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Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Nexus 4

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Earlier this month, at a massive launch event in New York City, Samsung unveiled its latest smartphone in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S4, a device that will replace the Samsung Galaxy S3 on shelves and compete against the likes of the iPhone 5, HTC One and Google’s very own Nexus smartphone, the LG-made Nexus 4.

Read: Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 2.

Since September, the Samsung Galaxy S4 has been firmly implanted in the minds of consumers, looking for Samsung’s Next Big Thing. Rumors, leaks and speculation subsequently followed that initial leak and the Galaxy S4 quickly became one of the most anticipated and widely talked about smartphones of the new year.

To those that followed Samsung’s rise to the top, the excitement surrounding the the Galaxy S4 should have come as no surprise. For years, the Galaxy S series of smartphones has been one of the best available but it wasn’t until the release of the Galaxy S3 and its marketing campaign, that Samsung was really able to make a push toward the top where Apple’s iPhone resides.

The Galaxy S3, which arrived back in May of last year, replaced the record-setting Galaxy S2. And in less than a year, the device has shattered Samsung’s sales records, surpassing the 40 million sold mark. The success, which was due in part by a smart ad campaign against the iPhone, has brought Samsung onto the same pedestal as Apple and the iPhone.

This buildup led to more interest in the Samsung Galaxy S4 than in any other past Samsung smartphone. Samsung finally delivered the device earlier this month and while its merits are up for debate, the device will almost certainly be one of the top tier devices for the rest of 2013. Sales won’t come easy though thanks to a plethora of high-end, intriguing devices on the market, including the Nexus 4.

The Nexus 4 of course is Google and LG’s smartphone child, a device that was delivered back in November of last year to great demand. Since then, the Nexus 4 has become widely available, making it, its cheap price tag, and its high-end features a device worth looking at. It’s also a contender versus the Galaxy S4.

Prior to the Galaxy S4 launch, we took several looks at how they compared and now that the Galaxy S4 is official, it’s time to take a close look at how the real Samsung Galaxy S4 stacks up against the Nexus 4 in terms of pricing, release date, features and more.

Release Date

At its launch event, Samsung was keen on delivering many details surrounding the Samsung Galaxy S4. We heard about its hardware, we heard about its many global operators, we heard about its powerful software. But as the show ended, consumers looking for specific release date information were left empty handed.

The Galaxy S4 will be coming to some regions in late April.

The Galaxy S4 will be coming to some regions in late April.

Instead of offering specific release date information about the Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung only said that it would be rolling out the device starting at the end of April, leaving consumers with an extremely vague timeline.

Luckily, right after the show, carriers and retailers in the United Kingdom confirmed April 25th to be the Galaxy S4′s release date there. Other regions remain unconfirmed though it looks like Italy and India will be getting the device in early May.

Read: Samsung Galaxy S4 U.S. Release Mysteries.

As for the United States, neither Samsung nor the carriers involved have revealed anything specific about the Galaxy S4 release date. Rumors have suggested a release in either May or June but so far, official information remains out of reach of consumers looking to pick up the device.

American carriers typically get devices a month or so after their counterparts so a release in late May or early June seems to add up.

Unlike the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Nexus 4 is on shelves, somewhere that it hadn’t been in previous months.

After launching in November of last year, the Nexus 4 sold out almost immediately through both the Google Play Store and through T-Mobile. After set backs and a complete sell out, the Nexus 4 returned with a vengeance earlier this year and now is extremely easy to find thanks to plenty of stock through both T-Mobile and Google but also through other outlets like Walmart and Best Buy.

Google currently is listing the Nexus 4 with its best shipping times since it launched back in November which means that those looking to buy won’t have to wait long for it at all.

Design

As was rumored prior to its launch, the Samsung Galaxy S4 design closely mirrors the designs of past Galaxy phones including those of the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2.

