After weeks of anticipation, one of Samsung's hottest smartphone offerings is available to U.S. consumers for $299.99, with a two-year contract.
The top-shelf handset running the newest version of Android was unveiled in October for overseas markets, but Samsung and Verizon Wireless avoided announcing the date for its U.S. debut until now. Last month, a leaked Verizon internal document suggested a Nov. 21 release date. But the date was pushed back to December around the same time a bug was reported among users in the United Kingdom that caused the volume control to behave erratically, particularly on some 2G networks.
The Nexus premiere was leaked earlier this week when Engadget found an internal price guide from Costco stores, an authorized Verizon Wireless retailer. A tipster also sent the tech site what appears to be a screenshot from a Verizon store listing the release date as Dec. 15.
There were various reports that some Galaxy Nexus phones were accidentally sold by Best Buy and a Verizon Wireless store prior to the official release date.
Powered by a 1.2 gigahertz dual-core processor, the phone will be compatible with Verizon's long-term evolution high-speed data network. The Galaxy Nexus packs a 5-megapixel camera and 4.65-inch, high-definition Super AMOLED display at 1280x720 pixels.
Among the unique features is a facial recognition application that allows users to unlock the device simply by smiling, without a password to remember. Touch To Beam uses near-field communication to allow users to share media, apps or information simply by holding two enabled devices together. The candybar-form, rounded design measures just 8.94 mm thick.
But what makes the phone so eagerly awaited is that it's the first to run Android 4.0, codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich.
Google says Android 4.0 features a "refined, evolved user interface" that makes common actions more visible and allows users to navigate with intuitive gestures. It also has a new typeface optimized for high-resolution screens, and virtual buttons in the System Bar for Back, Home and Recent Apps.
The Galaxy Nexus is the latest flagship Google device, following the January 2010 debut of the Nexus One by HTC, which the search giant unsuccessfully tried to sell primarily via its online store. The Nexus S, made by Samsung, debuted last December.
The appeal of the Nexus devices is that they are "pure Google" as opposed to phones made with modified versions of the open-source operating system.
"It is certainly a positive differentiator for early adopters, who did not see the Nexus One as a problem -- the carriers did," said consumer devices analyst Avi Greengart of Current Analysis. "However, the Nexus brand has never been advertised to consumers -- outside of a brief stint on Google's homepage back in the day -- and few have ever heard of it."