Nexus 4

LG Nexus 4 Review: The Best Google Phone Ever!

November 25, 2012 - Written By Alexander Maxham

Here we are with the fourth generation Google Nexus phone, the Google Nexus 4. It all started on January 5, 2010, when the Nexus One was made available to the public to purchase. The Nexus One was manufactured by HTC to run stock Android. Next we were given the Nexus S and the Galaxy Nexus by Samsung. And on November 13th of 2012, LG joined the game bringing us the Nexus 4. The announcement and launch of this phone is pretty bizarre. The Nexus 4 was supposed to be announced with its big brother, the Nexus 10 in New York City on October 29th, but Hurricane Sandy changed those plans. Both devices, and Android 4.2 still got announced on that day. Now fast forward to November 13th. The day that the Nexus 4 became available in the Play Store, it sold out in minutes. So is this going to be a popular phone? Of course. But should you leave Sprint, or Verizon to go to a GSM carrier like T-Mobile or AT&T? Let’s find out in the full review.

Design

The Nexus 4 is just beautiful. Its’ front and back has Gorilla Glass 2, which is supposedly good enough to protect the device from damage. We’ll have to keep that in mind. There’s also a chrome ring around the front of the phone, with a rubber type frame going around the phone next to the chrome ring.

Starting at the top, you’ve got your headphone jack and a microphone hole, then on the left side is your volume rocker, making our way down to the bottom we have our charging port. And finally on the right side we see the power/sleep button. Now on the front of the device you’ll see the 4.7″ 1280×768 IPS display, with the notification light below the screen, and the 1.3MP front-facing camera up top.

The Nexus 4 feels very solid, yet very light. If you owned the Galaxy Nexus, like me and many others, you’ll find that the Nexus 4 is even lighter, as well as thinner. But that might be due to the non-removable battery inside.

Display

The Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch 1280×768 HD IPS display. Now I’ve used the One X and the EVO 4G LTE in the past few months for a small bit, and I’ve got to say this display is right on par with the HTC One X and the HTC EVO 4G LTE. Now as far as comparing it to the HTC Droid DNA, that display is 1080p and the Nexus 4 is 720p but is still gorgeous. The display doesn’t look washed out at all, as I’ve heard from other reviewers. The Gorilla glass also feels pretty strong compared to other devices.

Android 4.2

Yes, the Nexus 4 is one of the four devices to currently be running Android 4.2 (in addition to the Nexus 10, 7, and the Galaxy Nexus). It runs great! There are many new features in Android 4.2 – Jelly Bean, including a brand new camera app, actionable notifications, Miracast, Daydream, Android Beam enhancements, Google Now enhancements, Gesture-typing, and more. I’ve gotta say my favorite new feature is Daydream along with Photosphere, which you’ll see some examples of those photospheres later in the review.

As far as how smooth it runs, Android 4.2 is even smoother than Android 4.1 was when Project Butter was announced. Although the extra gigabyte of RAM may have helped out. There’s no more of that stuttering you may have seen on the Galaxy Nexus in Android 4.0 or 4.1. At least so far. The Nexus 4 is buttery smooth, that’s about the best way to put it. And yes, pun was intended.

User Interface

Not much has changed on the User Interface (UI) front from the Galaxy Nexus – Android 4.1 to the Nexus 4 – Android 4.2. It’s still the holo theme we’ve grown accustom to since Ice Cream Sandwich was introduced last year. The biggest UI changes are probably the quick settings and the lock screen widgets, but we’ll get more in-depth with those in the next section of the review. There are some minor tweaks in the UI, for instance the app drawer is now 5×5 instead of 4×5 like it’s been for, what seems like, ever.

Features

There are so many new features in the Nexus 4, but the most of them are from Android 4.2, so you’ll see it on the Galaxy Nexus as well. Let’s start with the camera and photosphere. In Android 4.2, a new camera app was introduced. It brings you a minimal UI (sort of) and also brings in a new camera mode called Photosphere, that’s in addition to the regular camera, camcorder, and panorama. Photosphere lets you take pictures in a sphere, that look a lot like street view on Google Maps. In fact Google has said that soon you will be able to upload them Google Maps for street view. Currently you can only get the full effect of photosphere on Google+ or in the gallery app on Android 4.2. Hopefully other photo sharing apps and sites like Instagram, and Twitter will change that soon. In addition to photosphere, we also have some new editing tools in the camera app. You can add a filter, similar to Instagram’s, crop, straighten, rotate, mirror, and more. The camera app has seen a huge overhaul in Android 4.2. Check out the camera section of the review for some Photosphere images.

Next up let’s talk lock screen widgets. From the lock screen, if you swipe the entire screen from right-to-left you’ll be shown the camera, and you can start taking pictures without unlocking your device. Now if you swipe from left-to-right, you be shown the pages where you can add widgets. But one major drawback is, that you can only add one widget per page. As shown in the pictures below.

