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Google Nexus 4 review

 Review: November 2012  
 

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The Google Nexus 4 by LG is a simply outstanding phone. With the newest Android 4.2 operating system, an astonishingly high resolution 4.7 inch screen, a mind-blowingly fast quad-core processor and a great camera, perhaps the most surprising thing of all is its low price. It's a must-buy gadget!



 

Introduction

It's that time of year again. Every Christmas brings a new incarnation of the Google Nexus phone. The 2011 version was the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and this time it's LG's turn with the Nexus 4. The Nexus is always at the cutting edge of what's possible with Android, so let's see what the 2012 offering has in store.

Design and looks

Nexus phones have come a long way from the butt-ugly Nexus One from HTC, but at the same time they're not the best lookers, unless you think that black monolithic slabs are the ultimate phone aesthetic. You do? Read on! The LG Nexus 4 looks similar to the previous two Nexus phones from Samsung, but feels like a more quality build with a sparkly glass back instead of plastic. It's a big slablike device, but not too thick to hold, at just 9.1mm. It weighs a solid 139g, so you're not going to forget it's in your pocket.

The edge-to-edge screen measures 4.7 inches, making it one of the largest around. It's fractionally smaller than the screen on the Samsung Galaxy S3 but with an even bigger HD+ 1280 x 768 resolution. That makes the pixel resolution 320ppi compared with the 326ppi of Apple's Retina display on the iPhone 5. The screen uses IPS technology and is bright and sharp with excellent contrast, so you can easily use it outdoors. The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2.

Android 4.2

The Nexus brand is all about Android. You won't find any skins or customisations from manufacturers here. It's plain vanilla Google, as nature intended. In fact, as you can see from the photo above, the Nexus 4 is competing for the world's most boring home screen ;-)There's practically nothing there - it's all down to you to customise as you see fit. Nexus is what you buy if you want to get the very latest release of Android, and to continue to get updates first.

The Nexus 4 runs Android 4.2. As 4.1 and 4.2 are both called Jelly Bean, you'd be right to guess that 4.2 is a minor update. 4.2 has more reactive and uniform touch responses with a CPU boost when you touch the screen. The notifications bar at the top of the screen is more interactive. The home screens are easier to customise, as widgets move themselves around and resize automatically to accommodate each other. An improved keyboard supports gesture typing and automatically predicts the next word.

Version 4.2 also updates and enhances Google Now, first introduced in Android 4.1. The new Google Now has over 20 different cards that appear automatically. These include weather, traffic, flights, hotels, events, movies and nearby photo spots. If you have an appointment in your calendar, Google Now will watch the traffic for you and tell you when you need to leave. It'll give you directions to your hotel and tell you what trains are next if you're at the station. Google Now learns from your past behaviour and modifies its alerts accordingly. In practice, this doesn't always work perfectly, but it's a feature we've grown to like, even if we don't always trust its reliability.

Quad-core power

A no-brainer here. If you want to make the best phone, you power it up to the max. LG have chosen the quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset running at 1.5GHz and backed it up by an Adreno 320 GPU and a full 2GB of RAM. With the snappier Android 4.2, this makes it quite probably the fastest Android phone so far. The Galaxy Note 2 is perhaps the only phone that can beat it.

8 megapixel camera with Photo Sphere

The 8 megapixel camera is an upgrade from the 5 megapixels of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. It's equipped with autofocus, face detection, smile detection, digital zoom, geo-tagging and an LED flash. A photo editor is pre-installed. The Instant Upload feature automatically uploads all your photos to a private album on the web, if you choose to enable it.

But it's the new Photo Sphere feature that's attracting the attention. Photo Sphere is a step up from the panorama shot in previous version of Android. The idea is simple. Take pictures in every direction you can think of - left, right, up, down - and Photo Sphere stitches them together into a giant panorama. They're not just big pictures, they're interactive, like Street View images. Upload them to Google Maps for the world to see - examples here.

As well as creating photo spheres, the camera can record video in full HD 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second. Continuous focus, real-time zoom and time-lapse mode are all available, and you can use Movie Studio to edit your creations.

There's also secondary front-facing 1.3 megapixel camera.

Android Beam & connectivity

Sadly, Android Beam is not an instant teleportation device, but it does let you easily share photos, videos, contacts, apps and more with other NFC-enabled Android devices. Just place the devices back-to-back, then beam whatever's on the screen by giving it a tap.