In New York, we were able to go hands-on with the Samsung Galaxy S4 and noticed that while the device does come with a similar polycarbonate plastic design as previous models, the back of the device feels a lot less like plasticy than Samsung’s previous design. The Galaxy S4 also features a band around the entirety of the device that looks like aluminum but is indeed plastic.

The Nexus 4 next to the Galaxy S4.

The Nexus 4 next to the Galaxy S4.

The Galaxy S4 feels fantastic to hold and it appears to be just as, if not more durable than the design of the Galaxy S3. Its display is made out of Corning Gorilla Glass 3 technology, technology  that we saw at CES and which Corning says is three times more resistant to scratches than Gorilla Glass 2, the material found on front of the Nexus 4.

Specifics in regards to the Galaxy S4 design include a form factor that checks in at a slim 7.9mm in size with a weight of 130 grams. That’s extremely thin for a smartphone and fairly lightweight as well and both beat the Nexus 4′s design.

The Galaxy S4 and the Nexus 4 compared to other big name devices.

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Galaxy Note 2 vs. Galaxy S3 vs. iPhone 5 vs. Nexus 4.

The Nexus 4, like the Galaxy S4, is made of a durable plastic material that feels great in the hands and is durable to boot. However, unlike the Galaxy S4, the Nexus 4 features a glass back which leaves it susceptible to cracks. Nexus 4 owners are almost required to use a bumper case with their device in order to protect it.

LG’s smartphone is a little bit thicker and heavier than the Galaxy S4, checking in with a weight of 139 grams and a form factor that measures in a 9.1mm thick. While the weight isn’t too noticeable, the thickness certainly is and it means that the Galaxy S4 is a little more pocketable than the Nexus.

Display

Samsung’s most recent Galaxy devices all sported 720p HD displays. However, with the Galaxy S4, Samsung has upped the ante and brought on new display technology that not only surpasses its older Galaxy devices but the Nexus 4 display as well.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 sports a large 5-inch Super AMOLED HD display which features 1080p resolution and 441 pixels-per-inch. That’s on the high-end of smartphone displays and it offers high quality video, images, and text.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with a 5-inch 1080p display.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with a 5-inch 1080p display.

However, Samsung did not stop there. It also added a sensor that allows users to make touch less gestures, manipulating things on the display without physically touching it.

One of the features is called Air Gesture, and this will allow owners to change a music track, browse the web or accept a call simply by waving their hand. Another is called Air View and it allows users to simply hover their finger over content to get a sneak preview before opening it. This acts much in the same way as the Galaxy Note 2′s Air View, only, it doesn’t require an S Pen stylus to perform.

The Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch display with 720p resolution.

The Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch display with 720p resolution.

The Nexus 4 on the other hand boasts a smaller display with lesser resolution. LG has bestowed a 4.7-inch display onto the Nexus 4 and like many 2012 phones, it comes with 720p HD resolution. One saving grace is that it comes with a high, 320 pixel-per-inch count which translsates into fantastic looking text, images and video.

They won’t look as good as they do on the Galaxy S4, but they certainly should be good enough for average users. The Nexus 4 does not feature a sensor like the Galaxy S4 and therefore users cannot use touch less gestures with the device.

Camera

The Samsung Galaxy S3, like the Samsung Galaxy S2, brought an 8MP sensor to consumers. That sensor, while decent, was not top of the line and simply could not compete with the cameras on the iPhone or HTC One X. This year, Samsung has changed things up and delivered a 13MP camera that seems to improve over the last sensor.

Thus far, the Galaxy S4′s camera has been shown to deliver good-looking photos. Early camera samples show that the Galaxy S4 camera can not only compete with the iPhone 5′s, but with the HTC One’s new Ultrapixel camera as well.

Galaxy S4 photo sample against the competition.

Galaxy S4 photo sample against the competition.

We were impressed with the images we took during our Samsung Galaxy S4 hands-on, so this isn’t the least bit surprising. Samsung also added some new software features that will enhance the device’s Camera app which is simply one of the best out there, even better than Android’s stock application found on the Nexus 4.

