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Thread: Our Nexus 4 review: Vanilla flavoured Jellybeans

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    Our Nexus 4 review: Vanilla flavoured Jellybeans

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    Here’s 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, Google’s Nexus devices are slightly different beast. First off, while they’re from Google, they’re not made by Google. Instead they’re 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 PC’s for years. It’s very common for PC’s 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. We’ve been conditioned to not trust manufacturers when it comes to what software they put on our devices.

    Here’s the Nexus 4, the sister phone to the LG Optimus G. It shares many of the G’s specs plus it has a similar glass covered body. Unlike the G it’s running Android 4.2 and is a pure Google device.

    The fact that it doesn’t 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

    Display:

    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, it’s a hero but outdoors I wish it were as bright as the HTC One X/X+, Lumia 920 and many of Sony’s newer phones. It’s similar to the Samsung Galaxy S III in this regard.

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    power button

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    micro USB, microphone.

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    volume buttons

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    headphone jack, microphone

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    camera, flash, speaker

    The display’s edges are curved. Normally, I don’t like this because it makes it easier to accidentally press the screen with my palm. On the 4 it doesn’t bother me too much because it doesn’t 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 isn’t far behind. It’s a much more tactile device than the Galaxy Nexus. Since glass is much harder than plastic it resists scratches, but at the same time, it’s more likely to shatter if you drop it so be careful! If you’re a total clutz, consider something like a Samsung Rugby LTE instead.

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    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.

    It’s kind of funny, the shape and front of the Nexus 4 kind of reminds me of last year’s LG Optimus LTE.

    Network support:

    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. You’ll have to do a little bit of work if you want to get it on LTE.

    First, you’ll have to add a new APN to your phone.

    Settings -> Mobile Networks -> Access Point Names. Hit menu ‘New APN’

    Add a name (doesn’t matter what) then add this in the apn field:
    for TELUS add ‘sp.telus.com’
    Rogers add ‘ ltemobile.apn’
    Bell add ‘pda.bell.ca’

    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 ‘LTE/GSM/CDMA auto (PRL)’.

    Assuming you have LTE coverage in your area that should put your Nexus 4 onto LTE. Note that you’ll have to go back into the dialer each time you reboot the phone to change the pull down.

    Camera:

    I figured the Nexus 4 would have the same camera as the Optimus G i just reviewed but it’s actually different. I can’t 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 G’s 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 won’t take the picture until you release it. This way it will keep refocusing until you release the button. A cool idea but I’d prefer if holding it down activated burst mode (which the Nexus lacks).

    There’s a useful sports mode which raises the ISO and speeds up shutter speeds. Again, it’s too bad there’s no burst mode to go with this.

    There are two panorama modes. A normal ‘left to right’ style one plus another allows you to move in any direction. It’s like the app ‘360’ or ‘Photosynth’.

    I wish the Nexus had separate shutter and record buttons. Instead you have to switch between modes. If you’re shooting a video you can also take still photos by tapping the screen.

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    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 aren’t that fast (by design). Then again, it’s 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 it’s 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 you’ll have to fix it after you’ve taken the shot.

    Video quality seems fine though the microphone is a bit too sensitive so it’s 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.

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    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 there’s even sharpness and colour curves. I really like how Google added a history feature. If you accidentally make a change it’s easy to undo it.

    I’m 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 mkv’s - sort of. While it can play them back the it stutters terribly. It doesn’t play my standard definition DiVX avi’s either. So you have a lot of videos you’ll have to go out and find a third party media player. Then again, with only 16GB of storage you’re not going to be able to fit much on the 4 anyways.

    One area which I wasn’t 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. What’s cool is that the 4’s timer keeps counting down after it hits zero. That way you can tell how long the timer has been going off if you can’t get to it right away.

    Software:

    The Nexus 4 comes with Android 4.2 AKA Jellybean which is the latest version. Actually, Android 4.1 is also called Jellybean. There aren’t 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 what’s changed is that you can change settings quickly from the notification area pull down. Finally! I am disappointed however that you still can’t can’t lock the screen rotation from the pulldown (like on the Nexus 7, and various Samsung and LG phones) and that you can’t 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.

