Google Nexus 4 review

Google Nexus 4 review

Summary: The LG-built Nexus 4 offers terrific value for money, if you don't mind its moderate battery life and lack of LTE support. Shame it's currently sold out at Google's Play store.

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  • Editors' rating:
    8.1
  • User rating:
    7.0
  • RRP:
    £279.00

Android 4.2
During the review period, our Nexus 4 received the Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean) OS update, which brings a range of useful new features. We won't plough through all of them here, but here's a brief rundown of our favourites.

nexus4-qs+ls
Android 4.2's quick settings panel (left) and the lock-screen Messaging widget (right).

First up has to be the quick settings addition to the pull-down notifications panel, accessed via a new icon in the top-right corner. The ability to add widgets to the lock screen is also handy, although there are only four stock ones available at the moment — Calendar, Digital clock, Gmail and Messaging (the camera interface is also present by default on the right-hand lock screen).

nexus4-gtgn
Gesture Typing (left) and Google Now (right).

On-screen typing gets a boost with the introduction of the Swype-like Gesture Typing which, with a little practice, works very well on the Nexus 4's relatively small keyboard. Google Now, introduced with Android 4.1 and tweaked in version 4.2, looks as though it could become a useful 'personal assistant', but frankly we haven't had enough time for it to embed itself into our lifestyle to deliver a firm judgement. The Voice Search component works well though.

nexus4-access
Triple-tapping the Android 4.2 screen launches an adjustable zoomed-in view, to help visually impaired users.

If you are visually impaired, the new Accessibility features will be very welcome: triple-tapping the screen zooms in (to whatever magnification you last used), whereupon you can use the standard pinch gesture to adjust the zoom; you scroll around by dragging with two or more fingers, and can temporarily zoom by triple-tapping and holding. You can also pinch to zoom within Gmail messages — once you've turned on 'Auto-fit messages' in Gmail's 'General settings' dialog.

nexus4-photosphere-1
A succession of blue dots guide you through the creation of a Photo Sphere.

 

nexus4-photosphere-2
The Photo Sphere appears as a 2D projection in the camera's filmstrip view (left); clicking the Photo Sphere icon launches a 3D viewer for exploring the image.

The most eye-catching new feature is called Photo Sphere, which takes the idea of a panoramic image to the limit by guiding you through the creation of a complete view of your surroundings. After rendering, the image appears as a 2D projection in the camera's filmstrip or grid views; clicking the Photo Sphere icon launches a 3D viewer for exploring the image. Photo Spheres can also be uploaded to, and 3D-browsed in, Google Maps and Google+.

Specifications

General
Weight 139 g
Dimensions (W x H x D) 68.7x9.1x13.39 mm
OS & software
Software included Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.5 GHz
Processor model Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
RAM 2048 MB
Storage
Internal 16000 MB
Display
Display technology TFT touch-screen (active matrix)
Display size 4.7 in
Native resolution 1280x768 pixels
Connections
Ports Micro-USB 2.0 (SlimPort-compatible), audio-out
Networks
2.xG GPRS, EDGE
2G GSM 850, GSM 900, GSM 1800, GSM 1900
3.xG UMTS, HSPA+
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Short range Bluetooth 3.0+HS
GPS technology
GPS receiver GPS + GLONASS
Input devices
Touchscreen Yes
Camera
2nd camera front
Flash Yes
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 1.3 megapixels
Main camera resolution 8 megapixels
Power
Removable battery No
Battery capacity 2100 mAh
Number of batteries 1
Miscellaneous
Accessories AC adapter
Expand

Prices

Price
Price AUD 399
Price GBP 279
Price USD 349

Topics: Smartphones, Android, Mobility, Reviews

About

Charles has been in tech publishing since the late 1980s, starting with Reed's Practical Computing, then moving to Ziff-Davis to help launch the UK version of PC Magazine in 1992. ZDNet came looking for a Reviews Editor in 2000, and he's been here ever since.

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Talkback

28 comments
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  • Fastest smartphone out there

    7.0

    The Geekbench score for this Nexus 4 phone is 1950, making it the fastest phone out there to date. That's even higher than the iPad 4's benchmark result.
    eMJayy
  • Fastest smartphone out there

    7.0

    The Geekbench score for this Nexus 4 phone is 1950, making it the fastest phone out there to date. That's even higher than the iPad 4's benchmark result.
    eMJayy
  • Out of stock

    Why would out of stock be a con for this phone. how is that the fault of the phone, not saying I will buy the phone, I will not. However saying it is a con makes it sound like a flaw with the phone.
    schultzycom
  • Nexus products are so much better

    8.0

    The Nexus S was my third Android phone and I decided then that I'd only buy Nexus devices in future, no junkware (that often can't be removed), no OEM modifications (that aren't as good as the original functionality they replace) and prompt updates (usually). I think widening the Nexus line is the right thing for Google to do because the phone manufacturers have been ruining Android by trying to 'differentiate' their products.

    I still have the Nexus S and it was updated to Android 4.0 then 4.1 just after the Galaxy Nexus was released, I also own a Galaxy Nexus and a Nexus 7 tablet, both of which are excellent. I'll buy the Nexus 4 when the Google Play store has some stock, I'm not impatient enough to pay a premium.

