If you’re even remotely interested in Android and associated smartphones, you’ve probably picked up some info about the latest representative of the Nexus line, namely Nexus 4. Switching partners yet again, after a double cooperation with HTC and one with Samsung, Google has picked LG for partner in creating the ideal smartphone as they see it. Speaking of which, the process of partner selection usually goes like this – Google creates a list of prerequisites that the new Nexus has to fulfil, while potential partners match that list with their offers and proposals within the set limits. What pleases Google’s executives most becomes the new Nexus.

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The strength of this brand is best illustrated by the fact that – there’s been a shortage of it, ever since the latest model was presented. Some naysayers may claim that this is due to Google’s small orders and LG’s lacking manufacturing capacities, but that remains speculative to all but Google and LG executives. Our personal experience shows that Nexus 4 was up for order in Google Play Store in mid-December, although with a delivery estimate of around six weeks. Alongside the proverbial Nexus product quality, elitist approach to the entire Nexus line and perhaps an underestimated demand for the phone itself, the situation was significantly inflated by the very accessible price when bought on Google Play Store. Unfortunately, this option remains unavailable for many markets, including some highly developed ones. Of course, there are always the mobile providers with their many tariffs and contracts, but that’s already a major compromise.

Dual-sided Gorilla glass

LG Nexus 4 is a very effective mix of Nexus and LG design styles, with noticeable features of both “schools” and a very satisfying result. At first touch, what attracts attention the most is not the front, but the back of the device. The latter is almost entirely covered in Gorilla glass, with fluorescent “stains” underneath, giving it a very unique look that can only be appreciated first-hand. Not only does this solution look attractive, but it also offers increased resistance to physical damage and scratches in everyday use. Unfortunately, it has a major drawback as well – Gorilla glass was created to cooperate with fingertips, which makes it smooth and slippery, which in turn means that Nexus 4 is a pretty “unruly” phone. If the surface is even slightly angled, the phone is going to slide, which can be an issue with some wireless charger models (Energizer’s Single Inductive Charger, for instance).

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Compared to its predecessor, Galaxy Nexus, one of the greatest flaws has been rectified, namely the camera. It’s been physically improved, and owing to Sony’s latest BSI technology, the camera lens is entirely in line with the phone’s body, without any protruding from the back; in fact, the LED flash is more noticeable than the lens itself. The back contains nothing further than Nexus and LG logos, and as is customary for Google, there’s no option of extending storage memory via micro-SD cards, while the lack of battery replacement option by the user personally is new to the fold. There are two versions available on the market, with 8 GB and 16 GB of internal storage memory, respectively, and since you can’t expand the existing storage, we definitely suggest you opt for the latter. The power button is located on the right, the volume rocker on the left, the USB connector on the bottom and the headphone jack on top. The entire rim of the phone is made of hard chromed plastic, and the finish on the whole is very good, with no screeching, crackling or gaps appearing during use. The entire front of the phone, bar the earpiece grill, is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 2, and in line with Google’s recommendation, there are no hardware buttons – everything is located in the OS itself. This is why we found the large unused space below the display surprising, as it contains nothing more than a signal LED, only visible when on. The glass is rounded on the sides, reducing the possibility of it being smashed due to an involuntary hit from the side. The spacing between the display and device edges is very small, which is excellent. The phone is somewhat narrower than its direct competitors and has a very nice grip as a consequence thereof. Above the display, one can find not only the earpiece grill, but also a very neatly concealed ambient light sensor and the front camera. When taken in hand, the phone appears to be a compact whole, with well-balanced weight and good grip. The side bottoms are rubber-coated to make the grip seem more tight and secure.
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The display and other necessities

The display is by far the most distinguishable feature of today’s smartphones, to the point where it’s the sole consideration of less experienced users. Unlike the previous model, made by Samsung, this model’s display isn’t a SAMOLED one, but an IPS one. The expectedly faithful colour reproduction and excellent viewing angles are still around, but we now have fantastic contrast in a Nexus phone too, very comparable to the one seen in iPhone 5. LG hasn’t stopped there, though, giving this display fantastic backlight which leaves other Android competitors in the dust. Text clarity, colour saturation and the contrast/brightness combo make this phone among the very best currently in the market. The only thing that can be reproached to the display is its size, a bit more modest than direct competitors in the form of Galaxy S III and One X+. Coupled with the insistence on the constant display of UI buttons on-screen, Nexus 4 has a noticeably smaller usable display surface, although it still beats many similarly priced models by a good margin.

