Should I Buy the Nexus 4 or Wait for the Galaxy S4?

Earlier this month, LG and Google finally got a handle on the supply issues affecting their Nexus 4 smartphone meaning the device has finally become a viable option for consumers looking to buy a new smartphone. It’s not the only one vying for their attention however as rumored 2013 smartphones and specifically, the Samsung Galaxy S4 are also making their presence felt as well.

Read: Should I Buy the Galaxy Note 2 or Wait for the Galaxy S4?.

In November, Google launched their yearly Nexus smartphone in the form of the Nexus 4. The Nexus 4 replaced the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and it represents the first Nexus smartphone made by LG. The device generated some buzz in the build up to its launch but suffice to say, no one, not even Google was ready for what happened after it launched.

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The Nexus 4 will be competing against the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013.

Google skipped a launch event for the Nexus 4 due to Hurricane Sandy and instead quickly announced the Nexus 4 and Android 4.2 Jelly Bean alongside it. The device was made available in the first half of November and almost immediately, the launch took a turn for the worse. Google’s Play Store crumbled under the pressure and many of those who were looking to get the Nexus 4 on day one where left empty handed as the device quickly sold out.

A day later, the T-Mobile model met the same fate as it too sold out quickly after becoming available. The Nexus 4 re-emerged on the Google Play Store several weeks later only to sell out again. A few weeks after that, the device sold out completely and Google stopped taking orders driving consumers elsewhere. The T-Mobile Nexus 4 went in and out of stock after the November sell out.

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During the sell out, LG and Google exchanged barbs with LG placing the blame on Google who it claimed underestimated the amount of units it might need. After a back and forth, LG exclaimed that the device’s supply issues would cease by mid-February, something that proved to be correct.

The Nexus 4 is now widely available, with Best Buy and Walmart joining T-Mobile in offering the T-Mobile variant and the Google Play Store holding firm with its stock. Because of this, the Nexus 4 has finally become a serious option for consumers looking for a new device. As we said though, it’s not the only smartphone out there tempting their wallets.

Read: 5 Best Samsung Galaxy S4 Rumors.

One of those devices is the heavily rumored Samsung Galaxy S4, a device that is said to be replacing the wildly popular Samsung Galaxy S3, the most visible Android smartphone of 2012 and one that has sold over 40 million units worldwide.

Samsung’s success with the Galaxy S series has propelled it to the top of the Android heap and the Galaxy S brand has become a chief rival of not only other Android devices but of the once untouchable iPhone from Apple.

Still, it will be contending with the likes of the Nexus 4 for the hearts and money of consumers around the world. In fact, we’ve already heard family members, friends and readers ask the question:

Should I Buy the Nexus 4 or Wait for the Galaxy S4?

Here, we do our best to answer that question.

Reasons to Buy the Nexus 4

The Nexus 4 is currently one of the best Android smartphones on the market. And despite several high-end devices in the works for 2013, the Galaxy S4 included, it’s an extremely viable option for those looking to buy a smartphone now. Here are several reasons why you might want to consider buying the LG Nexus 4.

Cheap Off-Contract Price

Maybe the most attractive thing about the Nexus 4 is its unlocked price through the Google Play Store.

While most high-end smartphones usually are tagged with $500+ off-contract price tags, for instance the iPhone 5 is $649 off-contract, Google sells the Nexus 4 for $299 for a 8GB and $349 for a 16GB model.

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The Nexus 4 is available for cheap through Google Play.

Those prices are virtually unheard of in the world of unlocked smartphones and it’s a big reason why the device has proved popular with consumers.

Those not looking to break the bank and those not wanting to sign up for a two year agreement with a carrier will certainly want to look at the Nexus 4 because the Galaxy S4 will almost certainly come with an expensive off-contract price point.

First to Updates

The Nexus 4 is a Nexus smartphone which means that it’s a developer smartphone and a Google experience smartphone. This is much bigger than it sounds.

