The highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy Nexus will finally hit the U.S. market as Verizon Wireless announced Wednesday that the first 4G smartphone to run on Android 4.0 will go on sale Dec. 15.

The smartphone is priced $299.99 with a new two-year Verizon contract and will be available in stores and online.

Since the phone was first showed off at an October event in Hong Kong and first released in Europe on November 17, 2011, it has gathered plenty of positive reviews with some reviewers commenting that it is the best Android smartphone so far.

Jointly developed by tech giant Samsung Electronics and Internet giant Google Inc., Galaxy Nexus has some outstanding features and is expected to rival Apple’s iPhone 4S. Before you rush off to Verizon stores on Thursday, here are a few things you have to know about the Android smartphone.

Featuring a 4.65-inch HD Super AMOLED display with 1280-by-720 resolution, Galaxy Nexus runs a 1.2-GHz dual-core processor. This new generation handset boasts a 5-megapixel auto-focus, rear-facing camera and a 1.3-megapixel camera on front for video chat. The handset is also super-thin - only 9.47 mm. The 4G smartphone manages to weigh just 4.8 ounces, slightly less than Apple's iPhone 4S. It includes 1GB of RAM and 32GB of built-in storage.

If you are a loyal fan of Galaxy Nexus and have been waiting for it, here is a good news you should know. Verizon Wireless is offering a time-limited promotion that those who buy a new 4G LTE smartphone will get double the amount of data for the same monthly fee. This means anyone signing up for the 2GB plan for $30 will be provided 4GB of data. The promotion is running through holidays.

A key point that makes Galaxy Nexus famous is the newest Android operating system that run on it. As the first smartphone that runs on Android 4.0 (or Ice Cream Sandwich), Galaxy Nexus will offer users crowning Android moments with several new features unheard of in iOS 5.

For example, it allows users to access apps directly from lock screen and shut down apps that are using data in the background. Also, it includes the Android Beam, a near-field communication feature allowing rapid short-range exchange of web bookmarks, contact info, directions and other data.

In Gmail app, users now can see a new action bar at the bottom and they are able to search offline. They can also easily swipe left or right to switch between conversations.

The new tabbed web browser now allows up to 16 tabs. Other changes include virtual buttons in user interface, replacing previous capacitive buttons.

However, perhaps the most interesting feature is Face Unlock, which allows users to unlock their Galaxy Nexus just by staring at its screen after pressing the power button. This feature can give Apple's slide/swipe to unlock technology a run for its money.