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Google Nexus 4 - Interface, Calling, Browser and Camera

Luke Johnson

By Luke Johnson

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR
Google Nexus 4

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Google Nexus 4 Interface and Usability

With Nexus devices famed for whipping up some smartphone and tablet excitement by launching the latest iteration of Google’s mobile OS, the Google Nexus 4 is no different, lining up as the first device to come pre-installed with the revised Android 4.2 Jelly Bean operating system.

Despite being more of a minor revision than a grand refresh, the latest Android system, which builds on the Google Nexus 7 launched Android 4.1 Jelly Bean offering, Android 4.2 remains a joy to use and one which transforms a collection of high-end hardware into a consumer appeasing, user experience defining option that, thanks in part to its staggeringly impressive £239 price tag, is sure to rejuvenate the smartphone sector.

Whilst in the future, smartphone manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC and Sony will no doubt skin the new Android 4.2 OS in their custom UI’s, for the Google Nexus 4, the system is at its raw best. With a Google search bar locked in place front and centre, Google has made its presence felt in the Nexus 4, filling the device with the full collection of Google branded applications from the standard and extremely useful Gmail and Google Maps, to the increasingly present but still little used Google Plus.

Although the new features introduced in Android 4.2 do not feature front and centre on the Google Nexus 4, such as the new keyboard with swipe input or the Photo Sphere camera option, core Android values such as heavy customisation certainly do. Customisation of the Google Nexus 4 is, as always with Android handsets, a breeze with apps and widgets easily pinned and moved across the collection of side scrolling homescreens.

Disappointingly stifling these customisation options somewhat, however, the Google Nexus 4 offers up just five homescreens, down on some Android handsets and a space that can quickly become limiting when setting up your device to offer instant widget-based access to the likes of email, Twitter feeds, music playback and more.

With the 1.5GHz quad-core CPU once again ensuring a zippy and hitch free experience, opening applications is met with little fuss or fanfare, just speedy, efficient launching. A similar level of hassle-free speed can be found when switching between applications using Android’s multitasking features, jumping back to the homescreen or when riffling between the multiple menus and homescreens.

Enhancing usability with a smoother, more fluid user experience, Android’s drag down notification bar remains in 4.2 Jelly Bean, with the interface addition offering, instant app-free access to a whole raft of important information from incoming messages and emails to download alerts. What’s more in the Google Nexus 4 launching OS, Google has taken note of manufacturer’s UIs and made a selection of handset settings such as Wi-Fi setup available at will, a welcome and time saving addition.

Google Nexus 4 Contacts, Calling and Browser

Despite the recent influx of increasingly advanced smartphone bells and whistles, from Full HD video recording capabilities to integrated MP3 players, the ability for a handset to simply and successfully make and receive calls is still its most core and fundamental ability, yet one that is being increasingly overlooked by manufacturers as specs sheet defining features take increasing precedence.

Call quality on the Google Nexus 4, however, is extremely impressive with LG and Google clearly making an effort to ensure than the handset’s bread and butter is not an oversight that suffers at the expense of more luxurious inclusions. With strong, easy to alter volume controls, the Google Nexus 4 boasts noise cancelling features ensuring that you can be heard, and hear the other end of the conversation, even when in load, busy, bustling areas.

Not just an impressive on-paper addition, the handset’s noise cancelling abilities worked exceptionally well in practice, allowing us to conduct conversations next to a busy road, in a noisy pub and even at a football ground with minimal disruption.

As with virtually all Android handsets, the Google Nexus 4 contact features are a simplistic joy to use with contacts stored on your Google account seamlessly pulled through whilst others can be added manually or via the likes of Facebook integration. Well laid out and easy to navigate, the contacts menus allows for multiple means of communication from the standard call or SMS to email or even via social streams including of course Google Plus.

Constructing messages using the Google Nexus 4, be they SMS or email is a hit and miss affair. Whilst the newly introduced keyboard with swipe functionality, a feature that will be pleasingly familiar to users of the Samsung packed Swype service, is a sure fire hit, the voice dictate service is a little less efficient. Struggling with multi-syllable words, the auto dictate services quickly become more of a frustrating hindrance than a time saving help. In contrast, however, the swipe feature, which allows you to drag your finger across the QWERTY offering to spell your desired words, is a joy to use. Offering a quicker input method for longer SMS messages, emails and note taking, swipe proves impressively accurate in practice, with highly impressive predictive capabilities.

