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LG Google Nexus 4 review: All value, no frill

Soumyadip | http://soumyadip.com

Updated: June 3, 2013, 1:36 PM IST
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LG Google Nexus 4 review: All value, no frill
For now the LG Google Nexus 4 is as close to the perfect mix of features and price that we can get.

New Delhi: The first Apple iPhone was available more than a year before the first Android phone made its appearance. While the iPhone changed the definition of and expectations from what consumers identify as a smartphone, it is Android that democratised this new smartphone experience, more so in emerging economies such as India. The Nexus 4 is the new revered leader in this Android democracy.

For many technology enthusiasts, the pinnacle of Android isn't Samsung or HTC's flagship phones but the ones that come with Google's Nexus branding. Not because the Nexus phones are the pinnacle of hardware excellence, but for the purity of the operating system that is only experienced on Nexus phones.

In Nexus phones the Android experience is what the people who built the operating system want it to be, without the distractions and frills that most manufacturers like to pad it up with. And Android on its own manages to do much of what we consumers need without the additional software that manufacturers add to bring in differentiation.

The Nexus 4 made a late and quiet entry into India. The phone was unveiled on October 29 and went on sale from November 13, but it took a good six months to be officially available in India and now there is also a white variant available. LG has indeed priced the Nexus 4 attractively. Carrying the official price tag of Rs 25,999 for the 16GB variant it is undoubtedly an excellent deal. Though seemingly not officially made available in India by LG, the 8GB version is also available online is 4-5 thousand rupees cheaper. In the grey market the 16GB Nexus 4 is selling for about Rs 20,500.

It is surprising that LG hardly made any noise around the Nexus 4 launch in India, at a time when lesser devices get more than their fair share of marketing push. The Nexus 4 isn't a phone with its appeal limited to a niche section. When the phone first went on sale on Google's Play Store the entire available stock was sold out in less than 30 minutes.

Like so many other phones, the Nexus 4 looks much better in images than it actually is. But that doesn't mean that it is no head-turner. The front is much like its predecessor, the Galaxy Nexus from Samsung, the only noticeable difference is the position of the front speaker grille. It is when you turn the phone over, that you notice the big and dazzling deviation from the Samsung manufactured Nexus.

The glass back is gorgeous and the dotted glitter pattern with a cat's eye effect, what LG class Crystal Reflection, adds to its classiness. Unlike the previous three Nexus editions, the Nexus 4 doesn't have the Google logo on the back, instead it features the Nexus logo beneath the rear camera and the LG logo follows much lower. Reports suggest the beautiful glass back is also fragile. I didn't try dropping it to test and my suggestion is that you too shouldn't.

Coming back to the front display, the 4.7-inch 768x1280 pixel IPS screen is great to look at even though it isn't the best we have seen and the colours don't look as vibrant as the other notable phone in its price range - the Samsung Galaxy S III (The S III has fewer pixels on its screen than the Nexus 4). But the touch response amazes, quite like the LG Optimus G (that has similar specs but a heftier price tag.). The Nexus 4's (and also the Optimus G) touchscreen is easily amongst the best that I have experienced.

Sadly the display isn't the curved glass that looked so great on the Galaxy Nexus. It is as flat as they can possibly make it and includes Gorilla Glass 2 protection. Therefore you can stay away from those screen protectors.

The rubbery edges make it comfortable to hold and also reduce the chances of the phone slipping out from your grip, though I would have preferred more rounded edges over the sharp angles. The Galaxy Nexus had a more attractive profile.

Another noticeable difference from its predecessor is the position of the 3.5mm jack, the Nexus 4 has it on top while in the Galaxy Nexus it was at the bottom. I prefer it to be at the bottom because I (like many of you) keep the phone upside down in the pocket, so that I pull it out, it comes out the right way in my hand.

The 1.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon coupled with a generous 2GB RAM will not keep you waiting. Be it everyday tasks, such as checking emails, responding to messages or more heavy duty stuff such as playing games. In the two weeks I had the phone with me, it didn't test my patience even once.

One of the biggest advantages of owning a Nexus is that you are assured of the latest version of the Android operating system much before it is available on other phones. And that's one big advantage and also therefore the Nexus' USP.

