Google Nexus 4 Review: Android Done Right
The Nexus 4 is a worthy successor to the Galaxy Nexus. It comes with several standout features, but its high price reflects the premium status. Developed by Google and LG, the phone looks a bit like the Optimus G, but on steroids and beauty treatments. It's a sight to behold, and a pleasure to use.
At first glance, your eye will catch the extremely sleek 0.4-inch profile. It's very elegant, and sort of looks like the old Nexus, but once you get up-close, you'll notice are a few differences. For one, the shell is made almost entirely of Gorilla Glass -- including the back -- so you'll love the high-end look and feel -- more so than the cheap plastic Samsung uses on its Galaxy phones.
Now, depending on the angle you tilt it at, a subtle pattern may or may not peek through. But when it does, it'll delight your eyes. It's beautifully constructed, but not without its flaws -- it attracts fingerprints and smudges like none other. But if you can stop from wiping it, you'll find the rounded edges make it easy to grip. You can also set it on its back to wirelessly charge it -- a nice convenience.
When the display is too small, sometimes you have to squint. When the screen suffers from poor image quality, sometimes you just have to turn away -- but not the Nexus 4. The 4.7-inch screen is nearly 20 percent larger than the 4-inch iPhone 5, and about a third bigger than the 3.5-inch iPhone 4S. If you're coming from either of those, the Nexus 4 will feel a bit big at first, and if you've used a behemoth like the Galaxy Note, it'll seem a small. But I found it to be just right.
The fine 768-by-1,280 pixel resolution has a sharpness and clarity that's on par with the best devices on the market. And the IPS technology gives you bright colors -- a hair below the vibrancy on the iPhone and HTC One X+, but still top-tier. The screen is simply impressive. And you'll love to watch movies and TV shows on it.
The 8-megapixel camera, bolstered by the better software, is as high-end as the rest of the phone. It's a bit similar to the lens found on the Optimus G, which means you'll get crispy photos and videos. And the f/2.4 auto-focus lens captures even the minutest details.
Meanwhile, a "Photo Sphere" option lets you snap panoramic pictures -- sort of like on the iPhone, but better. It uses Google's Street View technology to stitch together shots from every angle -- up and down as well as side to side -- for a startling globe-like scene of fun events -- like football games and concerts or just wherever you stand in the world. I found the software simple to use with one hand, but the bad thing is, it can quickly suck your battery dry. So use it only when you need to or carry that wireless charger around.
The Nexus 4 runs on the most up-to-date version of Android, dubbed "Jelly Bean," which gives it a big leg up on rival devices. If you've owned an Android phone before, say the LG Spectrum 2, you'll often be saddled with outdated software. You'll hear rumors of an update, of course, but no firm dates will be announced. Not so with the Nexus 4. Since Google had a hand in developing it, it runs a vanilla version of Android. That means you'll be the first to Google updates, while those poor Android souls are stuck in update purgatory.
What's in Jelly Bean? Well, there's better input system, called "Gesture Typing," which combines Swype and predictive text. You type by using a gliding motion. Then the software uses some wizardry to understand those finger movements and predict what you're going to say next. Texting is faster than on older version of Swype, and you'll be less frustrated with mistakes.
If you want to transfer files, you can use Android Beam to send music, photos and videos, among other files, to friends. It uses NFC technology, which is the backbone of Google Wallet, so as you send files, you can check out your groceries at the store. Of course, NFC is a bit too new, so good luck finding places that take it. Still, you can exchange info easily, and once merchants begin to adopt it, you'll be ready to leave your wallet at home.
There's also Google Now, a personal assistant app that scours your phone, including Gmail, to pull up your requests. Want to make a hotel reservation? Done. How about to book a flight? Done. Mow your lawn? Do... well, you get the point. It's pretty good at pulling up what you ask, a la Siri, and unlike earlier versions, you can customize it to be more useful.
Qualcomm's zippy 1.5-gigahertz processor makes sure everything runs smoothly. If you want an unparalleled battery life, you can't beat the Razr Maxx. But the Nexus 4 has a generous 2,100 mAh battery will power you through a full day, as long as you're not on a Photo Sphere-ing binge. Like the iPhone, the battery isn't removable, so you road warriors can't sling a second pack with you. The biggest problem is what it lacks -- namely, a microSD slot. That means you'll be stuck with either 8- or 16-gigabytes of memory. Cloud storage will help ease your pain, but memory management will be a must.
T-Mobile sells the Nexus 4 for $200 with a contract, or unlocked for $300 or $350 based on storage. But beware, Google decided to forgo LTE and carrier integration to keep anyone's grubby paws from controlling it. If you feel a need for speed, that's bad news. So if a 4G tops your priority list, think long and hard about this phone. It still has a great set of features, and HSPA-plus is fast. But if you yearn for LTE, that's understandable.