Turning to the browser and, unsurprisingly, Google has opted to fill the Google Nexus 4 with its own branded Chome offering. This is far from a bad thing though with Chrome offering one of the most pleasing and easy to use browser options around, be it from a desktop or mobile device.

With multi-tabbed browsing ensuring you can view, and jump between multiple windows with little fuss, the Chrome browser is still not the perfect option. Whilst those looking to access Flash content might be a little disappointed, as mentioned previously, we, on occasion, had issues with the browser accepting our input options, a slight issues that with time could become quite the irritant.

Google Nexus 4 Camera

The Google Nexus 4 camera collection made up of two parts, with a 1.3-megapixel forward facing snapper partnered with the now seemingly industry standard 8-megapixel camera on the rear. Although smartphone integrated cameras are still a long way from being a true replacement to a dedicated compact in terms of performance, following the strong showing of its other key elements, the Google Nexus 4 camera can’t help but disappoint.

On the whole, the 8-megapixel rear-mounted camera found on the Google Nexus 4 is somewhat lacklustre. Whilst focus speeds and shutter speeds are impressive, and you can quickly open the camera app direct from the lock screen, ensuring you will always be supported when trying to capture that fleeting magic moment, in terms of overall results, images frequently prove below expectations. With snaps appearing excessively flat, contrast ratios leave much to be desired with block colours offering little gradient or subtlety in shading.

Whilst the integrated LED flash struggles with levelling, often whiting out content when in use, as with most smartphone cameras, sampling the Nexus 4’s digital zoom is a recipe for disaster, causing snaps to come out excessively graining and with lifeless, block colours.

Thanks to the handset’s Android 4.2 Jelly Bean innards, the Google Nexus 4 plays host to the operating system’s new feature Photo Sphere. An exaggerated version of a panorama shot, the new Photo Sphere functionality lets you take 360-degree snaps in all directions, stitching together a collection of stills into a single scrollable image that offers an immersive and rounded picture.

Despite being one of the most high-profile additions to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean over its 4.1 sibling, Photo Sphere is far from a new service with similar features having been made available for some time via a selection of downloadable apps such as 360Panorama by Occipital. Easy to use and with largely strong results, assuming you have a steady hand and considerable patience, it is possible to create some quite impressive and enjoyable shots that can be explored on screen.

Further enhancing the Google Nexus 4 camera capabilities, the LG manufactured handset comes pre-loaded with a selection of editing features including a host of post-production filters and a raft of tools allowing you to alter expose levels, effect levels and of course, crop images to desired content and sizes. All relatively standard fare but a welcome addition nonetheless.

As with the stills offering the Google Nexus 4 video recording capabilities are acceptable without setting the world alight. Capable of capturing 1080p Full HD content, the Google Nexus 4 is once again rivalling the top-end handsets such as the HTC One X and iPhone 5 with the handset’s video recorder also offering the option of capturing stills images whilst in the midst of recording video.

This judgement of the Google Nexus 4 camera offering is made overly critical by the handset’s strong performances across the board. On any other handset priced at the mid-range market, this 8-megapixel would be more than satisfactory, on the Nexus 4, however, it feels like a small chink in an otherwise all-encompassing and impressively strong armour.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

ElectricSheep

November 7, 2012, 4:46 pm

Great to read a review in the review section! ;)

I am having to fight the impulse to buy one of these even though I have just bought a Razr i XT890 a couple of weeks ago. (Which I absolutely love using, v.good camera & fantastic battery life & construction).

The only downside is the lack of MicroSD card which, even I will forgive Google for at this price. I have been banging on for years about how mobile phone hardware is massively over priced, ZTE & now Google are really turning the industry on it's head.

I think Google's aggressive move into hardware will result in a win-win for the consumer, forcing other manufacturers to revise their margins, and maybe app developers will benefit too? If the hardware's cheaper, I am more prepared to pay higher prices for the quality apps that I want to use.

Anyway, I think Google has done everyone (consumers) a favour here.

gdawg304

November 7, 2012, 6:21 pm

@ ElectricSheep "Great to read a review in the review section! ;)" as opposed to a preview in the review section? I agree! It's always confusing to click into a review only to find it's a two page preview instead of a definitive review. :)

This phone at this price is almost enough to tempt me to go for a bigger handset (Can't say I'd really want one more than 4", really), plus an unlimited data plan on a 30 day contract on Three or Giffgaff (with HSPA+ up to 42Mbps)....who needs Apple and EE with their extortionate prices (says an iPhone 4 user disappointed at the boring iPhone 5 and the data caps of EE)?

gdawg304

November 7, 2012, 8:21 pm

What's the sound quality like for music playback through earphones...especially high-end ones like Shure SE535?

iPhone 4 is pretty good, I read that the S3 has a slight hiss....

