Hereís the recipe for an Android phone. Take a phone, add Android and then customize it. This formula has worked really well for Google. The bodies of WebOS, S60, Blackberry, Windows Mobile now litter the landscape since since Android and iOS joined the mobile phone war.
However, Googleís Nexus devices are slightly different beast. First off, while theyíre from Google, theyíre not made by Google. Instead theyíre based off of existing devices and contain no customizations or extras from their respective manufacturers.
I think one of the reasons why Nexus devices are so popular is because many people have been using Windows PCís for years. Itís very common for PCís to come with all sorts of useless extras like trial subscriptions to 5 different ISPs, Anti-virus software that is constantly asking you to update your subscription, multiple toolbars, useless utilities and just a bunch of crap that no one wants. Weíve been conditioned to not trust manufacturers when it comes to what software they put on our devices.
Hereís the Nexus 4, the sister phone to the LG Optimus G. It shares many of the Gís specs plus it has a similar glass covered body. Unlike the G itís running Android 4.2 and is a pure Google device.
The fact that it doesnít contain anything extra is the appeal of Nexus devices. That plus the fact that the Nexus 4 with 8GB starts at $309CAN/299USD unlocked while the 16GB is $359CAN/349USD
Like the Optimus G, the 4 has a beautiful looking display. Viewing angles are decent with nice colour while blacks are pretty deep for an LCD. Indoors, itís a hero but outdoors I wish it were as bright as the HTC One X/X+, Lumia 920 and many of Sonyís newer phones. Itís similar to the Samsung Galaxy S III in this regard.
micro USB, microphone.
headphone jack, microphone
camera, flash, speaker
The displayís edges are curved. Normally, I donít like this because it makes it easier to accidentally press the screen with my palm. On the 4 it doesnít bother me too much because it doesnít seem to get in the way. Actually, I like how it feels when I swipe off the screen.
The back is covered with glass, while the edges are covered with soft-touch paint. While I think the Optimus G is both nicer to look at and touch, the Nexus 4 isnít far behind. Itís a much more tactile device than the Galaxy Nexus. Since glass is much harder than plastic it resists scratches, but at the same time, itís more likely to shatter if you drop it so be careful! If youíre a total clutz, consider something like a Samsung Rugby LTE instead.
The glass on the back is polarized. It looks different depending on how much light there is and what angle you look at it. It along with the Optimus G easily have the best looking backs. Well, them and Jessica Alba.
Itís kind of funny, the shape and front of the Nexus 4 kind of reminds me of last yearís LG Optimus LTE.
Officially, the Nexus 4 is a penta-band HSPA phone so it will work on AT&T/Rogers/Bell/TELUS as well as T-Mobile/Wind/Mobilicity. Unofficially, it also supports LTE on band 4 AKA AWS which is supported on TELUS/Bell/Rogers. AT&T may also eventually support this. Youíll have to do a little bit of work if you want to get it on LTE.
First, youíll have to add a new APN to your phone.
Settings -> Mobile Networks -> Access Point Names. Hit menu ĎNew APNí
Add a name (doesnít matter what) then add this in the apn field:
for TELUS add Ďsp.telus.comí
Rogers add Ď ltemobile.apní
Bell add Ďpda.bell.caí
Hit menu and choose save, then click the box next to your new APN.
Now go to the dialer and enter in *#*#4636#*#*, move to the pull-down and choose ĎLTE/GSM/CDMA auto (PRL)í.
Assuming you have LTE coverage in your area that should put your Nexus 4 onto LTE. Note that youíll have to go back into the dialer each time you reboot the phone to change the pull down.
I figured the Nexus 4 would have the same camera as the Optimus G i just reviewed but itís actually different. I canít say if they have the same sensor or not but they definitely have different lenses. When I was taking my test pictures side-by-side I noticed that the Gís camera captures a wider angle. They both appear to have the same maximum aperture.
The camera and gallery apps have both been overhauled compared to the old one found on 4.1
The camera software is unlike any other that I have tried. One really smart feature is that you can press and hold the camera shutter button. The Nexus wonít take the picture until you release it. This way it will keep refocusing until you release the button. A cool idea but Iíd prefer if holding it down activated burst mode (which the Nexus lacks).
Thereís a useful sports mode which raises the ISO and speeds up shutter speeds. Again, itís too bad thereís no burst mode to go with this.
There are two panorama modes. A normal Ďleft to rightí style one plus another allows you to move in any direction. Itís like the app Ď360í or ĎPhotosynthí.
