The Google Nexus 4 has come knocking on our door, and we’re ready with all the tools needed to put it through an in-depth review. It has taken quite some time for this vanilla Android device to reach Indian shores, but its pricing which just slightly exceeds the Rs 25,000 mark, will definitely help it gain some lost ground. The neat looking hardware has been designed by LG and as we all know, it’s based on the company’s Optimus G blueprint. Now, we were really impressed by the latter device when we accessed its attributes earlier this year, and hence this one too stands a chance to gain a good score from us. But it’s all about the software as far as stock Android devices are concerned, so that’s a big variable that needs to be looked into. Besides, there are a lot of subtle changes to the design that this device gains over the Optimus G. Let us first have a look at them.
Enclosing the phone in the confines of your palm is a pleasing task thanks to its near perfect shape and size. The device looks quite plain when the display is switched off, and it’s hard to make out where the screen ends and the body starts. Glass is the preferred material which takes up most of the surface area on this phone, with both its front as well as rear having been covered with it. We’ll first talk about the Corning Gorilla Glass 2-covered anterior. No real gimmicky appearance traits have been pushed onto the handset’s face, that’s for sure. This minimalistic approach gives it the looks of a prototype of some kind, but its elegance comes into picture once you peer at the design more closely.
Its makers it seems have tried to make the display as uninterrupted an affair as possible. That is why the earpiece as well as the front camera have been lined extremely close to the upper edge. Same is the case for a couple of sensors which are hard to find without a hard gaze. The Nexus 4’s screen is a curved one in the sense that towards its left and right borders, it gains a slight bend before merging into the darkened chrome plate that surrounds its entire periphery. This arc is aimed at facilitating seamless swipes, and while it indeed performs this function, it also increases the chances of it slipping out of your hands.
The rear surface is a major highlight for this smartphone. Shining all around its stand-out logo branding is the Matrix-like pattern which oozes style through every inch of it. A camera somehow camouflages itself into the attractive texture, but the flash stands out blithely. The LG logo doesn’t skip its chance to shine, and finds its spot on the bottom of the rear surface, besides which rests a loudspeaker. The side periphery is a pretty standard affair, with a power button being the sole occupant of its left surface and a volume rocker and a micro SIM slot inhabiting the opposing facade.
The Nexus 4’s uni-body design brings the need for a pair of screws that have been bolted on to the bottom, and they sit there alongside a microUSB port and a primary mic. On the top we have a 3.5mm jack and a secondary microphone. That pretty much sums up the design attributes of this neat little smartphone. It has been blessed with superb styling features, but that hasn’t stopped a few blemishes from making their way onto the body. While the glassy exterior is a treat to the eyes, its slippery nature is prone to a few falls every now and then for those who aren’t careful with it. Moreover, the touchscreen gets blighted by fingerprints way too easily, and the rear glass is somewhat of a scratch-magnet.
There’s much debate regarding which is the best processor out in the market right now. It would be foolish to choose a winner from the bunch, but the Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro certainly ranks among the elite. Its integration into the Google Nexus 4 thrusts the device into the quad core league. This 1.5GHz beast tags along an Adreno 320 GPU, not letting gaming enthusiasts down. A 4.7-inch screen estate sprawls the front surface of the gadget, and this True HD IPS+ LCD proffers its visuals with a resolution of 1280 x 768 pixels.
Hoarding up content without worrying about running out of space is not an option here, for Nexus 4 sports 16GB (or 8GB) of internal memory, and yet, doesn’t come with a microSD card slot, just like other pure Android devices. Unlike the Optimus G’s 13MP shooter, an 8MP lens has been granted to this one and it bears a neat little 1.3MP front camera as well, for face-to-face calling. Besides, other important specifications of it include a 2100mAh battery and 2GB worth of RAM.
We’ve experienced LG’s True HD IPS+ LCD technology on the Optimus G prior to this, and we were as impressed with it then as we are today. 1280 x 768 pixels is not exactly what you can call an HD resolution, but it’s almost equally effective. Its pixel density of 320ppi enhances the video output leaving you searching for visible pixels. Moreover, gliding your fingers on the Gorilla Glass 2 surface is a swift experience. LG’s innovative Zerogap Touch attribute makes its way onto this phone as well, integrating the touchscreen with the display to deliver a slimmer profile.
Coming to the viewing angles, it can be noted that this device performs exceptionally well in this department. Its IPS+ trait is to thank for this. However, owing to the glass surface, the display is a bit more reflective in sunlight than it should be. Apart from this, there’s little to complain about this 4.7-inch beauty, for it provides you with slick and brightly lit visuals without much effort.
The stock version of Android 4.2.2 is what the Google Nexus 4 shows off. It’s a slight improvement over its predecessor, but we’re going scrutinize a few interesting features that have been added by it. One of the first things that you’ll notice on this phone is its ability to let you add and see widgets on its lock screen. On swiping towards the left you find a default camera widget which lets you effortlessly start clicking pictures or recording videos. Swipes towards the right however are for you to customize.
