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Google’s Nexus 4 Smartphone: Review and Comparison to iPhone 5, Galaxy S3

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Phone.jpgGoogle and LG released their latest smartphone today: the Nexus 4. Following on from last year’s Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus 4 is a “Google Experience” device featuring stock Android 4.2 without any customisations from other manufacturers.


The Nexus 4 has a quad-core processor and a large high-definition display. It also features technology such as super-fast 3G, wireless charging and NFC. This functionality is likely to make it a popular choice amongst consumers looking for a high-end device, particularly with its aggressive SIM-free price of £239. This is approximately half the cost of other high-end devices such as the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3.


In this article, we take an in-depth look at the Nexus 4 and the new features introduced in Android 4.2. We’ll also look at how the Nexus 4 compares against bestselling devices such as the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3.


Nexus 4: A Pure Google Experience


Google’s Nexus programme began in early 2010. Originally designed to provide developers with unlocked handsets which would show off the latest features of Android, the Nexus programme has recently evolved into one whereby consumers are provided with cutting-edge devices at a low price. Google claims that this is “democratising” access to mobile technology with all Nexus devices being sold SIM-free and unlocked so you can use it on the mobile network of your choice.


The Nexus 4 is Google’s flagship smartphone device. It’s the successor of the Galaxy Nexus and joins as the latest member of the “Nexus” family amongst the Nexus 7 and Nexus 10 tablets. Like all other Nexus devices, the Nexus 4 runs stock Android without any modifications or user interface overlays. This means that Nexus 4 owners will always be first in line for software updates from Google. 


Nexus Family.jpg
Google’s “Nexus” family of devices includes the Nexus 4 from LG, the Nexus 7 tablet from Asus and the Nexus 10 tablet from Samsung.


Nexus 4: Cutting Edge Hardware for £239


The Nexus 4 has received significant amounts of attention in the press. This is primarily due to its high-end specifications and its competitive pricing.


The design of the phone is minimalistic and vaguely resembles the Galaxy Nexus. It packs a 1.5GHz quad-core processor and 2GB of RAM: superior specifications to both the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S3. With these specifications, Google has claimed that the Nexus 4 is the “fastest phone on the planet”.


In terms of the display, the Nexus 4 also excels. It features a super-sharp 4.7-inch TFT display with a pixel density of 320 pixels per inch (320ppi). This almost matches the iPhone 5’s “Retina” display (4-inches, 326ppi) in terms of clarity whilst providing a much larger canvas for your photos, webpages and applications. Compared to the Galaxy S III (4.8-inch display, 306ppi), the display is slightly smaller and uses LCD technology rather than organic LED technology. The Nexus 4 also uses on-screen buttons so the amount of space leftover for content is slightly reduced.


Phone Design.jpg

The Nexus 4 has a minimalistic design with no hardware buttons on the front of the device. Both the front and the back of the device are covered in glass with the back of the device featuring a “holographic sparkle” pattern.


Going beyond the processor and the display, the Nexus 4 also stands out for the fact it supports 3G dual-carrier HSPA+ mobile networks. This allows you to obtain download speeds of up to 42Mbit/s on compatible 3G networks (giffgaff included).


Wireless charging is also supported using the Qi wireless charging standard (also seen on the Nokia Lumia 920) as is NFC wireless communication technology for sharing contact details, webpages and photos. In the future, NFC will allow you to pay for things wirelessly using your handset.


In terms of battery life, the Nexus 4 features a 2,100 mAh battery. This is the same battery capacity as found on the Galaxy S III. LG claim that you should be able to get 15 hours talk time from a single charge so day-long use shouldn’t be a worry. However, the battery isn’t removable like on the Galaxy S III so you won’t be able to carry a spare battery with you. The iPhone 5 features a non-removable 1,440mAh battery rated for 8 hours talk time.


One worry about the device is that it features a glass back, like the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S. Whilst the glass back is chemically toughened (“Gorilla Glass”), there is still a danger it could shatter if dropped on hard surfaces such as concrete. The handset also lacks a MicroSD card slot for memory expansion: this can be a particular worry if you’re opting for the 8GB version of the handset. The iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 come with 16GB as standard.


Android 4.2: Photosphere, Gesture Keyboard & Google Now


The Nexus 4 is the first device to ship with Android 4.2. Whilst version 4.2 retains the “Jelly Bean” moniker from Android 4.1, there are several new features such as improved panoramas and a Swype-like gesture keyboard.


  • Photosphere. Since Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, it’s been possible to capture a panorama by moving your phone slowly in one direction. Android makes use of your phone’s gyroscope to detect your orientation and automatically stiches your photograph into one long panorama picture. With Android 4.2, Google has enhanced this feature to work in both vertical and horizontal directions simultaneously. This allows you to create fully-immersive 360-degree panoramas in the style of Google Street View. There’s a collection of sample pictures here.


  • Other Camera Improvements. Other camera improvements include support for high-dynamic range photography (HDR), a new camera interface and support for Instagram-like filters within the camera application.

  • Gesture Typing. Rather than tapping each letter on the keyboard individually, Android 4.2 allows you to type by tracing between successive letters in a word. This is similar functionality to that offered by third-party keyboards such as Swype and SwiftKey Flow. We’ve explored various types of software keyboard before with many of you claiming speed improvements using Swype.

  • Google Now.jpg“Google Now” Improvements. Google introduced their “Google Now” virtual assistant in Android 4.1. As well as providing the ability to search the web using your voice (like Siri), “Google Now” also aims to automatically surface “cards” with information that is likely to be useful and relevant to you. In Android 4.2, this has been enhanced with “Google Now” automatically searching through your e-mail for restaurant reservations, package shipping details and more. There’s a great walkthrough of Google Now at The Verge.

