Sharp 4.7-inch HD screen; Sharp, colorful screen with good viewing angles; Improved Google Now assistant; Speedy and smooth performance
Short battery life; Competitors have more innovative features; Dull camera images ; No LTE support; Mediocre audio quality;
The Google Nexus 4's swift performance, bright and crisp display and Android 4.2 software make it a good choice for Android purists, but the lack of 4G LTE is a letdown.
The Nexus line of products has always been defined by a lofty mission: deliver the latest version of the Android operating system without any carrier or manufacturer intervention along with cutting-edge specs. The Nexus 4, made by LG, continues this tradition with (most) of the latest and greatest technology, Available for $199 at T-Mobile and $299 unlocked, the Nexus 4 packs a 1.5-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, a bright and sharp 4.7-inch HD screen and an 8-megapixel camera chock-full of new features. There's also a smarter Google Now on board to keep you in the know. Is the Nexus 4 a winner?
Like other Android devices, there is a power button on the upper right side of this device and the volume toggle mirroring its location on the other side. The bottom of the device houses the microUSB port and the top the headphone jack. Below the 8-megapixel camera on the back sits a large silver Nexus logo and a smaller LG logo.
Measuring 5.3 x 2.7 x 0.4 inches and weighing 5 ounces, the Nexus 4 is just a hair smaller and slightly heavier than both the Samsung Galaxy S III (5.4 x 2.8 x 0.34 inches, 4.7 ounces) and the HTC One S (5.1 x 2.5 x 0.3 inches, 4.2 ounces). The Nexus 4 felt comfortable in our hands and pocket, despite its rather large dimensions.
Colors were rich and vibrant when viewed both indoors and outdoors. We could read our text messages and browse NYTimes.com even in direct sunlight. This display also uses Zerogap Touch technology to bring pixels closer to the surface of the display, providing a better touchscreen experience.
We then fired up Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild" and had a similar experience. Sound was decent, but the bass fell flat and the highest notes were tinny. Also, due to the speaker's location on the back of the device, sound became muffled when the phone was screen-up on our desk.
Software and Interface
The lock screen of the Nexus 4 can be customized with different widgets, allowing for quick access to information, such as the weather or emails, without unlocking the device. We weren't able to test this feature, as it wasn't available on our test device, but Google says that it will be available when the phone starts shipping on November 13th.
A screen containing quick settings adjustments can now be accessed from within the notifications pane. The icon for Quick Settings is in the top right, and a quick flip animation pulls up a series of tiles, allowing access to brightness, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other frequently adjusted settings.
The Nexus 4 also supports Miracast, a manufacturer independent wireless screencasting technology, allowing users to mirror their Nexus 4 onto Wi-Fi enabled TVs. The handset connects to the external monitor via Wi-Fi direct, so Wi-Fi Internet connectivity is not needed.
Even with all the new capabilities of Android 4.2, there are not as many innovative features as some competitors who have added their own skins on top of Google's OS. The Samsung Galaxy S III, which is also available on T-Mobile, doesn't yet have Android 4.2, but its TouchWiz UI includes S Beam, which allows users to share files by tapping phones together, Pop Up Play for watching video while performing other tasks and Smart Stay, which detects eye contact to keep the screen from locking.
We found the keyboard's next-word prediction feature surprisingly accurate. We typed "how" and the Nexus 4 predicted the next two words as "are you," which was correct for the sentence we planned to type: "How are you doing?"
The Nexus 4 supports voice recognition for text input, which, unlike Apple's Siri, works offline. Even in Airplane mode, our sentences were quickly and accurately transcribed.
When we played the jet skiing game "Riptide," graphics were smooth and the response times was fast. We effortlessly bounded from wave to wave while passing the other jet skiers and tilting the device to turn with no drop in frame rate. The Nexus 4 also held up during the first person shooter "ShadowGun," where we traveled around a 3D world shooting down our enemies.
The Nexus 4 notched an above average showing on the Benchmark CPU test, scoring 3,326 against our smartphone category average of 2,947. The Samsung Galaxy S III, with a 1.5-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 CPU, performed much better, scoring a 4,536 on the same test and the HTC One S (1.5-HGz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4) blew them both away with a score of 4,994.3.
