Last year's Samsung Galaxy Nexus is, at the moment, Google's flagship Android phone. That "at the moment," however, is because multiple sources confirm that Google's about to unveil new Nexus devices at an event on Oct. 29, including a Nexus phone by LG.
Verizon apparently still has a truckload or three of Galaxy Nexus devices to sell, though, because the "Big Red" wireless carrier dropped its prices for them massively: $49 for an on-contract Galaxy Nexus, and only $229 for a contract-free "certified pre-owned" device. That's more than $100 less than the unlocked GSM HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus being sold in the Google Play store at the moment.
What makes the Galaxy Nexus so special?
Google's Nexus devices always have the very best that Android has to offer, and are updated to the new versions quickly ... unlike most other Android devices, which receive upgrades months behind Nexus gadgets if at all.
The Galaxy Nexus debuted last year as the first phone to run the Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android, which introduced a Siri-style voice search called Google Now and a new streamlined interface called Holo. It was recently updated to the Jelly Bean version, which was much more responsive and featured smoother transitions and animations. (Because of Verizon's customizations, however, which were unusually intrusive for a Nexus device, the Verizon Galaxy Nexus was updated several months behind Sprint's.)
Is the Galaxy Nexus worth the sale price?
Despite being last year's model, the Galaxy Nexus remains fairly well up-to-date, largely because of its current version of Android. Its 1.2 GHz dual-core CPU can't play games optimized for the more powerful Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, but its NFC chip ensures compatibility with future wallet-less payment systems, besides letting you use the Android Beam feature.
The $350 price of the unlocked GSM Galaxy Nexus in the Google Play store, however, may drop once the new Nexus devices are unleashed. As an unlocked GSM smartphone, it can work on either AT&T or T-Mobile's networks in the United States, meaning much cheaper prepaid service and the ability to switch networks for better deals. On the downside, it uses the slower HSPA+ for 4G wireless, instead of the Verizon Galaxy Nexus' 4G LTE.
What's going to be unveiled at the October 29 Google event?
Samantha Murphy of Mashable says that Google will be serving up the Key Lime Pie version of Android there. The Galaxy Nexus is likely to get this upgrade, although if it's like last time it might be months after it's announced before this happens.
On offer will also (supposedly) be a new 10-inch HD tablet, with a screen even sharper than the iPad's Retina Display ... as well as the new Nexus smartphone from LG, which will be faster and more powerful than the Galaxy Nexus.Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.