Five such widgets can be added onto an equal number of available lock screens, so you’re able to browse through your Now cards, sift through your emails, have a look at your calendar events and more. We also have a new Quick Settings menu which enhances the phone’s convenience furthermore. Pulling the top tray down with one finger renders notifications, but with a downward swipe of two fingers, you can bring up Quick Settings which let you access toggle switches for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, brightness, Airplane mode and more. While Samsung, LG and a number of other UI-providers have granted such a tray with their software, this one’s a first for any stock Android device, so we’re seeing a little cross-learning here.
In terms of the company’s very own apps, a few notable improvements have come forth. Firstly, the Now app gains a whole list of additional features that enhance its aura even more. There seems to be almost nothing that it can’t find out on its own. Your flight schedules, your sports teams, traffic jams and all other day-to-day features are found out and delivered to you in the form of cards that pop up when you open the app.
The Voice feature gains enhancements as well. It goofs up far less than usual, so you don’t need to create a fake American accent in order for it to get what you’re saying right. The fact that Jelly Bean 4.2.2 includes offline voice typing with its native keyboard is a definite boon as well. Speaking of the keyboard, it can be noted that it now supports gesture typing like we’ve seen on apps like Swype. As you swipe your fingers over the intended letters, it is even able to predict the word you’re looking for, opening up a bubble of the suggested word. On taking the finger off the screen the word automatically gets added into the text field.
It’s a brilliant utility for those who type only in English, but there’s no support for dictionaries of other languages. Those wishing to have a go at it can note that it has been released for other devices as well through the Play store. Other than these, there’s a new Daydream feature which basically lets your phone showcase random pictures, news headlines, colors and more while it’s charging or docked.
The 8MP snapper on the Google Nexus 4 is accompanied by a newly designed app interface to control it. The setup is a circular menu which appears when you touch the screen, allowing you to move your finger around to choose the highlighted options. Although it adds a stylish touch to the way things work, we would not say that it’s a perfect addition. Despite running impressively fast, the app encourages unintentional settings changes plenty of times when you’re trying to navigate through this wheel-based user interface.
Color capturing and picture quality is not an issue, and the focusing its is good as well, even under artificial light, as can be seen in the comparison image we’ve placed in the space above. The camera app of this phone natively supports HDR as well as white balance, and we have to admit, the HDR mode gives exceptional results. 1080p videos at 30fps are captured brilliantly as well. But where are all the unique camera features that the Samsungs, LGs and HTCs cram into their devices, literally spoiling you for choice each time you try to click a picture? Surely, the absence of such added utilities in this near-high-end phone is something that’s bound make you ask for more.
The nifty image-editing features on the Nexus 4’s Gallery application are sure to capture your imagination though. Everything from frames to filters and superb contrast- and brightness-adjusting tools are bound to eat up a lot of your time when you start using them. Android 4.2 also drags with it the Photo Sphere tool which is to be used for capturing 360 degree views of any intended place. You point the camera and follow the blue-colored dots on the screen that guide you towards where you need to move the snapper in order to properly capture the view. It’s not perfect, hell, these images turn out to be extremely patched up, but with a function as cool as this, who’s complaining?
Sample Video at 1080p
Like we said up there, the Snapdragon S4 Pro is one of the best mobile processors ticking out there. It combines its quad core prowess with 2GB worth of RAM and an Adreno 320 GPU to deliver whistling performance. Of course, with no third-party user interface to worry about, the Nexus 4 should indeed be speedy at all times, but it maintains is pace even during high workloads. AnTuTu Benchmark gives the gadget a steady 17,174 which is beaten by its cousin, the Optimus G’s 17,735 score.
On Quadrant Standard, it grabbed 5,056, beating the likes of the HTC One X and the Asus Transformer Prime. 3DMark’s Ice Storm test moreover, gave it a score of 9,745. You definitely don’t need to worry about the speed of this smartphone while purchasing it. No matter which action it’s performing, it never bothers you with hold-ups, high loading times or other such annoying aspects. Coming to the battery performance of this phone, it provided us with pretty average results in this department. We employed the Nexus 4 moderately with most of its features including a few games, and were able to derive about 13 hours worth of working time from it.
– The fact that it adopts the Android 4.2 OS is a definite plus, and being a stock device, expect updates to arrive for it as soon as they’re announced.
– Some incredible viewing angles are at your disposal with this phone.
– Lightning fast speeds spruce up the whole experience in a neat manner.
– No matter how brilliant its screen is, it’s still a very slippery one.
– The camera is awesome, but it could have done with a few more features which are on offer on almost all high-end phones these days.
– No expandable storage.
At Rs 25,990 (or $299 in the US), the Google Nexus 4 offers incredible value for money with its advanced attributes. We came across a number of hitches, but each time its price flashed in our heads, we would be amazed. Its pure Android offerings are a breeze to use, while its performance exceeds several bounds. The absence of expandable storage is flaw we have to face however with all such vanilla Android devices. One more annoying aspect is its slippery nature which is due to the use of glass on its front and rear surfaces. But we’ll say it once again, at the price it’s being sold at, we wouldn’t complain while buying it. It gets 3 stars out of 5 from us.