Some of you may miss the bells and the whistles that manufacturers add on their own to Android, but that's no big deterrent. Equivalent apps for many are available on the Play Store. Though I believe a file explorer should be a part of the standard Android package. The habit may be spill-over from the PC experience, but I don't see a reason not to have it on the phone by default. This is why many manufacturers add their own file manager/explorer.

Also the Nexus 4 is comparatively bloatware free. Google does include a whole bunch of its apps, there can be disabled (but can't be uninstalled). With the user having control over the apps to run on the latest version of the operating system backed by ample hardware, the Nexus 4 is indeed a lean and fast mobile computing machine.

But all is not well about the Nexus 4. The biggest drawback that many users would find is the limited storage. Its 8GB or 16GB storage (the actual available space for users is lesser) seems too little given that the phone doesn't have the provision for expandable storage. The Galaxy Nexus has a 32GB variant but not the Nexus 4, though there are rumours abound that a 32GB version could very well be on its way.

The phone also doesn't have a replaceable battery, unlike the Galaxy Nexus. It may sour the deal a little for some buyers but is no deal breaker.

If you are looking for your phone to be a worthy replacement for your standalone camera, then the Nexus 4 might not be the device for you (depending on how worthy your existing standalone camera is). The camera results, though not disappointing, didn't match the high expectations I had from the flagship Android phone. The difference with the photos taken by other phones in the same price range (I am deliberately not comparing the results to the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the HTC One given the vast difference in price) such as the Samsung Galaxy S III and the Motorola Razr is noticeable, more so in low light conditions.

But once in HDR mode (high-dynamic range) there is little to complain about. The photographs look so much better. But then HDR isn't the recommended mode for all shooting conditions. It also includes ample features and photo and video editing possibilities. Photo Sphere, one of the Android 4.2 highlights, that allows users to capture 360-degree panoramic images. But the catch is that, like 3D images, they are viewable only on compatible devices or on Google Plus. Though there is a now a widget that lets you embed your Photo Spheres on your website.

The camera is on the Nexus 4, though it falls short of achieving greatness, is nevertheless good. Same applies for the front facing 1.3 megapixel camera.

Two notable features missing from the Nexus 4 is USB On-The-Go (OTG) support and LTE. OTG support would have been great given the limited storage that the device has on offer but the absence of LTE doesn't mean much for Indian consumers at the moment. Though both can be activated with tweaks and tricks, most users wouldn't be aware of it and not all such modifications are recommended for general users.

Though it does include a SlimPort enabled Micro USB port that can connect to display devices and can also charge the phone while displaying your content on your TV set.

The Nexus 4 is almost as slim as many of its competitors, though it looks thicker because of the incline on its rear edges are much steeper than other phones. It would have also helped if it were a half or a millimetre thinner. Being used to carrying much slimmer phones, the Nexus 4 does appear to be protruding a bit from my front pocket.

For the pure Android aficionados, the 'Nexus variants' of two top-of-the-line Android phones - Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One - will go on sale later this month (no word on India availability yet) but then they are likely to be priced 50-60 per cent more than what the Nexus 4 is available in India.

Also the Google Edition Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One wouldn't exactly have the native Android experience. Google has moved away from the requirement of front hardware buttons on Android, but both the S4 and the HTC One have front capacitive buttons and the S4 also has a physical home button. This means that technically the pure Android experience is still limited to Nexus phones.

A five-star-rated phone is yet to come our way (and I am eagerly waiting). Some get it right on features but not the price and vice-versa. For now the LG Google Nexus 4 is as close to the perfect mix of features and price that we can get. Storage and OTG limitations notwithstanding.

The Nexus 4 is all cake and no icing and I like my cakes without the icing.

Rating 4/5

LG Google Nexus 4 tech specs

Screen: 4.7" diagonal, 1280 x 768 pixel resolution (320 ppi), WXGA IPS, Corning Gorilla Glass 2
Dimensions: 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm, 139g
Cameras: 8 megapixel (main), 1.3 megapixel (front)
Connectivity: WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n, Bluetooth, NFC (Android Beam), Unlocked GSM/UMTS/HSPA+, GSM/EDGE/GPRS (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), 3G (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz), HSPA+ 42, Wireless charging, SlimPort
Processor and memory: 16GB (actual formatted capacity will be less), 2GB RAM, 1.5 GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU
Other features: Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean), Accelerometer, GPS, Gyroscope, Barometer, Microphone, Ambient light, Compass

Product images

First Published: June 3, 2013, 1:36 PM IST
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