I wish the Nexus had separate shutter and record buttons. Instead you have to switch between modes. If youíre shooting a video you can also take still photos by tapping the screen.
When shooting with the 4 and the G back-to-back, I noticed that they tend to use the same settings for each picture (shutter speed, aperture, ISO). I wish focus speeds were a little faster plus shot-to-shot speeds arenít that fast (by design). Then again, itís better than the Galaxy Nexus which could take lots of out-of-focus pictures quickly.
The Nexus 4 captures about the same amount of detail as the Optimus G so itís pretty good in this regard. Where they differ is that the Nexus 4 tends to get the colour balance wrong more often than the G does. There is limited colour balance adjustment so youíll have to fix it after youíve taken the shot.
Video quality seems fine though the microphone is a bit too sensitive so itís easy to over drive. Adding automatic gain control is probably an easy fix so I hope Google fixes this. I also noticed that there is sometimes too much noise reduction so voices can sound slightly robotic.
I really like the built-in time lapse feature. Check out the heart-touching video I shot with it.
Editing pictures from the gallery is much easier now. You can add colour effects like B/W, add frames, straighten, crop, rotate or mirror plus thereís even sharpness and colour curves. I really like how Google added a history feature. If you accidentally make a change itís easy to undo it.
Iím really happy that you can zoom in on a picture and scroll to the next picture without first having to zoom back out. This way is much more intuitive. In fact, pinch zooming in general on the 4 seems faster and more intuitive on the 4.
While testing out the video playback I noticed that the Nexus was able to decode my 720p mkvís - sort of. While it can play them back the it stutters terribly. It doesnít play my standard definition DiVX aviís either. So you have a lot of videos youíll have to go out and find a third party media player. Then again, with only 16GB of storage youíre not going to be able to fit much on the 4 anyways.
One area which I wasnít expecting any change is the clock application. The 4 has the coolest countdown timer ever. I use the timer a lot when I cook and the one built-into my stove sucks so I rely on my phone a lot. First off, you can set multiple timers. Nothing special here. Whatís cool is that the 4ís timer keeps counting down after it hits zero. That way you can tell how long the timer has been going off if you canít get to it right away.
The Nexus 4 comes with Android 4.2 AKA Jellybean which is the latest version. Actually, Android 4.1 is also called Jellybean. There arenít many changes between 4.1 and 4.2.
There are lock screen widgets. You can check your Gmail, text messsages, calendar or launch the camera from the patter lock screen. It's pretty useful. I like how you can choose which ones you want or don't want.
You can now type by sliding your finger on the keyboard just like SWYPE.
Besides the these changes the only other one I noticed without having to look what whatís changed is that you can change settings quickly from the notification area pull down. Finally! I am disappointed however that you still canít canít lock the screen rotation from the pulldown (like on the Nexus 7, and various Samsung and LG phones) and that you canít customize what options show up (like LG).
Actually, after I looked up the differences between 4.1 and 4.2 those really are the only changes that are worth mentioning. Well, VPN users will be happy to know that the 4 supports always-on VPN.
Since 4.1 came out, Google has been slowly supplanting the default Android browser with Chrome. Chrome has a lot more features including my favorite one, built-in Chrome sync. Now you can sync your computers bookmarks and tabs with your mobile device. Since people spend a lot of time using browsers this is a really important feature.
Peacekeeper is a cross-platform HTML 5 browser test.
Peacekeeper benchmark (higher is better):
Apple iPhone 5: 807
Samsung Galaxy Note II: 749
HTC One X+: 662
LG Optimus G: 505
Sony Xperia T: 502
Motorola RAZR HD LTE (chrome): 500
Samsung Galaxy S III: 476
Huawei D Quad XL: 433
Nexus 4: 407
HTC One X (Tegra 3): 264
The Nexus 4 ships with Chrome and doesnít include the regular Android browser. While Chrome has many more features than the regular Android browser, generally speaking, it does poorer in benchmarks. The important thing is that any of the phones benchmarked here are more than sufficient for browsing the web.
SunSpider (lower is better):
Apple iPhone 5: 911.7
Samsung Galaxy Note II: 1005.4
HTC One X+: 1014
LG Optimus G: 1314.1
Samsung Galaxy S III: 1781.5
Google Nexus 4: 1866.7
Galaxy Nexus: 1856.3
Itís one of the few tests that allows us to compare devices across different platforms. It doesnít use more than 2 cores normally so the Nexus 4ís 2 extra cores donít come into play here.
