Google has officially announced the Nexus 4, the latest phone in its Nexus line of flagship Android devices. Built by LG, the phone features a 4.7-inch 1280 x 768 IPS display, a 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor — which Google claims is the fastest on the market — an 8 megapixel camera and a 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera, and up to 16GB of storage. Oh, and the back is made of glass — etched, layered glass that sparkles with a strange, almost holographic depth.
The executive vibe is balanced nicely by the playfulness of the back
Not much of that should be surprising, as the phone had been thoroughly leaked around the web in the past few weeks. What is surprising is how much better it all looks in person. Compared to the LG Optimus G, which shares many of the same components, it's no contest — the Nexus 4 is a far nicer piece of hardware. It feels weighty and high-end, and the tight construction combined with the soft-touch plastic on the sides and chrome edging give it a solidly executive vibe — a vibe that's balanced nicely by the playfulness of Disco City on the back.
The device will sell for $299 with 8GB of storage, or $349 with 16GB. A T-Mobile version will sell unlocked for $199 on a two-year contract. Alongside the improved screen and faster CPU, the Nexus 4 has 2GB of RAM, Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, NFC, Bluetooth, and built-in compatibility with Google's latest accessory, the Wireless Charging Orb — an inductive charging dock. The phone also houses a sizable 2100 mAh battery, which the company claims will get you about 10 hours of talk time.
There's no LTE here
All that battery life would be great if the device was sporting LTE radios — but it is not. Google has decided to forgo stricter carrier partnerships in the US, which for now means that the company will only offer the device as an unlocked HSPA+ phone. That's a bit of a crushing blow to many, who expected Google's next flagship phone to go toe-to-toe with the iPhone 5 and the latest crop of Windows Phone devices.
On the bright side, the 320 ppi IPS+ LCD screen is terrific — a massive upgrade over the so-so Galaxy Nexus display and competitive with the iPhone's 326 ppi Retina Display. And it's not just competitive in pixel density; the screen looks stunning. It's also laminated and uses LG's new "G2" technology which integrates the touch sensor into the Gorilla Glass 2 outer layer, making everything thinner as well as bringing the actual pixels closer to the surface of the display. (Apple uses a similar technique called "in-cell touch" on the iPhone 5, which integrates the touch sensor into the display panel.) The screen is also curved slightly at the edges, like it's been melted over the phone; Google says it's meant to improve swiping in from the sides of the device.
Performance on the phone was snappy. Google execs we spoke with pointed out just how fast the new Snapdragon CPU is, and in our short time testing the phone, it seemed to rip through just about anything we threw at it with little or no hesitation.
The screen is curved slightly at the edges, like it's been melted over the phone
For those disappointed with the camera performance of the Galaxy Nexus, there's also a bright spot here. Literally. Photos taken with the Nexus 4 seem greatly improved over the last generation, and Google reps say that a lot of attention has been paid to the low-light performance of the camera. We won't know for sure just how much better it is than previous phones until we put the device through its full paces, but first impressions suggest a big improvement.
On the software front, Google is launching Android 4.2 along with the Nexus 4 (and the Nexus 10 tablet), and it's got some killer new features. We have a full look at the software here, not to mention an exclusive feature on the inside story of the Android team here, but there are a few standout components of the OS update that are worth mentioning.
For starters, Google has added widget functionality to the lock screen, meaning you can quickly glance at information without having to get into the phone. The camera has also been improved with a completely redesigned UI focused on single-handed input, and Google has added a Street View-like mode called Photo Sphere which makes panorama shots seem tiny by comparison. The company has also improved Google Now significantly (we have a big feature story on that too).
Android now has a typing mode called Gesture Typing, which mimics the functionality of Swype in conjunction with standard tap typing. The company has also added a new quick settings menu to the notifications window, tweaked Gmail with much-needed features like swipe to archive and scale-to-fit messages (like the iPhone), and added new accessibility options that make Android easier than ever — for all users.
We'll have a full review of the Nexus 4 soon; until then, be sure to check into all of the in-depth news on Google's announcements today.
Nilay Patel contributed to this report.
You can also watch this video on YouTube.