LG Nexus 4 Australian Review: If Only Android Was Always This Good

The Nexus 4 is the unassuming fourth album in the Google-certified smartphone master collection that is the Nexus program. It's part of a larger ecosystem this time around, alongside the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets. Google is looking for a hat-trick after success with the Nexus 7. Is this another Google slam dunk?

What Is It?

When Google wants to carve out a new Nexus, it finds hardware from a third-party manufacturer in the form factor it likes, and takes the bare bones of the device to rework it into something more fitting.

This time Google has selected LG and its Optimus G for the Nexus line honours. Despite a design overhaul, the Nexus 4 isn't all that different to the Optimus G when you get down to it.

The 4.7-inch black rectangle is still running a quad-core 1.5Ghz Snapdragon processor, only without the integrated 4G support; it's still packing 2GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel camera and Gorilla Glass for added protection. The screen is beautiful at 1280x768 True HD IPS Plus and 318 ppi and it runs Android 4.2 for added smoothness and power.

The only differences come in the storage available on-board — Nexus 4 has 8GN and 16GB versions whereas the Optimus has 32GB — and the weight — 139 grams for the Nexus 4 while the Optimus G tips in at 145 grams.

What's Good


The Nexus 4 is fairly bland to look at despite the subtle sparkle pattern, but where this thing really hits its mark is power.

This is one of the most powerful Android devices on the market right now, making mincemeat of the competition. It clocks in with a Geekbench score of 2115, making it more powerful than an Intel Core 2 Duo MacBook Air (2009), gruntier than the Nexus 7's quad-core Tegra 3 processor and don't even mention the iPhone.

The only device that outperforms it on raw power is the Nexus 10 tablet built by Samsung, which clocks in with a score of 2356. Compare these two devices to the closest-ranked Android devices and you end up at the Galaxy Note II which packs a score of 1941. This new phone really is a superweapon with a Nexus logo.

The phone is solid but not too heavy and I actually quite like the subtle sparkles on the rear of the device.

Android 4.2 is a welcome addition to the new Nexus, too. It's smoother than ever and it really feels as if our little Android is growing up into the operating system we want it to be after all this time.

New additions in Android 4.2 include Google Gestures, which is Mountain View's answer to Swype. The speed difference between actually lifting your finger to type and Gesturing is minimal, but out of the box, Google has managed to create a smarter, smoother, more manageable one-touch type experience than Swype ever could be. Google Gestures tries to guess the words you're writing and when it can't figure it out, you have the option to teach it so it doesn't foul up next time. It's super-smooth and very intelligent to use.


Google has continued to make modifications to the Notifications pane, too. Android 4.2 features a flipping Notifications pane that makes setting things like Wi-Fi hotspots, screen brightness and Airplane Mode really easy.

Android 4.2 also puts Voice Search onto the device. This means that your queries are answered faster than ever because the phone knows what you're saying without having to ping Google via a data network to double check. That's going to help both the time you spend searching and the cash you spend on a data plan.

The camera is beefed up with a new panorama mode called Photo Sphere that makes an interactive, 3D landscape of what you're looking at. It's a little strange in some areas but it's still one of the cooler ways to make a great looking landscape to share with your friends.

The Gallery app also has a new editing function that lets you filter your images, Instagram-style.

On top of all these goodies, Android 4.2 is also faster, smoother and more usable than ever.

The Nexus 4 also rings up at a crackingly good price. Something like this you could expect to pay in the realm of $800 for, but Google is trying to stitch up the bottom end of the market and get these out the door for cheap. That means in Australia, you can expect to pay $349 for the 8GB model and $399 for the 16GB model. That's absurdly good value. Is it any wonder they all sold out in minutes?

What's Bad?

The Nexus 4 is such a great phone that it's tough to find fault with it. I only found two issues that put me off, one of which has a very sensible explanation.

First, the most obvious downside: the lack of 4G/LTE support. 4G isn't an omission that Google has done lightly though.

