water. Not only is the Galaxy Nexus display bigger than the SGS2 but it’s got a superb pixel density to go with it thanks to a whopping 720p resolution. It’s hard to tell whether the screen technology itself has changed or simply been rebranded by Samsung to reflect the boost but, either way, you’re looking at a device that takes video, imaging, browsing the web and playing games very, very seriously indeed. A big win.

Engine Room

1st: Galaxy S2
Samsung Exynos 4210

2nd: Galaxy Nexus
TI OMAP 4460


Again, the Galaxy Nexus doesn’t appear to be quite as premium as Samsung’s own sole-branded handsets. It’s close to begin with in the engine room. Both systems-on-a-chip come with dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex A9 CPUs running the show but the Galaxy Nexus is a touch lacking in the graphics department with a far older PowerVR SGX 540 compared to the quad-core Mali-400 in the SGS2 which is only really outdone by the likes of Snapdragon’s Adreno 220 and the PowerVR SGX 543 found in the Apple A5 chip from the iPad 2 and iPhone 4S.

Both phones are backed with 1GB of RAM, meaning that the Galaxy Nexus is certainly no slouch, but it won’t be able to compete with the Galaxy S II when it comes to high end games, video editing or other seriously demanding graphical operations. It’ll still get the job done fine, just not as quickly.

Imaging

1st: Galaxy S2:
8MP rear, 2MP front, 1080p video

2nd: Galaxy Nexus
5MP rear, 1.3MP front, 1080p video


On paper, the difference is pretty clear. It’s a matter of megapixels here and there but it’s the Samsung Galaxy S II that’s gone a little higher spec on the front and rear camera resolutions. Of course, what would be good to know is the detail of the relative maximum aperture stats on the rear cams and just how responsive to light the image sensors are but, sadly, that’s not information that Samsung has let the world be privy to. Fortunately, both are healthy enough and both have full, 1080p HD video recording on board as well.

Connectivity

Tie: Galaxy S2
Wi-Fi, NFC, LTE, BT 3.0, DLNA, Wi-Fi tethering

Tie: Galaxy Nexus
Wi-Fi, NFC, LTE, BT 3.0, DLNA, Wi-Fi tethering


It’s the same story with connectivity for both of these top notch smartphones although you won’t necessarily be sold a version with the LTE radio included if the country you live in has no 4G network anyway. If that's the case, HSPA+ is as far as you go. Fingers crossed, though, NFC should be included wherever you are even if a contactless payment-type infrastructure is nowhere to be seen.

The SGS2 is probably more straight forward out of the box with its TouchWiz apps such as KiesAir and AllShare which act as wireless computer syncing and DLNA content sharing features but there are equivalents that you can download for the Nexus handset via the Android Market making things even Stevens.

If you’re looking to get your HD video out via a cable, then there’s no official line that the Galaxy Nexus has the same hybrid USB/HDMI port on the bottom edge (the MHL socket) but from examining the two pretty closely, they appear to be identical. So, a tie it remains.

Battery Life

Tie: Galaxy Nexus
1700mAh

Tie: Galaxy S2
1650mAh


Samsung hasn’t supplied the stats that really count when it comes to battery life - the estimates in terms of standby, call and video time. Instead, what we have to go on is the battery spec itself. Now, while the one in the Galaxy Nexus is a little bit larger, it’s got a much bigger screen with many more pixels to push and we suspect that that will negate the difference and possibly even mean that its battery life is, in fact, shorter when it comes down to it. The only thing that might make up for that is the fact that the GPU inside the Galaxy Nexus is considerably less beefy but whether or not that makes the TI OMAP4460 less power hungry or not is another thing.

Software

1st: Galaxy Nexus
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

2nd: Galaxy S2
Android 2.3 Gingerbread + TouchWiz 4.0


There are some decent Samsung apps that come with TouchWiz 4.0 but the only thing that has no straight Android Market equivalent is the Swype keyboard which is good but by no means an essential. So, the missing UI on the Galaxy Nexus is really no less.

Instead, the Nexus phone benefits from having the very latest version of Android on board meaning that it adds touches like Android Beam NFC sharing, Face Unlock, more stability (in theory) and an all new, modern and exciting look and feel. It’s likely that you’ll be able to upgrade the SGS2 eventually but these things tend to take a very long time indeed.

Storage

1st: Galaxy S2
16/32GB + microSD

2nd: Galaxy Nexus
16/32GB


Internal phone storage is probably still more critical in Android even though the system can now cope with apps placed on the microSD card. The trouble is that not all developers have made this possible and not all of those who have, have done it very well. Either way, fortunately, both of these phones offer bags of space but if you really want to go nuts and buy yourself a 64GB piece of removable storage, then it is possible to have a whopping 96GB to play with on the Samsung Galaxy S II. Just don’t inhale the thing by accident.

Price

1st: Galaxy S2
£410 (16GB)

2nd: Galaxy Nexus
unknown


There’s no official SIM-free price for the Galaxy Nexus available at the moment but, so far, the likes of Phones 4 U are pricing the latest Google phone at pretty much what you’d expect to pick up an iPhone 4S for, ie: a lot. To give that some context, we’re talking £46/month to get a Galaxy Nexus without having to pay a fee for the handset on top.

However it eventually comes out, you can bet that, as the older handset, the Samsung Galaxy S II will be cheaper throughout the life cycle of the two phones which rather makes it look like a bargain.

Conclusion

1st: Galaxy S2

2nd: Galaxy Nexus

It's going to be a close run decision for anyone looking to buy one of these two Android superphones. There are two things that the Galaxy Nexus has going for it - the new software and that incredible screen. The trouble is that they come at the price of a more sluggish graphics processor and less powerful camera. When you throw in the fact that the Samsung Galaxy S II will eventually get the Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade, then the scales really do start to tip. It's at this point when you can throw on the other smaller wins for the SGS2 such as the expandable storage, the thinner and lighter form factor and what is bound to be a far cheaper price too.

So, objectively, we have to hand this one to the Samsung Galaxy S II. The trouble is that you have to own your smartphone subjectively and, if having an absolute stunner of a screen is the be all and end all for you, then you should probably pick the Galaxy Nexus. We'd find it hard to disagree with you when it'll make for a larger and clearer window to watch videos and browse the web, but at 4.27 inches and with a superb Super AMOLED Plus display of its own, you might find that the Samsung Galaxy S II already does enough in that department.

- Galaxy Nexus vs iPhone 4S

- iPhone 4S vs Samsung Galaxy S II

Which Samsung phone would you rather own? Let us know in the comments below.



>