On the An3DBench graphics test, the Nexus 4 also topped the average score of 7,150 by clocking 7,318, which is just slightly less than the Samsung Galaxy S III's mark of 7,332.
The Nexus 4 turned in a similar performance on Quadrant, a synthetic test that measures overall system performance. The device scored 4,670 against the average of 3,128. However, the Galaxy S III scored slightly higher, with a 4,964, and the HTC One S got 4,857.
We loaded NYTimes.com in 9.6 seconds, ESPN.com in 6.4 seconds and Laptopmag.com in 7.3 seonds. On Speedtest.net, the Nexus 4 turned in an average download speed of 5.2 Mbps and an upload rate of 1.5 Mbps while walking down the street in Brooklyn. The Samsung Galaxy S III, over the same network, clocked 9.5 Mbps down and 1.3 Mbps up. However, the network may have been overstressed due to Hurricane Sandy so we will test again in a few days. Stay tuned for further results.
Google's own browser, Google Chrome, is the default Web browser on the Nexus 4 and all other Android 4.2 devices, providing a sleek user interface, easy tabbed browsing and the ability to sync passwords, browser history and bookmarks across devices.
Camera and Camcorder
One of the features of the Nexus 4's camera, Photo Sphere, allows users to snap pictures in every direction as the software stitches all these images together into one large scene. The interface was easy to use, but the final images still had glitches and not all borders were lined up perfectly.
We were impressed by the Nexus 4's 1080p video recordings. Cars were clear as they drove past, and we could easily see the gentle ripples in the water filling the canal. However, much like the still images, colors fell flat.
The Google Play store now offers more than 675,000 apps, many of which are free. Applications can be grouped together into folders by dropping one icon onto another. Unlike iOS, Android allows you to leave these folders unnamed if you want.
Unlike other Android devices, Google doesn't load the Nexus 4 with any third-party applications, allowing the user full control over which apps to download and use.
Call quality on the Nexus 4 was crisp and clear on both ends. Volume was loud as well. There's no doubt that these extra notches of volume would come in handy in noisy environments. Quality held true on both a call to another mobile phone as well as to an out-of-state landline.
Battery Life and Wireless Charging
The Nexus 4 also takes a cue from the Lumia 920 and supports wireless charging via Google's new Wireless Charging Orb or any Qi-compatible charger. There's no word yet about the cost of the Orb, but most wireless charging mats start at around $50 and go up from there. While we appreciate this feature, it would have been great to have a charging mat included with the Nexus 4.
Our model of the Nexus 4 features 16GB of internal storage and works on the T-Mobile network, which costs $199 with a T-Mobile contract. There are also two unlocked and contract free versions of the Nexus 4, one with 8GB and costing $299 and one that has 16GB that costs $349. If there's a possibility that you might want to travel abroad with your phone or switch to another carrier that supports HSPA+, we recommend spending the extra money for the unlocked version so you can switch SIM cards anytime you want.
VerdictSamsung Galaxy S III.
While T-Mobile customers may be satisfied with HSPA+ speeds, those interested in purchasing the unlocked version of this device will need to weigh having the latest and greatest software versus not being able to take advantage of 4G LTE speeds. iPhone owners don't need to make that trade-off. Still, for $199, the Nexus 4 delivers an always-up-to-date Android experience running on solid hardware.
|Form Factor||Candybar Touchscreen|
|Operating System||Android 4.1|
|Networks||Unlocked GSM/UMTS/HSPA+ GSM/EDGE/GPRS (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz) 3G (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz) HSPA+ 42 Mbps|
|Data||HSPA 42 Mbps|
|CPU||1.5-GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro|
|Memory Expansion Type||N/A|
|Display (main)||4.7-inch 1280 x 768 WXGA True HD IPS Plus|
|Front Camera Resolution||1.3MP|
|Camera Resolution||8 MP|
|Talk / Standby Time||Talk time: up to 10 hours/Standby time: up to 250 hours|
|Size||5.3 x 2.7 x 0.4 inches|
|SAR Rating (Head)|
|SAR Rating (Body)|