It’s only a matter of time till the LG Nexus 4 becomes the go-to device for anyone looking for a high-end droid without having to break the bank. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus arrived in our grey markets early this year for a similar price at which LG’s Nexus 4 is retailing right now. Within a span of five months, the price was down by 35 percent which stands to reason that given a few more months, the Nexus 4's price should easily drop well under the 30K mark. If LG finally does decide to launch it officially, then we could have it for that very same price along with warranty. This then begs the question – will the Nexus 4 be the best bang-for-buck droid in the market? Is there even any need to look elsewhere when Google’s very own flagship is retailing for such a low price?
We take a look at the specifications one by one and see how much better or worse it is when pitted against some of the top dogs in the market. We’ll also compare it to some of the upcoming handsets in the market which will inevitably be its competition very soon.
OS – Always the latest flavour from Google
One of the biggest perks of owning a Nexus device is the first-class treatment you get in terms of OS updates. Majority of high-end Android handsets in the market don’t come with the latest version and are always tainted by some ‘enhancement’ from their end. By the time those updates make it those handsets, Google would have already issued newer updates, or worst, a brand new version altogether—and then you’re left playing the waiting game. The Nexus 4, like the Galaxy Nexus and even the Nexus S, will always be up to date with the newest version of Android, so you’ll always be ahead of the curb.
Always up to date
Cellular network – Quad-band GSM and 3G support
The Nexus 4 does not have LTE support, which could be a big downer for some. 2013 is the year when 4G will finally hit India in a big way, and companies like Airtel and Reliance have already started laying the groundwork for this new high-speed network. The Lumia 920 is said to support nine 4G bands in India, which leaves the Nexus 4 looking a bit dated. Other than this, the Nexus 4 is on par with most other high-end smartphones with quad-band GSM and 3G support, so you can use this practically anywhere in the world. It’s still not as complete as the iPhone 5, which has support for CDMA as well, but good enough.
Display – 4.7-inch HD IPS with Corning Gorilla Glass 2
A 4.7-inch, the display is borderline comfortable as anything beyond it becomes a task to manage. Galaxy Note users (both I and II) will tell you that it’s not so bad, but that’s only because they’ve had to get accustomed to the size and not because it is comfortable. The most comfortable size, however, continues to be between 4 to 4.3-inches for most. The HD resolution on the Nexus 4 leaves you with a pixel count of 318ppi, which is very good for viewing text, images, video and pretty much anything. The handset also has a glass back, just like the iPhone 4/4S. The IPS display also makes for very good viewing angles and accurate colour reproduction as compared to AMOLEDs and is right up there with the iPhone 5, which features a 326ppi IPS display.
Form factor and weight – Comfortably light at 139g
The Nexus 4 is one of the lightest smartphones in the market only to be bested by the iPhone 5 and the S III. I for one find it a little bit too light for comfort and still prefer the slight heft of the Galaxy Nexus over this. This the very same reason the iPhone 5 didn’t ‘feel’ as premium compared to the 4 and 4S.
Fits snugly in your hand
Wi-Fi – Dual-band, 802.11 ‘n’
The Nexus 4 supports the highest 802.11 spec commonly found in smartphone and you even get dual-band Wi-Fi. This means you have the option of connecting to the much faster 5GHz band, provided you have a compatible router.
SoC– Qualcomm APQ8064 quad-core
The Nexus 4 is one of the only devices to sport this brand new chipset from Qualcomm. This belongs to its S4 Pro series of chipsets and the “APQ” refers to the lack of any baseband in the SoC itself as compared to its “MSM” prefixed SoCs. Handsets that will feature this new SoC include the upcoming BlackBerry Aristo, Sony Yuga, HTC Butterfly and the Asus Padfone 2. As for how it fares against the current crop of high-end smartphones, well, this screen grab from AnTuTu speaks volumes. Another neat feature of the SoC is the ability of the CPU to scale to 1.7GHz from the stock 1.5GHz when only a single core is used.
