Nexus 4 Review
I have been a Nexus user for quite some time now; having owned both the Samsung Nexus S and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, I could not describe my excitement when Google announced the LG Nexus 4 on October 29th of this year.
Getting the Nexus 4 was a hassle, with a scarce and limited supply of the device, I had to fight many eBayers before I was able to win one through a bid.
So, how does the LG Nexus 4 stand among its predecessors and the fierce competition in today’s Smartphone battle? Let’s find out.
The Nexus 4 at a Glance
- Quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE support
- 4.7″ 16M-color WXGA True HD IPS Plus (768 x 1280 pixels) capacitive touchscreen
- Gorilla Glass 2 display
- Quad-core 1.5 GHz Krait CPU, Adreno 320 GPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset
- Stock Android OS v4.2 Jelly Bean at release
- 8 MP autofocus camera with LED flash
- 1.3 MP front-facing camera, 720p video recording
- 1080p video recording at 30fps with continuous auto-focus and stereo sound
- Wi-Fi a/b/g/n, Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA
- GPS with A-GPS, GLONASS
- 8/16GB of built-in storage
- 2 GB RAM
- microUSB port with TV-out support
- Bluetooth v4.0
- Standard 3.5 mm audio jack
- Active noise cancellation with dedicated microphone
- 2,100mAh battery
The Nexus 4 is definitely a beautiful device, made mostly from glass (Gorilla Glass 2), its front side resembles the Galaxy Nexus with an all-screen/no-buttons look with a slight curved feeling over the edges. At the top, you have the regular earpiece that is surrounded by the secondary 1.3 MP camera and the proximity and light sensors. At the bottom, there is one small LED notification pulse that blinks whenever you have a new event, and which can be customized through the use of a third-party application (such as Light Flow). A notification LED is always welcomed, however, the one on the Galaxy Nexus was a little bigger and brighter.
The display is very clear, the colors are natural and the high resolution renders images beautifully and quickly, allowing for a very enjoyable user experience and content browsing.
The glass on the back is flat and smooth and beneath it are thousands of metallic circles positioned differently from one another that give a nice effect under the light. On the top left you can find the 8 MP camera (an improvement over the Galaxy Nexus’ 5 MP camera) along with the LED Flash. The bottom right is where the speaker grill is found. The glass gives the device a wonderful look, however, it is prone to scratching and it feels so delicate that you worry about dropping and breaking it. The front and the back are joined by a a plastic and metal strip that run around the phone, giving the users a more firm grip on their Nexus. On the top side, you can find the standard 3.5 mm headphone jack along with the second microphone for noise cancellation, on the right side you can find the power button, the volume rockers and the micro-SIM slot are found on the left side, and on the bottom you can find the primary microphone along with the micro-USB port and two screws, giving the phone a kind of industrial look.
As I mentioned before, the device is beautiful, and it seems that Google wanted to keep the link to their old phones by maintaining a similar design to their old Nexus. The button-less front along with the dotted glass back give the phone a futuristic look that stands out and the presence of a plastic strip in the middle makes it easier to hold the phone. The curved feel of the screen makes it easier to shuffle around the edges.
However, the glass on the back worries me to some extent. I have read many accounts on the Internet mentioned how it was broken by a single drop. I myself worry a lot when handling the phone and the fact that the phone needs to lay on a surface will eventually lead to some scratches (as in my case). You may need to be extra careful not to drop it (though it is made from Gorilla Glass 2, but why take the risk) and you can get a cover or a bumper for extra protection.
Some users might complain about the lack of expandable memory and non-removable battery, however, Google is relying on the usage of their cloud applications, such as Drive, Music and Google+.
The camera on the previous Nexus (Samsung Galaxy Nexus) was kind of disappointing, being a 5 MP one while at the time of release, the standard for flagship devices was 8 MP. With the Nexus 4, the camera has been updated to 8 MP with great features (Photosphere for one).
There are two ways to adjust the settings before taking a picture; one is by pressing the little circle on the bottom right, the other is by holding your finger anywhere on the screen while the camera is on to display the settings, a good feature for quick access using only one hand, where you can:
- Adjust the exposure
- Adjust the white balance
- Set flash mode
- Set photo mode (HDR or normal)
- Switch between the main and front cameras
- Access camera settings (Scene Mode, geolocation and picture size)
As mentioned, the pictures taken with the Nexus 4 are much better than the Galaxy Nexus, but they are still not up to the competition, especially under low light conditions. The colors are a little bit off, and the pictures are not very sharp. But in general, the photos produced are satisfactory and you will definitely enjoy taking plenty of them with your Nexus 4.
