Google Nexus 4 Hands-On: Lovely, But Where Is 4G LTE?

Google Nexus 4 Hands-On: Lovely, But Where Is 4G LTE?

Google’s newest platonic ideal of Android Phoneness is here, and it is maybe the most powerful smartphone you’ve ever held. The software is terrific — the newest, most refined Android ever. But why the hell, in pretty much November 2012, does it not have LTE?

Look and Feel

  • There’s nothing special about the feel of the Nexus 4. It’s of average weight, of no remarkable thinness, and has a 4.7-inch screen, which I suppose is the new normal. It’s about as comfortable as a phone of this size can be.
  • The 1280×768 IPS display is beautiful, crisp and accurate. Pixels aren’t perceptible. What else do you want? That’s all you should want.
  • Every square centimetre of the Nexus 4 is glossy. I can imagine slippage being a problem, particularly with a phone of this… girth.
  • The back is handsome with a plain Nexus logo and a dazzling sparkle finish that makes the whole thing look like a disco ceiling when held at certain angles. It’s alternately fun and super-tacky. I like it.
  • The new clock app is beautiful. So beautiful. Beautiful without looking like anything else, and a snap to set an alarm or record a new lap time.
  • The side bezels are decently thin. Nothing spectacular.

Using It

  • The Nexus 4 — presented as Google’s vision of the best of all possible Android phone worlds — doesn’t have LTE. And it will never have LTE. I asked Google if it expects anyone to buy this phone when virtually all of the competition (even the laggard iPhone 5) now packs the speediest connection. Google didn’t offer much of an answer beyond pointing to how much of a pain it was to make international LTE versions of the Galaxy Nexus, claiming that LTE wasn’t a big deal to most people outside of “us techies”, and pointing to other purportedly cool features of the Nexus 4, like wireless charging. Right. This is a giant letdown, and a baffling oversight. Unless you live in a rural area or just don’t care about mobile data, I can’t imagine spending money on a brand new phone that doesn’t have LTE. There’s no good technical reason why this couldn’t have happened, and it’s really enough to disqualify the Nexus 4 from recommendation — or at least give you major pause.
  • Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is identical to the previous version of Jelly Bean in almost every single way — simply, if you’re acquainted with the previous Nexus, you’ll have no trouble scooping up the Nexus 4.
  • Not that the Galaxy Nexus was any slouch, but LG’s Nexus is probably the snappiest Android handset I’ve ever used. And with a quad-core processor and 2GB of memory inside, it has no excuse not to be.
  • The touchscreen is perfectly responsive — zero lag. This is probably the single most important quality in a screen.
  • Camera image quality seems decent — indoor photos offered more noise than you’d find with an iPhone, but the camera interface on 4.2 is absolutely super.
  • Apps load near-instantly — with the exception of some books stuttering when I tried rifling through their pages as fast as possible. But that’s not something you’re actually ever going to do.
  • Google Gestures, Google’s Swype clone, is fantastic. Even short words are picked up with zero error, and a preview of the currently predicted floats along with your fingertip. This is as good as every ripped-off feature should be — better than the original.
  • Photo Sphere, Google’s Photosynth clone, works splendidly. In short: move your phone all around you — up, down, side to side — and create a Street View-style, zoomable, scrollable image dome. You can share it with a friend who is also on Android 4.2 or add it to Google Maps.
  • Google’s Siri Clone (that’s much better than Siri) now answers your voice questions with answers culled from website consensus. Example: “How old is Buzz Aldrin?” The answer (82!) will come up, perhaps with extra contextual info (a la Wikipedia bio). And like a diligent student, Jelly Bean 4.2 cites its sources, telling you which websites it scanned to give you that answer.
  • Wireless charging is very neat! The orb’s surface has a grippy quality to it, which means you can slap down your phone and it won’t slide off. Charging begins within a second of contact between the two surfaces.