LG Nexus 4 E960
 
Processor Qualcomm quad-core Krait @ 1.5 GHz
GPU Adreno 320
Memory 2 GB RAM, internally available 14.5 GB, total 16GB
Display 4.7'', 1280x768 pix, True HD IPS Plus capacitive, Corning Gorilla Glass 2
Interfaces microUSB, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi n, DC HSDPA, GPS
Camera Back: Sony BSI 8 MP with autofocus and LED flash; Front: 1,3 MP
Battery Li- Pol 2100 mAh
OS Android OS 4.2.1
Dimensions 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm
Weight 139 g with battery
Price US$ 349

Unlike the case with all previous Nexus models, which stuck to the upper mid-range, the hardware base in Nexus 4 is nothing short of luxurious. The latest Snapdragon quad-core CPU is only featured in HTC One X+ at a higher frequency, which caused notable heating issues in the latter, while the former remains relatively lukewarm even under maximum load. The massive 2 GB RAM warrant this phone’s viability for future uses, such as major OS updates or advanced apps. The top-notch graphics card only confirms the initial impression – it’s the first time that a Nexus phone is based on the strongest technological basis currently available. If you take a quick look at the results chart, you’ll see that all our assumptions are entirely confirmed – LG Nexus 4 is a top Android phone, trading blows with Galaxy S III, HTC One X+ and ASUS PadFone 2.

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Not all in the numbers

Of course, it’s not all in the numbers – the concrete user experience is very important too, such as how easily and quickly the phone is able to handle user input. In accordance with the pre-established Nexus reputation, things just couldn’t get any better. LG Nexus 4 is impeccably responsive at any given time, with all UI elements working without any hitches, and that goes for most apps too. Our experience with the Chrome browser was by far the most exhilarating – we’ve never seen web pages rendered so quickly and easily as here. It’s clearly software optimisation at its best, so we can only congratulate the teams concerned.

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The preinstalled operating system is Android 4.2, which updates itself to 4.2.2 at first boot, thereby emphasising one of the great advantages of having a Nexus phone. Every Nexus owner is guaranteed a first-row ticket to OTA updates, getting software improvements months before other users, which keeps them current for a lot longer than their competitors. However, this feature also has its dark side – nothing but the basic Google apps comes preinstalled. There’s no custom user interface, weather widgets, peculiar functions such as prevention of phone locking when reading something, muting calls when turned and so on, no games, no video player, file browser… Of course, all these are freely available on Play Store, but this requires investing extra time and knowledge into the matter, as well as putting up with ads in free app versions.

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Auto-correct and spelling suggestions are a bit weaker than in Samsung phones, for example, especially for less popular languages, although this has been addressed in a few updates by now and will continue to be improved on. The dialler and contacts section have remained the same, and the preinstalled e-mail app for accounts other than Gmail was a surprise as well. The camera interface has been changed and takes a while to get used to, but is ultimately more intuitive than before. HDR, panoramic and spherical shooting are completely new features, sure to arouse interest in many users.

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Who is it for?

Without a trace of doubt, Nexus 4 is an excellent update to the Nexus product line. Its powerful hardware enables it to battle it out for the leading position, which is unprecedented for a Nexus device. It may not have LTE support, but the latter hasn’t been that well-received on a global scale anyway. Its other hardware disability, the lack of extension options using micro-SD cards, is close to being a moot point with the 16 GB model. Unfortunately, the phone’s incredible price is turning out to be more of a hurdle than a boost, with serious shortages of the phone across the board. Users in disregarded markets will be forced to seek out a suitable contract with a mobile provider, and we all know who pays the price in such an arrangement.
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All these considerations aside, Nexus 4 is a brilliant device, whose hardware and production quality are comparable to the best money can buy. Its price is more favourable to a certain extent, but ultimately, you’ll have to decide between getting a custom user interface and extra apps on one side or Google simplicity, remarkable optimisation and long-term software support on the other. A remarkable job by both Google and LG, spicing up the high-end Android market even more.