In terms of sheer speed, the Nexus 4 has been my most enjoyable experience with Android so far. I probably shouldn’t be too surprised — I felt the same way about the Nexus 7 tablet, which I called the first Android tablet worth owning. The Nexus 4 has plenty more legitimate competition than the Nexus 7 did, and even then it still manages to feel superior.
Android 4.2, which the Nexus 4 ships with, is all about polish. The overall design of the operating system feels closer to iOS than Android ever has. But by focusing on design, Google didn’t have much time to include new features. The Nexus 4 can send video wirelessly to HDTV’s supporting the Miracast standard, and you can also create 360-degree images with a new feature called Photo Sphere.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to test the video streaming feature. And from what I’ve seen, Photo Sphere still needs a lot of work. It’s simple enough to create the 360-degree images, but objects in the pictures often appear distorted. I’ve had far more luck with Microsoft’s under-appreciated Photosynth app.
When it comes to photos, the Nexus 4 finally brings a great camera to Google’s flagship lineup. I’ve been disappointed and mystified by the limitations of the past few Nexus cameras: The Nexus S, for some reason, didn’t have HD video recording, and the Galaxy Nexus had a better 5 megapixel camera with HD video, but it still produced merely average pictures. The Nexus 4’s 8-megapixel shooter is solid for both photos and videos, and it easily stacks up with HTC’s One X camera and the Galaxy S III. It’s not as miraculous as the iPhone 5’s camera or what I’ve seen from Nokia’s Lumia 920, but it’s a solid step up.
The Bad: The LTE problem as to be fixed
It’s simply tragic that, despite everything the Nexus 4 has going for it, the lack of LTE holds it back from being something I can easily recommend. I’ve tested plenty of LTE phones over the past few years, and it’s clear the technology has come far. LTE isn’t the battery hog it used to be, thanks to larger batteries and more efficient chipsets, which makes it perfectly suited for modern ultrathin smartphones.
So why doesn’t the Nexus 4 have LTE? It boils down to politics with cellular carriers and the economic reality of building a single device that appeals to the majority of the world. (The Verge has an in-depth exploration into the topic that’s well worth a read.) Google can’t use LTE networks without working with the carriers, and it doesn’t make much sense for it to spend the money to build in LTE when it’s primarily a feature for the U.S. But no matter the reason, missing out on such an essential feature will be inexcusable to consumers who have access to LTE.