Nexus 4 review and recent smartphone trends

After a painful wait I finally managed to get my hands on the nexus 4. It’s been over a month now with the phone and I think I’ve spent enough time on it to write my review. The phone has still not launched officially in India last I checked. It’s no surprise then to hear stories of people returning from the US carrying up to 10 nexus4 phones on them. Google Play Store in India has seen a lot of activity in recent months. I’m surprised they haven’t managed to bring the phone to India yet.

Bigger the better? Nexus4 sports a 4.7″ IPS display that is bright, sharp and very readable in sunlight. While the screen looks great, my gripe is with the screen size. Samsung started this ridiculous trend of creating bigger sized devices with every new release. They’ve reached 6″ now. Unbelievable! They’ve got devices covering the entire range from 3″ to 10″. This madness needs to stop. For people like me who prefer to use the phone with just one hand on most occasions , the big screen size makes it practically impossible to use, without dropping it a few times. The ideal form factor for me is a phone that can be held with one hand and where the thumb can reach the diagonally opposite top corner of the screen comfortably. Nexus One had a beautiful form factor and fit perfectly in your hand.

 

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Use and throw – The release cycles for new products seem to be shrinking while the ‘features’ on the phone always seem to be growing; battery life still remains quite average. Another trend you now see is to seal the batteries. Shorter product lifespan, arguably less durable devices which seem to get outdated far sooner than before plays into the hands of the manufacturers.

The nexus devices have gathered a fan following, and I’m one of them. When you package premium hardware, with the latest version of android (minus all the UI layers 3rd party manufacturers put on top of it) and offer it at a very reasonable price, it makes for an impressive offering.

When you compare this phone with some of the competitors, it feels more premium, with a unique design pattern covered by a glass panel at the back. It definitely stands out when you compare it to the plastic shells Samsung puts out.

So what’s good about the nexus4?

There’s more juice in this phone than you can handle. 2GB of RAM with 1.5 Ghz quad core processor makes this phone fly. You can have a ton of apps running in the background and continue to use the phone without a stutter.

Jelly Bean 4.2.2 stock is smooth. Butter smooth! Android still has some way to go with the UI, but they’ve done a heck of a lot in the last few releases. The biggest advantage of this phone, or any nexus device, has got to be the updates. In most cases you will be the first one to receive it. Otherwise, for most android phones, it’s a frustrating wait to receive it or in some cases not receive any update at all.

Google Now is great. It is something I’ve come to use quite often. So it’s certainly not a gimmicky feature you would find on other phones that sound cool, but is of no practical use. I think it’s only going to get more intelligent, and will become the go to Google feature on any android phone in the future, just like Google search on your desktop.

All this awesomeness for only $299 for the 8GB version or $349 for the 16GB version! There is no phone currently available in the market that offers this level of quality and performance at such a low price point. If you’re on the lookout for an android phone with a mid size budget, this has got to be your #1 option.

What could’ve been better?

Camera on this phone is slightly above average. For a flagship phone I expected the camera to be fantastic, which it is not. It does take decent pictures in good light conditions, and there’s no denying that. There is a bug with focussing though that I’m hoping gets fixed in the next update. Camera app comes with a built-in panoramic and sphere capture modes which allow you to take interesting photos. Recent pics on this blog are from my nexus 4.  A little disappointed with the camera at the end of the day.

The battery lasts a day with average usage which we’ve come to expect with smartphones these days. Anything longer is a bonus. I get about 16-18 hours with regular usage. The negative is that phone comes with a non removable battery.

Speaker is on the back panel and is placed flush with the surface. So if the phone is resting on a flat surface almost 70% of the volume is blocked when your phone rings. This is a design flaw in my opinion. However, if you decide to use the bumper case, the phone doesn’t sit flush on the surface and you can hear the ring better.

Contacts sync with google works reasonably well. I’ve had duplication issues before while syncing. Best way to manage your contacts is to login to a computer and fix all contacts yourself by purging & merging. Don’t try and do that on the phone. It’s far easier to do on the web. While the contacts sync with Google well, it seems Google is hell bent on pushing G+ everywhere. So I was surprised to see FB and Twitter contacts sync not supported anymore.

I hope Google anticipates the demand accurately and plans accordingly for their next Nexus device.

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