Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Nexus 4

This post could as easily have been titled "buying my first mobile phone".  Yes, it's 2013 and I've just shelled out for my first ever new mobile phone, buying the Google/LG Nexus 4 so I thought I'd put something down about switching phones.  Prior to this as regular readers will know, I had an HTC Desire (which was actually a work phone), before that a Nokia N73 (which I bought second hand from eBay).  So I don't have a particularly prolific phone history, I tend to wait for what I want after researching long and hard and buying something that will last me several years (I'd say I change every 3 years or so).  With the price and feature set of the Nexus 4 as they are, it was a no-brainer next move for me so after the early rush on stock saw them getting sold out everywhere I waited and ordered when they came back in stock (on Feb 4th) and took delivery the very next day in spite of the 2 week wait Google were advertising for delivery.  Having had the phone a couple of months now, I'd say I've got used to it so now seems like the right time to talk about it.

So why the move to a new phone this time?
Basically, it wasn't at all driven by the Nexus 4, it was all about the HTC Desire.  I had been running non-standard firmware versions on it for quite a while and got fed up of the various instabilities in them, or out of date Android versions (for the more stable versions) but the real sticking point of the HTC Desire is that 150MB user space for apps.  That was OK back in the day, when apps were small and relatively few and far between in Android.  However, it quickly became far too little and I was either constantly battling to have the minimal set of apps I needed installed or copying them out to SD card in a custom firmware and suffering the slow-down consequences of doing that.

OK, so I decided I needed a new phone but why the Nexus 4?
Price.  Simple.  End of.  Having been lucky enough to have had the HTC Desire since it first came out, I've been used to a high end smart phone for quite a while.  A lot of the cheaper phones on the market today aren't really much better than the HTC Desire even now, so I needed to look high end.  Obvious choices were other top notch phones from HTC or perhaps a move to Samsung for the Galaxy S3.  However, looking at the high end market as it is right now, you just can't beat the Nexus 4 for "bang for your buck".  It's a high end phone offering all the features of the S3 and other similar phones but at a whisker over half of the price, so no contest.

What do I like about the Nexus 4?
I'm going to split this into two parts.  Software and then Hardware.

Well it's Android, and being a Google phone it's a bang up to date version too.    I can still use all the same apps I know and love from the HTC Desire (with the odd change of widget here and there as I've moved away from HTC Sense, obviously) but now I can have them all installed at the same time and running and comparative speed.  There are three things that come to mind when talking about the software differences.  First, the gesture typing keyboard seems really quite adequate to me; I was a Swype user before now but I've not even been remotely tempted to install Swype on the Nexus 4 as the gesture typing from Google more or less exactly replicates the experience with a few subtle differences.  Second, Google Now really does seem very clever indeed; within a couple of days it had worked out where I live and where I work so I get traffic updates before I make the journey; I get similar information if I've travelled somewhere I don't usually go; recently on holiday in Spain, Now welcomed me with local weather information, an estimate of the time back to the airport, a list of local restaurants and attractions, etc.  Third, the camera software completely blows me away; yes there's the photosphere camera which is a nice toy but the in-built ability to do time lapse videos, HDR pictures, panoramic pictures (which get stitched automatically) as well as all the various scene modes, editing facilities, location and social functions they've put in the app make it absolutely first class - my two cameras (a compact that is a few years old and an SLR) get absolutely nowhere near this level of functionality.

Hardware wise, the tech specs speak for themselves being dual core, 2GB RAM, nice screen, camera, etc.  Speaking of camera, I've been particularly impressed by the quality of the pictures and video from it against what I had before with the HTC Desire in addition to the camera software I've already talked about.  I could go on and on about what I like, the list is really long since it's more or less bigger, better and more powerful than the HTC Desire as you'd expect being released 3 years later.

So what's not to like?
If I was an Apple fan-boy I'd say "it's not an iPhone" but more seriously there are probably two downsides that I can think of.  You know it's coming... battery life.  Until humankind invents a more compact version of storing more electricity then battery life is always going to suck.  I can get 2 days from the phone with light usage but under heavier load I can get 1 day out of it.  The other thing is the size.  Preferably, I'd like to be able to break the laws of physics somehow and have a phone with a gorgeous massive screen that is absolutely tiny, unrealistic at the moment.  It is bigger than the HTC Desire and I would say, while thin, is still quite a large phone.


Keith Mantell said...

"I can get 2 days from the phone with light usage"
You wouldn't have liked the Galaxy S3!

Graham White said...

Indeed, it's pretty much the same for all smart phones. I guess my battery is still relatively new, but I really can use less than 50% of it on a light use day (like when I'm at work and I'm using the laptop all the time) but on a heavy day (playing games, or over the weekend) it's a charge every day situation.