    Performance:

    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 doesn’t 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 is a Javascript benchmark that runs inside a browser.

    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

    It’s one of the few tests that allows us to compare devices across different platforms. It doesn’t use more than 2 cores normally so the Nexus 4’s 2 extra cores don’t come into play here.

    Vellamo:

    Vellamo is a suite of browser benchmarks. It’s only available on Android so we’re only able to compare the 4 with other Android phones here. Like SunSpider, Vellamo rarely uses more than 2 cores, so don’t expect much of an improvement over dual core phones.

    The 4 isn’t able to complete all of Vellamo’s tests. That’s one of the reasons why the 4’s score isn’t 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 4’s Snapdraon S4 Pro is the current champ. It’s about 2x as fast as the Adreno 225 in the Snapdragon S4, the GPU in Huawei’s quad-core D Quad and Nvidia’s Tegra 3 in the One X+.

    Battery:

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    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 Benchmark’s battery test I couldn’t help noticing that the 4’s score was much stronger than the Optimus G’s.

    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 4’s processor is being throttled because while the 4 get’s hot, it doesn’t 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.

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    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.

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    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 isn’t a very realistic test. you’ll probably be holding it by the sides while you’re gaming. This will reduce the temperature since the back isn’t 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 isn’t present on the Optimus G but you won’t notice it unless you’re in a very quiet room. It’s slightly fuzzy sounding.

    Maximum earpiece is loud, it’s similar to my iPhone 5 and Optimus G.

    I tested the Nexus 4’s RF performance in HSPA mode. It’s actually quite good in this regard. If you force it onto LTE it also does surprisingly well.

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    Conclusion:



    I’ll be honest, stock Android isn’t very interesting. It’s not completely lacking in features or anything like that but Google leaves a lot of room for their OEMs to improve it. There’s a reason why most people who buy Android aren’t buying pure Android phones. It’s kind of ugly and aside from the camera, gallery, wireless display and hidden LTE support there aren’t 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.
    You’ll love it.

    It has many strengths and few weaknesses. When you think that it’s main weaknesses (only up to 16GB of storage and artificially crippled LTE support) are intentional, it’s 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 it’s 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 don’t really use more than 2 cores so performance doesn’t 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 4’s, 4 cores will make it more futureproof. If the PC industry is any indication this is wrong. Quad-core PC’s 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. It’s not just 2 or 3x faster but over 4x faster in GL Benchmark. Really, the GNEXs’ 3D performance was a bit behind the curve when it was launched while the 4 is ahead. If you game, get the 4.

    There’s also LTE support which while not being officially supported, it’s a pleasant surprise.

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    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 isn’t a cheap feeling phone, but there’s no comparison if you hold it and then the 4. There’s a reason why many fancy watches are made from metal and glass instead of plastic. No one’s going to buy a plastic Rolex.

    Inside and out, it’s easily the best Nexus phone ever. If you can swing it, get a Nexus 4.

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    Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, LG Optimus G

    Nexus 4 or Optimus G?

    Since the Nexus 4 and Optimus G are so similar I’m 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 you’re willing to sign a contract. If you are, then there’s no point in getting the 4 unless you’re on T-Mobile because you’ll have to pay full price. However, if you’re paying full price then it’s hard to ignore the 4’s price. It’s 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 I’ve never been bothered by having to use a cable to charge (unless it’s a flimsy Apple cable). Using a cable also allows you to keep the phone plugged in during a marathon gaming session. Still, it’s 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 year’s 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 isn’t 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 isn’t 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. It’s 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, that’s the point. You have more control over your phone. Either way, both are fantastic phones. Do you want Vanilla or some other flavour.

    Don’t you love choice?

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    Pros:
    • Screen
    • Design
    • Fast
    • unofficial LTE support
    • latest version of Android
    • Gallery app
    • Timer app
    • lock screen widgets
    • starts at $299USD!


    Cons:
    • Only up to 16GB of storage
    • incomplete LTE support
    Last edited by howard; 11-29-2012 at 05:42 PM.

