I’ve been a long time Apple devotee. My first computer was a Powerbook. What model I don’t recall. It may have been the 170 or the 180, but I seem to remember it being one of the earlier Mac laptops to include an Active Matrix screen. Either way, it cost me an arm and a leg, otherwise known as my inheritance, bestowed upon me by my grandfather. The only grandfather I knew and was affectionately referred to as “Grand Pa Chocolate” (he brought us Cadbury chocolate bars every time he paid us a visit in London).
Years later my mother invested in a Mac IIsi thanks to a failed Apple marketing tact to flood schools with their machines. In addition to the built-in 3.5-inch floppy drive, we purchased an external CD-ROM as well as a 2,400bps modem (notice the absence of an M or K). The latter component facilitated a many a late nights downloading largely nefarious files from pre-world wide web “bulletin board system”, otherwise known as BBSes.
I soon grew weary of Apple’s offering. Largely because a far more tech savvy friend owned a PC. A PC that was compatible with games that at the time seemed like the stuff – dare I say – made of dreams. I’m talking “Police Quest, King’s Quest, and Stunt Driver.” DOS was the OS of choice, and since it required the use of a some what esoteric set of commands to navigate its plain texted menu system, I was quite impressed with myself. The net result was another computer purchase; a Gateway Pentium 60.
Time passed, I got older, video game consoles and girls took precedent, and the computer, as you can imagine, took a serious backseat in my life. That is until 10 years later when Apple announced the Titanium Powerbook, affectionately known as the TiBook. It was an underpowered piece of kit that looked better than it performed. It too cost a fair clip of cash (much like my first Powerbook), but suffice to say the wasn’t enough to deter me.
So when the first gen iPod was released, I purchased it, albeit months after its debut. Then came the iPhone and its ridiculously large price tag. I held my breath and miraculously Steve Jobs saw fit to drop the price from $599 to $399 for the 8GB of version. I couldn’t resist, and needless to say bought the first generation iPhone. Following that, I skipped the 3G, bought a 3Gs, skipped the 4 and bought a 4s. Which brings us to today.
For 30 days I owned the iPhone 5. That is until I returned it to the Apple store. I wasn’t up for a full contract renewal so I over paid. Buyer’s remorse I suppose. With my tail between my legs I sheepishly returned to using the iPhone 4s. In further hindsight 5, while benchmarked at significant speeds, didn’t seem like a worthy technical jump between the two Apple handsets. And thus explains the moot feeling I’ve now associated with the iPhone. Fold in the fact that I’ve long wanted to better understand Android for the sake of work, and hence why I ended up buying the Google Nexus 4 two weeks ago.
10 days have transpired since I ditched my iPhone 4s and I have no regrets. To be candid my Nexus 4 has battery problems, but that aside the all together experience has been an overwhelmingly positive one.
The Nexus 4 measures 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm. And while that’s larger than any iPhone to date, it’s a just and almost unnoticeable size difference, especially given the 4.7-inch display. Yes, the Nexus 4 weighs more than the iPhone 5, but since I transitioned from the 4s, which weighs 140 grams, 1 gram more than the Nexus 4, it’s a moot issue. In fact, the Nexus 4 feels lighter than the iPhone 4s since the weight is distributed over a larger area. And surprisingly the Nexus 4 fits neatly into all of my pant’s pockets. And although I’m not wearing hipster tight jeans, I do wear my pants stylishly trim.
Under the hood is a quad-core Snapdragon processor, which is a powerhouse to say the least. But as anyone of anyone knows specs are never the complete picture. I’m happy to report that the The Nexus 4 is blissfully fast. Remember I’m new to Android, but I have laid finger to other devices, such as the HTC Vivid. From day-to-day the Nexus 4 feels powerful yet light weight, and nothing short of impressive. Apps, generally speaking, take about 10 seconds or less to install. Where as any app, of any size on the iPhone 4s, and even the iPhone 5, take 2-4 times longer. Opening up an app occurs with virtually no lag, and switching from app-to-app is a seamless experience that I’ve never experienced on the iPhone.
While the Nexus 4 has a solid camera, the iPhone still out ranks it in clarity and low light performance. The default camera has some extra features not found in the iPhone, though. Such as exposure options, white balance, and the ability to capture full room panoramas. At the end of the day I’d rather the iPhone’s camera, but the aforementioned caveats aren’t enough for me to questions my jump to Android.
