Google Nexus 4
The Nexus 4 is a brilliant realisation of Android, backed up by top-notch performanceWrite your own review
- Slim design
- Premium feel
- Beautifully clean Android OS
- All-round media excellence
- Video occasionally lacks dynamic punch
- Camera quality could be better
- No SD card slot or 4G
After all, the Nexus family has been at the forefront of Google’s attack on the smartphone and tablet market, with the Google Nexus 7 tablet bringing a new level of performance to the sub-£200 arena – and at £239 for the 8GB version tested here (or £279 if you want 16GB), the Nexus 4 certainly has all the credentials to be an iPhone-beater.
MORE: Samsung Galaxy S4 review
Google Nexus 4: Build quality
Building on the success of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus 4 this time enlists the help of LG to build what is a slender, classy slice of smartphone. Built from Corning Gorilla Glass on the front and back, it feels slim and light in the hand, and comes close to the premium feel of the iPhone 5. The glittery finish on the back is particularly appealing.
The edge-to-edge 4.7in capacitive touchscreen gives maximum viewing space when web browsing or watching video, and the buttons are kept flush to the sides and are sensibly placed – easy enough to reach, but away from where most people may naturally hold the phone so you don’t end up accidentally pressing them. The side-mounted on/off button is in just the right place, and the headphone jack top left is easy to access.
LG has clearly put a lot of thought and effort into the design of this phone, and it pays off – big time. Pride of ownership comes as standard.
Google Nexus 4: Technical specs
The Nexus 4 ships with Android 4.2 OS, the very latest update of Google's operating system. Being a Nexus phone, Google makes clear that this version “will always have the most up-to-date software”, and in our view, this is the best cut of Android Jelly Bean yet, being more flexible, faster and smoother.
It’s certainly the purest, with no skin overlaid, which will appeal to Android diehards. And there's a simplicity to the OS, despite clever touches from the improved notifications bar to the deeper integration of new Google services.
We love that fact that you can customise the home screen – gone are the days when Android home screens nearly always looked awful.
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But there’s much more to the Nexus 4 than just a pretty face. A 1.5GHz quad-core processor is bolstered by a class-leading 2GB of RAM to help Google bullishly claim it is the fastest phone in the world.
It’s certainly effortless to navigate, and loads web pages, apps, videos, the lot, in super-fast time. However hard we tried, and however many apps we were running, it is almost impossible to slow this phone down, making it the perfect multi-tasking tool.
We particularly like the widget for Google Music and the new pull-down notifications with shortcuts to the app within, including play and pause controls so you don’t have to go into the app itself.
The 2100mAh battery is decent, too, coping well with a day’s heavy use. Sure, it won’t run for a week without a recharge, but no smartphone will.
However, the absence of 4G on such a high-tech phone is one omission we can't understand, especially as 4G is now starting to roll out in the UK and elsewhere.
Google Nexus 4: Sound and video quality
Still, Google has got its house in order where content is concerned. So Google Play’s content library is now supported by a functional Play music app that’s easy to use – a quick swipe left or right brings up playlists, artists, albums, songs and genres.
Play some tracks and the music sounds great: it’s nicely balanced, with plenty of detail, and exciting without being overbearing. It’s more detailed and refined than the Samsung Galaxy SIII and, finally for Android, truly challenges the class-leading iPhone 5. As a music playback device you can’t go wrong with the Nexus 4.
One oddity is that there are no headphones included in the box, so we’d plump for something like our Award-winning SoundMagic E10s (£35) which are a worthwhile upgrade and sound vastly superior to the usual freebie headphones you get with most smartphones.
Video on the 768 x 1289-pixel (320ppi) resolution screen is almost as impressive. It’s a far more relaxed colour palette than some more vivid rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, at times looking a tad lacklustre by comparison – but the trade-off is real subtlety and detail. We’d take the more refined colour palette of the Nexus 4 over the lurid display of the Samsung Galaxy SIII any day.
Camera pictures are reasonable, though not exceptional: it’s fine for taking quick snaps while you’re out and about, and uploading to social media, but can’t match the quality of a proper digital camera.
That said, Google has added some neat features, including Photo Sphere for panorama shots, which work well.
Google Nexus 4: Verdict
Yet despite all those cool features, it’s an overriding sense of clarity that truly sets the Nexus 4 apart. The Android OS is rapidly improving, and this is the best version yet. Add stylish, well-built hardware, great all-round performance and price, and the Nexus 4 starts to look very competitive.
The Nexus 4’s clarity of thinking sets it apart from the smartphone herd. While some may see its styling as too conservative, others (yes, that includes us) will see quality and refinement in its simple lines and excellent fit and finish.
Yes, there are downsides: we can’t understand why LG didn’t include an SD slot, so limiting you to 16GB of onboard storage (or 8GB if you scrimp), and the absence of 4G is a really odd decision.
But for just £239, you are buying one of the world’s fastest smartphones that is now every bit as usable and attractive as its iOS counterpart.
Would we choose it over an iPhone 5? If it were not for Apple’s plug-and-play integration with iTunes and Apple TV (Android is still hard work by comparison), the answer would be yes.