Vellamo is a suite of browser benchmarks. Itís only available on Android so weíre only able to compare the 4 with other Android phones here. Like SunSpider, Vellamo rarely uses more than 2 cores, so donít expect much of an improvement over dual core phones.
The 4 isnít able to complete all of Vellamoís tests. Thatís one of the reasons why the 4ís score isnít that high.
HTML 5 (higher is better):
HTC One X+: 1852
Samsung Galaxy Note II: 1841
Sony Xperia T: 1786
LG Optimus G: 1713
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 1632
Samsung Galaxy S III: 1630
HTC One X (Tegra 3): 1608
Huawei D Quad XL: 1447
Galaxy Nexus: 1324
Nexus 4: 1158
I also suspect that the fact that the 4 uses Chrome as the default browser hurts its Vellamo scores.
Metal (higher is better):
LG Optimus G: 643
Nexus 4: 636
Samsung Galaxy Note II: 628
Samsung Galaxy S III: 580
Sony Xperia T: 567
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 553
HTC One X+: 526
HTC One X (Tegra 3): 492
Huawei D Quad XL: 398
Galaxy Nexus: 393
GL Benchmark 2.5 (on-screen, higher is better):
Google Nexus 4: 4380
LG Optimus G: 4221
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 2504
Sony Xperia T: 2431
Huawei D Quad XL: 2347
Samsung Galaxy S III: 2335
HTC One X+: 2042
Samsung Galaxy Note II : 1960
HTC One X (Tegra 3): 1650
Galaxy Nexus: 931
No surprises here, as far as Android phones goes, the Adreno 320 in the 4ís Snapdraon S4 Pro is the current champ. Itís about 2x as fast as the Adreno 225 in the Snapdragon S4, the GPU in Huaweiís quad-core D Quad and Nvidiaís Tegra 3 in the One X+.
Like the Optimus G the Nexus' battery can sometimes go a little crazy and look like it has dropped off a cliff.
Now Vellamo usually takes a couple of minutes to run. During that time the 4 can get quite hot. Initially, I got scores of around 1150. However, after running it back-to-back I was getting scores of around 930. Later, when I ran GL Benchmarkís battery test I couldnít help noticing that the 4ís score was much stronger than the Optimus Gís.
GL Benchmark allows you to see a graph of the frame rate while the test is running. When I checked it out, frame rates start out high and then drop noticeably for the rest of the test. My guess is that the 4ís processor is being throttled because while the 4 getís hot, it doesnít get as hot as the Optimus G. After sitting on my desk for about an hour running GLB the 4 hits around 120 fahrenheit while the G hits a blistering 140+ fahrenheit.
When I ran the test on my desk, I got around 3hrs of battery life. I would have gotten even more but if you look at the chart, I took the phone off my desk for a bit towards the end of the test. This allows the 4 to cool down a bit. When I did that the frame rate went back up and the battery drained much more quickly.
To confirm the throttling, I grabbed an ice pack from my freezer, put the Nexus 7 on top of it and ran the GLB battery benchmark. When I do this, battery life drops drastically but if you look at the chart, the frame rate shows no throttling.
So throttling sucks right? Not so fast. First off, running GL Benchmark for hours while leaving it on your desk isnít a very realistic test. youíll probably be holding it by the sides while youíre gaming. This will reduce the temperature since the back isnít covered up.
I doubt the 4 will actually get throttled that often in real-world usage unless you live somewhere really hot.
GL Benchmark 2.5 (mins higher is better):
Samsung Galaxy Note II: 311
Motorola RAZR HD LTE: 208
Google Nexus 4 (no ice pack): 171+
Samsung Galaxy S III: 165
LG Optimus G: 153
HTC One X+: 124
Huawei D Quad XL: 116
HTC One X (Tegra 3): 115
Google Nexus 4 (Ice pack): 114
As a phone:
Sound quality is good. There is a very small amount of hiss that isnít present on the Optimus G but you wonít notice it unless youíre in a very quiet room. Itís slightly fuzzy sounding.
Maximum earpiece is loud, itís similar to my iPhone 5 and Optimus G.
I tested the Nexus 4ís RF performance in HSPA mode. Itís actually quite good in this regard. If you force it onto LTE it also does surprisingly well.