Android is faster than iOS. Now, keep in mind that the Nexus 4 isn’t chalk full of carrier or manufacturer bloatware. And to be candid I’ve never used an Android device with such, so it’s hard for me to speak to other Android handsets. However, in terms of app speed, compared to the iPhone, it blows it out of the water.
Drag down from the top of the screen, much like in iOS 6, and you can access your notification center. You can also modify each app’s settings and notifications, though I’ll concede a bit and say that Android’s menus are a bit more daunting, albeit with more options. By default there isn’t a Find My Phone function, or iCloud. However, Google does over a myriad of other, comparable services within their ecosphere, and if there is something you’re looking for in terms of customization, odds are there is an app for it. Unlike iOS you can add “widgets” to your home screen, allowing you to view Facebook, email, news, weather, your calendar and other apps without opening the actual app – you just swipe left to right from your home screen where you’re presented with what is probably best described as a live tile.
Unlike other Android devices, the Nexus 4 ships with Google Now. Swipe from the bottom up and it opens a set of cards that might have you believe Google is reading your mind. In fact, it’s an opt-in service available on the Nexus 4 (I believe exclusive to Nexus phones) and although it doesn’t read your mind, it will read your email, web surfing history, and location to provide you with “results” before you request them. For instance, if an email contains flight itinerary, it will pull up a card stating if the flight is on time, show you a mini map with a route and calculate your driving time with traffic based on your current location. After a few days of everyday use it begins to try and suss out where is “home and work” to help make better predictions. The feature is impressive, even if it is just merely a backroom parlor trick of sorts.
As stated in my introduction I’ve suffered battery woes. From what I can tell you’ll want to spend sometime personalizing your setting maximize your battery life; screen brightness, location service features, notifications, and so forth. That said, my iPhone 4s could easily get me through a day and a half with minimal use (no Bluetooth or location services turned on full time). Where as the Nexus 4 is good for about a day, and that’s assuming the screen is set to auto brightness (dim in comparison to the iPhone). So suffice to say, the Nexus 4′s battery isn’t stellar, but it’s enough to get through a day.
The screen on the Nexus 4 measures 4.7-inches and produces a 720p image. Pixel density ranks slightly lower than the iPhone 4s and iPhone 5, but it’s a moot and somewhat imperceivable concern, though keep in mind less pixels and more screen means less brilliance. And although both the Nexus 4 and the iPhone 4s share the same display type (IPS) the iPhone 4s offers a wider viewing angle and all together great brilliance.
The Nexus 4′s speaker might be the phone’s weakest feature. It’s located on the back so anytime the Nexus 4 is laying down flat it’s muffled, even on a hard surface and worse on a soft one, such as a bed or jacket. The speaker is also not very loud comparatively speaking to the iPhone 4s or iPhone 5, which can be an annoyance even if you’re sitting at home in relative quietness attempting to watch a video clip on the 4.7-inch display.
I miss the iPhone’s ringer switch. That in mind, if the power button, which is located annoyingly on the side of the device is tapped, the phone can easily be inadvertently turned down or up in your pocket, or disable the vibrate ring all together. Lastly, the headphone jack is at an odd angle, something slightly analogous to that of the first iPhone. This makes some headphone jacks incompatible.
Should you make the leap from iPhone to the Nexus 4?
At this point, and despite my battery issues, I’m pretty, darn right pleased with the Nexus 4. By no means is it a perfect handset, and anyone that has owned a Nexus phone before this iteration will tell you that it’s an evolutionary, not revolutionary device But that’s just it. Neither is the iPhone 5, yet the amount of features that the Nexus 4 brings over the iPhone 4s (and 5) makes it feel as such.
I don’t care much for NFC, but nor will I complain that its there in the event I want to tap and make a purchase, or share a photo (painstakingly in my experience) with a friend’s compatible handset. I had my concerns that the larger screen would prove cumbersome, and although it’s not a svelte as the iPhone 5, it does feel lighter than the 4s despite it having the same mass. Unfortunately, I can’t speak to battery life just yet since my handset seems to be suffering a hardware malfunction, but I’m confident it’s something I can get beyond since a new device is already on the way. Last but not least, the price for a 16GB Nexus 4 is $350+tax off-contract. Apple’s is $650.
James will be publishing a full review shortly with benchmarks and a greater technical evaluation. As a result I’ve decided to not include a rating in this review.