Google’s Nexus 4, all things relative, is a steal of a deal.  When announced and released you could snag a top tier smartphone with the Google (aka Nexus) experience for just $300.  For an added $50, making the total $350 you could double your capacity to 16GB.  The demand was so high that Google’s Play Store was sold out for weeks.  Following the launch, they’d let word slip to that the Nexus 4 was back in stock, and with it demand would surge again. Only in the beginning of this year did shipping times fall from 4+ weeks to 1-2 weeks, and even I’m not sure how quickly Google (and LG) were able to ship out these devices.

But demand doesn’t always reflect a top notch product.  The Nexus 4′s battery is not user replaceable, the battery life is mediocre to decent, and the screen is a bit lack luster in terms of brightness.  However, at $300 they’re all moot issues, especially considering this price was “off contract”.  Take the iPhone 5, or really any other smartphone, and you’ll pay close to that “on contract”.  So you can see why demand exploded for the handset when it launched.  But now it’s almost a year later and many other flagship devices have been released, including the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4.

When those devices first debuted rumors emerged that they’d soon be available directly from the Play Store without carrier bloatware or the required contract signing.  The caveat?  An exceptionally high price tag.  The HTC One Google Edition sells for $599 and the Galaxy S4 for $659.  I bought the Samsung Galaxy S4, and while it’s a decent phone, it’s price tag is unwarranted, especially with regard to the Nexus 4.  So below are my thoughts on the Google Edition Samsung Galaxy S4, and ultimately why I’ll be returning the phone.

Samsung Galaxy S4
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Nexus 4
Nexus 4
Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Nexus 4
Size 5.38(H) x 2.75(W) x 0.31(D) inches 5.27(H) x 2.70(W) x 0.36(D) inches
Weight 4.59oz 4.9oz
Display 5-inch Super AMOLED 1920×1080 441ppi 4.7-inch IPS 1280×768 318ppi
Battery 2,600 mAh 2,100 mAh
Processor 1.9 GHz Snapdragon 600 with 2GB RAM 1.5Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro 2GB RAM
OS Android 4.2 Android 4.3
Connectivity LTE|CDMA|GSM|HSPA GSM|HSPA
Storage 16GB+microSD 16GB
Camera 13MP/HD Video 8MP/HD Video
WiFi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac 802.11 a/b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 4.0
Price $649.99 $299.99

 

Price

Nexus 4 vs Samsung S4 Google Edition-005

$659 is a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a phone, especially when a phone is marginally better than one that costs just $300.  With tax I dropped over $700 – the price of laptop – though a smartphone is arguably far more useful on a day to day basis.  That said, many other phones, such as the iPhone, cost about the same off contract so from a market standpoint it’s not ludicrous.  But for the sake of this piece, and looking at the Nexus 4, it’s a significant premium.

Winner: Nexus 4

Processor

I know what you’re thinking: the processor on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is that much faster than the Nexus 4.  And if you’re not thinking that, then you’re probably telling yourself that the Nexus 4′s Snapdragon S4 processor is getting a bit long in the tooth. But here is the thing.  I’m not a gamer, and the Nexus 4 moves slightly, slightly slower than the Galaxy S4 in every regard.  But that slowness is perceivable. Which is to say if you haven’t had it then you don’t know what you’re missing.   I’ve used the Galaxy S4 next to the Nexus 4 and I can complete tasks just as quickly.  Nevertheless, the Galaxy S4 is faster, so it wins this bout.

Winner: Galaxy S4

OS

Nexus 4 vs Samsung S4 Google Edition-007

Currently the latest version of Android, 4.3, is available for the Nexus 4 and not for the Samsung Galaxy S4.  So suck it Sammy phone.  However, it is an iterative update, and not one that is true cause for concern.  With that in mind, to a large degree the Galaxy S4 and the Nexus 4 are the same experience.

Winner: Tie

Camera

Nexus 4 vs Samsung S4 Google Edition-008

This is where the Samsung Galaxy S4 wins hands down.  The Nexus 4′s camera is subpar while the Galaxy S4′s camera out performs it not just in pixels, but in low light performance, overall image quality, focusing, and the whole nine yards.  It’s rather sad, but it’s true, though if you’re not an Instagram whore, or aren’t one to capture photos day over day this will be a moot issue.

Winner: Galaxy S4

Build Quality

Nexus 4 vs Samsung S4 Google Edition-003

Despite the Galaxy S4′s massive screen of 5-inches – .3-inches bigger than the Nexus 4- it’s very light weight and svelte in the hand.  However, I prefer how the Nexus 4 feels in my grip – it feels less slippery and all together a better tactile experience.  Surprisingly, the Nexus 4 weighs 9 grams (139 vs 130 grams) more than the Galaxy S4, but it’s a rather moot difference and one that is reflected in a cheaper feel of the Samsung Galaxy S4, especially when fiddling with the Galaxy S4′s plastic backing.  Also, the S4 lacks built-in wireless charging (just saying).

Winner: Nexus 4

UI

Nexus 4 vs Samsung S4 Google Edition-002

The Nexus 4 lacks any physical buttons – they’re of the touchscreen ilk.  Where as the Galaxy S4 has a physical home button analogous to that of the iPhone.  Moreover, the Galaxy S4′s settings and back button are opposite of the Nexus 4, and to access Google’s Now service you’ll need to hold down the S4′s home button (you swipe up from the bottom of the screen on the Nexus 4).  I prefer the Nexus 4 as its controls feel more intuitive, less like the iPhone, and more next gen since they’re all (not the lock or volume keys) touchscreen.