Would buying a Nexus 4 mean a return to carrying a separate music device (I've got a Cowon S9 which does sound better than the iPhone, but the latter is good enough that I can't justify carrying both)?

scaramanga89

November 10, 2012, 5:31 pm

"the 320ppi offering of the new Nexus is topped only by the 326ppi image density of the iPhone 5's Retina display. "

Bested again by the Nokia Lumia 920 at 332ppi, does that not count as a current phone?

Steve 28

November 11, 2012, 7:30 pm

The battery-life issue is a real problem for me. Suppose I'm out all day in London using maps and making a few calls. The battery runs out at 7pm say: what do I do? I can't put in a spare battery because it's not user-replaceable. That's a deal-breaker - shame because otherwise it's a good phone. Why can't they make it 1mm thicker and fit a bigger battery? Sorry Google, I'll stick with my Samsung Galaxy Nexus for a while longer.

masterpfa

November 12, 2012, 5:47 pm

shooting
3. Battery - if it doesn't last as long as I would like I will purchase a battery booster, many options available from 2200mAh to 1000mAh

The plus points for me far outweigh any of these with the primary pluses being Pure Google experience and price

Uriah Romero

December 26, 2012, 6:34 pm

I bought a Nexus 4 a few weeks ago and I love it. It was nice that I
didn’t have to sign a two-year contract. One of my favorite things about the
phone is the beautiful screen. For example, I use the DISH Remote Access app on
my phone so that I can stream live TV through the Sling Adapter that I have
connected to my receiver at home. I use the app most when I can’t be at home to
watch my shows, which is often, and the gorgeous display only helps. One of my
DISH coworkers also bought a Nexus 4 and they love theirs just as much as I do.

Stoffers

December 28, 2012, 6:33 pm

"due to the rather plasticy feeling glass backing of the Google Nexus 4"
How does glass feel like plastic? I can't seem to wrap my head around it as I feel the back of this phone feels quite slick and solid, like glass.

"features one of the most visually impressive smartphones screens currently available at a mid-range price point."
Not to be nit-picky but what other mid range phone goes toe to toe with this screen that this is not THE most impressive at this price point?
I've had the phone over a month, must say it was an excellent buy, especially with the whole selling out thing. Best phone I've ever used by far.

A.Doc

January 15, 2013, 1:05 pm

Best phone I've owned!

It looks and feels like a much more expensive phone than the iPhone, the UI is massivley improved, and it's very slick to use. The screen is a bit big for one handed use, but it's actually big enough to do a lot of things I could only do on my tablet before, so it's well worth the sacrifice. It fits very easily into a pocket as it's so slim.

The only two problems are the battery life and the slippery back. The battery will last just about a whole day, but I find myself using it more, particularly leaving the GPS running and switching of Wi-fi more, so it probably would actually beat my old SE Neo V if I was more careful. The glass back looks and feels very classy, but it constantly slides off any suface that isn't completely flat.

A pretty minor irritation for a very good phone. The first time I can convincingly say an Android device is better than an iPhone, and if Google Cards became more comprehensive and a bit slicker, then it would even further ahead.

Tania Jones

January 24, 2013, 11:20 am

purchased this phone direct from Google, waited 7 weeks for delivery and when the phone arrived the wifi would not work! Had a similar problem with the Galaxy S3 which was sold as soon as the fault was repaired (the fault occurred within 3 weeks of purchase and it took 6 weeks to be repaired) Interesting that both have quad-core processors. Never had this problem with any other phone irrespective of OS. The phone is being returned for a refund.

Marc

May 29, 2013, 2:33 pm

Google Play sucks on there shipment I order a phone on the 25th pay for 1-2 day shipping $13.99 and the 29th received on e-mail saying they were going to be ship soon. I called the support someone answers the phone out there house, asked me several questions then told me that I should be receiving a tracking number soon.
This is ridiculous not only violate Florida laws for deceptive trading practice but bad customer relation. This whole thing is costing me stress & money since my work depend on a good phone. VERY BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE !!!!