On the surface you might think it's a way to keep costs down, and while it probably is helping the Nexus 4 to that all important $349, it's not the primary reason. Google actually omitted 4G from the Nexus 4 to keep the world on an even playing field.

When Google released the Galaxy Nexus it built with Samsung, it was sold through carriers. That meant bespoke hardware and software versions had to ship all over the world. That made updating the device a massive chore. It's part of the reason that the device still doesn't have Android 4.1 Jelly Bean.

Google wanted to fix its mistake this time around and instead decided to sell the hardware via the Play Store rather than saddle it to carriers, and it also opted for simple hardware and software so that it didn't have to reinvent the wheel every time the device needed an update.

3G is a global wireless network standard, whereas 4G/LTE runs on different frequencies all over the world. By speccing the handset lower, it made it easy for Google to sell everywhere at once and keep updated.

Sure it's bad that it doesn't pack 4G, but that's not Google's fault.

The only other issue I found with the device was with the SIM tray. The eject slot on the device isn't flat, it's all jagged and torn up. It's easy enough to sand down, but taking your new phone into the shed for a tune up isn't something you should have to do on day one.

This Is Weird...

When we pulled the device out of the box and fired it up, we were disappointed with the screen. I was just about ready to write the device off because of it, but upon investigation, it's not all bad. The Chrome and Camera shortcut icons in the bottom tray look like junk, but when you delve further into the device, the screen rights itself and looks as beautiful as ever. Whites are white and colours are deep and vibrant.

We suspect that the weird vertical icon grain visible is the fault of lower resolution icons rather than a lower resolution screen. It's tough to describe in text, but go and have a look at the device for yourself (if you can) before spending your cash if this is something that has you concerned.

Should You Buy It?

The Nexus 4 is the confirmation we were all waiting for that Google is now building phones to a price point. Rather than have the best of everything on the one device, Google is picking its battles. With all of the new Nexus devices from LG, Asus and Samsung (Nexus 4, 7 and 10), Google is loading devices up to the nines with power while stripping out the elements that drive up price like heavy metal bodies and super-bright screens. This isn't a bad thing, though.

The benefit of this corner cutting is cheap handsets that are lowering the floor-price of amazing smartphones. By competing on price and power, Google is stitching up the market and making it better for the rest of us to buy phones. Sooner or later, we're going to demand lower prices from all manufacturers as a result.

The Nexus 4 is unassuming. It's not flamboyant and despite the sparkly cover, it's not outrageous either. It looks like just a run-of-the-mill black rectangle. It's what's inside this discreet enclosure though that makes it the silent killer. It's not a device you buy when you want to show off. Instead, it's the phone you buy when you want something that's still going to be incredibly relevant in two-years time.

The Nexus program was started to give developers and customers the best that Google had to offer, and nothing has ever been truer to that original mission than the Nexus 4. It's the perfect Android device.


Comments

    "Rather than have the best of everything on the one device, Google is picking its battles."
    But it pretty much DOES have the best of everything!
    Why not include the LTE antenna for those areas of the world that have suitable LTE?
    Sure, don't advertise the fact, but why have the hardware and not use it all for an antenna that costs fractions or perhaps nothing extra at all?

      +1. Saying that Google chose it battles by not including 4G/LTE doesn't make sense. If other phone manufacturers can do it, what's stopping LG/Google from doing it?

      Maybe they want to keep the cost of the phone down hence the omission of 4G/LTE?

      The Verge has a better explanation of the 4G/LTE omission.

      http://www.theverge.com/2012/10/29/3569688/why-nexus-4-does-not-have-4g-lte

      They could have included LTE no problems. LG are already doing it for the Optimus G.

      There's a weird argument about requiring licenses from carriers in order to implement which is just BS, look at the phones on sales at Mobicity that will run on LTE networks in Australia, they're not licensed. Sure it might be a US thing, but why punish the rest of the world for the faults of the US networks?

      Look at the new Lumia for example, LTE that will work in most places in the world, the only location specific device they had to make was for ATT in the USA.

