While the Samsung Galaxy S3 was certainly one of the biggest Android hits of 2012, it certainly met some in-house competition in the form of the LG Nexus 4 from Google which launched late in the year and has been a rare commodity ever since. And because of the Nexus 4′s late launch, it will not only have to do battle with the Galaxy S3 but with Samsung’s rumored 2013 flagship, the Samsung Galaxy S4 as well.
Since May, Samsung has sold over 30 million Samsung Galaxy S3 units worldwide, topping the records that the company set with its previous Galaxy S smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy S2 which launched back in 2011. With its curved design, speedy processor, HD display, fantastic software and more, it’s no surprise as to why the Galaxy S3 stole the Android show in 2012.
That being said, it’s going to put pressure on Samsung to deliver in 2013 with its next-generation Galaxy S smartphone, rumored right now to be called the Samsung Galaxy S4.
Thus far, the Galaxy S4 has emerged from the shadows in a variety of ways including rumored features and possible launch dates and release dates. There are still some stones that need to unturned but already we have a pretty good picture of the Galaxy S4. And while the Galaxy S4 will face some competitors like the HTC M7 and devices from the likes of Sony and Motorola – possibly in the form of the Google X Phone, there is one 2012 device that should be on shoppers lists well into 2013.
That device of course is the LG-made Nexus 4 from Google which arrived towards the end of last year. With its cheap price, powerful hardware, updated software and more, the Nexus 4 is an attractive device for those looking for a new device. But how does it stack up against the rumored Galaxy S4?
Here, we take an in-depth look at the Nexus 4 versus the Samsung Galaxy S4, exploring pricing, release dates, features and more.
Back in in the middle of November, Google and LG released the Nexus 4, the brand new Nexus smartphone that replaced the Samsung Galaxy Nexus as the most current Nexus smartphone. Almost immediately though, the device was sold out around the world with Google’s website stumbling under the pressure of the demand. A few weeks later, after the initial batch of Nexus 4 devices headed out to those who were fortunate enough to place an order before the device sold out, it went up for sale again with similar results.
At the end of November, the Nexus 4 went up for sale through Google’s Play Store for the second time, and it quickly sold out again. Only this time, Google allowed the device to be ordered on back order. Shipping times eventually increased to as much as 10 weeks for the 8GB model until the site listed it as sold out. The 16GB Nexus 4 took a little more time though it too sold out in December.
Since then, both devices have remained sold out as Google and LG solve supply issues that they have blamed on each other. Because of this, those looking to get the Nexus 4 in a hurry have been left to deal with third-party sites like Craigslist and eBay which are selling it for much higher than its price on Google.
Google has not yet said when the Nexus 4 will come back into stock, but we imagine it will come back into the Google Play Store sometime in the weeks ahead.
The Nexus 4 is also available through T-Mobile, which launched the Nexus 4 a day after Google released the unlocked model. The carrier has also been struggling to meet demand as it has sold out several times since launch and is currently sold out.
Of course, T-Mobile’s model is carrier locked unlike the Nexus 4 through the Google Play Store which is unlocked.
There is a distinct possibility that the Nexus 4 could be sold out until the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch as Samsung is heavily rumored to be announcing it at Mobile World Congress 2013 in Barcelona, an event that is set to kick off at the end of February. Several reports claim that that is where Samsung will take the wraps off its new flagship and if true, it would be the first big name Samsung smartphone to launch there since the Galaxy S2.
The Galaxy S3 launched at its own event during the month of May in 2012, a departure from Samsung’s usual habit of using major trade shows to unveiled their flagship smartphones. The company used IFA in Berlin to showcase the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 in 2012, a sign that it hasn’t necessarily changed its ways.
There are though, reports that Samsung might launch the phone later on in 2013 and it’s certainly possible that the company will wait a full year before announcing the Galaxy S4.
April, May and mid-2013 are all rumored as possible release dates for the Galaxy S4 though no specific dates have been mentioned thus far.