Two of the bigger camera features coming with the Samsung Galaxy S4 are called Sound & Shot and Dual Camera. Sound & Shot acts as a new way to shoot photos as users can add sound to them in order to bring photos to life. This could be handy, for instance, when signing Happy Birthday during a child’s first birthday celebration. Instead of just having the photo, users can add a sound clip with everyone singing to go along with the photo.

Another Galaxy S4 photo sample.

Another Galaxy S4 photo sample.

The other feature is called Dual Camera and it uses both the front and rear camera to put the Galaxy S4 user in the photo. Users can then choose from a variety of effects to help the image taken with the front-facing camera to better blend in with the larger photo.

None of these features will be coming to the Nexus 4 because it’s not a Samsung phone.

The Nexus 4 features an 8MP camera in the rear that can shoot decent photos and 1080p video, but the sensor isn’t going to be able to keep up with the Galaxy S4′s camera sensor in both good and bad lighting environments. Those looking to shoot a lot of photos and video with their device will certainly want to look closely at the Galaxy S4.

Specs

Those aren’t the only features that will be coming aboard these devices. In fact, the Nexus 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 sport an array of other hardware and software features. Here are those features and a look at some of the important similarities and differences.

The Galaxy S4.

  • 5-inch Full-HD 1080p Super AMOLED HD Display
  • 1.9GHz Snapdragon 600 Quad-Core Processor/Exynos 5 Octa Processor
  • 16/32/64GB of Storage
  • 13MP Camera
  • 2,600 mAh (Removable)
  • 2 GB RAM
  • Wireless Charging Kit
  • NFC

And 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
  • NFC

The first thing to note is the fact that both devices run quad-core processors. However, while the Nexus 4 runs the last-generation Snapdragon S4 Pro processor, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will be coming with a current generation Snapdragon 600 quad-core processor or Samsung’s Exynos 5 Octa octo-core processor. Both will offer performance improvements over the Nexus 4 processor and will likely help contribute battery life optimizations as well.

The Nexus 4 features built-in wireless charging.

The Nexus 4 features built-in wireless charging.

Second, the Nexus 4 comes in only two storage options – 8GB and 16GB – and without a microSD card slot. That means that users will need to rely on the cloud a lot more as there is no expandable storage space. The Galaxy S4 on the other hand comes in three sizes including a 64GB model and offers microSD card support of up to 64GB.

Third, the Nexus 4 comes with a 2,100 mAh battery and a non-removable back. This means that one, the battery is much smaller than the Galaxy S4′s, and two, it can’t be removed or replaced with an extended battery like the Galaxy S4. The Galaxy S4 sports a removable back so that users can easily swap out the battery.

The Galaxy S4 features wireless charging. but it's not built-in.

The Galaxy S4 features wireless charging. but it’s not built-in.

And finally, fourth, while both devices feature wireless charging, the Galaxy S4 will be reliant upon a back plate in order to charge without wires. The Nexus 4 takes advantage of built-in wireless charging which means that it can charge without wires without the need for a separate purchase.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is going to be coming with the latest version of Android, Android 4.2.2 Jelly Bean, the same operating system that is on the Nexus 4. However, unlike the Nexus 4, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is going to be coming with fully loaded software features, courtesy of Samsung.

Android 4.2 Jelly Bean is the latest piece of mobile software from Google which means that the Galaxy S4 is equipped with the latest features from Android including enhanced Photo Sphere, Quick Settings, lock screen widgets and more. What’s more is that the device also has been outfitted with a bunch of Samsung-made software features as well.

Samsung has loaded up its TouchWiz software with a host of new functions. Two of the new Galaxy S4 software features include Smart Scroll and Smart Pause. Smart Scroll allows users to use their eyes to scroll a web page while Smart Pause pauses content on the device when users look away.