One of the most powerful handsets currently in the market
The only real competition right now is Nvidia’s upcoming 28nm chips codenamed ‘Wayne’ and ‘Grey’. Both will feature four Coretex-A15 CPU cores (plus one companion core) and a next-gen GeForce GPU. Grey will also have integrated basebands for 3G and LTE. Both these chipsets should make their way into handsets that will most likely be unveiled during the MWC 2013.
Storage – Limited to 8GB or 16GB
The biggest drawback of the Nexus 4 – and by that, all Nexus devices – is the lack of expandable memory. We understand that these handsets are primarily aimed at developers, but would it really kill Google to make a microSD slot compulsory? The Nexus 4 maxes out at 16GB, which is just about enough for the average user, but if you’re going to be shooting a lot of 1080p videos, then you might find yourself running out of space pretty quickly.
Bluetooth – v4.0 with A2DP
Bluetooth is on par with all the other high-end handsets in the market, so you should be good for the next few years.
NFC – Yes
NFC seems like it’s going to only get bigger next year and like the Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus before it, the Nexus 4 also supports it. This also enables you to use the Android Beam feature for sharing content between two Nexus devices.
Video-out – MHL
While we would have liked to see HDMI, MHL is still good enough. Honestly, I don’t think this is a very big deal since most people would just use DLNA to stream stuff onto their TV.
Primary Camera – 8MP BSI sensor
The new BSI sensor is a huge improvement over the previous Nexus device, but it’s still no match for some of the bigwigs like the Lumia 920. Still, for the price, it’s much better than having a non-BSI sensor. We’ve tested the camera against its predecessor and the results speak for themselves. You can have a look at the results right here in our camera showdown with the Galaxy Nexus.
Huge improvement thanks to the BSI sensor
Front camera – 1.3MP
A 1.3MP front facing camera is good enough for video calls but is still far behind the one fitted onto the HTC Windows Phone 8X. That handset has a 2MP front camera with an aperture value of f/2.0, which is pretty outstanding.
Sensors – Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer
The Nexus 4 has all the sensors one would expect from a high-end smartphone, including a barometer. This is used to detect a change in atmospheric pressure so that you are be able to get quicker and more location-specific updates to weather rather than having to rely on geo-location. This will also reserve your battery life as the app or weather widget won’t have to look up online each time it has to refresh the information.
GPS – GLONASS and GPS
GLONASS is the new radio-based satellite navigation system operated by the Russian Aerospace Defence Forces. This is a separate chip that needs to be in a smartphone and complements your existing GPS ship. Think of it as a “dual-core” for satellite navigation. Where you once had a single chip that relied on a certain number of satellites for location triangulation, the second chip adds support for even more satellites so that you get a fix on your location a lot quicker; it is a lot more accurate too.
Glass back for a more premium feel
FM Radio – No
There’s no analogue radio chip in the Nexus 4, sadly, so you can’t get your local radio the traditional way. There is a work around for this like Spirit FM Radio, which lets you stream your local radio shows.
Battery – Li-Po 2100mAh
This is a decently-sized battery given the size of the phone, which should give you around a day's worth of usage. Handsets like the Galaxy Note II will always be superior here, but that’s only because it has a larger battery. The smaller fabricated Qualcomm SoC should also help in delivering better numbers as compared to the competition.
The bottom line
When the price of the Nexus 4 settles to sane levels, this could be one of the best phones to buy on a budget. It has all the hardware to make it a future proof device for a few years. The Nexus 4 certainly won’t be the best phone out there when that happens, but for the price, it will be very hard to beat. Just like the Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus 4 has all the ingredients to be a success and could be the handset that saves LG from the slump it’s been in lately with regards to global handset sales. It’s also one of the most powerful handsets in the market as well, so if numbers are the only thing that matter to you, then there’s another reason to get it.