Two of the most sought after Android devices of 2013, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Nexus 4 from LG, will face-off head to head on shelves in the weeks ahead. Those looking to buy a new smartphone will likely have both on their wish list and here, we want to take a look at how the Nexus 4, Google’s current Nexus, fares against the heavily rumored Samsung Galaxy S4.
Last year, Google announced the Nexus 4, the replacement for the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, a device that the company launched along with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich back in December of 2011. The Nexus 4 represents the fourth Nexus smartphone, third since the original Nexus One, and it’s the first Nexus smartphone to be made by a company not called HTC or Samsung.
LG has taken the reins this time around with its Nexus 4, a device that combines a very affordable price with some extremely enticing software and hardware features. Those qualities made the Nexus 4 a hit with consumers, so much so that the device was one of the hardest devices to acquire. That is, until recently, when Google and LG finally got their supply issues taken care of.
Now, the Nexus 4 is back on virtual and physical shelves, ready for prospective buyers to scoop it up. Even with all of its supply issues, it remains one of the best Android devices on the market. However, it’s not without its rivals, both current and upcoming.
One of those upcoming devices is the Samsung Galaxy S4, a device that first emerged in December as the successor to the wildly popular Samsung Galaxy S3, a smartphone that has propelled Samsung to the same heights as Apple in the smartphone world and has sold over 40 million units worldwide.
The success of the Galaxy S3 though has also sent expectations for the Galaxy S4 through the roof. Already, consumers are enamored with the unannounced but rumored Galaxy S4 with the excitement and interest as high as it has ever been for a Samsung smartphone launch. And while Samsung hasn’t divulged any details just yet, we do have a partial picture of the Galaxy S4, a device that will challenge the Nexus 4 for the minds and wallets of customers worldwide.
We’ve already taken a first look at how the Galaxy S4 stacked up against the Nexus 4 but since then, more details about the Galaxy S4 have leaked out. So now it’s time that we enter the ring again for round two and see how the rumored Galaxy S4 matches up against the Nexus 4 in terms of hardware, softwar, release date and more.
Since November, when the Nexus 4 arrived, the devices has proven hard to get. LG has blamed Google for the supply issues, saying that it didn’t accurately project the demand for the Nexus 4 when it placed orders for the device. Whatever the case, the Nexus 4 was out of the Google Play Store since December and in and out of the T-Mobile online store since it launched. Key word is ‘was.’
LG promised that supply of the Nexus 4 would return to normal by mid-February. Turns out, the Nexus 4 arrived back in the Google Play Store much sooner than anyone expected.
Earlier this week, shortly after the unlocked 8GB and 16GB Nexus 4 models in the Play Store went from being listed as ‘Sold Out’ to ‘Temporarily Out of Stock’, the Nexus 4 made its triumphant return to the Google Play Store in the U.S. and various other regions around the world.
The device was listed as shipping out in one to two weeks and it has remained there since it returned. Some users have even reported that their Nexus 4 has already shipped out with two day delivery, a quick turn around for a device that was at one time was nearly impossible to find through official avenues.
Helping matters is the fact that the Nexus 4 is now available through T-Mobile, though that option is carrier locked, and through Wirefly and Best Buy as well. The latter two also offer the T-Mobile version.
The Nexus 4 returns to stock right as the cream of the 2013 smartphone crop are extremely close to launch. That list of course includes the Samsung Galaxy S4, a device that currently is rumored to be arriving as soon as next month.
Early rumors about the Galaxy S4 suggested that it might be coming at Mobile World Congress at the end of February. However, we didn’t put too much stock into those rumors because Samsung skipped MWC 2013 with the Galaxy S3, which launched at its own Unpacked event in May of 2012.
Turns out, those rumors were likely bogus as new reports suggest that Samsung will be skipping a Galaxy S4 launch at MWC and will instead be looking to use its own event once again.
Right now, rumors suggest that the Galaxy S4 launch date is March 22nd in the U.S.. That is unconfirmed though as Samsung has yet to issue any invites to any kind of event, MWC 2013 or beyond.
As for its release date, all signs are pointing to a Galaxy S4 release date in April. Today, two sources chimed in claiming that Galaxy S4 release date will land in April for International and unlocked models. No release date is known for U.S. models but given that other regions launched the Galaxy S3 weeks before U.S. carriers, we could see the device arrive in the United States in late April or even in May.
Nothing is for certain until Samsung makes it so but it’s looking like March and April are the key months for the Galaxy S4’s arrival.
At first glance, the Nexus 4 looks a lot like its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. After getting close-up with the Nexus 4 however, it’s apparent that these are two strikingly different Nexus smartphones.
