February 15, 2013

UPDATED: Nexus 4: Good or bad deal?

Expansion of the previous Nexus 4 article here

On October 29, 2012, Google announced their newest flagship phone - the Nexus 4. I can probably tell what you’re thinking - it’s just another Android phone. With a new phone releasing nearly every month, it’s easy to write off this phone as a “typical Android device”. But this phone isn’t one of those - it’s a Nexus device. Suprisingly, Google opted to use LG as the manufacturer for their Nexus 4 device, instead of Samsung for their previous 2 Nexus phones. It appears here that Google may want to expand the Android ecosystem, and not have to rely as Samsung as the face of all Android devices.

If you didn’t know what the Google Nexus series of devices are, they’re devices designed by Google, but manufactured by companies ranging from ASUS, HTC, LG, and Samsung. That’s not anything too special right? Each of the companies listed produce their own Android device, but what makes the Nexus devices special? Well, Nexus devices usually are released to “launch” a new version of Android, in the case of the Nexus 4, Android 4.2 Jellybean. They also typically receive their updates first, mainly because they run Android, without any company’s UI (For example: HTC Sense) added on top.

Let’s first introduce Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. Android 4.2 builds upon the previous version of Android, 4.1.2 Jelly bean. The incremental update introduces new features such as Photo Sphere, Gesture typing, and an improved Google Now. Photo Sphere allows users to take multiple photos of a location and the software stitches them together a street view like panorama image. It is great to see Google introducing new things that other companies have not done before as a selling point,  instead of using silly gimmicks. Some Android devices include the Swype keyboard, which allows you to drag your finger from characters to “draw” words. Many people have also downloaded applications such as SwiftKey, which has the convenience of predictive text. Gesture typing improves the standard Android keyboard by adding a gesture based swyping method to type, basically replacing the need for Swype and SwiftKey. This makes one hand typing easier and quicker, as you only need one hand to “swype” to the letters on the keyboard and predictive text does the rest. Google Now is the Android version of Siri (iOS’s personal voice assistant) with a more human like voice and faster results (affected by the data speed). 

The Nexus 4 features a 4.7-inch 1280 x 768 IPS Gorilla Glass display, a 1.5 quad-core Snapdragon S4 processor (with 2GB of RAM), a 8-megapixel camera with a 1.3 megapixel front facing camera, and up to 16GB of built in storage. It’s about time Google added a 8 megapixel camera, as the Galaxy Nexus came out last year with a lackluster 5 megapixel camera.Google has taken a page from Apple and has made the back out of glass, specifically Gorilla Glass 2 (let’s hope Apple doesn't sue). The back does look quite magnificent though with the etched layered glass which looks quite sparkly. The Nexus 4 comes with a retail price of $309 (8GB) or $359(16GB) on the Google Play Store. Even with this amazingly low price, it is completely unlocked, without a contract. This means you can use it at any carrier, without a need to sign those $60, 3-year contracts. The Nexus 4 also comes with Miracast and NFC. Miracast allows the phone to connect directly to other devices, like smart TVs, to “screen-share” your phone. NFC allows your phone to share files with other phones with NFC, by using Android Beam, or reading NFC tags. The Nexus 4 also comes with wireless charging capabilities, as you can just put the phone on the included Wireless Charging Orb (similar to PowerMat or the Nokia Lumia 920), and it will charge itself.

Now that we’ve looked at all the good things about the Nexus 4, let’s look at the bad ones. The 16GB of storage is disappointing as many other phones come with expandable memory and at least 32GB of internal memory. The previous generation Nexus devices such as the Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus S have always used 16GB of internal memory and no expandable memory. It would have been nice for Google to introduce a 32GB version of this phone, but they might just do that a few months later, like they did with the Nexus 7. Sadly enough, there is no LTE (100Mbps) support with the Nexus 4, but Google did end up releasing a LTE version of the Galaxy Nexus months after its release, so if LTE is important to you, and you like this phone, wait a few months. Even with no LTE, the phone still has HSPA+ which is still 4G (only up to 42 Mbps). A major downside of this phone is the fact that the battery is non-replaceable, which may be a concern in the long run. However, this phone does not lock you to a contract, so upgrading your phone if and when it dies won’t be too much of a problem, but let’s hope it’s a few years from now.

UPDATE (25 November 2012 7:34 PM EST): It appears that many early adopters of this phone have reported issues with the earpiece, which is the source of buzzing or clicking noises, even when the phone is not in use. Other users report that the sound quality during calls is bad, including "static and hissing". At the time of writing, 127 users have commented on this Android thread, with 133 stars as well.

UPDATE (25 November 2012 7:47 PM EST): There is information that the Nexus 4 has a LTE radio and it can be activated through the system self test menu. This work for phone working with Canadian carrier Telus while users on Rogers will have to add an APN to use the LTE on this phone. Learn how to enable LTE on your Nexus 4 device Here.

UPDATE (15 February 2012 9:53 PM EST): It appears that, with the Android 4.2.2 update, Google has removed unofficial support for 4G LTE. (Source: Anandtech)

As we’ve seen, the Google Nexus 4 starts at a very low price point, $309 CAD, comes with many amazing features, but you, the end-user, loses some in the process. So, you've got to decide for yourself. Are LTE, expendable memory, and a replaceable battery important to you? If they are, then the Nexus 4 might not the phone for you. Otherwise, this phone has high-end parts, for a low-end price, with the newest technologies, and unlocked directly from the Google Play Store.

Co-written by Spike.

Martin Tam is an editor and the Director of Video Production at [blank]’s Universe. He is also a technology enthusiast that particularly enjoys computers and photography. He enjoys breaking things and sleeping in his spare time.