Iíll be honest, stock Android isnít very interesting. Itís not completely lacking in features or anything like that but Google leaves a lot of room for their OEMs to improve it. Thereís a reason why most people who buy Android arenít buying pure Android phones. Itís kind of ugly and aside from the camera, gallery, wireless display and hidden LTE support there arenít many surprises.
Still, depending on who you are, you may love or hate this. After all, with the minimalist approach you get to decide what goes your in phone. if you love keeping up to date, playing with custom ROMs and babysitting your phone then you should stop reading right here and buy a Nexus 4.
Youíll love it.
It has many strengths and few weaknesses. When you think that itís main weaknesses (only up to 16GB of storage and artificially crippled LTE support) are intentional, itís scary how good the 4 is. Picking the Optimus G as a starting point was a real smart move. Samsung and Apple better take notice.
Should I ditch my Galaxy Nexus?
The 4 has a quad core processor and 2GB of RAM. Both are 2x what you get on the Galaxy Nexus. So itís twice as fast as the GNEX right? Well, when it comes to browsing webpages there is much of a difference even when you have them side-by-side.
Many programs donít really use more than 2 cores so performance doesnít scale linearly once you go past 2 cores. Where the 4 excels is at multitasking. Like the GS3/Note 2 and Optimus G 2GB of RAM allows them to juggle many programs at once.
Intuitively, many people will think that the Nexus 4ís, 4 cores will make it more futureproof. If the PC industry is any indication this is wrong. Quad-core PCís have been around for years and yet dual-cores are still the most common. What makes the 4 futureproof is that it has 2GB of RAM.
The other huge difference is when it comes to gaming. The 4 just blows the GNEX away. Itís not just 2 or 3x faster but over 4x faster in GL Benchmark. Really, the GNEXsí 3D performance was a bit behind the curve when it was launched while the 4 is ahead. If you game, get the 4.
Thereís also LTE support which while not being officially supported, itís a pleasant surprise.
left to right: Nexus 4, Galaxy Nexus
The screen is less grainy, brighter and its colour is more accurate.
3D performance aside, the difference is in how the 4 feels. The GNEX isnít a cheap feeling phone, but thereís no comparison if you hold it and then the 4. Thereís a reason why many fancy watches are made from metal and glass instead of plastic. No oneís going to buy a plastic Rolex.
Inside and out, itís easily the best Nexus phone ever. If you can swing it, get a Nexus 4.
Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, LG Optimus G
Nexus 4 or Optimus G?
Since the Nexus 4 and Optimus G are so similar Iím sure a lot of people are wondering which one they should get? Before you think of their hardware differences you have to ask yourself if youíre willing to sign a contract. If you are, then thereís no point in getting the 4 unless youíre on T-Mobile because youíll have to pay full price. However, if youíre paying full price then itís hard to ignore the 4ís price. Itís somehow both more expensive and cheaper at the same time.
On the hardware front, with the Nexus 4 you gain wireless charging plus the ability to use it on Mobilicity/Wind/T-Mobile. However, you lose some flexibility with regards to LTE and more importantly, you can only get up to 16GB (12.92GB usable) of storage on the 4 vs 32GB (25.08GB) on the G.
Wireless charging is a cool feature but personally Iíve never been bothered by having to use a cable to charge (unless itís a flimsy Apple cable). Using a cable also allows you to keep the phone plugged in during a marathon gaming session. Still, itís nice to have the option of wireless charging. It sounds like a great idea for the car.
When it comes to software, the G ships with last yearís Android 4.0 vs 4.2 on the Nexus. To me, the biggest differences between 4.2 and 4.0 are smoother menus, Google Now (a personal assistant), panorama support which allows you to move in direction, a clock with a countdown timer and stopwatch (Finally!). The difference isnít as big as when LG was shipping 2.3 phones and trying to compete with 4.0 ones.
The G feels just as smooth if not smoother than the 4. Just try unlocking and moving/pinch zooming between screens on the G. If the 4 is buttery smooth than the G is smooth as silk.
But the version of Android isnít the whole story. LG has added some extra which make a difference. I love how you can access the quick launch after entering your unlock pattern on the LG. The LG has a more switches which you can customize on the pull down. Itís stuff like that.
Compared to the G, you have to do more work with the Nexus 4 to get it just right. But then again, thatís the point. You have more control over your phone. Either way, both are fantastic phones. Do you want Vanilla or some other flavour.
Donít you love choice?
- unofficial LTE support
- latest version of Android
- Gallery app
- Timer app
- lock screen widgets
- starts at $299USD!
- Only up to 16GB of storage
- incomplete LTE support