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  2. #2
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    Great review as always Howard! I use the GS3 and am not sure i am willing t lose some of the features Samsung put on the phone, like the smart stay,swipe to call/text,direct call, there are others but i think they are more gimmicky if you will.
    Seeing that you have both, would you say the N4 is enough of an upgrade over the S3?

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    any idea of when the device will back in stock in canada?

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    Question: does the nexus 4 have the ability to connect to a usb stick for extra storage? some site said yes, some other said no.... can you test this please (hopefully you have a micro usb to female usb cable...

    tx

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    Very thorough review, H. Thank you. I'm very interested in this one and hope to get one in the next six months. Yes, I'm broke. Hopefully I will win yours. Heh.

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    I want this phone so badly, but I do not have the $360 for the 16gb model right now! I'm praying I win yours!

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    I can't even find the phone online, sold out.
    eBay has it for 499 - 16GB. Not willing on paying that when Google sells it for way cheaper.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MA56 View Post
    I can't even find the phone online, sold out.
    eBay has it for 499 - 16GB. Not willing on paying that when Google sells it for way cheaper.
    Agreed! paying more defeats the purpose.
    If it was $20-30- i would say fine, but %80- more is to much.
    Instructions for the $55- 5 Gb sk/mb Koodo plan, get it anywhere in Canada!!:

    http://www.howardforums.com/showthre...odo-sk-mb-plan

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    Quote Originally Posted by MA56 View Post
    I can't even find the phone online, sold out.
    eBay has it for 499 - 16GB. Not willing on paying that when Google sells it for way cheaper.
    If you can get it for $499 with shipping thats pretty good. You'll pay around $440 with ship/tax in, from
    Google store, but would have to wait 2 months. Last sell before they were sold out it was 9 weeks wait!
    So your paying around 60$ to 70$ more, like I said it all depends on how fast you want it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by AirSteph View Post
    If you can get it for $499 with shipping thats pretty good. You'll pay around $440 with ship/tax in, from
    Google store, but would have to wait 2 months. Last sell before they were sold out it was 9 weeks wait!
    So your paying around 60$ to 70$ more, like I said it all depends on how fast you want it.
    Actually $422- at least in Ontario it is.

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    A great review. I have a HTC Desire and I got used to it. But you made me think about getting this one.
    7 inch tablet reviews and comparisons - Find your best 7 inch tablet
    http://www.best-7inchtablet.com

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Apr 2007
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    Quote Originally Posted by AirSteph View Post
    If you can get it for $499 with shipping thats pretty good. You'll pay around $440 with ship/tax in, from
    Google store, but would have to wait 2 months. Last sell before they were sold out it was 9 weeks wait!
    So your paying around 60$ to 70$ more, like I said it all depends on how fast you want it.
    That makes sense, I ended up buying it off an auction on eBay for 475 including shipping, so not a bad deal.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    Location
    Toronto, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    8,481
    Phones
    OnePlus One, Alcatel Idol x,Nexus 5 wife's, HTC One,N4,Lg 4x,SGS4 Daughter,Lg G Flex son's.
    OnePlus One, Alcatel Idol x,Nexus 5 wife's, HTC One,N4,Lg 4x,SGS4 Daughter,Lg G Flex son's.
    Carriers
    Virgin, HOT mobile Israel.
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    Got mine and after using the SGS3 for a while i am not keeping it.
    I am selling mine for $480- which i think is fair.

  14. #14
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    As a graphic artist the 4GLTe speed is almost mandatory (I have it with AT&T in New York). I imagine it might be the same for architects, mechanical or aerospace engineers, or anyone else who deals with visual ideas on a frequent basis.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Location
    Massachusetts
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    98
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    Galaxy S4
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    T-Mobile
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    Very well done review and very accurate. Two comments I would make are: the Nexus 4 does not support OTG and I find the receiver sensitivity to be much worse than the Galaxy Nexus. The former will be a "don't care" to most folks but I find it incredible that Google could bring out the next Nexus phone with fewer capabilities than the previous. The receiver performance is irritating but compensated by other features of the phone, especially wireless charging.

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