Nexus 4 Australian Hands-On: Don't Judge This Book By Its Sparkly Cover

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.


    This phone looks amazing and runs amazingly. LG really did a great job cutting costs.
    ALSO Android 4.2 is NOT Key Lime Pie!

    What did you think of the battery life? That's the only thing that has me hesitating to get one on Nov. 13.

      Also wanting more info on this as it's so far the only major negative I've heard. My current phone has pretty amazing battery life while nearly two years old and I don't want a downgrade or even to stay the same - I want something good :)

      2100mAh, that is a pretty serious battery. Expect over a day usage wo/charging.

    Luke, you sold me on it at Stargate. +1

      I'd have thought it was a Blade Runner reference... Not a Stargate reference... Nexus 7 in particular.

    They need to create an iPod Touch competitor next.. essentially this same thing without the 3/4G, with 32GB.. priced at around $180AUD.. I think it would sell very well.

      I don't really listen to a lot of music on my phone, so I'm just wondering where most people buy their music from? Obviously for Apple users it's itunes, but what about Windows and Android?

        I use emusic but since they sold out to the major corporations you can't sign up from Australia anymore. Jeez I wonder why people pirate music? Anyway. there is also BigPond music which is surprisingly reasonable. Or just buy it on CD and rip it.

          Spotify premium. $12 a month, you can sync your music to your phone for offline play. I'm sure the app is available for android. I will never buy another CD again! Vinyl on the other hand...

            The service formerly-known-as-Zune is a little cheaper, and now apparently expanded it's music catalog -- But still requires me to pay for red hot chili peppers tracks.

            Yeah only problem with Spotify is that I can't get ADSL at my current location (don't get me started, f**ken Telstra) so I am forced to rely on my Telstra 4g dongle. And the data plan isn't huge especially when you have a fiancée trying to run an on-line business.
            I agree with the vinyl though. :)
            Just need to save up for that record player.

              Use MOG. It is freezone on Telstra (ADSL and mobile 3g/4g). I use it on my Galaxy Nexus with Telstra, is great. Same price as Spotify, better music catalog. I still use spotify more though as I prefer the interface.

                Thanks heaps for the tip!
                Forgot about MOG.
                Will need to look into it.

        When I was on Windows Mobile, then Palm Pre, then Android, my music came from iTunes. It doesn't require an Apple device to buy music.

        I buy mine from JB HiFi, I feel the need to have the physical release.. Though BigPond music is great because they offer high quality MP3's!

      Even in just the Nexus 4 they have. Consider they're the same price? If the Nexus 5 has 4g in it and the same price? They'll be almost cornering the damn smartphone market... hopefully this will start a lower price trend for smartphone companies. Doubtful though.

    Few things wrong here Luke. Android 4.2 is most definitely still Jelly Bean, not Key Lime Pie. And every other review, hands-on or anything else has said both the front and back are Gorilla Glass 2, yet you said it's a 4.7 inch slab of plastic.

    WHO TOLD YOU that the new Android version is called Key Lime Pie?, ITS JUST AN UPDATE of Jelly Bean...

    Android 4.2 is still Jelly Bean, not Key Lime Pie. ur research mate.....

      Calm yourself mate. One small error is hardly not doing my research. Don't be rude.

        There's a lot more than 1 small mistake in there.

        You think the words "do ur research" are rude? Or is it "mate"?

        Pavan, perhaps next time, just use the magic word. May not make these reviews more accurate, but at least Luke will feel better :-)

      Mate, this is Hopewell we're talking about here.

    I'm pretty sure Luke wasn't talking about the glass as such and more that the phone itself is a 4.7inch slab of plastic..

    I for one am very interested in this phone. Lack of LTE is really a non issue. The lack of microsd and a non removable battery is a concern for me but at $399 i'm not going to complain!

    Apologies on the Key Lime Pie issue folks. Sorted now.

      First! Sorry had to

      seriously dude, you're a goddamn tech journalist, HOW COULD YOU miss something so inconsequential? you monster!

        On the outside it appears inconsequential, but for a site that is often accused of being biased toward apple, it's another confirmation for android fans that Giz doesn't really care. Maybe Apple fans feel that Giz doesn't care about them, which begs the question, who does Giz care about? Technology will inevitably be the reply but they piss off both sides of the fence. Maybe they're feeding the flame wars to keep people logging in an commenting.

        As they say though, don't attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity (or laziness in this case).