Other connectivity includes Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and USB. A 3.5mm headphone jack is present and correct. 4G LTE is missing, but you can get fast data with 3G HSPA at download speeds up to 42Mbps.

Memory options

The phone comes in an 8GB or 16GB version. There's no microSD card slot, so you'll have to think hard about whether 8GB is going to be enough. Perhaps better to play safe and pick the 16GB model.

Battery life & wireless charging

LG have equipped the Nexus 4 with a turbocharged 2100mAh battery, which is enough to handle all of the technology and features in this device. The battery isn't removable, however.

A bonus feature is that, like the Nokia Lumia 920, you can charge the phone wirelessly if you have a wireless charging accessory. It's absolutely not necessary, but fun nevertheless.

Conclusion

The phone is available in either 8GB or 16GB versions. Astonishingly the 8GB is available for just £239. The 16GB model costs you £279. You might expect it to cost double that. It's not surprising that the initial stock sold out in about an hour! Now, these prices are the sim-free prices direct from Google. Most people buy phones on contract, and so far we're not seeing the low price being reflected in the monthly contract prices. It's easy to see why the low sim-free prices might threaten the business models of the networks and mainstream retailers. We're not sure how this is going to pan out.

What's crystal clear however, is that this is an astonishingly good phone, whether you pick it up for a song or pay a hefty monthly rate for it. The latest Android software plus the fastest processor in a phone and a retina-quality display that's 40% bigger than Apple's Retina display - this is a blockbuster phone by any standard. Compared with the Galaxy S3, the Nexus 4 is oh so similar, but it comes with Jelly Bean 4.2 and an even faster processor. If we were to be picky, we'd note that it isn't 4G-compatible, but we're not. This is such a great product we just don't care! Go and buy one right away - if you can.


Google Nexus 4 features include:

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Google Nexus 4 user reviews

Love this product? Hate it? Please share your experiences to help other people choose the product that's best for them. Please do not review this product if you have not used it, and please ask questions in our User Questions section above. Please do not use swear words or offensive language, and please, no advertising!

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Average rating from 7 reviews:

Reviewed by Thing from UK on 10th Mar 2013
I've been using my Nexus 4 for a few days now and I'm very impressed. I will update in a few weeks after some extended use.
I LIKE- Great build quality, silky smooth screen, very solid feeling yet slim & light
Lovely high res screen with strong natural colours & great contrast & brightness
Stock Android 4.2.2 (after a recent update) is surely the best yet. It operates really smoothly, all menus and screen transitions are very fluid. Notification bar is great, one finger swipe for the standard view, two finger swipe for settings (complete with wifi and bluetooth long press toggles on 4.2.2)
Keyboard is superb. Great auto correct and a swype system if you need or like it
I DISLIKE- Battery life so far has been pretty rubbish. 10 to 12 hours if I'm lucky! Hoping it will condition over the next few weeks
Notification light does not flash quick or bright enough. Sounds daft, but it only pulses once every 10 seconds! Surely it's there for a quick glance?
Not so keen on the back, home & multi tasking button bar fixed on the screen. The same for the Google search bar which cannot be removed. Come on Google, Android is all about choice & customization!
Overall though, I love it. It is the best experience of Android so far in a superb, lush quality package
Rating:

Reply by Thing from UK on 23rd Mar 2013
Extended use update. Yes, the Nexus 4 is now even better after a couple of weeks. The battery has improved but still not that solid, at least it lasts till the bedtime charge now though. Firstly, change the home launcher to one of the many on the Play store. Most are silky smooth in use and can be customised to ANY degree, including choice over the Google search bar! Everything can be resized, changed and there is some brilliant swipe gestures if you go for the paid versions. The notification light can be customised and tweaked with apps. It is now perfect. Chrome browser is great but there are better options available for free. Some are so much smoother in scrolling and you can browse full screen using gestures. An amazing hardware/Android combination that ends up being virtually flawless.

Reviewed by Ali from UK on 9th Feb 2013
Having just received my Nexus after weeks of wait... Amazing phone in every way!

Exceptional build quality, and has a nice weight in your hand. Glass front and back makes it a slippery surface but still easy to hold.

Battery life last over a day with reasonable/heavy use, and speed is no issue thanks to the 1.5ghz quad with 2gb Ram.

