Just like Apple’s annual ritual, Google has also begun refreshing their Nexus handsets on a yearly basis. The Nexus smartphone is a platform for Google to showcase what their latest OS can do at its absolute best. The purpose of this handset was a reference point for developers who could build and perfect apps around it and then tweak it to work on lower-end hardware. Due to that, Nexus devices have never had the best hardware specifications compared to other phones but just enough for it to handle the current OS to its fullest. However, after seeing the wild success of the Galaxy Nexus, which despite its poor camera and battery life sold by the dozen, Google has decided to create a much better package this time around and has turned to LG for the task.
Design and Build
The Nexus 4 looks remarkably similar to the Galaxy Nexus and perhaps that was a deliberate design choice made by Google rather than LG. Starting with the Nexus S, all the (two) handsets till date have shared the same iconic rounded edges and curved body design and it continues with the Nexus 4. The display on the new one isn’t curved but one look at it and there’s no mistaking it’s a Nexus. The front is dominated by a massive 4.7-inch screen with a resolution of 1280 x 720 which gives it an effective pixel count of 318ppi. The screen, however, tends to look much bigger and that’s because the Nexus 4 is wider while the Galaxy Nexus is a bit longer. The bezel on the sides has also been shaved down a bit more, giving the effect of an edge-to-edge display. The Nexus 4 also uses a vastly superior IPS display, which manages a lot more accurate colours with the same viewing angles and deep blacks of AMOLED. The difference is instantly noticeable when you place both phones side-by-side.
Fits in your palm perfectly
The handset is put together nicely and is surprisingly light weight as well, a lot lighter than the Galaxy Nexus. The glass back does give it a nice premium touch but the plastics on the side say otherwise. What we’re getting at here is that the Galaxy Nexus has a much better feel to it in your hand. This textured back offers much better grip and the extra weight just makes it feel solid. The Nexus 4 on the other hand feels like any other LG phone, it just feels like there’s something missing. All the buttons are where they should be and now, we even have a side-loading microSIM slot. You guessed right, Nexus 4 has a non-removable battery and once again, no way to expand the storage either. Two models are on offer, a 8GB and a 16GB variant.
Similar dimensions to the GNex
The Nexus 4 comes with Jelly Bean out-of-the-box and will continue to get any new update from Google first, until next year when they launch its replacement. The Galaxy Nexus has already started getting step-brotherly treatment as updates aren’t released simultaneously for both handsets. Needless to say, the UI is super quick and fluid with absolutely no hint of lag. You won’t notice any increase in power of the Galaxy Nexus from the UI alone but apps really benefit from the increased power, especially games. Rather than using a Tegra 3 SoC (which they could have done) and calling it a day, LG has wisely used the newer and more efficient Qualcomm APQ8064 quad-core SoC. This is based on the S4 Pro chipset and features four Krait CPUs running at 1.5GHz along with an Adreno 320 GPU.
The fake chrome bits kill the otherwise premium look of the handset
At the moment, this is the only handset in the market that uses this chipset but come 2013, we’ll be seeing this in many more high-end smartphones like the HTC Butterfly, Sony Xperia Z and in some of the new BlackBerry handsets. Even with all this power, it’s a lot more efficient that Tegra 3 due to the smaller 28nm fabrication process. We’ve compared the speed of the SoC against the Galaxy Nexus in the video by loading Need For Speed: Most Wanted at the same time. The Nexus 4 is considerably faster - not only in loading the game due to the 2GB of RAM - but also in producing smoother frame rates when rendering the game.
The second most notable change is the camera. We now have an 8MP BSI (Backside-Illuminated) sensor, which thanks to some clever arrangement, allows for more light to be captured than a standard 8MP sensor. BSI sensors are quite common now in high-end smartphones and we saw one of the first ones being implemented in Apple’s iPhone 4. The image quality speaks for itself and when compared to the Galaxy Nexus, it’s miles ahead.
No real competition here
One special camera feature in the Nexus 4 that’s not available in the Galaxy Nexus is HDR mode. We’re not sure why Google left this feature out for the Galaxy Nexus as it clearly seems to be a software feature rather than hardware. It could be due to a sensor limitation or the fact that Google wanted to keep something exclusive to the Nexus 4. In any case, it’s not a big deal as you have plenty of camera apps that can pull off HDR so there’s always a work around.
A worthy successor, but…
The Nexus 4 is a big upgrade from the Galaxy Nexus even though it may not seem like it from the outside. The switch to an IPS display was a very smart move by LG and it really makes all the difference in the world. Sunlight legibility is very good, although reflections can be a pain at times and the colour reproduction is bright, vivid and more importantly, accurate. The beefed up SoC will easily let you use this phone for the next two or even three years as there’s plenty of untapped potential which we hope the next version of Android will exploit. Finally, the camera is actually usable even if the lighting is not ideal; a flaw that still haunts the Galaxy Nexus. The BSI sensor captures a lot more detail and adjusts the white balance beautifully.
But, the phone for some reason just doesn’t have the same feel of the previous Nexus devices. It’s a bit hard to put into words but when you hold both the handsets in your hand, the Galaxy Nexus feels a lot more wholesome for some reason. This is just our opinion; however, we would suggest you do that yourself to get an inkling of what we’re on about. There’s no word on an official launch from LG yet but we hear a possibility of an early Jan launch. If LG decides to go ahead with it, then we can expect some very aggressive pricing. We predict the 16GB model to be priced well under Rs 30,000 and we know they can do it since their Optimus 4X HD dropped below 30K, just a few months after being launched. If you’re really eager to get one now, then there’s always the gray market where you can find it retailing for Rs 36,000. If you ask me, I would go for the Galaxy Nexus now and wait for the 2013 Nexus, which will hopefully launch along with Android 5.0.