The first benefit of a Nexus is the fact that devices generally receives major Android updates and Android bug fix updates before devices not called Nexus. Even the Verizon Galaxy Nexus, which really isn’t a Nexus device, receives Android updates long before other smartphones.

LG’s Nexus 4 benefits from this and as Google has shown, it will be amongst the first to get major Android updates right now and for the foreseeable future.

The Galaxy S4 will not receive this type of benefit because it’s not a Nexus smartphone and therefore, isn’t a Google experience device. That means that updates will come much later. In fact, right now, the Nexus 4 is running Android 4.2.2 while the Samsung Galaxy S3 toils on Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean, a much older version.

Vanilla Android

Another benefit of the Nexus program is that the devices come with a stock version of Android. This “vanilla” Android means that the device is a pure Google Android experience, untouched by a manufacturer. In the Nexus 4’s case, that manufacturer is LG. So while LG’s fingerprints may be all over the hardware, they are no where to found from a software standpoint.

For many, this is the preferable way to use Android as there isn’t an interference from manufacturer user interfaces. Instead, it’s a clean and smooth experience, something that often isn’t the case with non-Nexus smartphones touting custom UIs.

The Galaxy S4 will more than likely not have vanilla Android. Instead, it will likely be outfitted with Samsung’s Nature UX software that while useful, also is very prevalent in the software.

Those looking for the cleaner software experience will want to look closely at the Nexus 4.

Easy to Customize

The last component of a Nexus device is the fact that it comes easily rootable and with an unlocked bootloader. It’s for developers after all. The Nexus 4 comes with both of these features which means that one, it’s extremely easily to customize with ROMs, skins and more. And two, it has a thriving development community.

Samsung is generally good about keeping its devices rootable and unlockable, however, those looking to snag the phone on Verizon will likely come into contact with an encrypted bootloader. The Verizon Galaxy S4 will more than likely be one of the more popular options and given that we can’t see Verizon budging, those looking for an easy to personalize their smartphone may want to consider the Nexus 4 route.

It’s the easiest route and safe travels are guaranteed.

Premium Specs

The Nexus 4 is comprised of a cheap off-contract price and the benefits of being a Nexus device, two attractive features, but it also not a slouch in the hardware department either. In fact, the Nexus 4 is an extremely capable phone and one that will likely give owners several years of use.

First, it sports a large 720p display. No, it’s not 1080p, but it’s still fantastic looking and great for content like movies and television shows. It also comes equipped with a camera that is on par with the iPhone 5’s, a quad-core processor which bodes well for use in the future, and a battery that helps supply high-quality battery life.

Yes, the Galaxy S4 will likely blow it out of the water from a spec standpoint but for those that don’t care about next-gen technology, the Nexus 4 definitely works as an option.

Built-In Wireless Charging

Beyond the basic hardware specifications is one smaller feature that should be enticing to buyers. The Nexus 4 comes equipped with built-in wireless charging, one of the first mainstream smartphones to have the capability, which means that owners can use it in conjunction with a dock to charge without wires.

Google finally released its LG Wireless Charging Orb this week to take advantage of this feature and from the looks of things, its an accessory that will be well worth the $60.

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The Nexus 4 features built-in wireless charging.

The Galaxy S4 is also rumored to have wireless charging, but thus far, it doesn’t appear to be build in meaning users will need to buy a wireless charging kit amongst other accessories in order to get it work.

Those looking to wirelessly charge with less hassle will want to look closer at the Nexus 4.

Don’t Want to Wait

Simply put, the Nexus 4 is out on shelves right now for consumers to buy. The Galaxy S4 on the other hand may not arrive for several months.

Right now, the Galaxy S4 launch date is rumored for either March 15 or March 22nd. Its release date in regions outside the United States is currently pegged for April while the U.S. is rumored to be getting it sometime in either May or June. This means that consumers, at the least, will likely be waiting two months for the device to arrive.

