Google Nexus 4 review
Google's Nexus (ten points to anyone who can tell us if Nexi is the correct plural) smartphones have always set the standard when it comes to a pure Google experience.
The first Nexus One was a true geek device. Sold only through Google directly (apart from a brief flirtation with Vodafone), it never achieved massive sales. But it gave the world the true raw power of Android without the bloatware of other variants. As of January 2010, the ball was well and truly rolling.
We've had several now – and everyone, it seems, had a go: HTC, Samsung, Asus and LG – though strangely, not Motorola, which is now part of Google itself.Some handsets we look forward to with much anticipation – only to feel deflated when we actually use them. Others, we wait for with little expectation – and they absolutely blow our socks off.
A stealth surprise. We'll lay our proverbial cards on the table here from the outset. The Nexus 4 is one of those rare devices.LG's not had the best track record of late. Sure, we thought the Optimus 4X HD was a pretty decent offering, but too little, too late compared to what was already out there by the time LG got it to market.
And whereas LG did have good form when it came to innovation back in the day (who remembers the Chocolate, the Shine – and even the dubious widescreen BL40?), the mojo seemed to have passed.
That's not a dig at the South Koreans – far from it. But just to set the scene to show why we weren't expecting much from the Nexus 4.Perhaps the worst kept secret since the iPhone 5, the Nexus 4 even got left in a bar in true cliché style. And from the pictures, we weren't alone in thinking it looked like a copy of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
The difference is, when we took the Samsung model out of its box this time last year, we thought it was nice. When we took the Nexus 4 out of its box last week, we thought it was beautiful.The key selling point of the Nexus line has always been that it launches with a brand new Android version.Last year, we got Ice Cream Sandwich, the year before saw the Nexus Slaunching with Gingerbread.
But Google gave Jelly Bean to the Nexus 7 tablet earlier this year and withAndroid 5.0 Key Lime still Pie in the sky (get it?), there was nothing for Google to do other than stick a few new features onto Jelly Bean 4.1, package it up as Android 4.2 and make the best of it when it came to the Nexus 4.
Differences between the two Beans are subtle, but effective. Google's introduced a new keyboard which supports swipe functionality, pretty much aping and repackaging the killer quality of Swype.
It's also taken cues from the likes of Samsung and HTC by adding toggles to the notification bar which allow you to control things like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and brightness without having to faff about going through a million and one menus, although they're still not as quick and accessible as the others.
Another new addition is something called Daydream. It's an odd idea – your phone goes into a light sleep mode, playing a screensaver instead before it goes to sleep.
Obviously, most of us will just turn the screen off straight away when the Nexus 4 isn't being used to save power.
But for when the phone is docked or charging, you can choose between picture albums or colours. It's one of those things that looks pretty, but in reality, probably only 0.5% of users will ever use it. Those that don't will forget it's there.
You can no longer remove - or even move – the Android search bar. It's firmly fixed at the top of each of your five home screens (you can't add more home screens unless you go for a third party launcher, unfortunately.)
That's slightly annoying because even though this is a Google-branded handset, the beauty of Android is its immense customisation options.
Being forced to permanently have a Google search bar present – which could easily be brought up by swiping up from the bottom to engage Google Now anyway - seems a little over the top.They come from your mandatory Gmail account, which is free to set up. This isn't Google jumping on the bandwagon here.
They have always done it this way – ever since we got the very first Android handset, the HTC G1 exactly four years ago.
Getting into your contacts can be done several ways. Firstly, you can just jump straight in by tapping the telephone icon in the dock at the bottom of your home screen which brings up the phone app.
Inside there, you've got the beautiful dialling pad (Jelly Bean colours ape the Ice Cream Sandwich look which is ice blue numbers on a sheer black background which looks great.)
You can't smart dial – as in you can't start typing names using the number of the keypad like you can in some older handsets – but then again, that's not a problem because you can either tap the magnifying glass at the foot of the app and just type your contact's name or you can go into the phone book using a tab at the top of the screen and select from there.
Your two most commonly contacted peeps are displayed at the top, followed by the most recent ones and then, your phone book is below that.
Names are displayed beautifully with contact photos brought in which is a real cosmetic plus.
It goes to show just how basic iOS' contact offering is here with faces displayed in list view here – while Apple users have to go into an individual contact to see what they look like.
Alas, Android doesn't bring them across in high res so when you get a call, your contact can look rather pixelated, which ruins an otherwise beautiful appearance.
We've been complaining about this for a year so are surprised it hasn't been rectified yet.
The other way of accessing a contact is to just start typing their name into that compulsory search bar at the top. This is something we've always loved – Google doesn't just search the internet but also your phone.
So if you start typing in, say, 'Harry', the Nexus 4 not only comes up with internet suggestions, but also will list your mate Harry, music by Debbie Harry that you have stored on your handset, contact appointments with him and anything else 'Harry' related in your life