    Anyone considering an Android phone for the first time should seriously consider buying a Nexus device, everything else is inferior.
    johnafish
  • Shame

    1.0

    Shame it has poor battery life and no LTE support.
    I guess that is good unless it was a RIM phone. I'm sure he will be all over them because they don't have octocore processors.
    Susan Antony
  • Best Smart Phone - Today

    9.0

    ** Note that I currently roll with iOS, Android, WP and RIM devices for my day job.

    The Nexus 4 is on par with the iPhone 5 and gets the nod due to the price - if you can actually find one. While it lacks LTE, side by side comparisons with the iPhone 5 (AT&T) found that the speed is only slightly slower on bandwidth speed tests. Outside of that, the software side is astounding. This is the first Android device that appears purpose-built to get things done. No slow downs, everything connects smoothly - it even has a Google link where it knows when packages are being delivered to you, your favorite team sports scores (no college yet, though), weather, recent searches. Known quirks in iPhone land such as maps, Wi-Fi connectivity and the unfulfilled Passbook are all non-issues, and Wallet worked nicely on the one NFC shopping visit I have made so far.

    Only complaints are that they are difficult to find and the official Nexus wireless charging pod is not available yet. Those issues will correct themselves with time, however.
    monteith
    • the only significant software update

      over jellybean is multiple accounts. the other stuff you list is part of google now, and is on all 4.1+ devices, and can also be loaded onto 4.0 devices.
      theoilman
  • ...

    5.0

    No SD card slot .... no deal !
    Built-in battery ? That is just silly !
    NO THANKS ! ! !
    peanut88
    • ...

      No SD card slot is truly necessary nowadays. 16GB is plenty considering all the cloud storage(25,000 songs on google music for FREE, dropbox, etc) 16gb for apps is almost too much, but at least on android, you can have as many apps as will fit.(the iphone has a set number of apps that will display due to limited number of home screens. You could put everything in a folder, but that is just silly)

      Battery is not glued in, or hard attached in any way, to replace you simply remove 2 screws on the bottom of the phone. Not even crazy pentalobe screws at that! While you cannot swap in a spare battery when it dies, there are numerous solutions. The lack of removable battery was due to NFC and wireless charging, together tightening the tolerances of battery location.
      lord_xaero
      • cloud storage does not replace internal storage

        cloud storage wastes battery life (which is already soso on this phone), uses up data for those without unlimited plans, and is useless in areas where you don't have signal.
        theoilman
      • I disagree

        First, the OS itself resides on part of the 16 gigs of storage, leaving something around 11 available to the user. Had there been a full 16 gigs of user storage, I would agree that it would largely be enough in most cases. Not all, but most. But 11 gigs is cutting it a little close.

        Second, cloud storage should never be relied on for user files. It's a nice option, but it's use should be completely optional. Cloud storage drains the battery, it's unavailable if you're outside network coverage, and when within coverage, it uses up bandwidth. When unlimited data was the norm, that was one thing, but it's not the case anymore and the thought of having to pay a higher monthly bill for more data to make up for limited on-board storage just doesn't sit well with me.

        I don't care what the reasoning is, there's no justification for not including an SD card slot. Don't populate it, fine, but the slot itself should be there for those who want/need it. If it's not included, there should be *ample* on-board storage - a minimum of 32 gigs *user* storage. 16 total (11 user) is surprising, and 8 total is a joke.
        PC987
        • 13.6

          For me, 13.6 GB is available as opposed to your 11 GB.
          ashwinipn
          • Ok, but you still end up with less.

            Ok, so 13.6 instead of 11... the fact is that it's still less than what's available from previous phones with SD card slots and 16 gig cards.

            Also, user apps will come out of that 13.6 gigs, where previously they were stored on internal system memory, leaving the SD card free for user files.

            Again, none of the explanations I've heard justify the ditching of expandable storage, especially when internal storage isn't exceeding what was typically previously available. It's not like they're saying "look, we've studied this and the vast majority of people never fill up their 16 gig SD cards, so we're giving you the same space internally". It's more "Hey, we're giving you less than you had previously, but we'll give you tons of cloud storage. Yea, it'll cost you more each month for the bandwidth, but the carriers LOVE it!!"
            PC987
  • Galaxy Nexus

    10.0

    This is the best phone currently available. Review after review confirm this.
    Van Der
  • Great specs and great price

    6.0

    ruined by mediocre battery life with a non replaceable battery, and more importantly, unworkably low internal memory with no way to expand it. what use is a mega fast phone when you can hardly put anything on it?
    theoilman
  • The Nexus 4 does have LTE.

    8.0

    Yes, you read the title correctly. The Nexus 4 does have LTE, you just have to know how to enable it. Watch this video on YouTube, which shows you how: http://youtu.be/GXOY9EVZ4vA
    Tony U.
  • This phone is weaksauce

    3.0

    - No HD screen (other phones are coming out with 1920x1080 resolution)
    - No user-replaceable battery
    - No SD card support
    - No 32 GB option
    - No LTE

    Not the evolutionary upgrade over my Gnex that Google should be bringing out at this time. Very disappointed that this phone should even bare the "Nexus" name.
    Oldsmobile_Mike
    • Kind of agree.

      6.0

      There is only one 1080p phone, and it also is limited to 16 GB with no SD slot. It also has a truly unremovable battery, while the Nexus 4 can be removed with a screwdriver. LTE can be enabled on the Nexus 4, too, but I'm not sure why it wouldn't be by default though.

      At first I thought the exact same as you, but as time has gone on, I've found some of those deal-breakers to just be untrue. The no 32 GB option and no SD slot obviously still hold up though.
      BigMagoo
  • I am enjoying my Nexus 4

    9.0

    So far its great I love it. It gets a bit hot when its working hard and I managed to run down the battery when using it to navigate and listen to pod-casts on my bluetooth earphones. Now I plug it into a car charger.
    Artist111111
  • Dirty business

    "The £279 16GB Nexus 4 doesn't look like a device that costs £250 less than Apple's 16GB iPhone 5, or around £120 less than Samsung's 16GB Galaxy S III, but that's because Google makes little or no margin on the device"

    - So google trying to sabotage other companies businesses, by giving the software and hardware for free...
    owlllnet