Many smartphone buyers don’t have the luxury of waiting that long whether it’s because of monetary reasons, lack of patience or because their smartphone is broken. Point is, the Nexus 4 is a solid option for consumers for those that can’t or don’t want to wait. And trust us, there will be waiting.

Reasons to Wait for the Galaxy S4

All that said, the Galaxy S4 is shaping up to be a monster smartphone release and one that should definitely be on the radars of everyone in the market for a new smartphone. For many consumers, it’s about whether or not they want to wait. We’ve already looked at some reasons why buying the Nexus 4 instead of waiting might be a good call and now it’s time to examine why waiting might work better for some of you.

Launch Worth Waiting For

Going back to what we said about no wanting to wait for the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch. While it may be taking place next month, with a release several months down the road, we advise those that can wait for the launch to wait for the launch.

Last year’s Galaxy S3 was one of the best smartphones of the year, arguably one of the best smartphones of all time, and we think Samsung is going to be delivering the goods once again in 2013.

 

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Galaxy S4 mock up.

While there are a lot of rumors out there, it’s clear that this is Samsung’s biggest mobile launch of the year and with the added pressure of the Galaxy S3’s success, we can’t see a dud.

Those that can wait for the Galaxy S4 should wait the extra few weeks or months. It will likely be worth it. And if it’s not, buy the Nexus 4.

Lots of Accessories

One of the big benefits of high-profile of the Galaxy S4 is that it will likely have quite a few accessories available both at launch and after it launches. In fact, already we’ve heard about a number of accessories that Samsung is said to be developing. They include:

  • Clear Cover
  • Flip Cover
  • Protective Cover
  • Pouch
  • Extra Battery Kit
  • Wireless Charging Kit
  • HDTV Adapter
  • Headset

Those are all rumored but appear likely, especially the wireless charging kit that seemingly passed through the FCC. In addition, the notoriety and popularity of the device should mean that there will be a host of third-party accessories available to the Galaxy S4 as well.

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This could be the Samsung Galaxy S4 wireless charger.

The Nexus 4 certainly has its own share of accessories, but it likely won’t have the same amount of options or variety as the Galaxy S4.

High-End Display

It’s all but confirmed that the Samsung Galaxy S4 will have a top-notch display. Rumors currently point to it having a 4.99-inch to 5-inch 1080p display with 400+ pixels-per inch. If true, that should translate into better looking content then what can be had by the Nexus 4’s display.

What’s more is that the Galaxy S4 may come with technology that allows users to perform touch less gestures. This means that owners would be able to manipulate content on the phone without actually touching the display. The technology has appeared on phones before, namely the Pantech Vega 4G LTE and the Sony Xperia Sola but it has never appeared on a mainstream device.

1080p and 400+ PPI alone might be enough to convince consumers to wait for the Galaxy S4 but the addition of this touch less gesture rumor makes it even more appealing.

Those who want good looking content and quite frankly, one of the best displays ever to appear on a smartphone are likely going to want to think about waiting for the Galaxy S4.

4G LTE

The Nexus 4 is advertised as an HSPA+ device. Officially, it’s not a 4G LTE smartphone. Unofficially, the device can run LTE but only on Band 4 with the appropriate radios. (Android 4.2.2 killed support but owners can likely secure the older radios.)

This means that owners will have to make due with the HSPA+ 42 and HSPA+ 21 networks of T-Mobile and AT&T which are generally much slower than 4G LTE which promises speeds up to 10 times faster than 3G.

There is little question of whether or not the Galaxy S4 will be a 4G LTE smartphone. The Galaxy S3 was and the Galaxy S4 will likely touch down on the main 4G LTE carriers in the U.S. which includes AT&T, Sprint, Verizon, U.S. Cellular and yes, T-Mobile, which will have its 4G LTE network up and running this year.

While not everyone needs these data speeds, those who often take their smartphone out on the go will come to appreciate them as the Galaxy S4 will seem like it’s always attached to a Wi-Fi network, speed-wise, even when it’s only running on 4G LTE. That’s how fast it is.

