Wednesday, March 06, 2013

My Nexus 4 review (with a really long, irrelevant intro)

I've had my Nokia e51 since 2004a lifetime when you consider how people change phones so frequently these days. It's what was considered a smartphone then: I was able to email, surf the web, and make video calls with it (the camera was a staggering 2MP!). I remember writing a blog entry touting its Symbian OS, haha! I loved the candybar form factor and most especially the keypadI've long fingers and a brutish thumb, reasons that kept me from switching to touchscreen.

I would have probably stayed loyal to my Nokia unit except that the screen was way too scratched up. Worse, after suffering way too many falls, the unit disintegrates all by itself. I fish it out in public and scarily realize I'm just holding on to the front panelthe back panel, battery, LCD, and keypad all remain in my pocket, lol.

Once, at a dinner with a really cute date, we argued over our text conversation. I was about to show him our messages to prove I'm right when I dug into my pocket for my phone and felt that the keypad was missing. I let him win.

I was bent on getting a Samsung Galaxy Nexus, but then Globe Telecom came out with amazing deals for the iPhone 5 so I decided to get the latter instead. (My only qualifications are that the phone works smoothly and more importantly, that it looks gorgeous. Physically, I liked the iPhone 4 better than the 5, but I thought I might as well get the latest model.)

Then of course, Globe screws up my iPhone reservation with a series of excuses and incompetence that made me feel like I was the one begging them to sell me a unit (while they doled out free iPhones over Twitter). I then went back to considering the Samsung Nexus, except by this time, Google released a new model, the Nexus 4 from LG.

It's handsome.

The front panel is covered edge to edge with Gorilla glass, and with a screen size of 4.87" by 2.31", it's prime real estate for finger-swiping. The sides are chrome bezel with a soft, rubbery band which give this monochromatic design a rich texture. However, it's the back that I love the most about its looks: aside from a glass panel, it sparkles!

I've read some guys express misgivings about this detail but it's really no cause for concern. It's very subtle under normal lighting conditions, like a faint, black-and-white Matrix wallpaper. The holographic effect comes alive when you move it aroundbut still, not sparkly enough for me, lol.

In the evening, under a night lamp, is how I more like it. It's very Joan Collins playful and luxe:


Nexus 4, back panel from Jason D on Vimeo.

One word of caution though: since the phone is practically all-glass, it slides off smooth surfaces. I once placed it on top of my iPad, turned my back, and to my horror, heard a thud. It fell about 4 feet to the floor and to my relief, there was nary a scratch (floor is carpeted). I've read worse cases though, wherein their units suffered cracks. Some also say their phones got easily scratched. I'm not sure how that is possible with Gorilla glass, unless you deliberately scar your phone. In my case, I've no screen protector or bumper cases (why cover its naked beauty?) and minus the fingerprint smudges, it looks brand new. (I've had my phone for close to two months.)

As for the operating system,

I'd leave the experts to discuss that, lol, but here are my general thoughts. The beauty of Android is that it gives you control of the OS. Unfortunately, I haven't read any compelling reason (yet) on why I should switch to custom ROMI guess after having spent over a year using iOS on my iPad, using just the stock ROM of my Nexus 4 is in itself already a refreshing and pleasant change. For example, I have control of my home screens:

For the home screen, you can swipe to as much as five screens; these are two of mine.
The Nexus 4 allows you to display widgets on them: I can display my phone, email, to-do lists, and quick buttons (above); and calendar and audio controls (below).
You can also generally control the size of your widgets so you can cram as much info on your home screen as you want.
Note the default Google bar on top: this allows you to search both your phone and the web (you can also do a voice search but she doesn't have Siri's humor). The graphic circle at the center bottom brings up all your apps, while those at the very bottom are for navigation.
This Nexus 4 is running on Jelly Bean 4.2.2.

With one finger, you can pull down the notifications screen (two fingers pull down the settings menu--which is also that portrait icon on the top right) and from there, execute commands for apps which allow it.  Google Music has controls, while Any.Do allow me to add tasks, forward down to the rest, or change settings. I understand iOS 6 was 'inspired' by this :-)

Now this, I love: gesture typing. Basically you don't need to lift your fingers to type, just slide it to the next letter and it automatically guesses the word you're spelling. The amazing thing about it is that it is ALWAYS right, sometimes, even if you misspell your 'keyslide'! I'm still trying to build its Tagalog dictionary, but for English words, this is awesome, especially when I have to type with only one hand. (The device is fairly large.)

Of course, you also have easier control over your media since you don't have to go through iTunes to transfer media, which could be bothersome if you want to share files among friends.

Two of the free apps I'm super crazy about right now are not and probably would never be available in Apple: Mr. Number which blocks texts AND calls (perfect for all the spam I receive), and BitTorrent. (There's also the very funny game, Monsters Ate My Condo, which, last time I checked, is not free on Apple.)

This degree of independence of course, comes with a price. From the article, In The Security World, Android Is The New Windows:

"We sell an anti-virus product for Android," Cobb noted. "No one sells anti-virus for iOS."

Indeed, I found it weird that I had to install an anti-virus (avast! Mobile Security) app. I've gotten used to having zero malware concerns for my iPadI feel very secure in downloading whatever app I may like.

That would be one of your major considerations when deciding between the two OS.

Among Android phones, the advantage of having this Google product is that you're not beholden to a manufacturer or network, which may tweak your OS or pre-load your phone with a bunch of crappy apps. Also, as Google's flagship brand, the Nexus should be assured of receiving the latest Android updates first. The best one is the price: with a discount, I got mine for P17,000 here in Manila. It sells for US$299 in the US. I know the amount is nothing to sniff at, but for a high-end smartphone with a gorgeous build, its price is an anomaly compared to the rest.

What you may consider disadvantages: the maximum 16GB storage; no LTE; and no iMessage, which all my friends have (although Android has other free-messaging app equivalent; it's just that my friends don't have them).

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