Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S2

Comparing the Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S2 is far from a chore. At the rate the Smartphone market moves, I already consider them both classic devices. Each has their own unique strong elements.

Given that, at the time of writing, the Nexus is going end of life, some would say surpassed by the Samsung Galaxy S3, HTC 1X. The Nexus is also under the shadow of a looming iPhone 5 which should spread some choice ripples through the best mobile category.

However, the job of the Whatphone site is to help you find what phone is right for you and it’s quite legitimate for you to be weighing the benefits of each of these products. Here’s the in depth review of the the Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S2. Let’s lock them in the cupboard together and see what happens.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S2 – Introduction.

Originally targeted at very different requirements, the tides of competition around device releases have thrown the two devices in to very similar price points.

Held side by side, the major difference is the color ( and the fact that the Nexus is fatter at the top which is weird ! ) The Galaxy S2’s shiny plastic is not it’s best selling point. For that matter, the Nexus is not the best looking device either. They’re plastic, feel relatively low quality compared particularly to the HTC One family’s Uni-body chassies. They share a disastrously thin back plate which feels brittle and ready to break every time I take them off.  Of the two, the Nexus takes this but aesthetically, neither will be Prom Queen.

That said, in my view, both products appeal to people who know a lot about Smartphones. Each broke new barriers when it was launched. To understand why they’re such great machines, we need to look at the specs :

Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy S2


Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S2 : Differences

  • Screen :
    The screen on the Nexus is just noticeably bigger. The diagonal is about three quarters of a centimetre bigger which provides a bigger viewing platform. The Nexus also has great resolution – it’s a High Definition Super AMOLED screen, full 1280 x 720. Resolution is lower on the Super AMOLED Plus Galaxy S2 screen. Both are great. The AMOLED display gives strong, saturated colours which are nice to look at. When the screen is turned to full brightness ( not advisable for full day use – see battery comments below ) the Nexus gives a much clearer picture. The Galaxy S2’s pixel density is only two thirds that of the Nexus, it just can’t compete.
  • Weight :
    The Nexus weighs 20 grams more. I don’t actually consider either a heavy device and holding both, it’s hard to tell the difference in weight but this might make a difference to you.
  • Memory : Both come with a very basic 16GB of installed memory. The Galaxy S2 can be expanded by inserting a Micro SD card ( you might even collect a few. ) This, clearly, opens up the multimedia capabilities of the S2. Expandable memory is a winning feature of the Galaxy family in general and why they left it off the Nexus, I don’t know. The 16GB maxed out capability of the Nexus confines it unhelpfully. The screen is great for games ( Juggernaught, one of the Whatphone team uses the Nexus as his primary device and loves games – it’s actually his device I’ve borrowed for the comparison. ) However, 16 GB, with some taken up for device operation and apps, leaves precious little for the mandatory installed music and virtually none for movies without requiring a lot of management to move things on and take them off.
  • Size :
    Despite the difference in screen – the units are not that much difference in size. Putting them face to face, the Nexus is an extra centimetre taller but not noticeably different in any other way. And then the top is thicker, as I’ve said.
  • Battery :
    The Galaxy S2 is pretty good. I went back to the notes I did when I made my first full review and I remember I got a full day out of it. The Nexus – not so much. To squeeze a full day requires careful management of the screen, open apps and, eventually, I installed an app that Juggernaught recommended. The battery on the Nexus is sub standard in my view.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S2 : What’s the same ?

  • Processing power :
    Both have dual core 1.2 GHz processors. The speed and type of processors doesn’t mean much to most people but to those considering either of these two technically strong / not necessarily mainstream products, it may be a consideration. Every aspect of each device works smoothly on the screen. Browsing is fast ( although the browser can make the odd formatting error for the Nexus ), icon scrolling is smooth. High definition videos play smoothly. Processing power will not be something you worry about on either product.
  • Camera :
    The Galaxy S2 has an 8MP camera which takes snaps which are fine. In my view, they look a bit washed out. Pictures on the S2 don’t have the better colour rendition of some of the newer products – or the same level of features that Android 4.0 can give. The Nexus has only a 5MP camera but it punches above it’s weight and there is no real discernible difference in the quality of the shots when played back, compared to the S2 in my opinion. Both take 30 FPS ( Frames Per Second ) video. The Nexus’ video is not good. Panning gives a very sub optimal result. It’s an older device but the S2 takes better video footage.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S2 : Other influences

The key remaining difference between the products is the TouchWiz UI ( User Interface, the Samsung software on the Galaxy S2 which sits on top of the core Operating System. The Whatphone Galaxy S2 has Gingerbread 2.3 installed with TouchWiz on top. More recent purchases of newer Galaxy S2s may have ICS – Android Ice Cream Sandwich )

The Nexus runs the standard ICS UI which is one thing that will appeal to purists. It’s supposed to be quicker ( I couldn’t really tell a difference ) but at least you’re sure you’re not tying up processing cycles with anything bloaty.

Galaxy S3 vs Galaxy S2

Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S2 : Summary

The Nexus and the S2 are both classic devices and I love them. They don’t have the interface bells and whistles of more the more recent HTC Sense and TouchWiz software but they are substantially cheaper to buy and boy, do you get a lot for your money.

The S2, although older has a much better battery which is hugely important to me. I don’t notice the screen resolution and I prefer the size of the unit. I don’t use video a lot but when I do, I expect it to work. The expandable memory seals the deal for me. The S2 is the better of the two products.

If you’d like to track the pricing of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Samsung Galaxy S2 then why not sign up to the Whatphone email. Whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed.

Aug ’12

Written by:
Kurt Hands

Neil Aitken

Having worked in 3 countries for 4 telcos on both voice and data products, Neil is in a position to give you the inside track. Get beyond the marketing messages to the best plan for you.