Google Nexus 4 - Review

Google Nexus 4 - Review

The Google Nexus 4 features a 4.7 inch HD touch display, up to 16GB of internal storage an 8 megapixel camera capable of 1080p HD video capture and will be powered by a quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM. As part of the Nexus Series the Nexus 4 will be first in line to receive Android software updates from Google. This is a luxury that most handsets don't have and a great reason why you should invest in a Nexus 4.

The Nexus 4 which is available to users through the Google Play Store costs $299 for its 8GB model while the 16GB costs $349 making it one of the most affordable handsets in its class.

  • Superior hardware and build quality
  • Very affordable price
  • First in line for Android updates
  • No microSD card slot
  • Glass panels in front and rear can break
  • No LTE support

The Google Nexus 4 joins the company’s Nexus lineup of devices alongside the Google Nexus 7 and the Google Nexus 10 as the newest flagship smartphone. It succeeds the Google Galaxy Nexus and does so in style with a premium build and top of the line hardware. The Nexus 4 is the first Nexus device to be manufactured by LG and shares common hardware features with the LG Optimus G. But its most appealing feature is its price. At just $299 for its base unlocked model, the Nexus 4 is easily one of the affordable smartphones in its class.

Unfortunately the low price cant be achieved without sacrifices and the lack of LTE connectivity has been criticized by its users. Another issue the Nexus 4 has faced since its launch is its poor availability.

So does the Nexus 4 live up to its hype as one of the best smartphone of 2012? Should this be the smartphone we all strive to own? Or is there something better for us out there? Keep reading as we dive into our hardware review

Hardware Review

In terms of design the Nexus 4 looks like the offspring of the Google Galaxy Nexus and the Optimus G. It maintains the Nexus look from its predecessor in the front while it borrows the flat design and textured effect of the Optimus G for its rear.

Google Nexus 4 - Specs
The Google Nexus 4 is manufactured by LG and features a 4.7 inch HD touch display, up to 16GB of internal storage an 8 megapixel camera capable of 1080p HD video capture and will be powered by a quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM.

The front is made up mostly of its 4.7 inch display which has a 720 by 1280 pixel resolution. The front glass is gently curved at the edges which makes it easy to swipe from the edge of the screen when you are interacting with the lock-screen widgets for example. LG has added Gorilla Glass 2 protection for the display to keep it safe from the torture of day to day use.

The display is bright and crisp and easy to use. However we did struggle to make a call and send a text under direct sunlight, even when the sun wasn't very bright.

The display has a dark metal band running around it, which adds a level of protection while it gives the phone a look of class and sophistication. LG has also included a soft touch plastic band between the metal and the back plate. Its matte like finish has a rubbery texture which makes it easy to hold while keeping fingerprints off.

Above the display is the earpiece with the 1.3 megapixel video call camera on its right and its proximity and ambient light sensor on its left.

On the top of the device is the 3.5 mm universal audio connect and a secondary mic. Google has chosen not to include a headphone which is understandable for a $300 device, but you can easily use you own in this situation.

Below the display you will find a cleverly hidden LED notification light. It will blink in various colors depending on the type of notification you receive. While there is no dedicated setting to customize this alert, there are several third-party offerings in the Plat Store which allow you to change the LED light behavior. Much like its predecessor Google has chosen to leave the Nexus 4 button free, and you will only see the software buttons appear when the device is switched on.

Below the device you will find the microUSB port and the primary microphone. The microUSB port can also be used for TV-Out.

On the left side of the device is the microSIM compartment and the volume keys.  After appreciating the volume key placement on the Windows Phones we tested we found the Nexus volume keys poorly placed. Especially when used with the power button.

The Power button is on the top right side of the device. The Power button can be used to switch the display ON/OFF and to access other options like turning the phone off, enabling airplane mode and quick access to vibrate and silent modes. Unfortunately we found ourselves accidentally pushing the volume key every time we tried to interact with the power button to switch the display on or off.

 After some time we realized that the Nexus 4 is better suited for right hand use compared to the left hand. With the thumb on the power button its easy keep the rest of the fingers off the volume key unless you want to use the keys to capture a screen-shot. The rear of the device is also made of glass, which feels like a mistake Google has borrowed from the Apple iPhone 4 and the Apple iPhone 4S. You wouldn't want to drop the Nexus 4 unless you have it safely bundled into a strong case. The Nexus 4 has also adopted the polarized effect from the Optimus G. The pattern at the back shifts according to angle you are holding it causing a 3D like effect on the device. Also on its back is its 8 megapixel camera and LED flash. There is no bulk at the back despite the larger camera and the camera is positioned more to the left instead of the center. Below the camera is the Nexus logo and further down you will see the LG logo next to the loudspeaker grill. The speakers are the most poorly placed element on this device and we were disappointed to find the audio muffled with the device was placed against a flat surface. I wonder if Google expects users to get their hands on a dock or a charging orb.

We referred to a charging orb, because the Nexus 4 comes with wireless charging enabled. It uses the Qi (pronounced chee) standard and Google has even provided an optional Nexus branded (somewhat overpriced) Wireless Charging Orb. The recently released Nokia Lumia 920 also uses the same standard charger, so if you happen to get your hands on a free charger with a new Lumia 920, you are in luck.

The Nexus 4 has a 2100mAh Li-Po battery which isn't user replaceable. Officially it promises 390 hours of standby and 15 hours of talk time on a 3G network. Our tests showed the device is capable of 1 day or heavy use, but can last up to 3 days of moderate use.

The Nexus 4 performs well in terms of call quality and seems to be in par with most major competitors.