Elliot

July 8, 2013, 5:07 pm

And the HTC DNA, and J Butterfly.

Jeffrey Michaels

July 17, 2013, 5:41 pm

Do not buy this phone. It has issues getting and maintaining a strong signal with the carrier. Read the Android forums for additional info on this problem that Google has not fixed. I'm on my 2nd phone with the same problem. Google will not refund my purchase after 14 days. It is not worth the risk to purchase this phone.

Bibilu

July 22, 2013, 10:13 am

Have been using Nexus regularly for last 3 months. Pros & cons.

Pros - Battery backup lasts for a day under normal usage with 2G network. WIFI or 3G usage consumes more battery. Processor is fast enough to run my daily apps(nova launcher/weather forecast/browser/outlook client/gmail apps/reminders/alarm/pdf reader) without any lag.

Cons - Ear phone speaker is placed on the top most edge which makes if difficult to hold and talk. If i hold speaker close to ear then mouth stays far away from mic(placed in bottom side) which makes the sound less audible to the receiver. Another major drawback is power button. It is getting worse day-by-day and does not turn off/on easily without a hard press. Camera quality is so bad. Even HD images look so average. I guess these are one-off issue with my mobile. Kindly confirm if anyone else face the same issues.

Praveen

July 26, 2013, 11:09 am

Hi, I am using Google Nexus 4, recently i am facing a problem 1 out off 2 calls i am able to here the opposite voice, but they are unable to here my voice. hope mic problem, some times if i press load speaker only i am able to here incoming voice calls or else speaker is also not working its only happening some times.

Tom

July 26, 2013, 5:53 pm

best phone I've ever had but the slightis drop will crack it and will unable you to use touch screen. I've broken 2 within 3 months one time I feel out of a lawnchair (2 feet from ground) second time I was walking back form the beach and it was in my towel and fell out and drop about 2 1/2 feet.

I'm going to have to go back to the samsung galaxy :(

Kell Spade

August 2, 2013, 5:06 am

Is this phone suppose to heat up? Lol like its hot, hope I don't blow up!

TomN'Jerry

August 20, 2013, 10:44 am

I am really very disappointed with LG Google Nexus 4, as I had the same problem with Kell Spade, then my phone died within less than 3 weeks after purchasing it. Recently when I was using whatsapp, my phone died all the sudden, I thought the phone ran out of battery, but tried to charged it there was no charging sign. Tried to switch on couldn't get it back on this time. This problem has been going on for sometime now. I have to go to LG service center which takes up quiet a lot of time getting stuck in traffic and they have no idea what's the problem. No doubt is still under warranty, but is kind of time consuming going up and down just to fix the phone or get it replace. Plus I don't even install a lot of apps.

Guest

August 28, 2013, 9:22 am

Google have reduced both versions of the Nexus 4 by £80. So now £159 for the 8GB and £199 for the 16GB. Unbeatable value.

David Smythe

August 28, 2013, 3:10 pm

I get the logic (kind of) behind Google's choice to slash the price of the Nexus 4, but I don't know whether it will really tempt buyers. The competition is just too tough. Have a look at this comparison with the Galaxy S4. The Nexus has some serious competition. It's going to be interesting to see how it does!

Pg

August 29, 2013, 10:41 am

Comparison with the S4? You obviously aren't talking about price as the S4 is wayyyy more expensive. Nexus 4 has to be the best bang for your buck. Like everything else in life, while the S4 is better, you pay a large premium for the few extra benefits it gives.

An SD slot and it'd be hard to most people to justify getting a different phone. I'd still like a radio on a Nexus phone myself.

Abhishek Gupta

August 30, 2013, 12:51 am

Google Play support is very very poor , you may need to wait more than 1 hr and if there is any issue with shipping (damaged or device stolen). you will be in great mess. Think twice before placing order.............

Qiaoling Huang

August 30, 2013, 3:49 pm

It is the worst phone I ever used. it have all kind of problems. It keeps shutting down for overheating or no reason. They sent me a replacement which is another broken phone. Also the google play support sucks!I have never been so pissed off!

mordraid

September 9, 2013, 1:17 am

I just bought a Nexus4 Friday. It cut out on conversations after 1-2 minutes. Fully charged but just went dead. I hope this is not an omen.

Guest

September 9, 2013, 4:57 pm

Errm, only 5 homescreens isn't a con. Just download nova launcher and you can have 9, or 1.

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