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Sorry, the Galaxy Nexus is too big

Samsung's flagship model is today's hero phone in the Android realm, mostly because it's first to the Ice Cream Sandwich party. But better be careful using it one-handed.

The Galaxy Nexus is too big for me to use one-handed most of the time.
The Galaxy Nexus is too big for me to use one-handed most of the time--especially when trying to reach those buttons in the corners. Stephen Shankland/CNET

BARCELONA, Spain--I understand the appeal of a bigger screen.

You get a genuinely good way to compete with the iPhone, which suits me since I like Android fine. You get better video, bigger maps, more room to read e-mail, and Web pages of much better fidelity.

But in the case of the Galaxy Nexus, you also get a phone that's just impractical for one-handed use.

At least that's my assessment after more than two months of steady use. If you're a professional basketball player, you might see things differently.

I really like all the pixels that are available, but I use the Galaxy Nexus too often when I only have one hand to spare. Walking along the street in the freezing weather, for example, with one hand stuffed in my pocket to keep warm. Or hanging onto a pole in a subway car. Or, for me this week at Mobile World Congress, navigating the streets of Barcelona, Spain, while carrying baggage in one hand.

With one-handed use, though, I find it hard to reach far corners of the screen with my thumb unless I slide my hand up and over the front. That leaves a tenacious grip on the phone that I fear will lead to even worse cracks when I drop the Galaxy Nexus again. The handset is 5.33 inches long by 2.67 inches wide, and 0.35 of an inch thick, while the display measures 4.65 inches.

In contrast, I find the Nexus S screen to be nicely sized. Its screen is a notch bigger than the iPhone's but I never even noticed it was too big. (And an aside: I thought at first that the curved screen was a gimmick, but I really like it for tracking the sweep of my hand better and fitting less obtrusively in my pocket.)

I'm sure plenty of folks will have other reactions, and I'm not trying to argue that my own should dictate Samsung's design decisions. But it is a caution to those looking for a new phone, and I suspect it's also a sticking point for even larger phones--the Samsung Galaxy Note with a 5.0-inch screen, for example. Or two even bigger ones that arrived at Mobile World Congress: the Panasonic Eluga Power with a 5.0-inch screen and the LG Optimus Vu whose 4:3 aspect ratio makes its 5.0-inch screen even harder to span with one hand.

These big phones are great when you have two hands free. But I'll exchange the pixels for a secure grip.