The Nexus 4 is powered by a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor with 2GB of RAM and an Adreno 320 GPU. This results in one of the best smartphone experiences to date. It easily cruises through Android 4.2 Jelly Bean offering a better experience that its Nexus counterparts.

However heavy usage does cause the device to get heated quite a bit and we did notice the battery life is also affected quite a lot with usage.

Despite its affordable price tag, the Nexus 4 exuberates a very rich and classy feel with its glass front and rear. While dropping it would almost definitely result in a cracked screen, the Gorilla Glass should keep the display safe from scratches. Its not likely everyone would want to hide this beautiful device inside a bulky cover, but it may become a necessity.

The sound touch on its sides make it easy and comfortable to hold, but its shape made it difficult to identify the top from the bottom when puling the handset quickly out of the pocket, especially due to the lack of physical buttons.  

Software Review

The Google Nexus 4 like every Nexus device before it comes with the latest version of Android – . While this may seem like just a small update over the previous version Google has included some useful and interesting features with this update.

When you first boot up the device, you will be presented with the lockscreen. Just like with Android 4.1, you have a small dotted circle on the lower center which initiates Google Plus and the padlock which can be moved to unlock the device. Google has additionally introduced a new feature to the lockscreen – widgets.

These new lockscreen widgets are resizable tiles and one of them will be always visible on the top of the main lockscreen. While swiping from the right will take you into the camera, swiping from the left takes you to the various widget screens. The main lockscreen will show limited information in order to make room for the padlock button, but it can be expanded to show more information.

Since lockscreen widgets are a new feature on Android and are almost exclusive to the Nexus series at this time, there aren't many lockscreen widgets right now. However you do have some stock widgets to choose from: Messages, Calendar, Gmail and Digital Clock. If you own an Android 4.2 device we would advise you try out the DashClock widget which brings some great features and functionality to the lockscreen.

 If you want to get more use out of your device that what the lockscreen offers, you simply need to slide the padlock in any direction and the screen will be unlocked. If you want to add security to the way the device is locked, there are other methods like the pattern, pin or password, and face unlock to choose from. There is no way of skipping the lockscreen altogether.

Once you have unlocked your device, you are presented with the homescreen which was first introduced with .

The bottom of the screen is reserved for the navigation controls: Back, Home and multi-tasking. The Back button is self explanatory, the Home button takes you back to the main home-screen and the multi-tasking button shows all the recent running tasks. You can scroll through the running tasks which are displayed with thumbnails. To close a running task simply swipe it away to the left or the right.

Above the controls is the dock which can be customized with two icons/folders on either side of the all apps button.

Android 4.2 offers the familiar five home-screens which can be populated with shortcuts, folders, bookmarks and widgets. Widgets can be re-sized to fit any space. To re size a widget, tap and hold it and then use the four points that appear to change the widget’s size to suite your preference.

Adding a shortcut onto another creates a circular folder. You can add multiple shortcuts into folders and name them accordingly. The first three shortcuts within a folder are lined up in order and you will have to click a folder to view the rest of the apps within the folder.

The notification center has been enhanced with Android 4.2 with the introduction of quick toggles. You can access this new feature by sliding down from the top with two fingers or by clicking the new new button which appears on the top right of the notification panel. While options like Wi-Fi, Airplane Mode and Bluetooth were previously shortcuts to the respective apps, they can be toggled ON and OFF with a long press if you have installed Android 4.2.2 or higher.

From the notification panel you also have access to your ‘Me’ tile which will be updated with your name and photo once you have logged into your Google+ account. Additionally you have shortcuts to Settings, Brightness, Battery and your data connection.

Clicking on the apps icon on the dock will take you to where all the installed apps and widgets are found. The content is sorted into two tabs for apps and widgets and there is an icon which will take you directly to the Play Store on the top right. The apps are arranged alphabetically by default in a 5 by 5 grid. Swiping from the right will take you through your list of apps, and once you are done you can browse through your installed widgets. If you find an app shortcut or widget you want to place on your home-screen, simple press and hold and position it on the homescreen of your choosing. When you are dragging and holding an app or widget you additionally have the option of uninstalling it or viewing ‘App Info’.

If you swipe up from the bottom of you screen you will initiate Google Now, which is Google’s response to Apple’s Siri. It was first introduced with Android 4.1 and takes on the task of your personal assistant learning constantly from your daily routines.

Since Google Now is a part of Google, it learns from your online activity. It can find your favorite artists are performing a concert near you or if your favorite actor is staring in a recently released movie. Google Now even manages your daily commute and helps you find the fastest route to work based on traffic reports.

Google Now has become even faster with Android 4.2 and is capable of scanning your email for upcoming flights, deliveries or restaurant reservations. It even manages things like birthday reminders or public alerts and has an image search which lets you use the device camera to find information about something you are looking at. You can head over to Settings on Google Now and customize the features you want to use.

Google Now is even integrated with Voice actions and allows you to take care of things like sending messages, initiating voice calls, asking for directions, taking notes or opening a website. You can also use Google Now to launch apps, find places of interest near you and manage your calendar.

If you prefer you can download the voice typing functionality (around 25MB) and use it offline to dictate messages or take notes.

Google introduced a new feature called Daydream on Android 4.2 which is a sort of screensaver. It can be set to turn on when the device is docked or charging and it will display, photo albums, the latest news from Google Currents or the time.

Overall Google has done a great job with Android and Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is the most polished version of Android to date. The additional performance improvements and tweaks offered through Google’s Project Butter gives the Android a definite edge.


In any case those who own a Nexus 4 can proudly say they have one of the top smartphones in the market. With its attractive design powerful hardware and appealing price, the Google Nexus 4 is definitely a step in the right direction for Google.

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