It comes as no surprise then that the Optimus G has served as a template for the Nexus 4. Last year's Galaxy Nexus wasn't particularly impressive specs-wise even when it launched, and it was soon largely overshadowed by other, higher-spec'd devices that came out. Well, this time it's different. No Android handset can currently compete with the Nexus 4 when it comes to sheer specs and screen quality, and with the other major players' top phones for the year already revealed, chances are that things will stay like this at least for a while.
But LG has a tough journey ahead of it. It's facing a fearful opponent in Samsung, which is constantly in pursuit of "The Next Big Thing." In our case, this means that Samsung is not only successful, but it's also surprising customers with new gadgets and ideas - some of which not making much sense, but the company's pushing them anyway, flooding the market and drowning everything in its way. With the Nexus 4, though, LG has a window of opportunity. Very rarely does the smaller South Korean company manage to come out with tech that is ahead of its bigger neighbor, and now is one of those rare occasions. Not only that, but it has also gotten the blessing from Google, which can be a pretty significant boost in the land of smartphones.
So who is going to win this battle? Of course, we cannot talk about winning the war, but we have a very interesting battle going on at the end of 2012, which will probably extend to the beginning of 2013 as well. On one hand, we have LG with its well-balanced Nexus 4, and on the other, we have Samsung's line-up of "Next Big Things." Will LG's affair with Google be enough to disrupt the empire that Samsung is building on top of Android? Let's take a closer look at what the LG Nexus 4 offers and try to determine its chances of delivering a heavy blow to the seemingly unstoppable force that Samsung is becoming.
We said it already - the hardware of the Nexus 4 is remarkable. From the display to the chipset, everything in the LG Nexus 4 screams power.
The display is one of the main assets of the Nexus 4, and it's also one that will likely not be bested by Samsung soon. That is because LG has decided to specialize in the LCD technology, while Samsung is developing its screens around the AMOLED tech. Of course, it cannot be said that one is definitely better than the other, as both have their pros and cons, but for the time being, LG's in-cell touch panels have a clear lead against Samsung's Super AMOLED, as far as resolution and color quality goes. When it comes to the size, the LG Nexus 4 is just as generous as Samsung's top smartphone, the Galaxy S III, so every geek should be happy with it.
In terms of looks, Nexus devices have never been ugly. The same goes for the LG Nexus 4, which may not win a design award (at least we hope it won't), but is by no means bad. Comparing it to Samsung's latest creations like the Galaxy S III and Note II, we do think that LG has the upper hand in this department.
Moving on to the chipset now. This is another area where LG currently has a lead, but Samsung will probably catch up soon. The Nexus 4 uses Qualcomm's marvelous Snapdragon S4 Pro, which features four powerful Krait cores clocked at 1.5 GHz, while Samsung's top offerings right now, the GS III and Note II are equipped with the quad-core Exynos 4 processor, which is still extremely fast, but not quite on the same level as the Snapdragon S4 Pro. Using the Optimus G, we've found the S4 Pro to be incredibly snappy, although its full potential is not really revealed because of LG's Optimus UI. In the Nexus 4, though, this software skin will not be present, so we expect the handset to perform unbelievably well, especially when we know that it packs numerous performance enhancements courtesy of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.
One thing that the Nexus 4 won't be that excellent, though, is storage space. The base variant of the handset comes with "just" 8 GB, and there's also one with 16 GB. Since this is a Nexus device, however, there is not microSD card slot anywhere on the handset. Meanwhile, Samsung, which likes to put all sorts of features and options in its devices, offers the Galaxy S III with up to 32 GB of built-in storage and a microSD card slot for a lot more. All in all, this should trouble only those users who have enormous music and video libraries and want to store them all on their mobile device, you know, just in case there's a hurricane going through the city and the power goes down.
Who likes to take photos? That's right - almost everyone. That is why phone manufacturers are constantly trying to improve the quality of the cameras they are using, although we wouldn't say that there has been much advancement in the recent years, save for some monster camera phones by Nokia which we wouldn't really consider to be mainstream smartphones. Still, after we tested the cameras of the Optimus G for AT&T and Sprint, we were left somewhat disappointed by the results, which lacked any wow-factor. They were OK for the most part, but not as great as what we've come to expect from the other top-end smartphones out there like the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III. To tell you the truth, we don't expect the camera of the Nexus 4 to be any better. But who says that every smartphone should be a great camera phone as well? Obviously, the Nexus 4's main strengths will be the display and performance, while the camera mastery in the Android world will remain a Samsung exclusive.
Always a major part of the whole experience, software is yet another strong side of the LG Nexus 4. With LG's custom UI nowhere to be seen on this phone, and with Google ready with the latest version of Android - 4.2, we can only be super-excited about the platform experience of the Nexus 4. Not only will it be super-fast and good-looking, but we'll also be enjoying a number of cool new features that won't be present on other handsets for the time being. These include lockscreen widgets, updated Gmail app, Play Store, Google Now Photo Sphere and more.
Obviously, the Nexus 4 will have a vanilla Android 4.2 UI, which we quite like, and if we have to pit it against Samsung's TouchWiz Nature UX, we'd probably prefer the stock Android one. Samsung does have a strong player now with its latest TouchWiz, which is good-looking (except for certain menus and pop-ups) and smooth, but with so many TouchWiz phones out there, it's like the stock Android UI is the exotic one here, and it's an exotic that will certainly be much quicker in getting software fixes and updates. Plus, there's nothing in TouchWiz that we can't live without, so this seems to be a win for LG. If only it could learn from this experience and improve the custom UI it uses for its other phones...
Of course, Android 4.2 is a much bigger topic that deserves its own article. If you'd like to learn more about Google's latest mobile OS, please check this post for more details.
All in all, we are convinced that LG has a shot at closing in on Samsung, but the Nexus 4 will not be enough. It's very hard to close such an enormous gap with a single handset, no matter how good it is. Instead, LG will have to continue producing such impressive devices, in order to change its status of an underdog in people's minds. But while it's more than certain that Samsung is much more deeply ingrained in the mind of the smartphone user, it's also undeniable that the best Android handset this Holiday season will, most probably, be an LG.