Would highly recommend if you like a pure phone, but Jelly-Bean 4.2.1 does need getting used to when updating from previous versions.

Overall, a rare phone that is priced cheap but maintains high quality components and specifications.
Rating:

Reviewed by nigel jennings from mansfield nottinghamshire on 14th Jan 2013
I initially had the 8gb version which i purchased on ebay as it is well known google play have no stock.
the 8gb is too small a memory so i went for another phone (motorola razr maxx). i missed the nexus so bad i purchased another again from ebay but this time the 16gb version.
what you must accept is that some of the memory is allready taken by the phone so if you get the 8gb you may lose 2-3gb already.
the phone is incredibly nice to feel the screen is so smooth your finger glides effortlessly over it and with the gorilla glass a screen protector is pointless.
it has a nice weight and solid feel (except for a click between the speaker and the screw on the bottom of the phone,dont belive me give the phone a squeeze and you will see what i mean!)
the back looks fantastic it has a shimmering glittering design.
it runs jellybean 4.1 out of the box and updates to 4.2 shortly after.
it is vanilla so no nasty preinstalled apps that annoy you that uses battery and that you will never use.
its a great phone and the best you can get at the moment besides the fantastic price if you can get one from google play!

saying all this it has its faults which is why i deduct a star!
The glass makes the phone feel and look great but there is no reason why the back should be glass, it makes it slippery and fragile, i am scouring the internet daily for a premium case to protect this beauty which defeats the object of making it so attractive and having to cover it up so it does not shatter when dropped from a small height check you tube :(

the speaker is only mono and easily covered up muting the sound, the speaker is also not very loud, better to use headphones or buy a external speaker if you want to watch a lot of media.

the power button is almost opposite the volume rocker so it somtimes is easy to turn volume down by mistake while putting the phone to sleep.

power button and volume controls are small and hard to find especially as the phone is the same either way up so to find the buttons it is not intuitive.

choose apps carefully and try to find your favorite apps to save battery as the battery although lasts a day, drops significantly when you use the internet or fb.

screen gets hot if you play a game for a short period of time!

although it has a 4.7" screen some of that is taken up by the buttons on the bottom of the screen, which somtimes dissapear in apps or videos so you do not know where to press to go back to home etc...

to get to settings on the camera is tricky you have to hold your finger in the centre of a circle and drag it out to the setting you require that takes some practice.

This sounds all very negative but bear in mind i would buy this again in a shot and i still think its a fantastic phone and i will think very carefully about upgrading again as it would have to be something very special to beat this phone but i have had many phones to compare to this so i know its not perfect.
take the kevlar and battery from razr maxx, and beats audio from htc add it to the vanilla nexus 4 and your getting very close to perfection.
Rating:

Reviewed by Tim H from UK on 8th Jan 2013
It's a great phone, largely down to the untainted Android experience. Everything about it is quality.

Only one problem, availability. I got one in December in the 17.00 mad dash when they appeared briefly on Play again. However, a month on and I still cannot buy even an official bumper case for it - anywhere - surely they can't have manufacturing issues with something so simple? Then there's my attempts to buy a wireless charging pad - one of the big selling points of this great phone. I cannot even get one in the USA as they just aren't available - why? I don't get it? None of the big case makers are on board either - no Case Mate, no Otter Box. Just cheap 2.99 gel 'skins' on Ebay.

I love the phone but it's very frustrating when there's such bad supply for it and the accessories.
Rating:

Reply by Julie from UK on 8th Jan 2013
In reply to Tim H you can buy a nokia wireless charging plate from Amazon uk. I havent tried to use it with Nexus 4 but it works with Lumia 820. If it doesnt, by buying from Amazon you will have 30 days to return it.

Reply by Tim H from UK on 9th Jan 2013
It seems there a few that work, Maxell Air, Energizer Inductive, Samsung S3 Qi and this Nokia DT-900 plate. No sign of the Nexus Orb yet so I've taken your tip and ordered the plate which is now available in black from Amazon (it wasn't yesterday). 50! For a charger? But what can you do? Thanks for the advice.

Reply by Tim H from UK on 14th Jan 2013
Please note, the Nokia DT-900 plate DOES NOT WORK with the Nexus 4. Got one, tried it, no joy, sent it back. There are a few reviews on the internet confirming this now. The Nokia Plate does not charge the Nexus 4.