Winner: Nexus 4

Battery

The Galaxy S4′s battery life has been atrocious both generally speaking and comparatively speaking to the Nexus 4.  With minimal use of the Galaxy S4 I often burn through the battery almost before crawling back into bed, which equates to about 14 hours from the time I unplug the phone from the wall.   The Nexus 4 can easily go the day and then some, and rarely do I find myself scrambling for juice like I do with the Galaxy S4.  But, the Samsung Galaxy S4 does sport a user replaceable battery, where as the Nexus 4 does not, though it can charge “wirelessly”.  Lastly, the Nexus 4 includes wireless charging.

Winner: Nexus 4

Display

Nexus 4 vs Samsung S4 Google Edition-004

The Galaxy S4′s display wins this battle with ease.  The AMOLED 5-inch screen is not only 1080p, but it’s brighter and offers better color saturation.  The Nexus 4 next to the Galaxy S4 looks washed out and dim with both of them set to auto or full brightness.  Just keep in mind that reds tend to explode a bit on screen, something I noticed while watching a few YouTube videos.

Winner: Galaxy S4

Connectivity

Unfortunately, the Nexus 4 is limited to HSPA+.  So if you’re like me, you can’t take advantage of AT&T’s LTE network.  The Samsung Galaxy S4 on the other hand includes LTE connectivity, so there really isn’t any question of who the winner is in regards to this.

Winner: Galaxy S4

Storage

Nexus 4 vs Samsung S4 Google Edition

Storage is rapidly becoming a moot concern, at least to some.  If you play your music in the cloud via MOG, Spotify or Google’s new music service than you know what I mean.  Nevertheless, it’s nice to have options and the Galaxy S4 has it in spades.  Hidden behind the battery cover is a microSD card slot that can support up to a 64GB SD card.  This pushes the Galaxy S4′s gross storage capacity to 80GB, and far out ranks the Nexus 4′s, which is limited to a paltry 16GB (sorry, no microSD card slot)

Winner: Galaxy S4

Overall Winner

Samsung Galaxy S4 VS. Nexus 4

Winner Why
Price Nexus 4 You can’t beat $300
Processor Samsung Galaxy S4 The S4 has the latest and greatest processor that outperform the Nexus 4′s.
OS Tie The same OS experience
Camera Galaxy S4 The S4 offers not only a high rez camera but better quality images in low light and all together shooting.
Build Quality Nexus 4 The Nexus 4 feels more solid in the hand and looks less cheap.
UI Nexus 4 I prefer the Nexus 4′s touchscreen buttons and swipe up to access Google Now.
Battery Nexus 4 The S4′s battery doesn’t last a whole day with light use, the Nexus 4′s does.
Display Galaxy S4 It’s crisper, brighter and offers better color saturation. Plus it’s 1080p.
Connectivity Galaxy S4 LTE. Need I say more?
Storage Galaxy S4 16GB + microSD card slot.
Overall Winner Galaxy S4 (6 vs 5) It’s superior in more ways then the Nexus 4, though for bang for buck the Nexus 4 is a top notch phone.

 

Wow.  That was a close one.   I can honestly say, with price in mind, I prefer the Nexus 4 over the Google Edition Samsung Galaxy S4.  One could argue that the camera section shouldn’t be equally weighted to that of the other categories, but there really is no objective way to do that since it depends on your penchant for photography.

The display on the Nexus 4 isn’t nearly as remarkable or as color rich, and the Nexus 4 lacks some neat features, such as the built-in infrared blaster.  Being able to swap out batteries on the Galaxy S4 is a huge plus, but that means you have to carry an extra one around, and who is going to do that unless they’ve got someone other than their pants pocket to stash it (I’m looking at women, and even then they  try to reduce the amount of crap they have to carry).  Moreover, the Nexus 4 has wireless charging built-in, the Samsung S4 does not.  Plus once you add a wireless battery to the Samsung S4 its thickness exceeds that of the Nexus 4.

That all said, it’s important to not be fooled by specs alone, especially since the Galaxy S4 is a more advanced phone.  But you’ll hardly see that reflected in day to day use.  And since both handsets offer an almost identical experience, and if it’s the Nexus experience you seek then you don’t need to look any further than the $300 Nexus 4 (or $350 depending on your storage requirements).

But, all together, the Google Edition Samsung Galaxy S4 wins out in more categories.  It’s clearly not the budget phone, but if price is no object, this is the phone you seek, putting aside any battery woes.  Its cameras, connectivity and storage capabilities are unparalleled by the Nexus 4, which will likely be replaced by the another, yet to be announced Google flagship phone in the very near future.  The Galaxy S4 is faster, offers a better camera, and all together more features.

I’ve been using my Galaxy S4 for a few weeks now.  It’s relatively buggy, crashes apps daily, won’t connect to some WiFi, and often hangs incoming calls with consistency.  Because of that, and the price, I’m sending it back and sticking with my Nexus 4.



Christen Costa

 
Grew up back East, got sick of the cold and headed West. Since I was small I have been pushing buttons - both electronic and human. With an insatiable need for tech I thought "why not start a blog focusing on technology, and use my dislikes and likes to post on gadgets."