Saturday, February 9, 2013

My review of the Nexus 4

A new year, a new Nexus phone for me. I've burned through several phones lately. I've noticed I tend to only keep them for around 9 months before getting rid of them. However, this time around, I may be keeping  the new Nexus 4 for quite some time.

First off, lets start off with the hardware. Made by LG, the Nexus 4 has a lot in common (unfortunately I suppose) with the Apple iPhone 4/4S with its glass covered front and back. The design language on initial look still bears a lot in common with the Galaxy Nexus. It still has the same overall shape, screen size, and LED notification as its predecessor.

Some of the most noticeable differences are the patented crystal-like sparkle design with the word Nexus across the back, the retiring of the iconic camera bezel we had been used for the past three Nexus phones, a shift to MicroSIM card, and a lack of removable battery. The battery was the biggest turn off for me, but thankfully LG saw fit to include a 2150 mAh battery which is even larger than my extended battery for the Galaxy Nexus.

Overall, I really like the design of the hardware, but I'm leery of the glass back shattering on impact. There's definitely a case in its future. I also find the power and volume buttons have less tactile feedback than my former Nexus. The overall weight feels good in the hand and comes in at just a little more than my Galaxy Nexus with stock battery.

Internally, this bad boy is a beast. The 28nm 1.5 GHz quad-core processor tears through everything creating the smoothest Android experience I have ever had. The GPU runs at 400 MHz (mine is overclocked to 487 MHz) and never fails to run games at their highest quality. As I said before, 2 GB of RAM should be the minimum for Android and it really shows here. Even with the system loaded to the max along with the memory allocated for the GPU, I still have at minimum 500 MB free. I no longer require minfree settings to maintain smooth performance or prevent sudden closes.

The 4.7 inch 1280 x 768 IPS display is the most beautiful screen I have ever used. With the zero gap technology, the screen is so close to the glass you can practically reach out and touch webpages. Its sharpness, clarity, and color reproduction are even better than the HD screen of the Galaxy Nexus. It's also extremely bright.

The phone also comes with the usual suspects on connectivity: Bluetooth (version 4.0), Wifi (at both 2.4 and 5 GHz ranges), GPS, GLONASS, USB 2.0, etc. Some changes are a lack of USB Host (not totally sure on this), change from MHL to SlimPort HDMI, and the addition of wireless charging. The USB Host feature I didn't use that much and I'm interested in getting the Nexus charging orb in the future to test out wireless charging. I'm not happy with the change from the accepted MHL standard to SlimPort. It just means I'm going to have to purchase another accessory.

The Nexus 4 runs a 42 Mbit radio and I'm blown away by it. Previously, I maxed my connection on my Galaxy Nexus at about 9 Mbits whereas the Nexus 4 runs anywhere from 10 to 22 Mbits. It's really a huge difference in web page loading and it's certainly a welcome upgrade.

One thing I haven't been too pleased with is the camera. The pictures I have taken have been a bit grainy in spite of the fact this is an 8 MP shooter with a back side illuminated sensor. I'm not sure right now whether or not this is the hardware itself or Google's lackluster camera app. On the bright side, my phone supports HDR so I'll have to take some outdoor shots in the future to see how things turn out.

Battery life has been pretty good. My current battery life is at 66 percent with 16 hours off the charger giving me an overall total of about 48 hours or more depending on how I use it. Very good battery life. A lot of this is owed to the 28nm process for the processor.

I'm really happy with the Nexus 4. It effectively doubled all of the specs of the Galaxy Nexus and came in at a great cost ($450 because I had to buy it on eBay since Google wasn't accepting my card for some reason). Hopefully, I hold on to this phone longer than most of my former ones. Only time and the introduction of the next Nexus phone will tell.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

What next for Android?

Android 5.0 (or 4.3 perhaps) is coming up right around the corner. Speculation says it's going to be released at the next Google I/O in May or June. Nothing is known right now about it, but I pondered what Android really needs.

Camera improvements

While earlier versions have introduced zero shutter lag, panorama, and photosphere, stock Android lags behind greatly compared to skinned versions. I'd like to see HDR, slow motion recording, ISO options, etc. Up till now, Google really hasn't taken the camera software in Android very seriously. We have stupid options for recording video like silly faces, but nothing really practical.

File Manager

It really blows my mind that Android has no dedicated file manager. Third party ROMs like MIUI and CyanogenMod and certain skinned versions of Android all have their own unique file manager programs. The option does exist to download third party options, but something this simple should be included automatically.

Theme capability

One of the nicer things about MIUI, AOKP, CyanogenMod, and others based of these third party ROMs is they have the ability to theme virtually every aspect of the ROM by applying a theme. MIUI has designed their own specific theme engine while CM uses the open source theme engine created by T-Mobile for their MyTouch phones. Forget your average skinning, stock Android could get around these issues of upgrade delays by allowing everyone to change their look as they want. Want it to look like the Galaxy S III? Done.

These are just a few things I think Android would benefit on the whole. No doubt Google will have some unique surprises in store for everyone, but hopefully they improve some of the weaker areas in Android. It's come a long way, but there's always room for improvement.