Samsung Software

As we discussed, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will likely be coming with a version of Samsung’s TouchWiz UI, quite possibly a new version of the Nature UX software. Samsung has proven in the past year that it has the ability to offer some nice complimentary features to Android. One is the Multi-Window View that came with the Galaxy Note 2.

We also saw the Nature UX deliver an exponentially better Camera application to the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy Note 2, much better than the stock camera app. So, there are some benefits.

As for the Galaxy S4 itself, we’ve heard whispers of potential software features, one called ‘Eye Scroll’ which could use the front-facing camera to track eye movement and automatically scroll content and another feature called ‘Eye Pause’ which could pause movies when the eyes look away.

So those that are looking for features outside of Android will likely want to wait and see what the Galaxy S4 delivers as it will more than likely have some new unique software features aboard that separate it from the rest of Android pack.

Camera

The Nexus 4’s rear camera is good, but it isn’t top-of-the-line. Neither was the Galaxy S3’s rear camera. Fortunately, rumor has it that Samsung is looking to up its camera game with the Galaxy S4 and install a 13MP rear camera on the Galaxy S4.

Megapixels aren’t everything but they certainly should help to give the Galaxy S4’s camera a huge boost over the Galaxy S3’s and likely the Nexus 4’s as well.

Also pointing to a good camera are the fact that Samsung rival HTC is planning on introducing a brand-new 4.3 Ultrapixel camera on its HTC M7 flagship and the fact that we’ve seen Sony deliver an amazing sensor on the Sony Xperia Z.

Samsung will want to be competitive and that means that those who want a fantastic camera experience will likely want to wait for the Galaxy S4.

Expandable Storage

One of the hallmarks of Samsung’s Galaxy services are their microSD card slots. This allows users to buy a device with a limited amount of storage, say a Galaxy S3 for $199.99 and tack on a 32GB SD card for cheap. This makes it so users don’t have to shell out the extra $100 for the 32GB variant if 48GB is enough.

We imagine that the Galaxy S4 will have a microSD card slot and the fact that rumors suggest a Galaxy S3-like design help that hypothesis.

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The Galaxy S4 will likely feature expandable storage, something the Nexus 4 doesn’t have.

The Nexus 4 unfortunately doesn’t not come with a microSD card slot and only comes in 8GB and 16GB form. That means that users will have to be heavily reliant on cloud storage lest they want to continually delete applications and files from their smartphone.

Those who fill up their phone with ease will likely want to wait for the Galaxy S4.

Removable Battery

Lastly, another staple of Samsung Galaxy devices are their removable batteries. This means that users can pull off the back battery cover to replace a busted battery or even attached an expanded battery pack for more juice.

The Galaxy S4 is likely to have one of these though it may not even be necessary for an extended battery as the device is rumored to have a 2,600 mAh battery which should be more than capable.

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Still, the option is there, and it’s an option that Nexus 4 owners don’t have as the device does not feature a removable battery. Instead, users are stuck with the stock battery which is good but may not be enough for some users tastes.

Comments

  1. Kufat (@Kufat) says

    A few thoughts:
    The real-world difference between the fastest LTE performance (VZW) in the US and DC-HSPA+ (T-Mo) is something like 2-3x, not 10x. Substantial, but not ten times better.

    Stuffing 13 megapixels into a sensor as small as the kind found in smartphones (and stuffing 1920×1080 pixels onto a display that size) are unlikely to result in meaningful improvements over 8mp/720p. In the former case, it’s because of fundamental physical limits such as diffraction and sensor noise; in the latter you’re running up against the resolution of the human eye.

    Good point about the feature paucity of the AOSP camera. This has been true for years…something like photosphere is neat, but it won’t help you with day to day photography in the way that manual photo controls will.

    It’d also be interesting to cover potential resale value. I’m not sure which phone would win in that category.

    Overall, though, it was an excellent and thorough comparison.