Quick Settings, something we’ve seen in manufacturer skins and custom ROMs for quite a while now. When you pull down the notification drawer you will see a new icon in the right-hand corner, tap that and you’ll be shown the quick settings. You can also pull down the notification drawer with two fingers and get to it even quicker. Starting in the top left corner you can tap your name and picture and you’ll go directly to your contact card, then tapping the brightness icon will allow you to change it, followed by the Settings icon will take you to the settings. In the second row you’ve got your Wi-Fi settings, Network which tapping will take you to your data usage, followed by the battery usage. Finally on the last row there’s the Airplane mode toggle, and your Bluetooth settings. The only bad thing, so far, about quick settings is that there is no way to customize them. I’m really hoping that changes in Android 4.2.1 or in some custom ROMs when they start showing up.

The new clock app. You’ve probably seen the new clock app plenty of times by now, especially since it was ported to the Galaxy Nexus and it’s been in the news a lot lately. It does look quite different from the Android 4.1 clock. The app looks much nicer and more polished than in earlier versions of Android. But the most notable changes that most of us will notice are the clock widgets, both analog and digital. Along with the changes in color and appearance around the app.

There are plenty of other new features in Android 4.2, but if we went through them all it would take you a week to finish reading this review. So here’s a quick rundown. Miracast I wasn’t able to try out since I don’t have a TV that supports it. Now that new keyboard. The gesture typing is pretty cool, although I still prefer Swiftkey 3, which I’ve been using for a few years so I’m very used to it. Multiple Users, again I was unable to use it since Google is only putting that feature on the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10. Daydream is pretty cool as well, I think it would work better if we had a dock already. But Google is taking their time with accessories.And did I mention this thing is buttery?

Bloatware

 

Bloatware? This is a Nexus. There is no bloatware, unless it’s a Verizon Nexus. As you can see above there’s very few apps pre-installed on the Nexus 4.

Developer Settings

 

Where are they? They must have disappeared. Actually they haven’t. Google has just hidden them. We did a post about a week ago about how to enable developer settings again. Just go into Settings, About Phone and tap the Build number until you get “You are now a developer” then the developer settings will appear where they should be. And thanks to Google for making me a developer.

Storage

Ever since the Nexus 4 was announced a few weeks ago, there have been a ton of complaints of the lack of storage in this thing. I’ve even heard people saying Google will make another Nexus with LTE and a micro SD card slot. The LTE model ‘may’ come, but as far as the SD card slot, that won’t be happening in a Nexus for a very long time. As Google is trying to phase the SD card out of Android. But many manufacturers are still putting SD card slots in their devices. With the 8GB version you’ll get about 5.67GB free, which if you’re on unlimited data is plenty of storage since you can use the cloud for most things. The 16GB gives you just over 12GB of space which is enough for most people with only a few gigs of data. The bottom line on storage is, if you need more than 16GB of space you’re going to need a different device, as the Nexus 4 isn’t the one for you.

Battery life

Battery life is slightly better on the Nexus 4 compared to the Galaxy Nexus. But if you’re coming from the Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, or Droid Razr Maxx you will be disappointed by the battery life. But unless you’re a heavy user, the Nexus 4 should get you through the day, even if you’re not on Wi-Fi at all. Check out the screenshots below, the one on the left is all on 3G/HSPA+ and the one on the right is all on Wi-Fi.

Benchmarks

Vellamo

 

Vellamo is a benchmark that measures both HTML5 and the CPU. As you can see in the images above, the Nexus 4 scored well in both. Although the HTML5 one was a bit lower than the CPU performance benchmark.

Linpack

Linpack is another benchmark that measures your CPU performance and compares it against other devices based on millions of floating point operations per second (MFLOPS). And the Nexus 4, once again, did great.

GLBenchmark

GLBenchmark tests the graphics performance of your device. It includes 8 different tests including a battery test, which you can see them all in the screenshots above. You may know about GLBenchmark from all the leaks we see. But based on the benchmarks above, the Nexus 4 is still a beast. Not that we didn’t already know that.

Camera Stills

The camera in the Nexus 4 received a huge bump over the Galaxy Nexus. Being upgraded from a 5MP camera to 8MP, should ideally see a big difference in quality and it does. We talked earlier about the new camera app and how much better it looks. Below we’ve got a few pictures from the 8MP camera on the Nexus 4 for you to check out.

Here are a few Photosphere’s. If you want to see them in action, just click the picture and it’ll take you to my post on Google+ for the particular Photosphere.

Photosphere with the vintage filter applied:

Camera Video

Here’s a 720p sample video from the Nexus 4:

And a 1080p sample video:

Call and Data Quality

Yes people still use their phones for making phone calls. And in my area I only get about 1-2 bars on T-Mobile, but call quality was still great on this device. Didn’t have any dropped calls at all. Which is pretty good, especially where I just switched to T-Mobile and I’m sure many of you are switching to their pre-paid plans or their value plans for the Nexus 4.

