Galaxy Nexus: First Android 4 smartphone triumphs -- almost

A gorgeous screen, business-class security, and Android 4 push this smartphone to a new level. Too bad about the several flaws

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Security and management
A big change for smartphone users with Android 4 is the inclusion of Android 3's security and management capabilities, such as support for on-device encryption, for VPNs, and for more EAS policies (including failed-attempt lockout and password histories). Exchange's remote lock and remote wipe capabilities are also supported, as in Android 2.x. Unfortunately, Android 4 continues the Android 3 approach of requiring users to turn on device encryption -- it's not automatic -- then wait for an hour or more for the initial encryption to be applied. Fortunately, that's a one-time activity.

Unfortnately, the VPN settings are buried in the network settings' More submenu, and the options are certain to scare most users away, as you get a list of incomprehensible acronyms to choose from when setting up. I could not get the Galaxy Nexus to work on my company's IPSec network, as none of the IPSec options had options for entering the group ID, just its preshared key. I tried various permutations hoping one might work, but no such luck. The problem seems to be that Android 4, like its predecessors, doesn't support Cisco's IPSec, which my company uses. Of course, I had no such issues on an iPhone.

Android 4 also fails to fix a flaw in previous Android versions that prevent devices from connecting to Wi-Fi networks using the PEAP security protocol due to a problem in handling its corresponding certificates. You won't find this flaw in other mobile OSes.

These security changes mean that Android 4 smartphones are now on par with Android 3 (and 4) tablets, and closer to the level of iOS devices when it comes to meeting common business security needs. And Android 4, again like Android 3 but unlike iOS, lets you know exactly what controls your EAS administrator is imposing.

Android 4 introduces a lock mechanism based on facial recognition, which is easily defeated by using a photo of a person. But the good news for IT is that if you enable a PIN or password requirement on a Galaxy Nexus or other Android 4 device via EAS, this facial recognition unlock is disabled.

A flagship Android that doesn't quite meet expectations
When I first got the Galaxy Nexus to test, I was smitten. That gorgeous, big screen made my iPhone 4 look puny by comparison. The enhanced widgets capability and text correction mechanism both showed me that Apple doesn't own the whole town when it comes to good UI.

But the more I used the Galaxy Nexus, the more I was bothered by the mélange of interface approaches, the inconsistencies in common UI elements, the unfaithful rendering of the Android browser, the poor battery life, and the generally more limited capabilities of most core apps. I know the Android fanboys don't want to hear it, but the Galaxy Nexus is no iPhone-killer, and Android 4 -- which honestly is cleaned-up, enriched, smartphone-resized Android 3 -- doesn't beat iOS 5, much less the iCloud/iTunes/iOS ecosystem.

Still, there's a lot of good in both the Galaxy Nexus and Android 4, and the combination should be on the short list of anyone looking for an Android smartphone. In many respects, the Galaxy Nexus beats the previous Android champs, Motorola Mobility's smartphone family, but the poor battery life prevents me from declaring the Galaxy Nexus as the undisputed new champ. If the Galaxy Nexus intrigues you, hold off and see if one of the inevitable flood of new Android 4 smartphones offers the same luscious screen with better battery life.

This article, "Galaxy Nexus: First Android 4 smartphone triumphs -- almost," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the latest developments in mobile computing, read Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog at InfoWorld.com, follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter, and follow InfoWorld on Twitter.

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