It will also come with features found in previous versions of Samsung’s TouchWiz software, features like Multi-Window View, which allows users to split the Galaxy S4 display in two to run two separate apps. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The Galaxy S4 also features an IR port which lets user control their home entertainment system without an extra remote. Samsung calls the feature Samsung WatchON and it, in a nutshell, transforms the device into a universal remote, perfect for the couch potato. The software also comes loaded with a feature called S Voice Drive which is an in-car version of S Voice and S Translator and can automatically translate between a number of languages.

Swiftkey, the infamous gesture keyboard company, has also confirmed that it has enhanced the Galaxy S4′s keyboard with its technology, something that could make it better than the stock Android keyboard which comes with built-in gestures in Android 4.2.

Like the Galaxy S4, the Nexus 4 also sports some unique software as it features a completely stock, untouched version of Android.

The Nexus 4 is a Nexus device which means that it comes with some perks. Those include a vanilla version of Android which means, despite it being manufactured by LG, it doesn’t have a manufacturer skin. Instead, it’s Android as Google intends.

Second, it gets faster updates, straight from Google. That means major bug fixes and major Android updates will come faster than they do on the Galaxy S4. The Nexus name also means that it is easily customizable. The Nexus 4 comes equipped with an unlocked bootloader which means users can customize to their hearts content.

The Galaxy S4, at least the one on Verizon, will likely come with a locked down bootloader, making it much more difficult to customize.

Like the Galaxy S4, the Nexus 4 runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, the latest version of Android. It will however like be one of the first to Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie, which is rumored for launch in May at Google I/O.

Carriers

At the Samsung Galaxy S4 launch event itself, the company failed to specify which carriers the Samsung Galaxy S4 would be heading to. Fortunately, the company and the carriers backing the Galaxy S4 cleared things up almost immediately and we now know where the Galaxy S4 will be heading when it touches down in the weeks ahead.

Like the Galaxy S3 and the Galaxy Note 2, the Galaxy S4 is destined for the 4G LTE networks of AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon Wireless. T-Mobile will offer the device on its new 4G LTE network right out of the box. Pre-paid carriers like Cricket Wireless and Sprint MVNO Ting will also be getting on board.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 can take photos with the front and rear camera at the same time.

The Galaxy S4 will be coming to an assortment of American carriers.

The Nexus 4 comes in two different options though neither of them come with 4G LTE data speeds. Instead, the Nexus 4 has eschewed 4G LTE in favor of HSPA+ 42 data speeds which on average are slower.

Google offers an unlocked Nexus 4 which can be brought to carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile. There is also a contract-required T-Mobile Nexus 4 that can be bought straight from T-Mobile. N

Price

Unfortunately, like its release date, pricing for the Samsung Galaxy S4 remains unresolved. We’ve seen Samsung attach a full retail price of $650 to the device which points to that being the unlocked price tag for the new Galaxy. This is very similar to the iPhone 5′s $650 price tag.

What this could mean is that the Samsung Galaxy S4 will follow in the Galaxy S3′s footsteps and become available for $199.99 on-contract, again, similar to the iPhone 5.

The Nexus 4 features some unique pricing.

The Nexus 4 features some unique pricing.

If the 32GB model launches in the U.S., look for carriers to ask for $249 on-contract, just like they did with the 32GB Galaxy S3.

The Nexus 4 has some of the most unique pricing out there and from the looks of things, it will greatly undercut the Samsung Galaxy S4, at least from an unlocked standpoint.

On the Google Play Store, the unlocked 8GB Nexus 4 costs a mere $299 while the 16GB Nexus 4 costs $349. Both of those prices are significantly lower than typical off-contract pricing and are much lower than the Galaxy S4′s presumed $650 price.

On-contract, the T-Mobile Nexus 4 ranges from $199.99 on-contract all the way down to free. The carrier typically hosts deals on the device and we expect, with the iPhone 5, Galaxy S4 and the HTC One all on their way to the Magenta network, that the price will remain low.

27 Comments

  1. Yay

    03/25/2013 at 6:43 pm

    First!

