Nexus 4

Today was nothing but good news: my Nexus 4 arrived (at least a week earlier than I expected based on the estimated shipping date when the order was placed), Google has again made factory images for the Nexus 4 available, and one of my apps that I thought 4.2 had killed was brought back from the dead as the result of testing on the Nexus 4. What follows are my initial impressions of the Nexus 4 after a few of hours of use.

With my previous handset being a Nexus S, the most obvious thing that stands out is the display. I was concerned that 4.7" might be too large to be comfortable for a handset... happily, this concern was unfounded. The size is quite comfortable to hold and interact with. While one-handed navigation in many apps isn't feasible, the utility of the extra screen real estate more than makes up for this. The display while not as bright and vibrant as the Nexus S, which could be argued as being too much so, is excellent providing a comfortably bright display with more natural looking colors and is quite crisp given the higher DPI. Like others, I can't make out individual pixels on the screen at this density and the display gives the illusion of being a tangible thing rather than dots on the screen. This latest iteration while being a bit heavier, actually feels lighter most likely as a result of its larger dimensions. Also noteworthy is the industrial design which has been improved and refined.

One other thing... this phone is fast. Really fast. The upgraded CPU and GPU result in responsiveness that feels quite a bit more fluid than the already buttery Nexus 7. Add to this the 2GB of system RAM that is spacious enough that I have yet to 'feel' an app needing to be relaunched and switching between half a dozen memory-hungry apps was instantaneous where on the Nexus 7 after about the 3rd or 4th app switch the launch pauses start to become noticeable. This is the result of the system having to flush the older inactive apps out of RAM to make room for the new and then relaunch the app you were in when you return to them. This is a real benefit when you are running multiple apps simultaneously on the phone (say listening to some audio while doing something in another app/game) and an email comes in that you need to hop over to take a look at etc. before jumping back to what you were working on before the interruption.

Overall, the camera is quite an upgrade. Photo Sphere pictures were the big marketing point and are nice but the feature I appreciate most is HDR which makes taking pictures in less than ideal lighting conditions possible and pictures in good lighting conditions look even better. The camera app in general continues to improve both from a UX and feature standpoint.

Only a few things have stood out as negatives. My initial impression of the camera is that while it has a higher pixel count, the quality of some pictures taken had a harshness to them that hopefully can be addressed by a future software update. All of the current generation Nexus (4, 7 & 10) devices continue the trend started with the Nexus S of not including microSD storage expansion capabilities. This is unfortunate, but Google has made a business decision here and until/unless they announce a future Nexus device with expandable local storage going with Nexus means going without that option. Another continuing trend is the placement of the speaker on the back of the phone. However, because the back of the device is flat, laying the device face-up and having any hope of using it as either a speaker phone or audio player isn't realistic given the resulting muddy noise produced. Perhaps bumpers or a case would help with this but this isn't really an issue for me as I've already had to adapt to this limitation, although to a lesser degree, with the Nexus S.

A couple of remaining odds and ends: the haptic feedback has a more substantial, less urgent feel to it which is an improvement. One feature I've missed after owning a Xoom was the barometer. No longer: the Nexus 4 has one and back are the nearly instantaneous GPS locks. Overall most things about this phone just feel better and I look forward to working with it and the future Android versions Google has in store for it.

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