The Nexus 4 features a design that combines both plastic with a glass backing that gives it one of the sleeker designs we’ve ever seen on a Nexus smartphone.
Specifically, the Nexus 4 sports a 9.1mm design with a weight of 139 grams meaning its thicker and heavier than phones like the iPhone 5. Still, it’s thin enough that it provides great pocketability and lightweight enough that it won’t feel like a drag when holding it or keeping it tucked away in a pocket.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 itself has yet to emerge which means that its design still remains in the dark. However, it would be surprising to see Samsung not tweak the design of the Galaxy S3, possibly offering a sub-8mm design and maybe, even moving away from the polycarbonate material that it uses just about every high-end smartphone that it makes.
Due to high security, we don’t expect to know the true design of the Galaxy S4 until much closer to the device’s actual launch date though the above video shows what the Galaxy S4 could look like when it’s released.
Like many Android phones from 2012, the LG Nexus 4 features a large 4.7-inch display, same as the HTC One X, with 720p HD resolution. However, where the Nexus 4 display shines is its 320 pixels-per-inch which makes for crisp images and text.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 display should blow the Nexus 4′s display out of the water though as its expected to be either 4.99-inches or 5-inches and feature 1080p resolution and 441 pixels-per-inch. So, the display could be a bit bigger than both the Galaxy S3′s and the Nexus 4′s but will almost assuredly pack a bigger punch with its full HD resolution.
Samsung is rumored to be bringing some of its new AMOLED technology to CES 2013 and it’s possible that we could see the company debut the Galaxy S4 display, or a display like the Galaxy S4′s at CES in just a few days.
The Nexus 4 includes two cameras that are both relatively good for an Android smartphone. On the front, an 8MP camera that takes photos that are in some cases on par with the iPhone 5′s camera and on the back, a 1.9MP front-facing camera that is solid for video chatting with friends and colleagues.
And while the Nexus 4 camera is good, it’s not going to win any awards, which means that this is an area where the Samsung Galaxy S4 could best it.
With the Galaxy S3, Samsung released a device with a good but not great camera. It was backed by some powerful software but that alone could not push it to the top of the Android camera list. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is rumored to be coming with a 13MP camera which could be a sign that big improvements are on the way.
Mega-pixels alone obviously aren’t going to mean too much but given that the HTC One X bested the Galaxy S3′s camera last year and Apple was able to improve the camera with the iPhone 5, the pressure is on Samsung to deliver a high-quality camera solution on the Galaxy S4.
Beyond those three features, the Nexus 4 and Samsung Galaxy S4 will both be powered by an assortment of other specifications that will make them look good or bad in the eyes of consumers. The Nexus 4, due to it already being out, already has a full spec list available. The Samsung Galaxy S4 on the other hand only has bits and pieces on the rumor front.
First, here are the Nexus 4 specs:
- 4.7-inch IPS Display 1280 x 768 pixel resolution (320 ppi)
- 1.5GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon S4 Pro Processor
- 8GB/16GB Storage (No microSD card slot)
- 8MP Camera/1.9MP Camera
- 2100 mAh battery (Non-Removable)
- 2GB of RAM
- Wireless Charging
The Galaxy S4 specs remain in the shadows, but considering it’s a 2013 Android smartphone and Samsung’s flagship, the specifications should be comparable to the Nexus 4′s. We’ve heard that it may have a Exynos 5440 quad-core processor which makes sense considering quad-core processors are now the norm on high-end Android smartphones.
It’s also possible that Samsung will outfit it with more storage options than just 16GB, like it did with the Galaxy S3, a larger battery, removable battery, microSD card slot and quite possibly, wireless charging to better compete with not only the Nexus 4 but phones like the HTC Droid DNA which also sport on-board native wireless charging.
Consumers should expect lots of RAM on the Galaxy S4 and NFC support as well. There is another rumor that suggests that the phone will have an S-Pen stylus, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, though that seems a little off base considering the S-Pen is one of the Galaxy Note’s big selling points. Still, it’s still possible that Samsung will extend the feature to its main flagship.
