Nexus 4 smartphone review

Nexus 4About a week ago, I bought the Nexus 4 smartphone via Google’s website. After much consideration, I decided the Nexus 4 sounded like the best option for the following reasons:

  • It’s inexpensive. I bought the 8GB model for $299 + two-day shipping + tax.
  • It’s unlocked and not part of a contract, allowing me to use a range of company’s prepaid services via swapping out the micro-SIM card. Even with the cost of going through several lesser smartphones in the past few years, I’ve calculated being on prepaid has still been much cheaper than what being on a contract during that time would’ve ran.
  • The only other prepaid option at the $300 range would’ve been the Samsung Galaxy S II. While it’s a nice enough phone, I didn’t think paying that much for 2011-era smartphone tech was a good idea.

Registration and set-up

The phone arrived pretty quickly, as did the micro-SIM card I ordered from T-Mobile, the prepaid carrier I’ve decided to use. Registering on T-Mobile’s website lets one choose a $30/month prepaid plan that offers “unlimited” 3G/4G data (data capped at 5GB) and 100 minutes per month. If one needs more than 100 minutes, extra time costs 10 cents/minute, which would be $6 for an hour. While the Nexus 4 doesn’t have “true” 4G (no LTE), it’s still much faster than my former Virgin Mobile/Sprint network, so I’m fine with it. I also don’t get many phone calls, so 100 minutes (and any extra time as needed) should work fine.

Setting up the Nexus 4 is just like setting up any other Android phone, including its hardware “cousin” the Nexus 7 tablet. After entering your Google email address and password, you’re prompted whether to restore previously saved apps/some options, which I chose to do. The Nexus 4 went ahead and downloaded most of the same apps I used on my previous phone and Nexus 7 tablet; for some reason, the Nexus 4 also imported the tablet’s wallpaper, which I soon changed.

Porting the phone number from Virgin Mobile ran into some problems. Porting required my Virgin Mobile account number, which forced me to call Virgin to acquire; the number wasn’t available via their online account management system. I finally got the number, after dealing with attempts by their customer service associate to hard sell sticking with Virgin. I then called T-Mobile and let them know I didn’t enter the account number when I registered online, which they soon entered for me. After this, the registration and number porting went through, and I set up the phone’s voice mail. Another reason for calling: when I initially went through T-Mobile’s online registration, the final step threw up an error message stating I hadn’t chosen some (unchoosable) payment option, an error I presume was related to my first account number-less attempt at porting the number from Virgin.

For more setup tips, GottaBeMobile’s Nexus 4 guide has some decent ones.

Android software

One of the Nexus 4′s signature traits is its use of a pure Android installation, without any manufacturer “skins.” Thus, things work quite smoothly, with the Nexus 4 running the newest version of Android. If you’ve used the Nexus 7 tablet, you’ll find the Nexus 4 works similarly. I am, however, still getting used to the size of the phone. With a 4.7-inch screen, it’s definitely the biggest smartphone I’ve ever used.

Protecting the phone

I purchased a case and plastic screen shield for the phone, as I usually do for smartphones. It’s also to address my one hesitation I had about buying the Nexus 4: comments online about the glass back cracking. However, none of the tech sites I usually read, nor Amazon.com’s user reviews, seemed to find it as prominent a problem as the comments made it out to sound. Phones made of glass don’t seem to have slowed down sales of the iPhone 4 or 4S, though Apple did wise up and dropped the use of glass from the iPhone 5. Hopefully, LG/Google will do the same for the next version of the Nexus phone.

Camera and photos

Taking photos works nicely, but some of the pictures have the wrong datestamp, defaulting to December 8, 2002 for some reason. While it’s easily fixed in iPhoto or Flickr, it’s still a concern.

The automatic backup of photos to either Google+ or Dropbox is nice. I’m still trying to figure out which one to stick with, though Google+ doesn’t expire access to most of its free storage space after a few years like Dropbox does. I wish Flickr would improve its Android app; automatic backing up of photos to Flickr doesn’t seem to be an option.

Here’s a few of the photos I’ve taken with the Nexus 4:

Downtown Milwaukee, May 2013

IMG_20130518_160227

IMG_20130518_160553

Conclusion

Overall, I’m enjoying the Nexus 4, and so far, I’m glad I bought the phone. I’m hoping the phone’s strong, mid-to-high-range specs (glass back/lack of LTE aside) make it last longer and have fewer problems than the previous two prepaid smartphones.

Those looking to buy a new unlocked or prepaid smartphone would probably be well served by the Nexus 4, keeping in mind the above mentioned caveats about the glass back/LTE. If buying a phone on contract, however, I’d also look at the HTC One, iPhone 5, and Galaxy S 4.

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