    • Gabernasher (@Gnabergasher) says

      I think overall the N4 will have a better resale as it is lower cost, so a 50% depreciation will cost you less. I love the AOSP camera app but I do use third party apps if I want to fine tune the other settings.

  2. evgamer says

    My decision is kind of easy with Verizon. It would be nice if I could get the Nexus 4 on the CDMA carrier. I LOVE Nexus devices but I know the GS4 will be a powerhouse.

  3. mark says

    I really don’t care about these new phones with there one update for the year.. I love my nexus devices. How long before the note 2 even sees 4.2.2 ? Umm Next year. Sure the s4 will have 4.2.2 when released but that’s it.. And as for the camera don’t care!!! My nexus 4 camera serves me well.. I’m all about software. You could throw 4Gb ram SD card all the bells and whistles wouldn’t want it.. Sent from my nexus 4 running Jellybean 4.2.2. :)

  4. Ray says

    Nexus 4. Forget the Galaxy S line. Slow UI, Slow Updates. Nexus 4 is gaurenteed timely updates, but the Galaxy S line relies on the manufacturer and the carrier. By the time you update your Galaxy S4 to Android 5.0, My Nexus 4 will be on Android 5.2.2.

  5. DRW says

    Is the S4 going to be unlocked and priced comparably to the N4? If not then why would I want to wait some undefined time frame for the S4? If the S4 only gets released on one of the overpriced conract plans then I don’t care. If it costs twice what the N4 sells for then I don’t care. Give me the N4 on a decent no contract plan and to h@@@ with the S4. ( Don’t get me wrong, I do like Samsung). I just want to make calls, do some internet stuff, get some GPS assist and maybe some other smart phone stuff.. But I don’t want to mortgage my soul for a smart phone and a data plan. Screw Verizon. Screw ATT. Screw Sprint. Plain and simple, I refuse to pay more for my cell phone than I pay for my car. Right now G4 on a prepaid plan is hard proposition to pass up. S4 is propostion yet to materialize.

  6. Cori Banks says

    Galaxy S 4 does seem tempting. However, the one thing that puts me off is simple: timely updates. Samsung and other manufacturers are notorious for holding off on updates. Mine come straight from Google. I prefer the Nexus 4.

  7. Bucky says

    There’s a third option: wait for the new Nexus. The S4 will kill the N4, but the new Nexus will be the best of both worlds. Google’s event is in May… that’s what I’m waiting for.

    • Patty P says

      Why wait for the new Nexus, when you can wait for the S5??

      Kidding aside, I just bought the Nexus 4 for $300. If in a year or so I decide I want to upgrade, I’m sure getting $200 back for an unlocked N4 will be no problem. I don’t see what the downside is really.

  8. Micheal says

    I have both the S3 and N4, and from my experience the S3 offers a lot in terms of features. For example, N4 does not have a notification LED unless you install something(Airflow app), does not show the battery percentage in the status bar, does not have the accuweather weather widget(coolest widget), even does not have a file browser, plus you miss the entire suite of samsung apps.I use the S-Memo and works with the fingers, I can make my S3 ring louder when it is pocket,optimize it for left or right ear use, none of that is present in the N4. Also the N4 does not have any of the motion gestures. I have a samsung TV and I can beam my photos, videos to the TV through the all cast app, which is not possible in N4. Besides N4 does not come with any headphones, the charging cord length is small so you can’t turn around in bed with the phone connected to the charger.

    Apart from missing functionality you cant swap the battery in emergency and with device memory of 16GB, you need to have a good internet everywhere you step to pull your files from cloud else compromise.

    Previously I though it would be cool to get the latest android updates, but bottom line is if the basic features are missing what’s the point even upgrading to a newer version.

    It might sound like I am a Samsung afficinado but I came from Iphones (3->3gs->4-.4s)to Galaxy S3 and I know the difference. Iphone used to be the best phone in the past but for now give it to Samsung, they have done a great job.

    For me it makes sense to wait for the S4, or the Note 3, Nexus 4 is definitely not the best bet except the price point.

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