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printed November 25, 2015
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Review: Google Nexus 4

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The Google Play Store is your one-stop-shop for music, movies, TV shows, books, and magazines. It addition to the Store itself, the N4 comes with all the ancillary apps that are used to interact with each type of content (Play Music, Play Movies, etc.). There are no other installed music or video services, but obviously the app store has plenty from which to pick.



The biggest changes to the camera software are the new menu controls and the Photo Sphere tool, both of which we discussed in depth in our full Android 4.2 Jelly Bean review. What you need to know about the N4's camera is that it’s really fast and comes with a decent set of features, but not as many as might come on a device with OEM software on board.



The N4 has an 8-megapixel camera. It’s much better than the 5-megapixel shooter on the Galaxy Nexus, but not as good as the One X+, iPhone 5, or Galaxy S III. It does best when outside in bright sunlight and suffers when indoors or working with low light (the flash really helps; be sure to turn it on.) Focus was the biggest problem I had with the N4. Many of the images were too soft. Exposure was typically OK, but white balance was uneven. Add these together and you get excellent results some of the time, OK results most of the time, and extremely not-OK results too often for me.


You can see a sample Photo Sphere shot right here.


The video performance was a little bit better. Focus was more consistently accurate, as was white balance. I was pleased with the majority of the results I got.


The gallery app is essentially carried over from Android 4.0 and 4.1. Aside from the ability to view the Photo Sphere images, it doesn't do anything new or different. It's better at sharing and editing photos than it is at managing all your online albums, but you do have some control over which photos are where.



The N4's Bluetooth radio worked perfectly. I was able to connect with an array of other gadgets and pass phone calls and music to mono and stereo headphones. Calls sounded good through my favorite headset, but the volume was a bit low (even though both phone and headset were turned all the way up). The same was true of music.


The N4 includes Google's Chrome browser and not the older, generic Android browser. I find Chrome to be the best choice for Android handsets, but there are plenty of alternatives in the Google Play Store. It worked perfectly at rendering web sites over both AT&T and T-Mobile's networks. Web sites were quick to load no matter what sort of connection was available, despite the N4's slower data speeds.



The N4 has a fairly big and easily-read white digital clock on the lockscreen. One of the new features in Android 4.2 is called DayDream. It is essentially a live wallpaper that's only used with the device is plugged in. One of the wallpapers is the clock. So, if you want, you can set the N4 to always show the big clock - which floats around the home screen - when the device is docked or charging.


The N4's GPS radio worked just fine. Google Maps is the only navigation service in board and it worked like a charm. Together with Maps, the GPS radio pinpointed me to within about 15 feet in 5 to 10 seconds. It was very quick. Google maps is a great tool for plotting directions or searching for local points of interest.



The N4 includes NFC (near-field communications). Google ostensibly believes that people will use the NFC with its Google Wallet app to make mobile payments. However, it can also be used with NFC tags to change settings and perform other actions. The N4 doesn't come with any NFC tags, but you can pick them up at carrier stores or electronics retailers. You can also use NFC radio to share content, such as photos, between two Android devices. I tested this feature and it worked perfectly. You can choose to turn the NFC radio on and off, which is nice.

Wireless Charging

The N4 supports wireless charging. You have to go out and buy a charging pad yourself ($30 - $50), plug the pad in and put it somewhere you like to drop your phone. Place the Nexus 4 on the pad and it will charge without needing to be plugged in. I was able to test this feature and found it worked well, but charging was slow.

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