06/11/2012 15:15 | By Phil Lavelle, contributor, MSN Tech

Google Nexus 4 review

The LG manufactured smartphone stakes a claim for the Android crown

What is it?
The latest ‘Pure Google’ handset. Mind blowing specs in a beautiful design and at a price you’ll think is a joke.

What's great?
The Google Nexus 4 is both beautiful and solid. The screen is razor sharp and it’s seriously cheap compared to the competition.

What's not?
There’s no removable battery and storage is limited with no room to expand. And the camera – while good – could be better.

The bottom line
The Google Nexus 4 takes all the specs you’d expect in a much pricier unit and sells them cheaper. There may be a few areas for improvement – but it’s most definitely the best Nexus, and the best LG smartphone, that we’ve ever used.

Google Nexus 4 front and back (© Google)

Google Nexus 4: Review
The Google Nexus 4 is one of those devices sure to delight geeks. Google’s annual unveiling of its latest handset is always a big affair and gives us the latest branded Google handset. It’s teamed up with HTC and Samsung in the past but this is LG’s first crack at the whip. The difference here is the price. It’s being sold so cheaply (from £239), we can’t imagine that Google isn’t shifting the Google Nexus 4 at a loss.

Google Nexus 4: Build and Design

The Google Nexus 4 is a solid device. It puts us in mind of the iPhone 4S with its glossy piano black glass on the front and back. Even the edges are taken care of with a dull rubber to maximise the grip.

It’s a beautiful phone and blows away the theory from some that Android devices are like toys. It’s not the thinnest or smallest at 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1mm but it’s certainly no chunk either. Tipping the scales at 139g, it’s also not the lightest but hits the perfect balance at not being too heavy and feeling like a classy product.

Google Nexus 4 build (© Google)

Google Nexus 4: Display

The screen on the Google Nexus 4 is what sets it off. When not on, you can’t see it because its pitch black and disappears into the design. When it’s on, your heart skips a beat. It measures 4.7 inches and is seriously sharp, looking just as good – if not better – than the display on the iPhone 5. Colours are bright and vivid and blacks look deep and perfect. LG’s not left a gap between the screen and the glass so it’s also uber responsive to the touch.

Google Nexus 4: Operating System

Each year, when the Nexus phone is released, it comes with the newest version of Android before anybody else gets it. Therefore, the Google Nexus 4 runs Android’s newest OS - 4.2, AKA Jelly Bean.

It’s a beautiful, fluid and elegant system with apps installed in a drawer you access from the main screen. You can put shortcuts to your favourite apps on the homescreen and even little mini apps called Widgets which keep you up to date with what’s going on. You can do a million and one things with this OS including turning your phone into a portable Wi-Fi hotspot and unlocking it by simply using facial recognition. And the Google Now app will even tell you how long it’s going to take you to get home from work in current traffic conditions.

Google Nexus 4 Android OS (© Google)

Google Nexus 4: Camera

You get two cameras on the Google Nexus 4 – an 8MP one round the back and a 1.3MP one on the front. The latter is just for video calls or self portraits and is okay but not amazing. The rear camera shoots well in good light and even comes with HDR mode which combines elements from two pictures shot together to give you the best of both worlds.

Other features include the ability to shoot panorama images and sphere shots (like a panorama but goes up and down as well as left and right.) The photo app comes bundled with loads of filters so you can easily save your photos afterwards and make them look like old vintage snaps and so on - think Instagram.

The camera also allows you to shoot video in a number of resolutions including full 1080p HD. Fun elements include being able to take photos at the same time as shooting a movie and film in time lapse mode. Google’s even good enough to bundle a Movie Studio app so that you can edit your efforts together like Spielberg.

Google Nexus 4: Internet

The browser on the Google Nexus 4 is seriously fast. It’s a mobile version of Chrome, which millions of readers will be using on their desktop computers right now to read this review. You don’t get flash, unfortunately, so some websites will be unable to display properly but this is true for most phones nowadays.

Google Nexus 4: Media

Movies can be rented from Google through the Google Nexus 4 but you’ll need an internet connection to stream them. You can also buy books from Google to read on your device and there are lots of freebies too if you like the classics. Storing music on the phone is easy enough if you connect the Google Nexus 4 to a PC but there isn’t much space.

The Google Nexus 4 can be bought in 8GB or 16GB versions but that’s your lot and annoyingly, you can’t add a memory card like you can in other Android handsets. Apps are downloaded from the Google Play store – some are free, some you have to pay for – and with 700,000 or so in there, you’ll be able to download pretty much anything your iPhone owning buddies can. Also, remember Google Maps and Navigation come free and are pretty much unbeaten in their field. So you’ll be getting a full sat-nav as well.

Google Nexus 4 camera and media

Google Nexus 4: Verdict

The Google Nexus 4 is one of those phones we expected to be pretty good but were absolutely blown away with. The display is out of this world and don’t underestimate that – it’s the bit you’ll be using the most. Build quality is fantastic and everyone we showed it to agreed. The fact that it runs on an unmodified version of the latest Android OS means that updates will come to Google Nexus 4 owners first. The camera isn’t the best out there but it’s far from the worst and is more than capable for a smartphone. Battery life is pretty good too. In fact, our only criticism is that you can’t make the memory bigger but, considering the price tag, we still think it worthy of the full five star treatment.

Five stars

Google Nexus 4: Available 13 November - £239 (8GB), £279 (16GB)

Be sure to also check out our iPhone 5 review
Also, take a look at the Nexus 4's bigger brother: Google Nexus 10 review
Finally, if you want to save some money and go WinPhone then read our Nokia Lumia 620 review

See what the web thinks of the Google Nexus 4

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