My Nexus 4 experience thus far

So I was lucky and got in on one of the earlier times that the Nexus 4 was available... so it's been my daily (and only) phone for a few months now and thought I could jot down a few words relating to my experience.

I came from a Galaxy Nexus on Verizon (toro). I had it rooted and running one of Peter Alfonso's ROMs as they were stock android with minimal performance tweaks. I like stock Android. It's my opinion that the OS should be as bare as possible, especially given our app-driven ecosystems these days. I really liked the Galaxy Nexus other than the cheap plastic and horrible battery life.

When the Nexus 4 was announced and everything pointed to being GSM only, I thought about it for a while. I'd like the spec bump but wasn't sure about the change of networks. I did like the thought of drastically reducing my phone bill though.

Eventually I decided to make the change to T-Mobile's $30 monthly 4G plan. I kept my Verizon hotspot, so I figured I could just supplement any poor data coverage if I absolutely needed to. I don't talk much, so I figured I could plan on $10 worth of voice overage a month and still come out way ahead than my current Verizon plan (which I always had unused, wasted minutes).

My first months phone bill on T-Mobile was a little weird, I chalk that up to learning the ropes. The long story is I had to figure out when to pay/reload my account. I eventually spend $38 on service for the first month (including tax). Compared to almost $80 previously on Verizon. My second month was $40. I'm on track to be at or below $40 this month too, so I'm definitely spending less on phone service. That's a good thing.

As far as service goes, I haven't had any big issues. I live in the Seattle area (Eastside specifically, so more like Redmond/Bellevue/Kirkland/Bothell area). HSPA service is very good here and honestly, the download speeds are pretty much the same as Verizon's LTE from my experience (mid-to-upper teens consistently). Upload speeds suck in comparison, the upper end is usually around 2-3mbps where Verizon would be 10+. I still believe that for data service it's very hard to beat Verizon for this reason, especially if you tether or do any noticeable amount of uploading/sending. One thing that isn't really well known is that on these per-paid plans from T-Mobile you can't replace your voicemail service with something like Google Voice. Suck.

Now down to the phone itself: the performance is great. It's definitely a step up in almost every way compared to the previous Nexus. Here's where I would knock it though: camera quality, screen brightness and the way it switches between network types. I've yet to root it or really do anything other than use it. I just haven't found a pressing need yet. It'll happen sometime, just haven't done it yet. That should actually give you an idea of how well stock Android works now...

The camera quality isn't super great. I'm not a huge picture taker, so it doesn't bother me a lot. What I can say is that the ISO levels are always sky high, I assume for the sake of speed. I'd personally rather have a slightly slower camera that takes a better picture. The Galaxy Nexus camera wasn't particularly great (especially only being 5 mega pixels). So I think they're probably about the same given their strengths and weaknesses. Which kinda sucks. HTC phones tend to have the best cameras on Android phones from my experience. It'd be nice to have an iPhone quality camera on a Nexus.

The screen looks good and is fine 98% of the time. When it's dark however, the screen is always too bright. The lowest brightness setting is way to bright for a dark room IMO. Painful on the eyes. It's hard to check an email at a red light because your eyes go all wonky. I'm currently trying out tons of brightness apps and can't find anything that really solves the problem. Most apps just overlay the screen with a filter, and just make things harder to see, not any less bright. Anyway... the screen is too bright. Honestly, I just wish the brightness slider went lower. Hopefully a software fix comes along that fixes this.

Network switching seems to always be a problem with Android. Almost every phone I've had always ends up with some kind of network switching issue. Eventually they seem to get fixed either through official updates or third party hacks. Anyway, my issue is that HSPA constantly goes into sleep state to save battery. That's great, but it takes too damn long to wake up again. So you want to satisfy that nervous tick to check your phone? See you have a notification (Lightflow obviously), you wake the phone, open Gmail and it waits to download your new message. You've got full service 3G (5 bars) and it just waits. You sit there. After about 10-15 seconds you notice it switches over to HSPA and downloads the message in 1 second. If 3G was actually working instead of trying to switch to HSPA it would have downloaded that message in 1.2 seconds and the entire wait would have been moot. That annoys me more than anything.

So yeah, I wrote way too much and you probably hit the back button a while ago...

Other than that, I've had a good experience with the phone. I really like paying less for everyday phone service. I think that offsets the few (somewhat minor) issues I've had. These little issues could be solves with software updates, so there's that too.