  • Miracast. Android 4.2 allows you to wirelessly mirror your phone’s display on a TV using Miracast. This is essentially a wire-free version of MHL. You’ll need a Miracast-compatible TV to use this functionality.

  • Quick Settings. Android 4.2 allows you to access “Quick Settings” by pulling down on the notification bar with two fingers. This allows you to quickly enable and disable features such as GPS, wi-fi and Bluetooth. HTC and Samsung devices already provide similar functionality through the “Quick Toggles” on the notification bar.

  • Lock Screen Widgets. Android 4.2 allows widgets to be added to the lock screen.

The Nexus 4 will be the first device to ship with Android 4.2. Other high-end Android devices such as the HTC One X, Samsung Galaxy S III and Samsung Galaxy Note II are likely to receive updates in the coming months.


Nexus 4 vs iPhone 5 & Galaxy S3: Technical Specifications Compared


The Nexus 4’s technical specifications compare to the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III as follows:



LG Nexus 4

 Nexus 4 Front.jpg

Apple iPhone 5

 iPhone 5 Front.jpg

Samsung Galaxy S III

 Marble White.jpg


1.5GHz quad-core

1.3GHz dual-core

1.4GHz quad-core


4.7-inch TFT display

4.0-inch TFT display

4.8-inch AMOLED (organic LED)

Screen Resolution

1280x768 (320ppi)

1136x640 (326ppi)

1280x720 (306ppi)

Operating System

Google Android 4.2 (Jelly Bean)

Apple iOS 6

Google Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Upgradable to Android 4.1.


8GB/16GB internal memory

16GB/32GB/64GB internal memory

16/32/64GB internal memory

MicroSD Expansion



Up to 64GB


8 megapixel with LED flash

8 megapixel with LED flash

8 megapixel with LED flash

Video recording

1080p, 30 frames per second

1080p, 30 frames per second

1080p, 30 frames per second


2,100mAh (15 hours talk time)

1,440mAh (8 hours talk time)

2,100mAh (11.6 hours talk time)





Wireless Charging



Yes, with replacement back cover

3G Connectivity

DC-HSPA+, up to 42 Mbit/s

DC-HSPA+, up to 42 Mbit/s

HSPA+, up to 21 Mbit/s

Approx. price

£239 for 8GB
£279 for 16GB

£529 for 16GB

£370 for 16GB

SIM card size

Micro SIM

Nano SIM

Micro SIM


All three devices are compatible with giffgaff and some great savings can be had by buying these devices upfront and using one of our giffgaff goodybags. All new giffgaff SIM cards feature a pop-out Micro SIM.  For the iPhone 5, you’ll need to cut your SIM card down to a Nano SIM.


Nexus 4: Price Comparison


The Nexus 4 is being sold by Google through their Google Play online store. It costs £239 for the 8GB version and £279 for the 16GB version. As the Nexus 4 lacks a MicroSD expansion slot, it may be worth opting for the 16GB version so you have more room for apps, photos and other downloads. Both versions of the phone are unlocked if you buy it through Google Play.


The Nexus 4 is particularly notable for its low price: other high-end devices such as the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S3 usually retail for around £500 RRP. It is rumoured that Google is subsidising the sale of each handset by around £200.


You can often make great savings by buying your handset upfront and using one of our giffgaff goodybags. Over the course of 24 months, the total cost of ownership is often lower than on a contract. For somebody who requires around 250 minutes each month, prices would compare as follows:



Cost on giffgaff

Cheapest Contract

Google Nexus 4

£239 for handset + £10/month


Samsung Galaxy S III

£370 for handset + £10/month


Apple iPhone 5

£529 for handset + £10/month


* Comparisons are based on standard data packages. Tariff comparisons as of 13th November.


For more information on how the “total cost of ownership” is calculated, please see our iPhone 5 price comparison article.


Your Thoughts…


In this article, we looked at Google and LG’s latest device: the Nexus 4. The Nexus 4 is particularly noteworthy for its cutting-edge technology and solid specifications whilst also having an incredibly competitive price. We’ve also looked at some of the advances which Google is introducing in the Nexus 4 and in Android 4.2.


What do you think of the Nexus 4? Do you think it’ll be your next SIM-free handset? Are you excited about the latest version of Android, version 4.2? We’d love to hear your thoughts: drop us a comment below and let us know what you think!


Ken Lo writes about mobile technology and the mobile industry at Ken's Tech Tips.

heavy hitter
Very informative article - thanks.
giffgaff head-scratcher

Lovely phone, great article, but lousy shopping experience from the Google Play store who are now being berated by most people who have attempted to purchase this handset worldwide.


UK store sold out in less than 30 minutes, google sent out the notification that sales were go about 15 minutes after the option to buy reverted back to coming soon.


Of course at the bargain basement price google were offering it at, this was only to be expected, but the crashes experienced during the checkout process which resulted in most people being disappointed will surely have resulted in pushing many people towards other manufacturers.


It will remain to be seen how soon stock becomes available to cope with the pent up demand for this handset, because the other options such as via o2 on payg at £399 are not likely to attract any but the most desperate.







What Google showed today is a disaster. I was trying to get N4 today, failed, I'm so dissapointed and angry. Google managed to prove that they do not have even small idea how to do sale, they need to learn from Apple...


This is awesome!!! A very competitive price too. I frickin love it!!! Smiley Very Happy


daammm this phone is good Smiley Happy

Looks good.

Ken or anyone else for that matter, err excuse my stupidity :smileyembarrassed: But is it quad band?

giffgaff head-scratcher

It supports the following




GSM/EDGE/GPRS (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)

3G (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz)

HSPA+ 42