The Nexus 4 comes with the latest release of Android OS, Jelly Bean version 4.2 (upgradable to 4.2.1). We previously covered the new features in Android Jelly Bean 4.2, but now we got to try them.
Photosphere is incredible, it takes great 360 degrees photos that you can scroll around and share on Google+. If you have “Instant Upload” enabled on your device, you can check your Google+ profile to see an animated version of the photo. When using Photosphere, the camera will automatically take the base photo and allow you to move your phone around to catch and link pre-set dots in order to complete the shot. Once done, the photo will be processed and rendered into a panoramic shot with automatic scrolling around. This feature works perfectly but it is subject to lighting conditions, where moving from a dark to a lighter area can create a bit of fuzziness and a small cut-off on the picture.
You can view how the above photo looks like on Google+ using this link.
Google Now works like a charm, very accurate voice search, fast and reliable results and a great integration in Gmail and other functions. Google Now can be accessed from the lock screen by sliding up from a small dot on the bottom or by holding the home button anywhere you are on the phone. I once created an appointment in my calendar app and set the time and location, Google Now automatically located the meeting place on the map, linked it to my current location, gave me the shortest and fastest route to get there, and instructed me when I should leave to be there on time based on the traffic conditions (screenshot above).
As of this moment, Google Now has detected my upcoming flight reservation and gave me a status update of this specific flight to know if it is on time or there is a delay.
Lock Screen Widgets are a great feature for those who wish to access a specific content on the go without having to unlock their phone and go to that specific application. At the moment, a lot of application have been updated to make use of such a feature (such a Beautiful Widgets and gReader Pro) with more coming as we speak. Sliding to the right from the main lock screen will take you immediately to the camera application, while your widgets will be accessed by scrolling to the left side of the screen.
The other additions to Android 4.2 include Daydream, which is a nice feature that allows you to display a specific content when the device is docked or charging, such as articles from Google Currents, photos slideshow from your albums or a regular digitial/analogue clock. This feature can also be expended through 3rd-party applications that give you more things to display, such as the weather for example.
The new Gestures Keyboard is accurate and offers excellent word prediction,while the improved notification area is very handy and appropriate, allowing you to take direct action as calling a friend back, sharing a screenshot and replying to a message. The notifications can also be expanded to display more information and cleared one by one by swiping right. A good addition to the notification area is the quick setting screen, allowing you to access some specific settings directly from there (I would have preferred this screen to include toggle buttons and not just shortcuts).
I did not get the opportunity to test the Wireless Display and the Multi-Users Support is available on the tablets only (for now hopefully).
General Performance and Battery Life
With its 2GB RAM (one of the few devices on the market at the moment to have such a memory) and its Quad-core 1.5 GHz Krait CPU, Adreno 320 GPU, Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset, the Nexus 4 is one powerful beast. It is fast, actually it is very fast. There are no lags whatsoever, multitasking happens in a breeze and applications open and respond as expected, sometimes even better.
With its 2,100 mAh battery, the Nexus 4 lasts around 12 hours of regular usage 9 a mix between phone calls, messaging and browsing).
Network reception is great, the Nexus 4 was able to maintain a steady connection at almost all areas.
I have two small general concerns, one relating to the temperature of the device, which tends to rise sometimes when charging (more than average) or during heavy and continuous usage, which forces me to either disconnect the phone from the charger or to stop using it for a bit until it cools off. This doesn’t happen every time and it seems to be a common thing with users. The other concern is for the earpiece, which generates a small cracking sound when making or receiving calls.
The Nexus 4 is a wonderful device, I love every single thing about it, the hardware, the software and the overall stock Android experience. The only drawback for now is its availability, as you can only get it from the Google Play Store for selected markets, and there is usually a long period before shipment. However, the guys got the word from LG officials (during their coverage of the LG Optimus Vu announcement) that its expected availability in the Levant will be somewhere around early 2013.
This is without doubt one of the best Android devices on the market right now, if not the best. You will definitely love using it, and you will gain the advantage of having a pure Nexus device, which means fast update and support from Google, where any new update to its Android OS will be initially available for its Nexus line.
Sources: Google, Tested, Android Police