Indeed, the Nexus 4 incorporates a bunch of plastic in its design, but it also adds a nifty little glass backing that is a bit reminiscent of the glass back of the iPhone 4S. And while nice looking, especially with the emblazoned Nexus logo, it also means that users will likely want to put the Nexus 4 in a case due to concerns over cracks and nicks.
As for the specifics, the Nexus 4 totes a 9.1mm design with a weight of 139 grams which means that it’s both thicker and heavier than some current-gen smartphone models, including the iPhone 5.
As we’ve noted though, just because it’s thicker and heavier than some of its rivals, doesn’t mean that it’s a burden to hold or store. In fact, the Nexus 4 is rather easy to hold in one hand.
To get a better idea of the Nexus 4’s style and size, take a look at it next to the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy Note 2 in the photo below.
Right now, it’s impossible to make any kind of comparison to the Galaxy S4 due to the fact that likely haven’t seen the Galaxy S4 design leak to the surface. The closest thing we have thus far is a mockup from a fan of Samsung’s that depicts what a Galaxy S4 with a larger display, taller design, and rectangular shape could look like.
His mockup can be seen in the photo below.
Another possible Galaxy S4 photo leaked out showing a device without a home button, standard on Samsung’s smartphones, but given that we saw several fake Galaxy S3 designs leaked out ahead of its launch last year, we’re extremely skeptical.
We have predicted that the Galaxy S4 will keep a design similar to the Galaxy S3’s, though we believe that Samsung might make some tweaks while making the design thinner.
We likely won;’t know for sure until closer to the launch event or even at the launch event itself due to the heightened security around the Samsung Galaxy S4.
Like many of its Android brethren, the Nexus 4 features a massive display. Just about every Android phone from 2012 featured a large screen so it wasn’t surprising to see LG and Google bring a large screen to the new Nexus.
LG’s Nexus is outfitted with a large 4.7-inch display, same size as the HTC One X, with 720p HD resolution. The screen is perfect for watching movies or television shows, browsing the web or catching content on YouTube.
Though the Nexus 4 display will be bested by the 1080p displays upcoming in 2013, it still holds its own with a 320 ppi (pixels-per-inch) count which translates into good looking text and images.
The Galaxy S4 should be one of the devices that takes advantage of the new display technology that we’ve seen emerge in phones like the Sony Xperia Z.
Thus far, rumors point to Samsung outfitting a 4.99-inch FHD display with 1080p resolution and a pixel-per-inch count that could be extremely high. Samsung is reportedly working on new pixel layouts for its smartphones, specifically, hexagon and diamond-shaped pixel layouts that could bump the Galaxy S4′s pixels-per-inch beyond the 440 mark.
If that’s true, and the 4.99-inch FHD 1080p rumors at least appear to be dead on, it would likely make the Galaxy S4 display one of the best ever put into a smartphone. No small feat.
Much of the hardware on the Nexus 4 is top of the line, however, the 8MP camera in the rear while good, isn’t going to be winning any awards for ‘Best of’ any time soon.
For many people, that won’t be an issue. The Nexus 4 shoots photos that are often on par with the iPhone 5’s rear camera. For those looking for the ultimate smartphone camera experience though, it won’t be found with the Nexus 4.
A sample taken with the Nexus 4’s camera can be seen below. For those looking for more in-depth analysis, take a look at our hands-on with the Nexus 4 camera.
Like the Nexus 4, the Galaxy S3 has a good camera but not a great one. That has left many wanting Samsung to raise the bar with the Galaxy S4’s rear camera. Fortunately, it looks like that may occur as rumors point to the addition of a 13MP camera on the Galaxy S4.
As we’ve pointed out, megapixels don’t mean everything when it comes to a camera but they certainly help. And with Samsung’s penchant to include fantastic camera software with its devices, we have reason to think that the Galaxy S4 camera will be the best rear camera ever offered on a Samsung smartphone.
Both devices feature specifications beyond those three big ones. Here, we take a look at what else could make up the Galaxy S4 and what else powers the Nexus 4.
First, the Nexus 4.
- 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
These, are the current rumored specs for the Galaxy S4.
- 4.99-inch/5-inch FHD Display with 1080p Resolution
- Quad-Core Processor
- 13MP Rear Camera
- Wireless Charging
- 2600 mAh Battery
Starting with the similarities, it appears that the Galaxy S4 and the Nexus 4 will both run quad-core processors. However, the Galaxy S4 is rumored, based on benchmarks, to have Samsung’s new Exynos 5 Octa processor on board. Samsung has said that the processor uses 70-percent less power than a typical quad-core Cortex A15 processor, including Samsung’s own Exynos 5 processor found in the Nexus 10.
So, if it’s in there, look for great battery life and fantastic performance.
The Nexus 4 has no microSD card slot and it features a non-removable battery. That means that users are stuck with the on-board storage space and the stock battery. Samsung devices typically have a removable battery and microSD card slot for expanded storage so at this point, expect the Galaxy S4 to have both.