      Stuff the yanks, give everyone else 4G!

    is it me, or does it look like the Nexus photos were taken on the same day as the LG optimus? (or at least the guy is wearing the same shirt :) )
    http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2012/11/lg-optimus-g-australian-hands-on-wish-you-were-here/

      I rotate my work clothes around the same few tops....so no surprises seeing the same shirt twice on someone at work really.

      Given it's based around the Optimus G, and there's the same big hulking cruise ship in the background, it would make sense that they went over both on the same day.

    At that price, you just buy it regarldess of 'issues'. It's $400 for god's sake. I hate Android and I'm tempted to buy one simply because it's so ridiculously cheap.

      Can you buy me one then, after all its sooo cheap.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but the Galaxy Nexus does have android 4.1 does it not?

      It's now got an Android 4.2 Update too!!! But still no match for Nexus 4... :)

        But it's still runs like a dream and has all of the features. Only issues is with random lockups, but they're rare :)

        Last edited 21/11/12 2:04 pm

      Google launched it in July, but Telstra still don't have an ETA for the update. So yes it's out, but you can't get it here without using non-standard methods.

      Not if you bought it from an Australian carrier, which would be the "T" variant of the phone running yakjudv instead of plain yakju. The updates for the yakju** devices are sent by Samsung, and they are playing sillybuggers and not sending the update to the Australian carriers for testing.

    just got mine delivered by Fedex today......it is a beautiful piece of hardware.....bye bye iPhone 4S...

    No comment on the smaller storage space Luke?

      It's smaller.

      There.

        Lame... I think its pretty damn important. Technology isn't supposed to go.backwards

          A lot of people don't require the extra storage but still want a fast phone, so I'm happy they've kept the price down, 16GB is heaps for me. I guess you can't please everyone.

            Sd card slot costs nothing and makes everyone happy.... Google us just pushing their cloud service

      It's also looking like the Slimport USB can't function as a powered USB host controller meaning no OTG support on a hardware level. Still to be confirmed though.

    Today I checked out Nexus 4 display model at the local T-Mobile and I can tell you that this is the most beautiful device I have ever seen.

    Nice story. It does have a few cons but hey, not every smartphone is perfect. In fact, no high-end smartphone is perfect. And this is a high-end smartphone at mid-level pricing which is AMAZING! So this device is definitely gonna create a benchmark in the Current Smartphone Era. And this is the beginning of a new generation of smartphones which are gonna create their own name without bearing outrageous price tags. Best PLAY from GOOGLE!!!

    So.... it's completely unremarkable except for the "HD+" screen, raw power, price and software? Isn't there *anything* actually special about the device itself?

    Not that there's anything wrong with that, BTW, especially for $400. :P

      good specs for low price
      wireless charging...
      stock android without touchwiz, sense, or carrier specific crap

      I guess Luke is just saying that there's no specific standout feature, like the Lumia 920's 'pureview' camera, or the iPhone's whatever they have. I'd argue that the price is truly outstanding, but it's not exactly a feature of the device.

      Yes, it's completely unremarkable except for all of those remarkable things you mentioned.

        "Yes, it's completely unremarkable including all of those incremental improvements you mentioned."

        FTFY :P

      Yes other than everything that makes a smartphone a smartphone it's completely unremarkable, like it won't make your coffee in the morning.

    LTE isn't necessary IMO. if you can get a good HSDPA connection you're going to be able to almost instantly pull down websites or update social apps within seconds... and anything bigger should be done over wi- fi unless you enjoy monstrous excess data charges!

    wish this had more capacity or an SD card slot though. i'd stab someone today for one if it did.

      I swear I saw the exact same post last year after the iPhone 4S launch...

      It's been said before.... But, most days I's be happy to just get a good 3g signal!
      4g is not likely to be rolled out to my area for a couple of years yet.

    Shut up and take my... oh yeah. I really hope they get more stock soon!

    If only I could actually buy one, or had any idea when google would have any stock!

