Just a few days ago, I wrote that we don’t need the very latest version of Android in order to enjoy our smartphones and since then I’ve been using the LG Google Nexus 4 handset as my primary handset. So let’s take a look at one of only two ‘phones running the very latest version of Android from a productivity perspective.
Firstly, it’s a large handset. The screen is disclosed as being 4.7″ in size but this is across the diagonal. The HTC One X and One X+ also have a 4.7″ screen, but in comparison, the HTC uses a narrower, taller screen. The Nexus 4 also uses software buttons, reducing the available on-screen space for applications. I’m not a great consumer of media on my handset and so that it’s a 15:9 screen ratio rather than the more usual 16:9 widescreen does not bother me in the slightest.
What I do notice is that the keyboard is especially wide and comfortable on the device. If you have used a Blackberry 9000 or 9900 you’ll understand how wonderful a wide keyboard is to type on! Some of the point of the Nexus branded devices is that users experience Android at its most pure. As such, the interface uses Google’s Holo layout. This is both beautiful and functional, but a little sparse compared with the competition.
Oh and it’s fast. Really fast. Applications open with a certain snap and the handset has a lot of memory, which means that things stay fast. Part of the reason why the device is quick is because it uses a modern high performance quad-core processor and the other reason is because without any additional skins, Android feels nimble and quick. The speed thing takes a knock when it comes to connectivity as the device does not have LTE. My UK carrier does not offer LTE and this is of no concern to me, but if you are used to the very high speed data network, you will probably miss it on the Nexus 4.
The next point I’d like to raise is the voice quality. In a word, it’s superb: very clear, with good volume without distorting. The Nexus 4 has active noise cancellation and this will help, too. For making and receiving calls, the Nexus 4 is very good indeed. So far, the Nexus 4 is shaping up to be a superb productivity device. The spacious keyboard, great voice quality and high performance internals means it’s a breeze flipping through emails, text messages and websites.
However, the Nexus 4 is not perfect. Three things come to mind and the first is that the interface, whilst being logical and fast, is missing many features that manufacturers add to their devices. You don’t have a smart dial feature in the ‘phone app, you can’t turn the device over to put it on speaker as you can with HTC Sense handsets. It doesn’t have SmartStay to keep the screen lit when looking at it. Depending on what you’re used to, you do miss these little nice touches. Sure; most can be added by downloading an application, but some of these require spending a little money. It’s something to watch out for.
Second, the device has a glass front and back. This makes it quite slippery and warm to the touch (glass absorbs heat, plastic lets it pass through). I don’t mind the heat but whilst the device feels superb in the hand, I get the feeling that it would crack if dropped. It needs a case, which of course disguises the good looks. The Nexus 4 is a sealed unit so if you were to crack the back, you can’t replace it.
Finally, battery life isn’t as good as I would expect given the modern low power internals and large battery. If you venture online there are a lot of forum conversations giving quite detailed technical advice on resolving battery life issues, but quite frankly, I don’t expect to need to very carefully set up a handset to stop it from chewing battery when idle. There is some comfort in that Google will release updates to hopefully solve this issue, but I would never recommend people buy a device based on what it should do. To summarize, the Nexus 4 is a good handset with the potential to be great. I love the look and feel of the device, the speed and the voice quality. I’m less enthused with the battery life; I have to compromise somewhere to see a day from it. From a productivity perspective, I do not believe it’s quite ready yet unless you’re happy to be plugging it on charge fairly frequently.