The Nexus program, though it sounds like a Stargate: SG-1 reference, remains to be the shining beacon of everything Android. It's a bright light in a fragmented jungle, and it has given us some stunningly good hardware over the years. From the Nexus One by HTC, right through to the Galaxy Nexus from Samsung, it has been a pretty good run so far. So what should we make of the slightly samey-looking Nexus 4 from LG? More than you'd think, actually.
In a hotel room in the Sydney CBD yesterday, I had the Nexus 4 put in my hand by a lovely fellow from LG, named Josh. The phone he handed me is a 4.7-inch black slab of plastic, emblazoned with the beautiful Nexus logo on the rear in tandem with a curious sparkly pattern on it. It has rounded top and bottom edges like the Galaxy Nexus (sans-sexy curve) and it sacrifices a bit of its screen real estate for on-screen soft keys.
Whites are a little underwhelming on the screen but the blacks are astounding. It still has a slight blue hue that tempered the way I looked at the Galaxy Nexus after a while and it's nowhere near as thin as Samsung's Nexus offering either. It's not packing 4G and it's missing an expandable memory slot. On the surface, it feels like a tragic step backwards for our hero. I was concerned. Little did I know, my concern was as unfounded as they could have ever been.
Josh handed it to me after explaining that under the hood of the Nexus 4 beats the heart of the LG Optimus G, possibly one of the most impressively specced Android handsets I have ever seen.
As we mentioned in our hands-on of the Optimus G, LG wanted to make something that featured the best the company had to offer from its other in-house divisions. The best screens from the TV boffins, the best power from the same team that installs the Holden Volt's batteries and a brain that could power a small planet from Qualcomm.
It runs Android 4.2, which is faster than a bat out of hell and smoother than Sean Connery as James Bond. The results from voice search makes Siri look like a lazy tart and the 2100mAh battery is ready to take on your days and nights without assistance.
This Nexus 4 then is a nuclear bomb, dressed up as a supermodel. A supercomputer, disguised as a smartphone. A Nexus-branded power plant. It's an Android device that you'll buy today and still want in two years. Why? Because with all that power and a design that's not going to look stupid tomorrow, it will still be relevant.
LG's battery technology, for example, promises you 800 battery recharge cycles (up from the typical 500 cycles, it's direct from Google so you'll always get Android updates (eventually) and it's specced like mid-2013 handsets will be.
Surely all this raw beauty and power will set you back around $700, right? Incorrect. From November 13 (hopefully, says LG) you'll be able to snag an 8GB Nexus 4 from Google Play for $349, while the 16GB version will cost you $399. You couldn't even get a brand new Galaxy Nexus for that until about two months ago.
How has LG made it so powerful and so cheap at the same time? Simple: it learnt how to cut costs, not corners, in its recent focus on the pre-paid market. You haven't heard a lot out of LG in the last 12 months in Australia simply because it has been pursuing dominance in the pre-paid space. It has focussed on delivering cheap yet polished Android devices, and in less than 12 months has managed to snag second on the pre-paid sales ladder in Australia behind Samsung. Now that it knows how to make good phones on the cheap, giving it the reins for the next Nexus was a no-brainer for Google, who is all about great, cheap hardware these days. Don't believe me? Check the Nexus 7 price tag again.
The Nexus 4 is seriously impressive, and while it doesn't have any gimmicks going for it like the Galaxy Nexus' curve, the Note's size, the iPhone 5's attention to detail or Sony's design excellence, it's more than worthy to carry the Nexus badge, and it's certainly the best deal you'll get on a handset between now and next this time next year.