A benefit of the Nexus 4 is that it is a Nexus device. This means that it’s a Google experience phone, something that is extremely desirable. First, it means that it runs a vanilla version of Android, void of any user interface tweaking typically found on big name smartphones. Second, it means the Nexus 4 will always be one of the first devices to receive major Android updates, even the model that is carrier-locked to T-Mobile.
That also means that bug fix updates will come quicker to the device as they will come directly from Google itself rather than from a carrier like AT&T or Verizon, both of which can take awhile to update their phones.
The Nexus 4 runs Android 4.2, which is the latest version of Android from Google, and it’s one that brings a number of amazing features to the table. Our favorites can be seen in the video below.
Thus far, the Galaxy S4 has been rumored to be running one of two operating systems. One, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, the same OS found on the Nexus 4. The other? Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie which remains mysterious but is likely going to be making an appearance as soon as May as that is when Google I/O takes place.
At the very least, expect the Galaxy S4 to be running Android 4.2 Jelly Bean though Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie still remains a possibility. Something else to expect is powerful software from Samsung’s end.
The Galaxy S4 will more than likely be running Samsung’s TouchWiz UI and feature software that will set it apart from foes like the Nexus 4, iPhone 5 and HTC M7. Just what those features are remains unclear at this point.
The Nexus 4 comes in both unlocked and locked form. The locked model, the on-contract variant for T-Mobile’s network, runs on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 42 network which is its fastest 4G network. A comparison between it, and 4G LTE can be seen below. HSPA+ 42 is fast but 4G LTE on the whole is much faster. T-Mobile will be introducing a 4G LTE network in 2013 but the Nexus 4 won’t be running on it.
As for the unlocked model, owners of this variant will be able to run it on AT&T and T-Mobile without the need for a contract. For AT&T, the Nexus 4 will run on its HSPA+ 21 network and below while on T-Mobile, it can run on HSPA+ 42. Users will need the proper SIM card in order to use the device on these networks.
For more information on the network differences for the unlocked Nexus 4, see our comparison.
Samsung launched both the Samsung Galaxy S3 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 on the five biggest carriers in the United States, a list that includes AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon, and we expect the Galaxy S4 to launch on those five from the very beginning as well.
Unlike the Galaxy S3 and Nexus 4 though, expect the Galaxy S4 to run on the 4G LTE networks of all five carriers including T-Mobile, and because of that, be able to pull down faster data speeds than the Nexus 4 which can’t, officially, run on 4G LTE networks.
One of the more attractive features of the Nexus 4 is its low price for the unlocked model and its one of main reasons the device sold out quickly and has remained sold out. It’s hard to find an unlocked phone for this cheap.
On the Google Play Store, the Nexus 4 is available in two pricing options. The 8GB Nexus 4 is $299 unlocked and the 16GB Nexus 4 is a mere $349 unlocked. These prices are much cheaper than pricing found on other unlocked Android smartphones making them attractive for those that don’t wish to sign a new contract with a carrier.
Those looking to get the Nexus 4 through third-party websites like eBay, Craigslist or somewhere else will almost assuredly be spending much more than what Google charges for the Nexus 4.
Those looking to get a subsidized price for the Nexus 4 will have to pay $199.99 through T-Mobile which is actually much cheaper than what T-Mobile typically charges for high-end smartphones.
The Samsung Galaxy S4 on-contract price will likely be on par with the Nexus 4 price on T-Mobile. With the Galaxy S3, Samsung launched it with a $199.99 on-contract price to keep it competitive with the iPhone and thus far, given the amount of devices it has sold and its popularity in the U.S., the strategy seems to have worked.
Look for it to arrive at $199.99 with pricing getting more expensive with more storage tacked on. Samsung sold the Galaxy S3 32GB for $249.99 and we could see something similar with the Galaxy S4.
As for the unlocked Galaxy S4, that will vary carrier to carrier but it will be no where close to the price of the unlocked Nexus 4.