        Last edited 08/11/12 2:59 pm

          does it matter if Android 4.2 has a silly internal dessert based code name? for the record I own an android device but I just sort of think you're missing the point if you read the article above and instantly think AHA! IT'S NOT KEY LIME PIE M*******ER!

    It supports HSPA+ 42 which is most definitely 4G. I don't see why every review is saying this only has 3G. It makes the reviewers look like idiots.

      Technically the standard specifies 100Mbit+ as 4G, so anyone referring to almost anything we have these days is an idiot :P It is faster than 3G for sure, but there isn't really a true definition for all the stuff that falls in between.

      Nobody in Australia considers HSPA to be 4G, even the 42Mbps variety. Over here, that label is used for LTE only.

      "4G" has become a bastardised marketing term, and almost meaningless - mostly thanks to the US carriers. But in Australia, 4G means the LTE services offered by Telstra and Optus.

      6 months ago, Apple was fined a significant amount for selling an iPad in Australia which was advertised as "4G" but was only capable of HSPA speeds on Australian networks.

      The reviewers don't look like idiots, they're telling the truth.

      No, no it isn't. It's just very fast 3G. It can be as fast as some 4G speeds (in the U.S., using an iPhone 4S on AT&T will cause it to display 4G instead of 3G as they consider its HSPA+ speeds equivalent to 4G), but it's still using 3G technology.

      LTE technically isn't 4G, but that's what it's pretty much branded and marketed as here, and this phone doesn't have it.

      Sorry mate HSDPA+ is not 4G it is 3.5G.

      It may offer similar speeds but it is not 4G tech.

    4.2 isn't Key Lime Pie, it's still known as Jelly Bean.

    Other than that, good hands-on.

    What I REALLY want to know Luke, is whether it will support all of our 3G frequencies here. I'm most interested in Telstra's 850Mhz, which is not a common band for 3G (whereas Optus and Vodafone's 900/2100Mhz is a lot more common overseas). If we order this from Google, can we be guaranteed it to work on all Australian 3G frequencies?

      Specs say 850/900/1700/1900/2100 for 3G so it will "work" on all Australian networks. How well, remains to be seen. (And Vodafone uses 850 fairly extensively in metro areas, refarming Orange's old CDMA frequencies) My iPad (2) doesn't seem to like 2100 very well, but my Samsung netbook gets a much better signal with it. (I use an Optus MVNO)

      To answer my own question:

      Unlocked GSM/UMTS/HSPA+
      GSM/EDGE/GPRS (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
      3G (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz)
      HSPA+ 42

      So yes, it does support both 850 and 900/2100. Good to know.

      This is a myth - 850MHz is a VERY common frequency for 3G:

    Did you really hold it or do you just know someone who knows someone who did??
    "The phone he handed me is a 4.7-inch black slab of plastic" The nexus 4 is glass, front and back
    Nexus for runs android 4.2 "Jelly Bean"

      Calm down. Everyone makes mistakes. Even you made one.
      "The nexus 4 is glass, front and back Nexus for runs android 4.2 "Jelly Bean"

      Its '4' not 'FOR'.

    I dunno if I should keep me RAZR M or pick up one of these babies

      Ah yes.

      I'm in the market for a decent phone for my wife. She doesn't need anything super duper fancy, or high end. Something in this kind of price range would be ideal. We don't live in an area currently covered by 4G (and isn't planned on being covered at least for the next 12 months, despite the fact we live in Sydney) so that's not a factor in the decision.

      I've currently narrowed it down to the Razr M, The Nexus 4 and the Galaxy S3 Mini. They all have strengths and weaknesses, and any one of them will get the job done I think, but I want to get her the best one I can so it's not going to be obsolete in 12 month's time.

        Having some similar thoughts as the fiancée's contract is up soon and her phone is really becoming a POS now. The Nexus 4 is high on the list along with the SGSIII.
        4g would be goo though since we live close to Wollongong and she may be working in Wollongong soon and that is a 4g area.
        Also thinking about the iPhone 5 as she already has a MacBook Pro and may soon have an iPad mini.
        I would say go the Nexus. It's probably the best combination of hardware and software atm with the bonus of not having to be on contract and you get the updates form Google. A big plus.
        In a side note: screw you HTC when is the JB update coming to the OneX!

        If you (and she) is happy with a 4.7" phone, and can live without LTE and a microSD slot, then the Nexus 4 is by far the best option, even more so when compared to phones in the same price range like those.

