Look and feel
The LG Nexus 4 is a stocky, masculine smartphone that feels as solid as it looks. The simple all-glass front is clean and elegant, while the disco-lights rear is strangely hypnotising.
Ease of Use
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean runs like a dream on the LG Nexus 4 and adds Swype-style functionality to the virtual keyboard. The 4.7-inch touchscreen is perfectly responsive while the very thin glass makes it easy to select tiny web links.
An 8MP camera takes sharp photos and HD movies, with plenty of editing options plus the new ‘Photo Sphere’ feature, which allows you to capture a 360-degree panorama. Sadly the measly 8GB or 16GB internal storage isn’t expandable, and there’s no support for 4G LTE.
TheLG Nexus 4’s quad-core processor gives a responsive Android experience, while the latest games run without hassle.
You’ll get a full day of use even with all of the settings turned to max, unless you start hammering the Nexus with movies and games.
Review by Sunetra Chakravati,12/5/2012 12:45:22 PM
Ease of use
Highly crisp HD display;
Quad core power;
Slick, simple design;
Photo Sphere is super cool
Limited storage space;
No 4G LTE support
Google has been a bit of a ‘man about town’ when it comes to its Nexus range. First it leapt into bed with HTC for the original Nexus smartphone, before posting its flag in Samsung’s camp for the next two (the Nexus S and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus). This fourth offering sees a new guest manufacturer taking over, with LG chosen as the worthy successor. But how does LG’s Nexus 4 hold up against the Android competition?
At first glance, the LG Nexus 4 is a solid and chunky smartphone. The rectangular build is all-black and has a masculine slant, demanding a decent-sized hand to clutch and operate it. You won’t find the sleek curves of the Samsung Galaxy S III, but we enjoyed the no-nonsense design, along with the hefty 139g weight (still nothing on the epic 185g Nokia Lumia 920). There’s no kind of flex or other build issues, and the LG Nexus 4 feels solid enough to survive a fair bit of punishment, while maintaining a premium look.
The front panel is all-glass with two black borders top and bottom. You won’t find any physical back, home or menu buttons beneath the screen, as Android has virtual versions permanently affixed to the bottom of the desktop. As a result, the phone has a clean, simple appearance. The sides of the LG Nexus 4 hold the volume rocker and power button, as well as a SIM card slot – there’s no way to prise your way into the insides of this smartphone.
We were disappointed to find there was no memory card slot, as there are only two paltry storage options, 8GB or 16GB. With some apps and most movies pushing 1GB these days, that space is going to fill up fast, especially if you like taking lots of photos on the go.
Sadly this still image doesn't capture the full magic of the Nexus 4's sparkly rear end
Flip the Nexus over and you’ll find yourself staring at the sparkly disco rear, which is strangely hypnotising. We stared at it a little too long and had to be shaken awake by colleagues. Like the front, the rear of the smartphone is a glossy glass surface. This helps with the Nexus’ premium look and feel, although doesn’t offer much grip, so be sure to hold on tight.
Brand new Jelly Bean
The LG Nexus 4 is the first smartphone to rock Android Jelly Bean 4.2, an update over the previous version of Android Jelly Bean (4.1) that confusingly hasn’t been gifted with a name change. Aside from some camera tweaks (more on those later), the main difference is the addition of widgets to the lock screen. You can’t add these directly to the main lock screen sadly, but a flick to the left gives you a quick view of your calendar, email inbox or text messages, and allows you to open up directly into those apps.
Flip to the left and you have space to set up lock screen widgets - such as this email doohickey
If your phone is password protected, your info will still show up, but you’ll need to enter your password to access the apps as normal. We’re hoping the paltry number of widgets supported will be boosted soon, and this should certainly be the case once developers get on board.
Elsewhere it’s mostly business as usual, but the notifications tab has been improved with a ‘Quick Settings’ tab that gives you fast access to lots of handy toggles, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and aeroplane mode. You can also change the screen brightness level, see how much battery life remains and get into the full settings menu. It’s incredibly useful for checking and regulating your power consumption, which is always a big issue with modern phones.
