Reviewed by Charlotte Kertrestel
Finally we have managed to get our hands on the elusive Nexus 4, the collaborative effort by LG and Google and the successor to the Galaxy Nexus. After a catastrophic start to the Nexus 4’s life due to low stock levels- whether it was Google or LG to blame is yet undecided- we have eventually had the opportunity to road test the handset ourselves.
At first glance, I absolutely love the look of the Nexus 4; it is sleek, stylish and jam-packed with all of the latest Android features. So will the Nexus 4 live up to our high expectations? Let’s find out…
As soon as I had taken the Nexus 4 out of its box it was already being passed around the office for inspection, being met with various ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’ as it went. The first thing that I noticed, and instantly liked, about the phone was its weight. Unlike many phones, including the Nexus’ predecessor, the Galaxy Nexus, the device feels ultra-lightweight, and in actual fact, I thought that the handset didn't have the battery inserted already.
The next thing that I noticed, and again liked, about the Nexus 4 was the cool holographic design on its back casing, which in some lights made the phone look plain black, yet in others gave it a space-like, night sky appearance. This was a huge improvement on the Galaxy Nexus’ thick etched-style back, which I wasn’t a great fan of.
Apart from being lightweight, the handset is also incredibly thin. At 9.1mm, it is slightly thicker than similarly sized models such as the Samsung Galaxy S3, though its sleek design makes the phone feel like the lightest phone you’ve ever picked up. Although the screen measures in at 4.7 inches, it somehow doesn’t feel big in any way and looks a lot smaller than the Galaxy S3 whose screen is actually only 0.1 inches larger.
One downside of the Nexus 4, however, is its lack of a removable back casing, which ultimately means that you cannot remove the phone’s battery without great difficulty. It also means that you have to make do with the phone’s internal memory of either 8GB or 16GB, due to the fact that there is no SD card slot to extent the handset’s memory. That said, the fixed back casing is what adds to the Nexus 4’s feeling of it being a high quality build.
One further criticism of the device is the fact that the handset gets incredibly hot either when it is left on charge or when it is being used extensively. Although this isn’t a major drawback, I feel that having an alarmingly hot phone is a problem that the iPhone experienced years ago, and is one which should have been resolved by LG long before it was released. Also, I often found that the unlock button on the side of the phone was unresponsive, making me press it two or three times before the phone would lock or unlock.
The Nexus 4 is powered with a 1.5 GHz Krait processor and runs the shiny new version of Android (Jelly Bean 4.2), which makes it really responsive when you are flitting through various apps and features. Like most other Android devices, the Nexus 4’s setup is based on a series of home screens which enables the user to select, drag and remove various apps from either the pre-installed apps or from the Google Play Store. What mkes this device stand out is the capability to group various apps into folders, similarly to the iPhone’s design, which made it much easier to organise apps with similar functions. For example, the phone comes with a ‘Google’ folder already installed, which contains features such as Gmail, Google+, the Google Play Store, YouTube, and contacts. By grouping your apps according to their use, it frees up even more space on your home screen to display other apps that you use on a regular basis.
There are no physical buttons on the fascia of the Nexus 4, but there are five permanent icons on the home screen which remain even when you scroll through the various screens. This row of icons includes the phone’s camera, internet browser, the apps and widgets store, messaging, and the number pad. This selection is well thought out, as you often have to scroll through numerous screens to find, say, the camera, which can sometimes lead to you missing the object you wanted to photograph in the first place.
There are three touch buttons located at the bottom of the fascia; one is a backspace, the middle returns to the home screen, and the right-hand icon views the last functions that were accessed on the phone. Because the seven home screens don’t roll on endlessly, in that once you reach the last page you have to scroll backwards to reach the first pages, having the home screen icon makes it much quicker to reach the main home page, reducing the time spent scrolling though screens.
The visual quality of the Nexus 4 is really high, attributable to its True HD IPS Plus capacitive touchscreen which sports 318 pixels per inch, much higher than the Galaxy S3’s 306 ppi and the Nokia Lumia 820’s 217 ppi.
The only thing that I was disappointed about regarding the Nexus 4’s setup was the omission of the cool features that were included on the phone’s predecessor. For instance, the Galaxy Nexus had a layered effect as you scrolled through screens, which the Nexus 4 unfortunately doesn’t have. Also, there is an option on the Galaxy Nexus to either select the camera or to unlock the handset fromthe lock page, which again is a feature which is missing from the Nexus 4. However, I am being particularly picky here, as these features are not vital to the functionality of the phone, and are simply little playful extras which I personally hoped would feature on the Nexus 4.
