With each major Android update comes a Nexus phone and now that Ice Cream Sandwich is here, the Galaxy Nexus has arrived to carry it. Less than a year has passed since Gingerbread arrived on the Nexus S, however, so exactly how dated should anyone with such a handset feel?

Is it time to upgrade? Should you flog the one you’ve got to someone on the cheap, and beg, borrow and steal for the difference? Or is Android 4.0 and the pure Google phone for 2012 just a load marketing guff? Read the Galaxy Nexus vs Nexus S and find out.

1st: Galaxy Nexus
136 x 68 x 8.8mm, 135g

2nd: Nexus S
123.9 x 63 x 10.8mm, 129g

The build of these two handsets is remarkably similar. In fact, if it weren’t for the far larger screen on the Galaxy Nexus, one might be forgiven for thinking they were the same. Despite the greater front face area though, the trend continues to push on a pace to make smartphones as thin and light as possible. The Galaxy Nexus manages to stay in touch with the Nexus S with Samsung adding just 6g to the overall mass and that might well have something to do with cutting down by 2mm on the profile making the Galaxy Nexus pretty much the slimmest smartphone on the market today. Not quite though.

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

2nd: Nexus S
4-inch, 800x480px, 233ppi, Super AMOLED

Where the screen used to be Super, it’s now HD. What that means in real terms is that the display on the 2011 Nexus model is both much, much bigger and with such a whopping resolution kick that it’s got a far tigher pack of pixels too. Add in the fact that the screen technology itself is also vastly improved and you’ve got a bigger display, with more punch, better colours and something that’s going to be an all round treat compared to the unit on the Nexus S which was actually no bad apple in its own right.

1st: Galaxy Nexus
TI OMAP 4460

2nd: Nexus S
Samsung S5PC110

With a next generation, dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex A9 processor inside the Galaxy Nexus compared to its older relative’s single-core Cortex A8, it’s a pretty clear indication that things have moved on. The doubling of the RAM from the Nexus S’s 512MB up to the 1GB on the Galaxy is another. So, it’s all rather curious as to why the GPU is basically the same. Each has what is now a fairly dated PowerVR SGX 540 doing the graphical rendering work. It’s a bit of a surprise given that all the other smartphones around - whether Snapdragon, Samsung or Apple A5-based - will be able to run rings about that the Galaxy Nexus in this department but there you go.

The reality is that it will probably still work fine but, when it comes to processing your images, editing video and playing some of the more demanding games, you might feel a bit of drag.

1st: Galaxy Nexus
5MP rear, 1.3MP front, 1080p video

2nd: Nexus S
5MP rear, 0.3MP front, SD video recording

You can argue about the missing megapixel on the front camera - and that’s actually quite significant when you consider how poor video chats are going to look at just 0.3 megapixels - but it’s the missing HD video on the Nexus S that really dates it. The Galaxy Nexus plugs that gap quite nicely, even if it could do with a touch more resolution on the rear facing camera. We’ll just have to guess at the maximum aperture of the lens for the time being and presume that it’s comparable where perhaps it should be more impressive.

1st: Galaxy Nexus
Wi-Fi, LTE, USB 2.0, NFC, BT 3.0, A-GPS

2nd: Nexus S
Wi-Fi, 3G, USB 2.0, NFC, BT 2.1, A-GPS

It’s the addition of LTE technology that really show the difference that a year makes in Nexus world. Interestingly, of course, that's one spec that will have bugger all effect if you happen to live in the UK and, indeed, most other countries out there outside of the States, the Far East and a few select patches of Europe. The reason is that there’s no 4G network in most places nor much in the way of NFC as it goes. Still, that’s future-proofing for you. In fact, buy the Nexus Galaxy in the UK and it won’t even come with the LTE radio included.

Both handsets offer tethering over Wi-Fi thanks to the Android OS and pretty much everything you’ll need on a day to day basis including apps to turn your phone into a wireless streamer via DLNA standards.

Tie: Galaxy Nexus

Tie: Nexus S

As ever, it’s very tricky to tell exactly how long a mobile phone battery is going to last based purely upon the size of the power pack. Having a bigger screen to keep bright and more pixels to burn are going to use that up as is a faster processor, and it’s very hard to tell the efficiency effects an improved operating system will have.

Our best guess would be that the battery performance of these two is going to be very similar, i.e.: not quite as good as you want it to be. There were certainly no big surprises with the Nexus S but we’ll have to wait for the full Galaxy Nexus review before we can say the same for the power efficiency on the 2011 Google phone.

1st: Galaxy Nexus
Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich

2nd: Nexus S
Android 2.3 Gingerbread

There’s nothing quite like that smug feeling of walking round with the top version of Android on your phone. Fortunately, it has been confirmed that Ice Cream Sandwich will be coming to the Nexus S and, with no pesky custom UI in the way, you can bet that it will be the first of the Android handsets to be able to receive it. All the same, for the time being, it’s the Galaxy Nexus that takes the round with the new look and feel of Android 4.0 as well as some of the more interesting features that we’ve outlined in our Ice Cream Sandwich piece. To be fair, the features look nice but there’s only one or two things to get really excited about.

1st: Galaxy Nexus

2nd: Nexus S

So, it seems that Google recogised that expandable storage was a thing of the past even back in 2010 when the Gingerbread-debuting Nexus S arrived. The Galaxy Nexus continues the same theme and doubles it by offering a 32GB big boy as well as the 16GB standard issue. Either way, both handsets give you plenty of room for your videos, photos and, most importantly, apps, the last of which aren’t always that happy to work from Android microSD cards.

1st: Nexus S
£350 (16GB)

2nd: Galaxy Nexus

So far, the SIM-free price of the Galaxy Nexus hasn’t been revealed but it’s obviously going to be considerably more expensive than last year’s model. We’d guess around £150 more expensive. Phones 4 U has announced contract pricing very similar to the iPhone 4S meaning that you’ll be able to pick one up for free if you’re happy to fork out £46/month for 18-24 months.

1st: Galaxy Nexus

2nd: Nexus S

It goes without saying that the Galaxy Nexus is a better phone than the one made a year earlier. There'd be something very wrong if that wasn't the case. What's interesting, though, is to see exactly where things have moved on. And where they haven't.

The screen is the obvious thing. It's had a massive shot in the arm in both size and quality. The other point to notice is that you just can't have a top smartphone these days that doesn't shoot 1080p video. Apart from those areas though, the differences aren't massive and, once the Ice Cream Sandwich update has arrived for the Nexus S, owners of said handset need having nothing to be ashamed about.

Perhaps what this comparison highlights as much as anything else is that the Galaxy Nexus really ought to have a better camera and a more powerful GPU than it actually does. Last year's parts in this year's phone. Here's hoping it's because they were far more than the Nexus S could use the first time around.

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- Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S II

Excited by the Galaxy Nexus or are you waiting for a custom UI on top? Let us know in the comments below.