Flip down from the top of the screen to open the notifications tab (centre), then tap the icon in the top right corner to open the new quick settings area (right)
Other little tweaks include a new ‘shrink to fit’ option buried away in the Gmail app, which automatically zooms out of wide emails so you don’t have to scroll left and right. You can also now use Swype-style gesturing on the already-excellent virtual keyboard. We managed to bash out texts and emails in no time at all, making very few errors along the way.
LG is massively bigging up its 4.7-inch True HD IPS+ display, which is just as spacious as the screens on the HTC One X and most other top-tier mobiles. The 1280 x 768 resolution produces an incredibly dense 320 pixels-per-inch, which makes it crisper than Samsung’s Galaxy S III display and only a tiny touch behind Apple’s iPhone 5 (with its 326ppi Retina display). Considering LG is probably best known for its TVs in this country, it’s no surprise that they’ve concentrated on delivering a killer viewing experience.
With high expectations, we kicked back and played a selection of HD movies on the LG Nexus 4. The results were just as fantastic as we’d hoped, with the supremely sharp picture quality supported by realistic colours and wide viewing angles (tilting the screen only results in a slight loss of brightness). The high resolution helps when it comes to web browsing too, as you can zoom right out of a busy webpage and still clearly read the tiny text (providing your eyesight’s up to it).
But one of our favourite features was the ‘Zerogap Touch’ technology, which basically means the Nexus’ screen is incredibly thin. Some smartphone displays have a sunken feel, but images here seem to be plush with the surface. It may not sound like a big deal, but it helps when trying to tap tiny links in websites or perform other micro manoeuvres.
Feel those quads
A quad-core Snapdragon processor runs the show, and the result is silky smooth performance no matter what your bag is. Desktops and menus glide beautifully with a flick of the finger, while apps load up almost instantly. We hammered the LG Nexus 4 with some of the latest games and saw no kind of lag, even when we tried out some intense 3D shooters. Gamers should be able to happily wear their thumbs away for some time to come.
Previous LG mobiles such as the Optimus L7 and Optimus 4X struggled to last the day on a single charge with all of the features turned on, but the Nexus 4 has no such issues. The phone easily lasts the day even with regular email, web, camera, map and app use. Turn off the likes of GPS and NFC and scale down the brightness, and you’ll scrape even longer from a single charge. Unfortunately if you're watching movies then you'll only get around four hours before the battery dies, which is a little less than average.
An 8MP rear-facing camera takes detailed photos, although we struggled occasionally to get the brightness levels right, even when playing with the manual toggle. However, colours are realistically reproduced and there are plenty of editing options to tweak your photos (including a massive range of scaleable filters) before you share them online. The shutter speed is around a second from prodding the on-screen button, so photos aren’t taken instantly as they are on the HTC One X or similar Android flagship phones, but the focus was almost always sharp. You can also shoot good-quality Full HD video, while a 1.3MP front-facing camera can be used for Skype.
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean brings in a new circular settings menu for the camera, which springs up when you press a fingertip to the screen. This is a quick and clean way of changing your flash, detail and lighting settings, and it works well once you’re used to it, leaving the screen clutter-free. Our favourite new addition is ‘Photo Sphere’, however. This allows you to take a 360-degree panorama of your surroundings (basically by making you twirl around and take lots of individual photos, which it then stitches together). It’s easy to use and the results are impressive when used outside, giving you a fully interactive 360-degree scene that you can scroll through. Our indoor results weren’t quite as good as some of the photos were badly joined, but this is best used to capture stunning views anyway.
An example panorama. In 2D it's a bit weird, but viewed on the phone as a 360-degree spinning panorama, it's very impressive indeed.
Rounding off the features is NFC (Near Field Communication) support, which allows you to quickly and easily swap files with other NFC phones. Sadly there’s no support for 4G LTE, but LG assures us that their first 4G handsets will appear in the first half of 2013, in time for the other operators to wade in with competitive contracts.
At just £279 for the 16GB model, the LG Nexus 4 is an affordable way to enjoy HD movies and the latest games, and proves a highly capable web browsing device. This new version of Android may not set the world alight but it adds some intriguing and useful new features, and it’s just a shame about the lack of storage expansion, which will hamper app and film fans.