JR Raphael

Nexus 4 vs. Galaxy Nexus: Worth the upgrade?

November 08, 2012 2:38 PM EST

Nexus 4 vs. Galaxy NexusThe Nexus 4 is an awesome phone -- we've pretty well established that at this point. For those of us who own last year's Galaxy Nexus, though, the question now is whether it's awesome enough to warrant an upgrade.

Obviously, only you can decide if you're able to justify dropping the dough (and/or able to tolerate the inevitable eye-rolling from your significant other). But let's take a look at how much of an improvement the Nexus 4 really is over the Galaxy Nexus so you can better make a decision.

First off, let's make one thing clear: The Galaxy Nexus is by no means a bad phone all of a sudden. It's a nice device, and it still provides a fantastic pure Google Android experience (and will almost certainly be upgraded to Android 4.2 in the very near future).

That said, a lot changes in a year -- and the Nexus 4 is a vastly superior phone in almost every way. The highlights:

Form

The Nexus 4 has a striking and distinctive design. When you see the two phones side by side, the Nexus 4 looks significantly more premium. Appearances aside, the Nexus 4's construction feels far more solid and substantial than the Galaxy Nexus's plasticky build. (The downside, of course, is that the Nexus 4's glass back could increase the risk of breakage if you drop the device.)

Display

This one is a massive difference, guys. The Nexus 4 has a gorgeous True HD IPS screen that pretty much puts the Galaxy Nexus's HD Super AMOLED display to shame.

The numbers may not sound like much -- 1280 x 768 resolution and 320ppi vs. 1280 x 720 resolution and 316ppi -- but in person, the contrast in quality is immense. After you've had your eyes on the Nexus 4 for a while, you definitely won't want to go back to the Galaxy Nexus's screen.

General viewing aside, the N4's screen is also easy to see in direct or indirect sunlight, while the Galaxy Nexus becomes almost useless in those settings.

Performance

The Galaxy Nexus is certainly no slouch in the performance department, but the Nexus 4 is in a whole other league. Everything on the phone feels faster and snappier -- which is no surprise, considering it's rocking a 1.5Ghz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor along with 2GB of RAM.

You notice the difference in a lot of places. The Nexus 4 boots up about 30 seconds faster than the Galaxy Nexus, based on my comparisons. It also loads Web pages five to 10 seconds faster in my side-by-side tests. Nearly any task you do just feels zippier on the Nexus 4.

Camera

Another huge one. Let's face it: The Galaxy Nexus's camera was never great. The Nexus 4's is.

Connectivity

Some people asked me how the Nexus 4's Wi-Fi and GPS performance compares to the Galaxy Nexus's, so I checked -- and sure enough, it's better in both areas (significantly so with Wi-Fi while moderately so with GPS).

The Nexus 4 also supports the Miracast wireless display-sharing standard, which doesn't mean much yet but could become meaningful to some people once more TV adapters start to show up. And it has the option for wireless charging, too -- not a huge deal, by any means, but a nice new touch.

Audio

The Nexus 4's speaker is noticeably louder and clearer-sounding than its predecessor's. A relatively minor detail, but it's something quite a few folks have asked me about, so I figure it's worth mentioning.

The flip side

To be fair, there are a few areas where the Galaxy Nexus arguably has an advantage. If you want to be able to easily remove your battery, for instance, the Galaxy Nexus lets you do that while the Nexus 4 does not. The Nexus 4, as we mentioned a moment ago, is a more fragile device due to its glass-centric design. And the Nexus 4 doesn't offer support for LTE and thus Verizon (though one could argue that's actually a good thing).

The verdict

All considered, I'd say this: No one needs to make this upgrade; from one phone to the next, we're talking about a move that's more about desire than necessity. All things in perspective, right?

Android Power TwitterFor most people, though, the Nexus 4 will be a very significant step up from the Galaxy Nexus. If you love technology and want the latest and greatest -- and can justify spending 300 to 350 bucks on a gadget right now -- I think you'll be delighted to trade up and get the Nexus 4 in your hands.

That much I can tell you. When it comes to your significant other's eye-rolling, though, hey -- you're on your own.

[FULL REVIEW: Google Nexus 4: Android at its best]