    Hey Luke I'm desperately looking for one of these to get me out of this iLife I'm stuck in. Interested in selling? Pretty Please... :)

    Last edited 19/11/12 3:00 pm

    2 things:
    1) You spent 4 paragraphs talking about cpu mark scores... Who cares, its a phone. It doesnt need 4 cores. Your average game/application wont utilize this. Especially with the general lower quality apps from the market place, you can almost guarentee most apps are coded to use a single thread. Unless its something graphics intensive, then your really after extra GPU cores not CPU cores.
    2) I bet if this was an article about an Apple device not including 4G, half of the article would be bitching about the lack of 4G.

    Somehow it used to be Apple lovers thought their shit didnt stink, now i think the tables have turned and Android lovers behave more and more like this...

      I can think of one very good reason why multicore phones are a good thing; the cumulative power draw from several lightly loaded cores is usually less than from one heavily loaded core.

        Your right. On one condition, that previously the system was struggling to complete its "processing" in a timely fashion. Most dual core phones operate perfectly, they run games and apps great.

        If you could automagically flick a switch that disabled half the cores in a dual core phone, then chances are the power usage would drop, and the affect that the user feels would be minimal if any! Especially when you not actually running an app.

    The good - everything.

    the bad - out of stock!!!!!!!!! WHY GOD WHYYYYYYYY

    @lukehopewell
    Nice review Luke. Is it a complete review?
    You didn't mention the lack of expandable memory or the wireless charging.

    I know 16GB is enough for some people, but if you use your 8MP camera, record in 1080p, store music for "on the go", download Maps for navigation when overseas, 16GB runs out very quickly. That's not to mention having a few game apps here and there, perhaps a backup using something like Titanium Backup Pro...
    I know some of this stuff can be solved with cloud storage, but we all know how expensive mobile data can be, and uploading via 3G is quite slow.

    As for wireless charging. Why is no one talking about this. Finally a flagship devices has built in wireless charging. I've been waiting for this for years. The lack of a removable battery can be annoying but I think there is a hard reset "paper clip" button.
    No removable battery also means the SIM card is in a silly little external tray which is pretty average apparently.

    The storage is really the only thing holding me back on this phone. It looks like an awesome device but I believe I would struggle with only 16Gb.
    Make a 32GB version or one with 32GB SD card support and TAKE MY MONEY!

      Well if the Nexus 7 is anything to go by, I reckon they'll have a 32GB version before too long. Not a bad play, because it draws in the early adopters that aren't too fussed about the lower storage capacity, then everyone else can jump aboard when those concerns have been allayed with a higher capacity model...

        Yeah that would be good. It would have to be internal storage because an SD slot would be a hardware change.
        I'm looking forward to picking up a Nexus 7 when the 3G support comes along.

        That's your assumption that they're going to release a 32gb one. Would you be holding out waiting if you didn't know when they'll be releasing one?

          Nope, I'll be buying the 16GB... once it's back in stock =)
          That being said, I'd probably still hold out if I wanted the 32GB, because I can't see any handsets coming onto the market in the next month or two that are comparable when it comes to specs-to-price ratio, so there's not really much to lose in waiting for a bit...

      I agree, my 32gb iPhone 4 was full to the brim with music, apps, photos and videos. I had to delete 50 apps to upgrade to iOS6, and its nearly full again.

      32gb is the bare minimum for a device i would get nowadays, unless it had SD expansion.

      Amen to that. It's the sole reason I didn't get one immediately.

      Hoping for a 32GB version soon, but that didn't work with the Galaxy Nexus....

        even my 64GB 4s is not enough, once you have photos, videos in it, specially when you have a new born :D

        Everyday you take pic of the baby or video. I really hope the next phone will have 128 GB (as I could see Samsung already developing one for mobile phone)

        32 GB of this phone will be great, I will snap one up for my wife... so she can get rid of her Blackberry LOL

    I'd say the fact that the phone is faster than a laptop that is only 3 years old (and pretty much every other smartphone out there for that matter) is pretty important.

    As for your second point, Apple constantly market themselves as "the best". So an omission of 4G would be a pretty big thing to miss.
    However in this instance, as Luke points out, Google's current goal doesn't seem to be the complete best overall. Rather they're trying to push out as many competitive products as they can at the lowest price point.