If you plan to buy an unlocked version, The Nexus 4 is cheaper than a comparable iPhone 5. That'll be music to your ears if you're allergic to long-term contracts. Overall, the Nexus 4 offers absolutely cutting-edge features. The storage is a bit small, and the lack of LTE is disappointing. But everything else is the complete package -- and then some. ♦
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December 25, 2012
What Problems? I Love My Nexus
First, to the haters who gripe about the lack of 4G or the lack of an expansion slot: I haven't had any problems with either. T-Mobile's HSPA-plus network plenty fast where I live. Does it match Verizon or AT&T's LTE? No. But it's fast enough. The difference is mere seconds. Plus, I'm usually on Wi-Fi if there's a connection available -- which is pretty often. It's not like you're playing games or watch movies all day. Most of the time is spent sending messages, checking up on Facebook or browsing the Web -- hardly data intensive.
As for the storage, that's what cloud is for. There are several services you can choose from for free. Will you be able to store your whole music library on it? No. But then again who listens to their whole catalogue? Most likely, you'll cycle through a handful of albums anyways.
Now that the main issues are out in the open, we can move on.
The camera is fantastic. Not only do photos come out vibrant and detailed, but the small things, like the intuitive interface, make it a joy to use. I did notice that one out of every handful of photos, the colors will be a little off. Nothing a quick fix won't solve -- the built-in editing options do a nice job correcting it, so you don't even need Photoshop. If you're not a photog, you may not even notice.
As for the battery life, I use it heavily and I can last the day. If you're expecting anything more, you're living in 1999. Aside from the Droid Maxx, you're not getting more than a day and a half out of most smartphones. Remember: it's a computer in your pocket now. You can definitely prolong your battery life by managing your power. Lowering the brightness level will squeeze you an extra hour or two.
The one issue I have is the design of the back. When I play music and lay the phone on its back, the speaker is flat to the surface, so the sound is muffled. Of course, you can just turn it around, but then I don't see any alerts on the screen.
Anyway, that's my one small gripe. I can't recommend this phone enough. It's elegant, powerful and durable. And you'll never have to worry about when you'll get the latest Google updates. Fantastic phone.Was this review helpful to you?
92 out of 94 people found this review helpful.
January 26, 2013
The design of this phone is absolutely stunning, the processor makes the performance simply blazing and the touch screen is as vibrant as it comes. It's the best all-around phone I've ever had, and I've owned them all.
On the software front, Jelly Bean 4.2 is incredible -- so smooth, like butter. Google Now is really useful too, and I really like the feature that lets you see your commute times. I use it to track me from home to work and vice versa.
Google outdid itself on the Nexus 4 -- and you can't beat the great price. I recommend this phone to anyone who wants the complete package, but doesn't want to pay and arm and a leg.
The only negative I can see is the lack of an expandable memory slot and the non-removable battery. Also there's a bit of a wait period. I had to wait about two months for mine, but it was well worth it.Was this review helpful to you?
55 out of 58 people found this review helpful.
January 27, 2013
Where Have You Been All My Life?
Having bought the G1 and G2x, the Nexus 4 is my third Google phone. And it's the one I've been looking for. Due to the collaborative nature of Android, some phones have a tendency to feel like a patchwork of hardware and software components, but not the Nexus 4. Jelly Bean 4.2.1 is ridiculously smooth and speedy for a polished and refined feel on par with the iPhone.
The style is stunning. The glass panels really make it look elegant. Does it steal a page from Apple? Sure. It looks different, but nonetheless beautiful and premium feel. Don't worry about the fragility though; it's Gorilla glass so it can take a few bumps.
The processor is quite a workhorse. Every app loads quickly, every transition is flawless, everything works without hesitation.
Overall, this is the best Google phone -- nay, best phone, period -- I've owned. And I highly recommend it.
I sort of wish it had a microSD slot, since you can use up the 16-gigabytes of storage pretty quickly if you have a lot of music or download a lot of movies. While the camera is brilliant, the flash has a tendency to wash out the color -- I guess flashes bleach everything, but the Nexus 4 does it more so than others.Was this review helpful to you?
46 out of 49 people found this review helpful.
February 03, 2013
Nexus 4 vs. One X vs. Galaxy S3
I ordered the Nexus 4 from Google Play on Monday and it arrived by Thursday. After a week with it, I have to say that it was definitely worth the two week backorder.
I've owned the HTC One X, my sister had the Galaxy S3 and my mom uses the iPhone 4 -- so I know a thing or two about smartphones. And the Nexus 4 beats them all. The iPhone does have one thing over Android -- that's simplicity. So if you don't want to relearn Android, you might want to stick with the iPhone.
But other than that, the Nexus 4 has an amazing display. It beats the One X and S3 -- hands down. I sort of miss my X though, the Nexus lacks Beats Audio, and the design isn't as sleek. But it's not cheap either -- except for the price. You also get all of Google's updates first, which is very nice.
The Nexus 4's camera is pretty good -- but some shots can turn out grainy. It's about on par with the One X, but not as good as the lens on the S3.
Overall, if you factor price into the equation, the Nexus wins hands down. You can't go wrong with this device, but if the camera is more important to you, go with the S3, and if music is what you like, the One X. Out of the three, Android is on track to beat the iPhone.Was this review helpful to you?
