Gift Guide 2012

Gift Guide: The Google Nexus 4

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Short Version

Google’s latest (and LG’s first) Nexus smartphone probably tops many a geek’s holiday wishlist, and with good reason. The combination of some impressive hardware and Google’s latest version of Android is a very compelling one, but know this before shelling out your hard-earned cash: it’s not ideal for everyone.

Long Version

Features:

  • 4.7-inch IPS Plus LCD running at 1280×768
  • 1.5GHz Snapdragon S4 Pro chipset, with 2GB of RAM and an Adreno 320 GPU
  • Comes with either 8GB or 16GB of internal storage
  • Fully unlocked, and works with just about any GSM carrier’s HSPA data network
  • NFC
  • Sports a sealed 2,100 mAh battery

Info:

  • MSRP: Google sells the Nexus 4 sans contract in both 8GB ($299) and 16GB ($349) versions, but T-Mobile customers can get the 16GB model for $199 with a two-year contract
  • Available: Now

The Nexus 4 is…

…one of the most impressive Android smartphones on the market right now. No kidding, even though devices like the Droid DNA looks more technically impressive on paper, the Nexus 4 is the Android phone I choose to tote around on a daily basis. Perhaps the biggest draw here is that the Nexus, like its similarly-branded forbears, runs a completely untouched version of Android 4.2. That will mean more to some of you than others, but it all boils down to very snappy performance and the promise of regular updates straight from Google.

As I’ve mentioned, the hardware is no slouch either. The Nexus 4 is based on LG’s flagship Optimus G smartphone, which was a beastly little machine in its own right — it was one of the quickest smartphones I’ve ever played around with. Suffice it to say that the Nexus 4 is easily capable of keeping up with all of your day-to-day duties (though you may want to keep a charging cable handy just in case). It’s also a very well put together device to boot, as the Nexus 4 has a reassuring heft to it, and the curved glass coating the display makes it a pleasure to poke around on websites and in apps.

It’s no secret that smartphones are quickly supplanting point-and-shoot cameras as the device of choice for snapping photos on the run, and the Nexus 4 performs nicely in that regard too. Of course, those of you really looking to wow friends and family should look no further than Android 4.2′s PhotoSphere feature, which creates impressive, immersive 3D panoramas that can be viewed both on the device and on Google+.

The Nexus 4 is one of the best Android devices that money can buy right now (not to mention it’s pretty inexpensive for what you actually get), but there are a few caveats to be aware of. Take its lack of LTE support for instance — three of the four major carriers in the U.S. offer LTE service, but the Nexus 4 has been left out of that party completely. There’s no support for expandable memory here either, so think long and hard before shelling out the cash for one version of the 4 over another (our own Darrell Etherington got burned by those memory limitations and bought another Nexus 4 to remedy the situation).

Buy the Nexus 4 for…

Frequent travelers, avid Android tinkerers, people stuck on T-Mobile contracts, and the people in your life who like being on the bleeding edge of tech.

Because…

…the Nexus 4 a great device, but it may not have the creature comforts to make it right for everyone. I’ve already mentioned the lack of LTE and expandable memory as possible dealbreakers, and some folks may prefer the sort of fleshed-out smartphone experiences that custom UIs like Samsung’s TouchWiz and HTC’s Sense offer.

Frequent fliers may take a shine to the 4 since it’s completely unlocked right out of the gate, making the prospect of popping in a cheapo local SIM while abroad a very simple one. T-Mobile subscribers will also find a lot to love here since the Nexus 4 plays nice with the AWS band the carrier uses for (most of) its 3G service, and the fact that it’s not crazy expensive without a contract. Tinkerers will enjoy how easy it is to start tricking out the Nexus 4, and they’ll be able to tackle some of the Nexus 4′s more curious issues.