Current is a great current affairs app which collates all of the most popular newspapers and magazines into one in-built application. You can browse the world’s top stories without having to manually switch between individual newspaper apps. The app also categorises stories into the same headings, making them easier to compare. You can even flick through the top magazines, meaning that the app isn’t just designed for those of you intent on keeping abreast with the latest current affairs; you can now glance at some more light-hearted stories about your favourite celebrities or read about the latest recipes.
The pre-installed Local app is a feature which many newly released phones sport, and is perfect for when you are in a new, or even familiar place, and want to find what is nearby. The app uses GPS to locate your exact position, and allows you to choose from attractions, pubs, B&Bs, restaurants and coffee shops. It’s a much better solution to scouring the net for places to eat, and can be used to settle those disputes of where to eat or drink without even having to leave your front door. Fancy an Indian? Browse local Indian restaurants. Having friends over for a takeaway? Find the takeaway restaurants closest to you and even review other users’ reviews on the place.
DIY movies seem to be the way smartphones are going, and the Nexus 4 is no exception. If you’ve ever been on holiday and wanted to collate all of your finest snaps and clips into a fun video which you can share with all your friends, the Movie Studio app allows you to either import images and clips from your phone’s library, or lets you record fresh ones then and there. The editing suite enables you to play your video to any music track of your choice, as well as changing the colour and style of images, making them fade in and out in time to the music.
Although many laptops come with a movie maker installed, the Movie Studio features lets you get creative wherever and whenever you want. If you’re backpacking through Europe, why waste hours uploading your latest photos when you can collate it all into a 4 minute video and post it online for all to see?
As already mentioned, I found that the permanent camera icon on the home screen was really useful, and enabled you to take a photo within a second after unlocking the phone. Although it took a few seconds to actually take a photograph, this was because the camera focuses on the subject of the photo in order to produce a clearer and more focussed image.
It was really easy to access the camera’s flash, settings and the HDR function. The option to turn the HDR function on and off enables you to retain full control over the quality of your photographs; in low light, I found that the camera worked best without the HDR function, but sharper images emerged in normal light when HDR was activated.
|HDR ON||HDR OFF|
Now let’s get onto the evidence. The Nexus 4’s 8 megapixel camera is standard for most smartphones and produces some good quality photographs. I really liked the fact that you can switch from the camera to the gallery just by swiping to the left, making it really quick to check photos once you have taken them. I sampled the camera on a trip to London and was quite impressed with how well the camera picked up on the bright lights of Leicester Square, as well as the flashes caused by moving traffic. In daylight, the Nexus 4’s camera picked up the detail of objects quite well, especially in bright lights when I didn’t feel that it developed that yellowy glow that so many cameras do when photographs are taken in artificial light.
The camera also features two different ways of attaining a brilliant panoramic photograph, great for those perfect picture moments. Simply select one of the two panoramic options and follow the instructions in order to take a seamless 360 degree snapshot.
The one feature which makes this phone stand out from the crowd is its editing suite. Although you can’t apply any filters to your photographs before you take them, it is really easy to apply different effects to your images, rather like Instagram. As you can see from the gallery on the left, the photos can be enhanced with the various filters and borders to make the images look really professional and personal. What makes the editing suite even better is that it saves your modified images as separate files from the original shots, which allows you to edit the same photographs into different styles over and over again.
The Nexus 4’s video camera is also of quite a high quality, and has an output of 1080 at 30 frames per second, which is standard for similarly priced smartphones. It is easy to switch from camera to video by selecting the video icon on the options screen and the picture and sound quality is really sharp. Overall, I was quite pleased with the Nexus 4’s camera and editing suite.
The battery life of the Nexus 4 perhaps isn’t the phone’s greatest feature. Although it is no worse than many other smartphones on the market, I did expect more from Google’s newest Nexus model. When I left the phone idle, I felt that the Nexus 4’s battery drained more rapidly than it perhaps should have, and when I used the phone extensively on a day trip to London, I was forced to recharge it as the day drew to an end.
That said, as with many Android phones, you are able to view how much charge is remaining in the battery, displaying which applications are draining the battery most, which is helpful in trying to maximise the battery life of your Nexus 4.