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Google Nexus 4
What's hot: Clean and pure Android, will get OS updates first. Fast!
What's not: Glass back makes us a little nervous. No microSD card slot and no LTE.
Reviewed Dec. 1, 2012 by Lisa Gade, Editor
in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)
The Google Nexus 4 Android smartphone hardly needs and introduction. It's Google's latest and greatest contract-free, pure Google experience phone, and it's very reasonably priced at $299 for the 8 gig and $349 for the 16 gig. For that price you get a cutting edge Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad core CPU running at 1.5GHz, 2 gigs of RAM and Android 4.2 Jelly Bean (both OS 4.1 and 4.2 are called Jelly Bean, but you won't find 4.2 on anything other than a Google Nexus just yet). The Nexus 4 is made by LG and shares much of its internals with the excellent LG Optimus G.
The Nexus 4 is a good looking phone with curves that make it more hand-friendly. It has the usual glass front and a glass back with a subtle pattern than you'll see when you waggle it back and forth in the light. The sides are a dense plastic that should absorb bumps, but as we've learned from the iPhone 4, it's a good idea to protect a phone that wears glass front and back.
This is a GSM world phone and that means it works on T-Mobile and AT&T here in the US. It will not work on Sprint or Verizon. It's quad band GSM and pentaband 3G HSPA+ (our US carriers market this as 4G but it's really a very fast form of 3G). That means you'll get 3G on both AT&T and T-Mobile. It lacks LTE, which isn't a big deal globally since many countries don't yet have serious LTE deployments, but here in the US and Canada where LTE is mature it is a serious drawback. It's simply hard to go back to HSPA+ where data speeds are sometimes pretty good at 12Mbps but more often drop to 4 or 5 MBps down, vs. LTE's 25 Mbps. But that does make it a good phone for T-Mobile, since that carrier currently lacks a 4G LTE network. In fact, T-Mobile is offering the phone with contract ($199 for the 16 gig), but that contract price is only saving you $150 on the phone itself over the course of 2 years.
The phone has an excellent 4.7" bonded Gorilla Glass 2 curved display running at 1280 x 768. This is an IPS display with natural colors and an impressive 320 ppi pixel density (just a few ppi behind the Nokia Lumia 920 and iPhone 5, but ahead of most other smartphones by a wider margin). Text looks painted on as it does with the HTC One X and iPhone 5: lovely!
We expected the Nexus 4 to be the fastest Android smartphone yet since it runs on the S4 Pro processor (only the Optimus G and HTC Droid DNA run on that new quad core CPU) and it has a pure version of Android 4.2 with no overlays to slow it down. But on synthetic benchmarks, it was bested by the other two smartphones. It still feels very much like a fast phone, and we have a feeling that as Google refines OS 4.2 (which also feels a little less zippy on our Nexus 7 tablet compared to 4.1.1) it will really fly.
The Nexus 4, Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II.