I’ve been using a Nexus 4 for a month now as my primary phone, so I figured I’d drop some thoughts. Read on if you like, if not I won’t be offended.
Since I jumped to Android from iOS in 2010, I’ve carried the original HTC EVO 4G and the Wimax Nexus S. I’ve also played around with the original Droid, the GSM Nexus S and a couple Android tablets, the original Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
After messing around with mods on the EVO, I decided to stick with Nexus devices, and when the Galaxy Nexus launched last year, I decided not to switch, given that the Nexus S was still fairly new and would be getting ICS.
By this year, I had Jelly Bean on the S, but the hardware was showing its age, so I watched the coverage of the Nexus 4 and eventually decided to ignore all the hand-wringing about its lack of LTE and endorse Google’s second attempt to disrupt the carrier market by providing an unlocked phone.
So, the timing was right because I needed (ahem, wanted) a new phone.
I wasn’t lucky enough to get one in the first batch, but after many refreshes and much perseverance, I did snag finally snag one in the second release.
Hardware and Network
The Nexus 4 is a phenomenal piece of hardware, beautiful and fast as lightning, thanks to its quad-core processor. I decided to splurge on the 16 GB version due to the lack of SD card storage, another hand-wringing bullet point for many bloggers.
Probably the only really detrimental aspect of the hardware is its glass back, which has already broken for many, including Friend of the ‘Lab, Tim Hall (@oraclebase). Glass on the back of a phone is a recipe for disaster, and I’m resigned to the fact that mine will eventually break. I just hope it won’t shred my hands, given how anti-case I am.
I’m not a fan of encumbrances in general, so I prefer phones that I can pocket. The Nexus 4 fits in my back pocket, but it makes for some awkward sitting. And there’s always that glass back problem to consider. The device is also impossibly thin, and I worry that I might snap it in half if I plunk down on a hard surface, which has the makings of a fun story about glass shards in dark places.
So, I find myself taking it out when I’m sitting, which inevitably means I’ll leave it somewhere. Fingers crossed that it will be found by nice people. If you see me out in the world and find my phone, thanks in advance.
Other than the obscene amount of glass, the device has rubberized edges and a monstrous 4.7″ screen with 1280 x 768 resolution, which is beautiful but makes one-handed operation nigh impossible, unless you have pro-athlete sized hands. Of course, handling this phone with one hand is a drop-disaster waiting to happen anyway. See the too-much-glass issue.
One odd quirk is that the Nexus 4 ships without a SIM card, due to its unlocked nature. Not a big deal, but I got some interesting looks when I went to AT&T and asked for a SIM.
Despite all the moaning about no-LTE, more on that in a minute, I’ve had consistently good, not great, speeds on AT&T’s HSPA+ network, a little slower than the Wimax speeds I had on the Sprint Nexus S, but definitely faster than 3G. Honestly, since speed is an aggregate, I think the quad-core monster may be making it feel faster by comparison.
I would share them, but for some reason, running a speedtest on the phone redirects me to Kansas or Tennessee as the nearest server.
Back to LTE, a teardown reveals that the Nexus 4 does have an LTE radio, and some Canadian hackers managed to get it working. Not a recommended hack now, but I’m sure similar hacks will surface as the device gets into enterprising hands.
Finally, there’s the battery, the bane of all Android phones. Before I finally switched, my Nexus S was fully draining in 6-8 hours of light use, even using Juice Defender’s aggressive setting. Not good.
So, by comparison, the Nexus 4 has good battery life; I’m getting about 36 hours of light use with JD’s balanced setting. Even so, heavy use drains the battery quickly, so I never travel without car and outlet adapters. Not ideal, and given that the battery is glued to the frame, I expect this to be an issue within a year of use.
The Nexus 4 ships with Jelly Bean, Android 4.2. I don’t know know why Google iterated the version number, but not the name, i.e. there are two releases of Jelly Bean, 4.1 and 4.2. Nexus devices are the only ones rocking 4.2 for now.
Ever since ICS, Android 4.0, I’ve thought that Android had parity with iOS, aesthetically and functionally, and the Jelly Bean releases have incrementally improved, thanks to features like Google Now, which is spooky good.
Like all Android devices, setup is a breeze. As soon as I connected with my Google account, apps and setup came raining down from the almighty cloud. There are some oddities, e.g. I had to install some apps, but for the most part, it’s always been easy to switch between Android devices.
There were some data on the device, that required a bit of extra effort. For pictures and videos, I plugged the Nexus S into my Mac, copied the camera directory over, then plugged in the Nexus 4 and copied that directory onto the internal storage. All that media now shows up on the Nexus 4.
For my call and text logs, I used My Backup Pro, a handy little app, to copy them over the Nexus 4.
So, that it. I’ve been very happy with the Nexus 4, and given the scarcity problems LG and Google have had, it’s made for a nice showpiece when I meet nerds like me who care about devices.
One coda, I kinda wish I’d seen this Nexus 7 as a phone experiment before I made the jump. The Nexus 7 is a sweet device, and as the author mentions, if you go big screen, you might as well go all the way. The big issue for me would be the lack of a phone app, although I think Google Voice or Skype could meet that need.
It’s an interesting experiment that I might try the next time I switch. Although who knows what will be available in a year or two.
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