First impressions of the Google Nexus 4 smartphone

Google Nexus 4Google’s Nexus 4, built by LG, follows the typical cycle: a new Nexus each year to show off the latest Android software. Like last year’s Galaxy Nexus, Google will sell the handset directly, without contract, through the Google Play store. To provide an idea of how fast the cost of such technology is dropping, note that the unlocked Galaxy Nexus I bought one year ago cost me $575. But, the latest Nexus 4 has a few hardware improvements and starts at $299 for an 8 GB model or $349 for a 16 GB version.

Although Google’s event to introduce new Android device this past Monday was canceled due to Hurricane Sandy, Google sent me a Nexus 4 to review. Since I was without power for several days due to the storm, here are my first impressions, to be followed with a full review in the near future:

  • The Nexus 4 reminds me much of the Galaxy Nexus. It shares the same general form factor — not a bad thing in my opinion — and improves upon it. The device is thinner than its predecessor and uses a softer, better-feeling material around the sides. Nexus 4 is also flatter: Both the front and back of the phone are glass. It also feels better in the hand.
  • Most of the Nexus 4 buttons and ports are in the same place as the Nexus. The headphone is on top of the device, however.
  • The battery is integrated into the Nexus 4 and there’s no memory expansion slot.
  • A few quick pictures with the 8 megapixel camera show me that the camera won’t be a weak spot as it was on the old Galaxy Nexus.
  • This may be personal opinion more than anything scientific, but the display on the Nexus 4 looks slightly better to my eye. It’s a 4.7-inch IPS screen with 1280 x 768 resolution.
  • The Nexus 4 is the first smartphone to run Android 4.2. I haven’t had time to run through all of the new features, but I like the new quick settings option available in the Android notification shade. It provides access to different radio settings and also shows battery life and phone signal strength.

Since I’ve only just had a short time with the Nexus 4, I can’t comment on the performance although at first glance, it appears very snappy. That shouldn’t surprise, given the 2 GB of memory and dual-corequad-core Qualcomm(s qcom)Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset. So far, my first thought is that the Nexus 4 already looks like a nice evolution of the Galaxy Nexus at a reasonable price-point.

Stay tuned for more as I put the Nexus 4 through its paces using T-Mobile’s HSPA+ network. The phone does work with AT&T (s t) as well, but T-Mobile will be selling the phone at a starting price of $199 with contract, so I’m using a T-Mobile SIM card for test purposes.