 

As far as data goes, even with the poor connection at my house I was still able to pull down 6mbps, and just a few blocks away I can grab almost 25mbps as shown in the screenshots above. For me, coming from Sprint that is a huge increase. When I am somewhere that I can get full bars I can pull down 25-30mbps easily, check out the screenshots below if you don’t believe me. So all of you that are complaining about the Nexus 4 not having LTE, what are you doing with your phone to need more than 20mbps connections?

Network Connectivity

We just spoke about the Nexus 4 not having LTE and how many people were upset about it. So we know that there’s no LTE, but it does support DC-HSPA+ which theoretically maxes out at 42mbps. In addition to HSPA+, the Nexus 4 also has Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.0 and Miracast.

Accessories

So far there’s only one official accessory for the Nexus 4. Available on Google Play is the bumper, which is only available in black and costs $20. Google has said there will be a wireless charging orb available “soon” but no price has been confirmed for it. As far as third-party accessories, there are very few out right now but we should be seeing more in the coming weeks. Right now Cruzerlite is doing a pre-order for their Androidified TPU case for the Nexus 4 which is currently on sale for $12.90.

Color Options: Currently the Nexus 4 is only sold in black, but there are rumors of a white version. It also comes in both 8GB (about 5.67GB free) and 16GB (about 12.92GB free) sizes.

Pricing: From Google Play the Nexus 4 sells for $299 for the 8GB and $349 for the 16GB version. T-Mobile is also selling the 16GB version for $199 on contract and $499 off contract.

Pro’s

  • It’s a Nexus, which means it will get support from the manufacturer much longer than any other device, and it will also get updates before any other device
  • Snapdragon S4 Pro; I haven’t noticed any type of lag that wasn’t related to data speeds. This thing just flies. Can’t wait for custom ROMs and kernels for this thing.
  • The price, $299 for the 8GB and $349 for the 16GB is a steal! Especially for an unlocked device.

Con’s

  • Non-removable battery; battery life isn’t the best. But it is a big improvement over the Galaxy Nexus
  • No expandable storage; you’ve heard about WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) right? Well with the Nexus 4, what you buy is what you get. Nothing more and nothing less.
  • No LTE; for some coming from Verizon and even AT&T LTE devices (Sprint not so much), you’ll miss having LTE. But if you’re on a carrier with good HSPA+ speeds you’ll be fine. I was able to pull down 24mbps and up a consistently on T-Mobile in the Detroit area.

What YOU wanted to Know

While I was writing this review, I asked everyone on G+ if there was anything specific they wanted to know about the Nexus 4, and here’s what they asked:

  • App Speed and the UI compared to the Galaxy S3 and Note 2: Of course opening apps will be faster on the Nexus 4 than on any Samsung device. Android 4.2 is completely optimized for the Nexus 4. Unfortunately I don’t have a Galaxy S3 or Note 2 to compare it with for everyone. The UI is the standard stock Android UI, so none of that Touchwiz or Sense stuff we see on other devices.
  • Does the Nexus 4 heat up as much as the Galaxy Nexus? Well I owned the Galaxy Nexus (Sprint variant) since May of this year, and I only noticed it getting pretty hot when playing games, downloading a few apps over 3G, etc., but doing that on the Nexus 4 doesn’t make it get hot. Only when it is charging and you’re playing Angry Birds, Dead Trigger or Riptide GP does it get warm. I’ve also heard that when using the wireless charging it gets very hot.
  • How long does the battery last with everything turned on (e.g. Wifi, Bluetooth, GPS, and Brightness maxed)? Well Just check out the images below.
     

Conclusion and Final Thoughts

The Nexus 4 is probably the fastest phone on the market right now. Adding the price to get the Nexus 4 unlocked from Google Play makes this a no-brainer. Sure the battery life could be better, sure we’d love an LTE version of the device. But the Nexus 4 in it’s current state is the best device you can pick up right now.

With each Nexus device, Android on both hardware and software seems to be improving. Just take a look at the Nexus One, it launched on Eclair with some specs that right now we would call a budget phone. But for it’s time was top of the line, and was when HTC made some great hardware. Now that we’ve gone through the Samsung era of Nexus phones, it’s LG’s turn. And I’ve got to say, LG did a great job with this device.

Now the big question is, should you upgrade. Well actually you’re the only one that can answer that. If you’re one who has to have the latest and greatest version of Android, then yes you should upgrade to the Nexus 4. But if you have the Galaxy S3, Note 2, One X, or some other high-end device that came out in the last six months, it’ll be a tough choice. My suggestion is, buy one, try it out. If you like it keep it. If you don’t sell it. You may lose some money on shipping and taxes, but you should be able to get most of your money back right now since there is such a demand for a Nexus device. Which is great to see, by the way.

[Wallpaper Source: Ted Bates Jr.]