Nexus 4 at a GlanceLook and Feel
This phone exemplifies the Android experience, both in form (hardware) and function (OS).
Simple yet powerful, the Nexus 4 showcases Google Now and introduces the "Photo Sphere" camera option.
An impressive phone overall, it falls short in its network speed: No LTE connectivity.
Android fans, first-time smartphone users and those seeking performance on a budget.
**** (out of 5 stars)
Google's Flagship Phone (For Now)
Introduced in November 2012, the Nexus 4 (manufactured by LG) was well received by critics -- mostly for its impressive features and affordable price. The phone sold out quickly via the Google Play online store and has reportedly sold well over the past year.
Fast-forward to present day and it remains a viable option for many, particularly the budget-conscious: Its price will definitely drop once the Nexus 5 hits store shelves. (It's rumoured to be again made by LG and released very soon.)
Look and Feel
From a design standpoint, the Nexus 4 feels like its price tag: It's nice, but it's not on the same level as its more expensive counterparts (the iPhone 5, the Samsung Galaxy S4, or the HTC One). I would liken its feel to that of a Nokia Lumia or a Galaxy S3: Lightweight and rounded edges, but more plasticky than metallic.
With the Nexus 5 expected soon, the Nexus 4 is sorta like the Galaxy S3: an older, but solid device.
Like the iPhone 4/4s, the Nexus 4 features a glass back panel, which looks nice, but can crack if the phone is dropped.
The Nexus 4 features the latest version of Google Now, advertised as "the right information, right when you need it." I found it to be a really nice homepage feature, displaying weather, traffic, transit schedules, sports scores and more, with a simple swipe from the bottom of the screen. It's completely customizable as well, so you can choose which "stamps" you'd like to display from one day to the next.
It's also a great feature for travellers, as you can pull up local attractions for sightseeing and even suggested photo locations as you cruise around a city or neighbourhood.
And because it's Google, it gets smarter the more you use it, and its connections to Google Maps, YouTube and Google Play are seamless. You can also interact with Google Now via voice command.
Photo Sphere is a key differentiator for the Nexus 4 camera: It allows you to take photos in every direction and create a 360-degree "sphere" around you. I tried it out and, while it was super easy to use, it wasn't perfect. Here's what the photo looked like after a first go-around:
You can click to expand. (The actual photo is HUGE; the expanded version seen here is only 40% of it!) You can see there is some missing detail in the bottom left, and some major inconsistencies among the buildings, but I imagine the results would be better, once you become more practiced with Photo Sphere. That said, it takes a long time to snap all the photos within the sphere -- it's not something you would do all the time, obviously. Just for special panoramas.
One nice thing about Photo Sphere photos is that they're shareable. Having tested the Galaxy S4 (stay tuned for that review) -- some of its fancy photos are only viewable on the S4 -- this is a bonus on the Nexus 4.
The Nexus 4 has a seamless connection to the Google Play games and media store. Actually, the phone has a handy Google toolbox on its home screen, which lets you launch search, YouTube, Google Maps, Chrome and Google Play instantly.
The Nexus 4 also introduced Google Play Music All Access, which is basically Google's Internet radio. Nexus 4 users get a free 30-day trial. As with Pandora and the new iTunes Radio, it is not available in Canada, however.
The Nexus 4 camera is pretty good. It didn't take stunning photos, but it didn't take bad photos either. You can see my sample shots below, compared with the same photo taken using an iPhone 5 (click to expand):
The phone has an 8-megapixel camera rear camera that records HD (1080p) video, while the front-facing camera captures 1.3-megapixel photos and 720p video.
The reason i wouldn't call the camera "excellent," is because it doesn't appear to let in as much light as some of its pricier rivals. As you can see, the iPhone 5 photos come off a little sharper and the colours a little crisper.
In terms of speed and navigation, Nexus 4 performed brilliantly. Navigating from the home screen to Google Now, to the app menu and between different apps was smooth and easy.
User friendly: The Nexus 4 is one of the easiest phones to figure out.
The screen resolution (1280 x 768) is very clear, the colours are vivid and the phone's Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor handled everything I threw at it without hesitation. I mostly used the phone via Wi-Fi however, so relying on a cellular network would surely be a different story: This phone does not have LTE connectivity.
The touchscreen keyboard layout is also worth noting. I found it easier to type upon than many of its competitors and considering the amount of typing we do on our phones, that is pretty significant.
The Nexus 4 has been maligned for its poor battery life, particularly when streaming video. You could argue that most smartphones are that way, but it's something to keep an eye on.
OS and Available AppsBecause this is a Nexus device, it's hard to imagine a "purer" Android experience. The branding, the user interface and even the icons are identifiably Google.
As such, the OS is clean, intuitive and highly customizable. Of all the flagship smartphones I've used, the Nexus 4 is one of the easiest to figure out. There are no fancy bells and whistles and apart from Photo Sphere, I can't really think of anything I'd consider gimmicky. This is a streamlined device that way outperforms its price tag.
And as far as app availability goes, you'd be hard pressed to find a better integration with the Android ecosystem. This is a Nexus, after all.
The Nexus 4 is the cheapest, unlocked, high-end phone on the market. The bevelled chassis and 320ppi screen make interaction a comfortable and immersive experience.- Evan Bashir, iQmetrix R&D Developer
With the Nexus 5 expected for release soon, the Nexus 4 falls into the same category as the iPhone 4s, the Samsung Galaxy S3 or the Nokia Lumia 920: It's an older model but it is still a viable option for first-time smartphone owners and those seeking bang for their buck.
The Bottom Line
What the Nexus 4 lacks in network connectivity (no LTE) it more than makes up for in performance. This phone is incredibly user friendly and a great introduction to the Android ecosystem. It should appeal to users of all types, and especially the budget conscious.
Compare Cellular Editor's Rating: **** (out of 5 stars)