      "I'd say the fact that the phone is faster than a laptop that is only 3 years old (and pretty much every other smartphone out there for that matter) is pretty important."

      It should be noted though that the ARM CPU's used in phones aren't really comparable to the Intel-based CPU's found in many laptops.

      I'd say that the fact that other testing says that the phone doesn't even come close to taking advantage of its processor means that focusing on one pointless spec is pretty unimportant. The benchmarks in anandtech's review http://www.anandtech.com/show/6440/google-nexus-4-review/3 have the Galaxy S3 and HTC One X slapping it around while the iPhone 5 stomps on its head.

      "I'd say the fact that the phone is faster than a laptop that is only 3 years old (and pretty much every other smartphone out there for that matter) is pretty important."

      Why? Will Adobe CS6 work better on my smartphone than on my 3 year old laptop? Will MS Office open faster? I'm guessing the answer is "no".

        Exactly. Your phone does not need this sort of processing power. 95% of the smart phone user base wont even know what a core is, let alone give two shits if you told them this one has 4 over other devices which have 2... Its a useless spec, hence why most smart marketing teams try to not use it...

        @thundaja you prove my point exactly. Its okay for everyone else to leave out something like 4G. But you have just said, it would be wrong if Apple didn't include. Being the best doesnt mean it has 4G.

        I'm mearly trying to get across the point if this was Apple releasing a device at this point in time, without 4G, it would be like a witch hunt... Its easy to hate, thats all im saying.

    I'm thinking about getting one of these for my wife, as she wants an Android phone to have apps on it to keep our 2 1/2 year old daughter entertained. But the glass back of the N4 is worrying me a little, as a 2 1/2 year old is sometimes prone to dropping phone-shaped objects.

    Is this thing going to shatter into a million pieces if it gets dropped?

      Other reviewers have mentioned inadvertantly dropping it, but none mentioned it breaking. I think its soft edge makes it a bit more tolerant of impacts than the old Apple exposed glass edges design. But any design with only one glass side is going to be tougher.

        The Verge did a review of it. "While testing the phone, I accidentally knocked the device off of my dining table and onto a hardwood floor... cracking the glass on the back."

    How can you say "Sure it’s bad that it doesn’t pack 4G, but that’s not Google’s fault." If Apple can do it why can't Google? I was hanging out to buy this phone, but I won't because of lack of LTE.

      I think he meant "It was too much of a hassle for Google". You know, having to maintain two or three builds of its software instead of one.

    Can I just stop everyone for a moment here to think about what the reaction would be if the iPhone 5 did not have LTE? I highly doubt it would be "not apples fault". Why is it okay from one manufacturer and not from another?

      I had reservations about this phone too. No expandable storage, no LTE, and fixed battery.

      Then I saw the price.

        That price.

    "Should you buy it?"
    Yes.
    "Can you buy it?"
    No. Well, you could for about 22 minutes a week-or-so-ago, but... No.

    As WP fanboi, this phone looks great.
    Unless you live within 20km of CBD, 4G is a little pointless to have (according to the 4G network map for Sydney, correct me if I'm wrong) as you wouldnt have coverage.
    As good as this looks, I'll still be grabbing my Lumina 920 outright when Telstra finally get them back in stock

    I don't buy that justification for lack of 4G at all. They could have just asked for what location you are from. I can buy direct from other manufacturers and get a 4G device that works locally, how is this device any different? Add to that that 3G bands are not universal either.

    I realise many people can live without 4G, but the review makes it sound like Google has done everyone a favour by omitting it or something or that they couldn't have included it purely because they are selling direct. Had they sold to carriers, nothing would have changed so far as what hardware was needed to be provided where.

    Last edited 19/11/12 7:20 pm

    No LTE is a joke in today's market.

    There is no excuse for this on a flagship device.

      only a handful of handsets actually have 4G in this country.

      also the network is limited to Metro areas and 4G rinses the battery.

      how is it any loss?

Join the discussion!

Trending Stories Right Now