  2. Philip Brain

    03/25/2013 at 8:25 pm

    Quite possibly one of the worst comparisons I’ve ever read, you left out a plethora of important details.

  3. Nexus

    03/25/2013 at 8:45 pm

    Also, the Nexus 4 screen is 768 pixels wide, not 720.

  4. A Nexus fan

    03/25/2013 at 11:11 pm

    You’re forgetting the fact that TouchWiz is generally considered bloat ware, and most people loathe it in my experience (including me). Also left out is the fact that the Nexus 4 was released about 5 months before the Galaxy S4.
    I have a Nexus 4, and would no way have the S4 instead of it.

    • AndroidEnthus

      03/25/2013 at 11:24 pm

      It’s not a “fact” that Touchwiz is bloat. Verizon visual voicemail is bloat, NFL mobile is bloat. Android is open source and anyone can modify it to include adding their own UI skin. Please get your terms straight before throwing them around like fact.

      • stubborn_d0nkey

        03/26/2013 at 5:58 am

        He didn’t say that it is a fact that Touchwiz is bloat, just that it is a fact that it is generally considered bloat. There is a difference, and the latter is not dependent on the former.

        I’d also like to note that I am in no way agreeing or disagreeing with him.

    • Seriously

      04/17/2013 at 10:12 am

      TouchWiz isn’t “generally considered bloat ware”, I’m getting the S4 because I really like it, would have been nice if it was metal and the only downside for me is that I have to get the terrible Snapdragon processor, I really like the TouchWiz, much more than stock Android, but this is my opinion. Just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean everyone doesn’t. It’s fair enough you replace your Nexus 4 with an S4, I’m paying £590 for my S4 (far too high I know) and no way would I get a Nexus 4, even though it’s £310 cheaper,

      • Seriously

        04/17/2013 at 10:12 am

        won’t replace* sorry

      • j1406gates

        04/29/2013 at 8:29 pm

        its all to your likeings; I’m getting a nexus 4; definately not looking forward to the S4; I have an Lg Marquee rooted and removed most factory apps to include google apps, youtube, even the pesky google maps. Like you said some people want all the newest technology, while others like me want a new fast phone, that isn’t complicated to use. I’m not a fan of touch screens, but nowadays the fastest phones are. I’m not tied down to my phone like most people are, but I want something fast and durable.

  5. Aamir Lehri

    03/26/2013 at 12:07 am

    I love Samsung And i am with Samsung Galaxy S4

  6. Ireland

    03/26/2013 at 3:26 am

    S4 seems like the winner to me

  7. anh yeu em

    03/26/2013 at 4:02 am

    S4 s3 compare with wid ifone5 is not fair..should should it be s2 suond more recentable lolz..

    • John D.

      03/26/2013 at 7:18 am

      “Recentable?”

      Is that a word???

  8. Nick Rogers

    03/26/2013 at 5:50 am

    A review that says OEM software beats or Nexus software is a biased review.This is pretty much an S4 ad.

    I was half expecting the review to tell me that the S4 was going to be nice and affordable compared to the N4.

    • Seriously

      04/17/2013 at 10:23 am

      Why is it an ad? Because they think TouchWiz is better than stock Android? It’s not a fact or anything that stock is better, it’s opinion, and stock Android is pretty bare-bones for a modern high-end mobile OS (paired with the Nexus 4), the Nexus doesn’t have simply features like zero-shutter lag or a burst capture mode, or an eraser type feature, let’s just say its missing a lot of these nifty features.

  9. Riley

    03/26/2013 at 8:12 am

    Seeing as the Galaxy S4 has so much more than the Nexus 4, I would definitely go for the former. It has a faster processor, a better camera, and a 1080p display that I could really see working well. While I’m on my way to work at DISH on the train, I like to watch my live and recorded shows on my phone since it takes some time to get there. I’m able to stream from my DVR anywhere I go using the DISH Anywhere app, and I would love to try it out on a higher resolution display.

