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A week with the Nexus 4

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nexus 4 3

The Nexus 4 can play all the latest games (and should be able to for a while)

After numerous disappointments attempting to order the Nexus 4 (on the launch day I was one of the many ready and waiting and unable to get my order processed, on the next launch day it took me hours to finally get an order through). However, I was extremely excited to see Google and LG’s latest product, the Nexus 4. Having used the Galaxy Nexus for months, I was used to (and liking) stock Android. But the processor was showing its age, and I was ready for something new. I liked the Galaxy S3, but did not want TouchWiz. I played around with the HTC One X and was resoundingly disappointed with the entire package. I found the Galaxy Note 2 just a little large for my tastes (one handed operation is all but impossible). Since I have gone GSM only, any CDMA phone was out (bye bye RAZR MAXX HD and HTC Droid DNA). That really left the Nexus 4 as the only device for me.

nexus 4 2

The 4.7″ Super LCD 720p display is stunning, though I can’t speak to this viewing angles

Overall, I’ve found the Nexus 4 to be the most powerful smartphone I’ve ever used. It is slick, fast, and the latest version of Android lives up to the hype. The Nexus 4 ships with Android 4.2.1 (also known as Jelly Bean+), which is a faster and better version of Android. The Nexus 4 has styling reminiscent of the Galaxy Nexus as well as the iPhone 4/4s (due to the shiny/sparkling glass back). It comes in 8/16GB versions, with no external storage. I purchased the 16GB version because I kept finding myself filling up the 8GB Nexus 7 (if you buy one I suggest you do the same as well). The screen is bright and visible in all places (though it is a little too dark for night time – and Screen Filter is broken on Android 4.2 devices). It is attractive, yet extremely angular, which sometimes makes it less than comfortable in the hand.

The Nexus 4 was designed to be somewhat future proof, I say this because of the inductive charging, wireless mirroring and NFC. However, none of these technologies are very good today (and because of them sacrifices were made, some key capabilities are missing). The Nexus 4 does not have a removable battery nor it does not have MHL (which enables HDMI output). That (somewhat) hampers the value of the Nexus 4 for many audiences. In addition, the device is lacking LTE, which is more an indictment on the way US carriers manage the network than Google or LG. I’ve used the Nexus 4 extensively on both T-Mobile and Straight Talk’s AT&T service, and found that it picks up a signal quite well, and network speeds are completely in line with what should be expected. The real joy here is how absolutely buttery smooth the experience is.

nexus 4 bumper

The official bumper by LG looks really sharp, but in practice adds a bunch of heft and discomfort to the device

Unadulterated Android is a beautiful thing, and I have yet to find a way to make this phone stutter or slow down. I’ve mentioned this phone as the top Android smartphone and it truly is. I know lack of LTE support will be a dealbreaker to many; however, the freedom from contract and readily available contract-less LTE hotspots can make this a non-issue.

At the end of the day, the Nexus 4 is the best smartphone you can buy. It’s fast, capable and good looking, and can be had inexpensively and on your terms. Unfortunately, accessories are somewhat hard to come by (took me 2 weeks to order the LG bumper, which I promptly disregarded as junk, but more on that later). The wireless charging orb is still not available, and I have yet to hear of an charging mat that works with it, 100% of the time. However, for the phone alone, it’s an excellently crafted piece of technology (oh yeah and will get all of the latest Android updates, when they are released).

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More Stories By Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley, former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), is Founder and CTO of Crucial Point LLC, a technology research and advisory firm providing fact based technology reviews in support of venture capital, private equity and emerging technology firms. He has extensive industry experience in intelligence and security and was awarded an intelligence community meritorious achievement award by AFCEA in 2008, and has also been recognized as an Infoworld Top 25 CTO and as one of the most fascinating communicators in Government IT by GovFresh.