        Luke kinda glossed over most of the details, but the N4 has the fastest CPU and GPU on the market, and (being a Nexus) it'll get system updates faster and for longer than all the others too, so it'll most definitely be competitive in 12 months, and longer besides.

    All this talk of pie has made me hungry.

    I have no idea about phones, how's the Nexus 4 for gaming?

      The Nexus 4 should be just about the best phone for gaming in terms of performance. It's got a nice big 4.7" WXGA (1280x768) screen, a powerful quad-core 1.5 GHz CPU, more than enough RAM (2GB) and is free from manufacturer bloatware (runs stock Android). I have no idea about mobile GPUs, but I assume the Adreno 320 is perfectly capable.

      The only concerns for avid gamers might be that it doesn't have an oversized battery (but it's about on-par with the offerings from other manufacturers), the battery is non-replaceable (so you can't carry around a spare or buy an extended battery, however you could buy a battery pack that charges via the Micro-USB port), it only has 16GB max storage, and that it doesn't have expandable memory (ie. no slot for a microSD card). Otherwise, the actual playing of games should be excellent.

      Last edited 08/11/12 12:38 pm

      Man i've always wanted to try key lime pie, but it's impossible to get key limes here!

    Glass front and back? Why put glass on the back?? Just like the iPhone, twice the possibility of it smashing if/when you drop it, all for some debatable aesthetic appeal. I would have preferred a texturised plastic (like my Galaxy Nexus) or metal. Still, for the specs, functionality and the price, this is likely to be a killer phone!

      Its glass on the back for the wireless charging is my guess. I'll be disappointed if i have to remove any protective case to be able to use the wireless charging function.

    "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."

    Wow... this is like the horrible ancient Ballmer Windows advert ("except in Nebraska") and I'm expecting you to offer me free steak knives if I I buy it in the next 10 minutes.

    This IS a "review" right?

      No, it's a "hands-on", not a review.

        Hands-on or review is semantics and shades of grey to get away from that this looks like a salesman's routine.

          It's not semantics.

          A hands-on is when you get to try out something for a short time and give your impressions. A review is when you use something for an extended period of time and point out the good and bad points.

          This is a hands on. Not a review.

            Agreed... Anyone who has spent any time at all reading Gizmodo in the past would be very familiar with the distinction.

      Or for that matter the iPad launch, when Steve Jobs pulled the same schtick. Difference being, Ballmer and Jobs were *selling* the product. This is supposed to be a review.

        Settle, petal.

        Luke is an out-and-proud Apple fan that sees good where he sees it. I don't always agree with his opinion, but this is a good hands-on writeup.

      God forbid someone should show a little enthusiasm for a product while doing a hands-on...

        This... is... WIKIPEDIA! *kicks*

        Oh wait, sorry, it's a tech blog. Let me help you up there.

    Boys & girls getting very excited here. No one has mentioned warranty here. LG has not got the best name in the world, so when we have a problem, say in Sydney, and we have bought the phone from Google, where do we go for warranty.

    Great phone but i wish they kept the curve or let Motorola make the Razr Nexus. that would have been huge.

      *Drools thinking of a Motorola-Google Razr Maxx HD Nexus*

      I'd feel proud owning a phone with such a lengthy name.

    That would be the perfect Nexus phone.

    Damn, awesome specs + low as hell outright purchase price...

    Lumia 920, you have a solid competitor for my money.

    Kinda looks ugly to me. Not sure exactly why, but I think it's the fact the top and bottom are curved.

      Well, you can thank Apple for not letting anyone else use four straight edges with rounded corners.

    It is the year 2012. Lack of LTE is a complete no-starter for an increasing number of people.

    Quite the embarrassment for LG/Google.

      The lack of LTE is being completely blown out of proportion. Unless you are downloading HD movies onto your phone, do you need 100Mb? HSPA+ 42 is already TWICE as fast as your home ADSL 2+ connection.

        With 4 times the latency though. Bandwidth only goes so far, especially when you get to a point where you're no longer saturating your entire bandwidth.

        I used to think until I got my 4g dongle. The difference when using it compared to just 3g is night and day. All of a sudden you want to use your phone or tablet to go surfing around and doing things as opposed to doing it because it's the only choice you have and it works ok. I started using my tablet so much more and was able to get so much more done with the increase in speed.

    Good phone, great price. However, with no SD card slot in would need 32 Gb. Hopefully they will come out with one like they did with the nexus 7

      I agree. Please release a 32 GB model please Google.

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