The Galaxy S4 is rumored to have wireless charging capabilities though it’s unclear if it will feature built-in wireless charging like the Nexus 4.
LG’s Nexus 4 comes with compatibility for the Qi standard of wireless charging which means that it’s able to charge wirelessly on several current chargers and will work with LG’s Wireless Charging Orb when it arrives, possibly as soon as next month.
As is the case with all devices that Google has launched under the ‘Nexus’ umbrella, the Nexus 4 runs a vanilla version of Android which means that its void of carrier bloatware or manufacturer skins. Instead, it’s a Google Experience device.
A Nexus also means that it is easily customizable as it has an unlocked bootloader. Users wanting to install custom ROMs should have no issue and the develop community for a device like this should be thriving. It also means that Google will issue software updates to it long before other devices. Even the T-Mobile model will be one of the first devices to bug fixes and major Android updates.
The Nexus 4 was one of the first to Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, seen below, and it will be one of the first to Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie, rumored for Google I/O in May, as well.
Fortunately or unfortunately, the Galaxy S4 will not have that kind of software nor that kind of support. Instead, the Galaxy S4 will have Android Jelly Bean, likely Android 4.2 Jelly Bean as rumors suggest, but it will also have Samsung’s UI over the top.
In 2012, the arrival of the Galaxy S3 also saw the introduction of Samsung’s Nature UX user interface which delivered a host of useful features in addition to the features found in Android.
Later in the year, Samsung took it a step further and brought a Premium Suite to Galaxy S3 owners, adding the Multi-Window View multitasking feature found with the Galaxy Note 2.
With the Galaxy S4, we’ve only heard whispers about two features. Trademarks suggest that Samsung is cooking up a feature called ‘Eye Scroll’ which could use the front-facing camera to track eye movement and automatically scroll content and a feature called Eye Pause which could pause movies when the eyes look away.
If those are the real deal, it could be that Samsung introduces Nature UX 2.0 alongside the Galaxy S4, new features in tow. That is just speculation at this point and nothing has been rumored.
There are two versions of the Nexus 4, one, an unlocked version sold through the Google Play Store that is compatible with T-Mobile and AT&T and two, a carrier locked version that can be bought through T-Mobile, Best Buy and other retailers.
The locked model, the on-contract version for T-Mobile, runs on T-Mobile’s HSPA+ 42 network which will be its fastest 4G network until 4G LTE debuts this year. 4G LTE data speeds art typically much faster than HSPA+ 42.
A comparison between HSPA+ 42 data speeds, and 4G LTE data speeds can be seen in the video below.
T-Mobile will be debuting its 4G LTE network this year, but the Nexus 4 is unlikely to be given 4G LTE capabilities. That’s not set in stone, given that it does have 4G LTE capabilities but again, the odds of it getting official support are slim.
The unlocked Nexus 4 is able to run on GSM carriers AT&T and T-Mobile without the need for a contract. For AT&T, the Nexus 4 will run on its HSPA+ 21 network while on T-Mobile, it can run on the carrier’s HSPA+ 42 network. 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.
Look for a far different story to play out with the Galaxy S4. The Galaxy S3 launched on AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon and it was an approach that clearly worked out well for Samsung.
Right now, the only hint of a Galaxy S4 U.S. carrier has been a user string pointing to an AT&T model. The evidence is flimsy but it would be surprising to see AT&T not included in the Galaxy S4 launch In fact, it would be surprising to not see all five carriers used at launch once again.
This time though, expect T-Mobile’s Galaxy S4 to have 4G LTE connectivity.
Maybe the most attractive feature about the Nexus 4, the unlocked model in particular, is its price point. Through the Google Play Store, the 8GB Nexus 4 model is available for a mere $299 off-contract while the 16GB Nexus 4 is only $349 off-contract.
Both of those prices are much cheaper price points than most unlocked devices, including that of the iPhone 5, which checks in with a very typical $600+ price tag. They’re even more attractive when one considers the features of the Nexus 4 which include high-end hardware and vanilla Android, not to mention the swift updates.
The T-Mobile model is a little less expensive but its $199.99 price tag does require a new two-year contract, something that makes the unlocked model even more appealing.
That price, the subsidized price, will likely be the one given to the Galaxy S4 when it arrives. It’s the sweet spot for high-end smartphones at the moment and it’s the price that the Galaxy S3 arrive for back in 2012.
There aren’t any rumors about a Galaxy S4 price just yet but it would be surprising to see it fall below that price point or sit anywhere above it given that the iPhone 5 will likely remain there until the iPhone 5S arrives.
Those who don’t want to fork out that kind of money will likely have options though retailers like Amazon which should have discounts in the days following the Galaxy S4’s launch.