Nexus 4 Review: A Beautiful Android Phone With a Major Tradeoff


I still really enjoy Android's customization options, the Google Now search and speech feature, and the Google service integration (Gmail, etc.), but Android is still harder to use in many respects than Apple's iPhone operating system. When I handed the phone over to a friend, she had a hard time figuring out how to e-mail a photo. For other features, Google places instructional pop-ups.

Fast Processing Power, Slower Data Speeds
But while the software hasn't changed much, the way it runs on the phone has. The Nexus 4 has a fast quad-core processor and things appear much smoother than they do on the Galaxy Nexus or other Android phones. Apps open swiftly and there's no delay when swiping between menus when multiple apps are open.

There is one thing that is slower, however. And that's browsing and data speeds. The Nexus 4 doesn't support LTE in the US – it's only available for T-Mobile and AT&T's 4G networks. An unlocked version of the phone costs $299 on Google's site, and that will work on any GSM network, including the AT&T and T-Mobile network here in the U.S. T-Mobile will also sell the phone directly on its website.

Webpages load slower and YouTube videos don't render as well. Much of my testing was done in New York City during the days following Hurricane Sandy, which impacted performance, but still, T-Mobile's HSPA+ 4G network hasn't been as fast as AT&T or Verizon's respective LTE networks as a whole.

There is a plus side to that LTE loss though: better battery life. Google claims that you can get 10 hours of talk time. I didn't test that just yet, but I did get through a full day of heavy use and testing on a single charge. By 8PM the phone was at 14 percent.

Bottom Line
Google fixed every feature I have complained about on my Galaxy – the camera, the build quality, and the performance issues.

The Nexus 4.

It also fixed the update issue, but as a result of that it lost a major feature: LTE. What do I mean by that? "We work so hard on the latest innovations, this was the fastest way we could get them to people," John Lagerling, director of Android Global Partnerships, told me when I asked about the choice to not make it available through an LTE U.S. carrier.

Ultimately, that's the choice you end up making with the Nexus 4. For $299 (without a contract) you can have the best hardware and software experience of any Android phone out there, but you lose the fast speeds to enhance that software experience. Those looking for the best smartphones with LTE support would be better suited by the iPhone 5 or Galaxy S 3.

To sum it up: the Nexus 4 is a big, beautiful, well-rounded phone with one big tradeoff. One that's holding me back from replacing my older Nexus with it.

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