54 out of 58 people found this review helpful.
January 25, 2013
As Good As the IPhone
In my opinion, the Nexus 4 is the first Android phone that's on par with the iPhone. The design, build quality and materials are on par with the iPhone -- and the front and back are sandwiched between panels of glass. Despite looking fragile, it feels pretty durable -- though I wouldn't drop it to find out.
I won't lie, it's a rather big phone, but that seems to be the trend these days. Still, it's not unbearable, and LG did a nice job crafting the Nexus 4 to fit comfortably in your hand.
The screen, meanwhile, is so bright and clear -- to me, it only trails behind the iPhone. The camera is decent and fully-stacked -- nothing to say that hasn't been said in other reviews. You'll be satisfied with the photos that come out.
On the software side, you'll get the latest version of Android -- in this case Jelly Bean 4.2.1. Coupled with the speedy processor, the Nexus 4 can power through virtually anything -- it's so smooth and speedy. You can throw any or all of the third-party apps on Google Play. It's blazingly fast.
The Nexus 4 is one of the best phones on the market. It has all the top-tier features you'd expect from a high-end phone at a price you can't beat.
If I had to complain, I'd be the lack of 4G. And the mediocre battery life -- it's decent, but not great. My advice is to buy another charger to keep around in the car or the office.Was this review helpful to you?
45 out of 49 people found this review helpful.
February 01, 2013
Beautiful and Fast
The Nexus 4 is simply awesome. The speed of this phone is just mind-blowing. I feel sorry for Android users that aren't on Jelly Bean 4.2, the additions are just wonderful.
As far as the design goes, the glass panels are gorgeous -- more than a few people have stopped me on the street to ask what phone I was using. The quality of the display is great too -- just the right size and resolution. There's a reason this phone is always sold out. The touch screen, camera, display and operating system are one of the best.
The only negative is the price and the lack of LTE.Was this review helpful to you?
32 out of 35 people found this review helpful.
January 29, 2013
Great Phone, Great Price
This phone has everything you'd expect -- a great, well-rounded device to watch videos, listen to music, send e-mails and browse the Web. The touch screen is responsive and the size is ideal -- not too big, not too small, just right. Since it's a Google phone, you'll get the latest Jelly Bean software and updates first. And the call quality is outstanding -- people always overlook this.
Overall, I'm very happy with my purchase. It's amazing how cheap Google can sell this for, and the price is a big advantage over competing phones. I had to wait a few weeks, but it was well worth it.
The lack of LTE is a big negative. In addition, I've noticed sometimes, when I'm on a call, the screen won't shut off. I'm not sure if this is a software issue, but it's there nonetheless. Hope it gets fixed.Was this review helpful to you?
31 out of 34 people found this review helpful.
November 23, 2012
I've owned the G1 and G2, so I'm a Google loyalist. I came to the Nexus 4 with some reservations, though. But that was quickly quelled by the great features. Rather than say the how great the display, camera and software are, I'll address a few lesser said issues.
I'd like to mention that this phone has a battery reserve for some handy fail safe systems built-in. A few times I've run the battery down to nothing, and the phone can still make short calls or receive small bursts of data when my old G2 just stopped working on one touch of the display.
The other thing, people complain about the limited storage, but even though it doesn't have a microSD slot, a lot of Google products run on the cloud. I load and watch movies and shows from memory, but for everything else, I run it online.
I would have liked a physical keyboard, but then it wouldn't be such a great looking phone. Also HSPA-plus is speedy, but LTE would have been better. Blame T-Mobile, I guess.Was this review helpful to you?
49 out of 55 people found this review helpful.
January 23, 2013
The Complete Package
The Nexus 4 is nothing short of spectacular. It's one of the best Android devices -- no, smartphone -- that I've ever seen. LG did a great job designing it with Google. The design is stunning, the touch display is just gorgeous, the camera snaps bright and sharp photos and the quad-core chip is simply a beast -- there's no lag whatsoever, zip, zilch.
Add to that Jelly Bean 4.2.1 and a respectable battery life and you've got an unbeatable package. I used to have the iPhone 4S, and the difference is like night and day. Everything is so much smoother and faster.
The only drawback is the lack of an expansion slot, though there's cloud storage.Was this review helpful to you?
37 out of 42 people found this review helpful.
February 02, 2013
No 4G? No Thanks
The design is nice, the size is great and the software is the fastest version of Android you'll find. The hardware and software are some of the best out there. But...
The Nexus is good only if you live in an area without LTE. Frankly, for a device so great on features, the missing 4G is baffling to me -- a fast connection is the backbone to so many features -- streaming video and music, Web browsing, gaming, etc. If you buy the Nexus 4, chances are you'll also have to sign up to a two-year contract. Personally, I wouldn't be able to last two more years on 3.5G. You may like it now, by see if you'll still love it in a year, with a year left.
Don't get me wrong, the specs on this phone are amazing. But in this day and age, to forget the 4G, is unforgiveable.Was this review helpful to you?
29 out of 34 people found this review helpful.
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