Reviewed by Matt from United Kingdom on 17th Dec 2012
I have just had this phone as an upgrade from a Samsung Galaxy S2, and so far it has been lush. Very fast, very easy to use and has all of the features you would expect from a phone in this category. I was lucky and managed to get a 16GB version. For the money, it is a no brainer. It depends on your taste of course, but I also think it is one of the best looking phones on the market too.

However - users beware. My particular phone suffers from a very strange phenomenon. It moves on its own when placed on some flat surfaces! Dont believe me? Try it.

In fact, my sole purpose for coming here today is that I placed my phone flat on a plastic cable trunking (which is the same width as the phone) in a site office that I work at. I have always put my previous phone and my work phone in the same place with no problems. I have to put the phones there because it is the only place I can get signal. I sat at my computer for a couple of minutes and then heard a crack. I turned to see my Nexus 4 on the floor screen down. The floor was concrete covered with lino, and the phone had fallen from approx 3.5 feet. I turned it over and the screen is smashed to pieces. Now there is NO WAY it could have simply fallen off without it having moved itself. There is only me in this office and no other people were walking in, or past the office. My Blackberry phone was placed flat right next to it, and that had not fallen off. I had also noticed this effect on the arm of my leather sofa at home which is square and flat too. My phone kept falling off the arm of the chair even when nobody was in the room!

So now I have a phone I cant use because of this phenomenon. You have been warned!!

I am giving the phone 4 stars because of this problem. If the phone did not do this, I would not now have a phone I cant use. Just be careful people, I wouldnt want anyone else to fall foul of this undocumented 'feature'.
Rating:

Reply by Demola from Nigeria on 4th Jan 2013
Hi Matt, Do you mean it moves when it rings (vibration) or it slides down just because it's has a smooth back? Either way, maybe u should get a pouch to protect it. I don't believe any phone that can survive 3 feet drop onto concrete floor have a quality screen or the sleek the Nexus 4 has.

Reply by Matt from UK on 7th Jan 2013
Hi Demola My handset could move on its own when placed on some flat surfaces when the phone was idle (IE no incoming calls or messages). Also I never use vibration on any of my phones. After using a popular technology forum here in the UK, I have also seen reports of other users that have experienced the same 'my phone can move itself' phenomenon. I really do not know how it does it, but despite what others may believe I know for a fact that my phone could not have fallen from its position without moving itself. The interesting thing is, that this phenomenon is not constant and only seems to apply to some surfaces. I placed my phone in the same position only a couple of days previously and there was no problem. Likewise, placing the phone on my bedside table caused no problems, nor was there a problem on any wooden surfaces. But plastic and leather surfaces caused movement. The funny thing is, that when I got home from work on the day it broke, the protective case I ordered was waiting on my doormat. Talk about bad timing! :)

Reply by Steve from Uk on 13th Feb 2013
I believe you Matt, I sometimes have the same thing happen to my iPhone 4S. Its basically because the two surfaces are highly polished and there's no friction and the phone glides. It happens to me on my windowsill which is UPVC. Looking to upgrade to the Nexus, sounds great! Me and a lot of my friends are looking at alternatives to the iPhone as its become very boring and being left behind by Android.

Reply by Anon from UK on 19th Feb 2013
I can also vouch for this movement. I now have a little dent where the phone fell off a flat surface. It doesnt all appear to do it, but when it does you will notice the phone sliding across. Hopefully Google are aware of this and can be remedied in a future s/w update.

Reviewed by Andy from UK on 14th Dec 2012
Had my Nexus for a couple of days now - impressive phone and does everything it claims - having been a BB user for a while now, this is a big step up and so far I have been amazed at just what this phone can do even the fact I can talk to it and it types whatever I say - I know - but little things and all that :-) - However their is one drawback and for some it is a minor issue and by all accounts it's a must have on phones these days - but it's the size of the thing - Just don't know if it's something I can live with. That said the phone functionality deserves it's outstanding rating.
Rating:

Reply by Andy from UK on 19th Dec 2012
Update re phone size issue - have now got over the Blackberry to Nexus 4 size transition period and all is well :-) just can't get over how many people want this phone and can't get one? I have one and I am keeping it - so there.

Reviewed by bootruss from England on 8th Dec 2012
.. simply the best phone ever, lightning fast with a great screen, great premium looks for a bargain bucket price, if you get lucky and can find one.. Buy it!
Rating:


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