  10. Jeremy

    03/26/2013 at 8:44 am

    I find it interesting how many are ready to jump on the ‘must have 1080 over 720′ bandwagon on small display devices. The difference will be very difficult for most people to discern, where greater color accuracy and brightness will be more evident. Something in which the N4 trumps the GS4, though the reviewer seemed predisposed against mentioning areas in which the GS4 was lacking.

    • Seriously

      04/17/2013 at 10:20 am

      The Nexus doesn’t “trump” the S4 in colour accuracy, it has better accuracy, but not by a massive amount, the ‘Adapt Display’ mode on the S4 actually works you know.

  11. Russell Najar

    03/26/2013 at 9:46 am

    This article is full of inconsistencies, some already mentioned in the comments. Also the battery in the Nexus 4 can be changed. There is only two screws that hold the back cover on.

    I own a Nexus 4 and the only real limitation I foresee is storage. Plenty of memory available and CPU never stress. Until Android can become more resource intensive the need for more memory and power isn’t there.

    Also IMHO a 8MP camera sensor is all that is needed for the average user. Anything higher is more for the professionals.

    I like Samsung though but had to get the latest Nexus device. The S4 is looking to be a great device.

    I don’t know about the extra screen size, that is what I usually think anyways but then once I get a bigger screen device I can’t figure how I did anything on my old device. I would guess 5 inches would be the biggest screen possible in a phone, anything bigger you would think would be inconvenient as a phone.

    • Seriously

      04/17/2013 at 10:14 am

      “the battery in the Nexus 4 can be changed. There is only two screws that hold the back cover on” – a totally invalid point, doing that will VOID your warranty.

  12. Corndog

    03/26/2013 at 1:54 pm

    Terrible article. This is not a review with comparisons and contrasts and conclusions…rather, it’s just words on a screen.

  13. shal9pin

    03/26/2013 at 3:17 pm

    I used 3 galaxy devices (sgs2, note and sgs3) and I must say that they had a lot of flaws.
    First of all, TouchWiz is rather shitty. I experienced lag on every Galaxy device (though this particular area improved over time).
    Secondly, Samsung tends to screw up with eMMC. I forgave them once (my Note bricked), but my S3 also had some freezing issues. I’m afraid I won’t be able to trust them anymore.
    Thirdly, Samsung uses Mali (afaik now they don’t) that lags behind Adreno in terms of gaming quality. For example Spider-man and TDKR didn’t run properly.
    So I must admit that Galaxys are good. However, their virtues are exaggerated by Samboys and biased reviewers. Now I have a Nexus 4 and I am happy.

    • Seriously

      04/17/2013 at 10:17 am

      If you think TouchWiz is “rather shitty”, then why did you buy 3 Galaxy devices?, I’ve had the S, S2 and am getting the S4, I only experienced lag on the original S, but this was back in 2010 on a single-core 1GHz Cortex-A8, so it’s expected, and Mali GPUs are very good, better than Adreno by the way, wait till you see the T678.

  14. Joanne

    03/26/2013 at 3:50 pm

    S4 is way better

  15. Mike Osborne

    03/26/2013 at 4:13 pm

    And with that I’m getting an S4 it’s been added to my WishPlz List – http://bit.ly/XRexQQ and I’ll be waiting with pent up anticipation. Sorry Nexus, maybe next time :P

  16. Stratocaster

    03/27/2013 at 10:38 am

    Other S4 reviewers have found Smart Scroll and Smart Pause to be highly annoying and should be deactivated by default. The deal-breaker for the N4 is the carrier situation.

  17. devinci2k12

    04/29/2013 at 4:55 pm

    When the Nexus 4 came it, not only was it one of the best Andriod phone of 2012, it was also one of the best priced phone at $299 starting unlocked and no contract. It was way better than the S3 and at a better price points too.

    So S4 is out, and not surprising the hardware has been updated and is better than the Nexus 4. Nexus 4′s pricing is still hard to compete with; and I am looking forward to 2013 update to the Nexus [hopefully keeping the same price points].

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