Galaxy Nexus and Android 4.0 gains fans; including me

You can’t buy the Galaxy Nexus from a U.S. carrier just yet, but that’s isn’t stopping early adopters from getting their hands on Samsung’s hottest new phone. Debuting in October, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the first handset to run Ice Cream Sandwich, otherwise known as Android 4.0(s goog). An LTE version is expected in Verizon(s VZ) stores within a few weeks, although the carrier hasn’t yet announced official news. And GSM versions are already available overseas, causing some to order the Galaxy Nexus and have it shipped here.

As someone who jumped on the original Nexus One — at the full $529 price — the day it became available nearly two years ago, you’d think I’d be all over the Galaxy Nexus. Quite frankly, I’ve been enjoying my iPhone 4S(s aapl) so much that the new Nexus has taken a backseat to my iOS interest of late. But then I started to see the early reviews and happy tweets from new Galaxy Nexus owners.

Early reviews rock

The Verge gives the new Nexus an 8.6 out of 10, saying, “The Galaxy Nexus is the best Android phone ever made. It’s one of the best smartphones ever made, and with a couple of minor tweaks (particularly to the camera), it could be the best smartphone ever produced.” Chris Ziegler, a senior mobile editor at the site, didn’t write the review, but like I often do, he put his money where his mouth is and ordered an unlocked GSM version. Not long after receiving his own personal Galaxy Nexus, Ziegler tweeted this:

Andy Abramson, a long-time friend who travels more than anyone I know, has very positive thoughts on his own Galaxy Nexus experience. By way of email, he pointed out that the software pairs nicely with the high-definition display dual-core processor, telling me: “Simply put, what Android always promised to be.” Since he travels so much, Abramson focused on how well the Galaxy Nexus can enable modern-day globe-trotters and has excellent VoIP support in his blog post discussing his new phone.

These are just two examples of happy Galaxy Nexus owners. Search the web or social networks and you’ll see even more. No phone is perfect, of course, but between the high-end Samsung hardware and Google’s newest mobile operating system, it already sounds like the Galaxy Nexus will be a hit. Now I can’t wait.

So I bought one

After some online research, I pulled the trigger on my own unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus which works on both T-Mobile and AT&T’s(s t) fast mobile broadband networks. And for my rare overseas trips, I can use the phone on any GSM network. Instead of buying from an importer here in the U.S., I opted to buy direct from a U.K. retailer that will ship me the phone via 3-day FedEx. Some are selling the handset for near $800 — without shipping — but my total ended up being £439.98, which works out to $672.24 U.S. I’m hearing that an unlocked U.S. version could run $629, so the $43 premium to get an early unit isn’t too bad of a deal.

Aside from the positive feedback about the phone, my activities this holiday weekend also influenced my purchase decision. Both kids have a T-Mobile Sidekick 4G, which earned a solid review from us. But over time, both handsets have shown instability, lagginess and freezing; sometimes to the point of having to pull the battery. Samsung may be working on updates to address these problems, but I took matters into my own hands. I rooted both phones and installed a custom ROM on each. Guess what: All of the problems are gone and the phones are running faster than ever.

I like Android’s freedom to play

As I fixed both phones, I looked down at the faithful old Nexus One on my desk and thought back to the number of times I flashed custom software on the device these past two years. I’d guess I’ve done so well over a hundred times. And I had fun each and every time. I also installed the latest Android versions months before most phones saw them; if they ever did, that is.

Being a Nexus device, the new Galaxy will allow me to do the same: have fun by taking control of my phone. Based on the high praise for Android 4.0, I may not have to do so, but at least I’ll have the option to keep tinkering like a little kid with a new toy at Christmas. And of course, I’ll share my own hands-on thoughts with both the new phone and Google’s updated platform along the way.