Nexus 4: Initial Impressions

My Nexus 4 was delivered on Wednesday, and it’s amazing. I’ve only had it for a day-and-a-half so far, so this will just be my initial thoughts/impressions of the phone so far. I’ll probably write a detailed review in two weeks or so, once I’ve had enough time to really settle in and live with the phone.

The first thing I noticed when I got the phone is how small the packaging was, and how well-designed it was. These manufacturers are definitely learning a thing or two about packaging from Apple, the box was very simple, with just a picture of the Nexus 4 and the word “Nexus” on it. Elegant, simple, and to the point. Opening up the box, the first thing I saw was the phone. In the box was a USB cord, wall plug adapter, and a SIM ejector tool. While the former is standard to have with a new phone, the inclusion of the latter was a really nice touch, because I didn’t need to go look for a needle. No headphones included, but that’s okay. It makes the costs cheaper (at $350 + tax for the unlocked phone that’s a really good price), and most stock headphones suck anyways. I already have a really good pair of Bose in-ears so I can’t complain about not including headphones. There was also a quick start guide and a brief manual, and that was it. Even inside the box, you could see the Apple influence, everything was arranged neatly and in a compact, space-efficient way. I’m glad that manufacturers finally realized how important packaging is, it’s literally the first impression a buyer gets. Thinking back to the days of the Motorola Razr phones (the original ones, not the smartphone ones), those came with ridiculously oversized boxes that had carrier branding all over the place, with loads and loads of bullet points listing every feature on every side, yuck.

The first time I picked up the phone, it was a little weird how light it felt. My G2 wasn’t a brick by any means but wow, I was not prepared for how light the Nexus 4 was going to be. For a device that has a 4.7″ screen and glass on both sides, it’s ridiculously light. Thankfully not as light as the Galaxy S3, that phone feels like a toy. It feels very solid in my hands. While I’m not about to start throwing it, it feels very well put together. It’s a premium phone with an entry-level price.

Pictures don’t do this phone justice, the back is even more beautiful in person. The little reflective circles give this phone a bit of class, and help to make an otherwise boring back look really nice. The front is a solid sheet of glass, no buttons of any kind, and all the sensors are well-hidden under the glass. The front-mounted camera is pretty unobtrusive as well. There’s a little notification light below the screen, but it’s also hidden until needed. Beautiful. The glass curves downwards at the left and right edges. While this may seem like a useless design feature, it actually helps a ton with making the edge of the screen usable. On my G2, I’d often have to switch hands to get to the edge of the screen, like to drag an app icon to another homescreen. On the Nexus 4, I can smoothly do it with the same hand. It’s this attention to detail that I really love.

Also noticeable is the complete absence of carrier branding. I bought this phone unlocked from Google for that reason. No ugly T-Mobile logos anywhere. Even Google’s branding is only on the back, nothing on the front at all.

The screen is amazing, it’s ridiculously bright even at the lower settings, and I’m able to read the screen well even in direct sunlight, which is something I could never do on my G2 unless the screen was cranked up pretty bright. Colors look fine to me, and there is not a single pixel to be seen. The 1024 × 768 resolution makes everything look incredible. Pictures look stunning, and text looks really crisp and sharp.

The quad-core processor keeps the phone running along very very well, in my initial day with it, I listened to music, rapidly switched between a dozen or so apps, played some games, and watched some stuff on Netflix. The phone handled it all with ease. Games that bogged down my G2 (like Temple Run 2) run super smoothly, even with the graphics set to maximum. The true test will come when I download Grand Theft Auto onto it sometime this week.

The battery life is decent, considering the size of the screen and the quad-core processor. I made it through a long day (from 9am to midnight) with about 25% left when I got home. This was with pretty heavy usage and the 4G data on all day.

The software is stock Android 4.2, with all the Google apps preloaded. No bloatware, just the essentials. So far, it’s been working great, but I’ll talk about this a bit more in the full review.

That’s about it for my initial impressions, I’ll be taking notes and writing my full review in a week or two. It won’t be a super technical review (like Anandtech or Engadget), it’ll be a more real-world review.