Let’s hope the Nexus 5 learns from the Nexus 4’s mistakes

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Google released the Nexus 4 (codenamed “Mako”) just about a year ago. It was announced on October 29, 2012, and launched the following November 13th. Unlike other unsubsidized and unlocked phones, the Nexus 4 was aggressively priced. Due to either massive popularity or a ridiculous shortages, or a combination of both, the phone sold out in minutes in many markets, and shortages have plagued it ever since. Now, with another October approaching, leaks galore, and a new version of the operating system itching to be leaked, we sit on the proverbial eve of the announcement of the next Nexus, which we hope will be called the Nexus 5.

The Nexus 4, although it’s currently my daily driver, isn’t perfect. In fact, it’s far from it. I asked the Pocketnow team what the Nexus 5 needs to learn from what Google and LG did wrong with the Nexus 4. Here’s what they think Google needs to learn for its next flagship smartphone.

Ditch the glass back

gravity-killed-my-smartphone

Smartphones are like glass-bottomed boats. Sure, they look cool, but you probably don’t want to make them the workhorse of your sailing fleet. Even the most scratch-resistant glass can (and will) break. It’s not a matter of if, but when. Even Apple ditched glass backs!

Also, I don’t know what kind of coating was put on the glass of the Nexus 4, but it made the device terribly slippery. We’ve broken two Nexus 4’s in my family due to “slipperiness”. That’s twice as many as with the previous generation, the Galaxy Nexus (which, by contrast, had a very “grippy” back).

If the leaks of the Nexus 5 that we’re seeing are representative of what the actual device will be, Google and LG may have learned their lesson and are including a soft-touch composite material which I suspect will be very similar to that which is on the back of the 2013 Nexus 7.

Better screen

n4gogThe entire Nexus family seems to be plagued by some sort of “poor display” anomaly. Many have complained that the blacks on the Nexus 4 are more “dark grays”, and colors are muted and unsaturated. Even I, with my “it looks fine the way it is” attitude, can find reason to complain about the screen on the Nexus 4. I, however, am an Android power user. As such, I’m rooted, and can easily run a custom kernel that lets me tweak my gamma settings to make the display look great! (And trust me, it’s the first thing I do after flashing a new CyanogenMod nightly.)

The new Nexus 7 really improved over the original Nexus 7’s screen, so  I suspect Google has learned that lesson as well, and we’ll get a high-resolution display that (finally) has great colors on the Nexus 5.

Storage

USB On The Go

Come on, Google, if you’re not going to give us an sdcard slot or even USB-OTG support, the least you can do is offer us a phone that’s got enough internal storage that we won’t complain! 8GB and 16GB? Yeah, that’s not going to cut it. For a budget phone that you get “free, on contract”, maybe 8GB is okay, but this is your flagship phone. Make it look like one!

16GB should be considered the bare minimum. If I were you, I’d release it in 32GB and 64GB varieties. Oh, and even if you don’t include that sdcard slot, give us back USB-OTG, okay?

Lack of LTE

LTELOGOHSPA+ is great, don’t get me wrong, but LTE has many advantages. HSPA+ speeds, theoretically, can be “as fast as LTE — in practice”, but LTE always seems to be faster.

LTE also uses different frequencies than HSPA+, so signals may be able to penetrate buildings and urban landscapes better than HSPA+ — depending on your carrier, of course.

In my case, I went from 4Mbps down (with bursts to 8), up to to 10Mbps (with bursts to 35) and got better coverage inside buildings after I hacked my Nexus 4 to use T-Mobile’s LTE. Sure, I understand why Google left LTE out, but it was a bad move that ended up hurting sales. (Not that Google had enough stock so support sales, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)

The Nexus 5 needs to have LTE built-in — no hacks required. We’ve seen this with the 2013 Nexus 7, so I suspect LTE will be present in the Nexus 5.

Sub-par camera

mems-camIf you’re a point-and-shooter like I am, the camera on the Nexus 4 is fine. If you want what many would call “quality” or “good looking” pictures, the camera on the Nexus 4 can’t compete with those on competing flagship devices.

Sure, Google had to cut corners somewhere to keep prices down, but even Google’s own Vic Gundotra has apparently admitted the Nexus 4’s to be less than ideal. Luckily, he’s promised us that the camera on the next Nexus is going to be “awesome”.

Availability

The Nexus 4 had a few availability issues. One was its general lack of stock. Selling out every several minutes isn’t a good way to launch a product, just in case you were wondering. The other point to consider was its limited global reach. Pocketnow’s Anton and Jaime will both attest to this.

“Make the freaking thing available in more regions!”

What more can I say?

Battery life

bad batteryRegardless of the actual capacity of the battery, today’s smartphones need to easily make it through a 24-hour period of “typical” use without having to be charged. The Nexus 4 falls short. If I don’t charge my Nexus 4 while I’m at work, I’m dead before the end of the day. I’m not alone.

I’m not saying the Nexus 5 needs a 5,000 mAh battery. If it can get through a full 24-hour day on an 1,800 mAh battery, I’m okay with that. Rumor says we’ll get something closer to 2,700 mAh, but again, if it can’t last the whole day, it’s not enough.

An overabundance of compromise

compromiseTo many, the Nexus 4 was a wholly unimpressive smartphone. Of course that didn’t stop Android fans like me from going “bat-crap crazy for it” (as one member of the Pocketnow team put it), but many just never saw the appeal. The phone was average in virtually every way. It was just kind of “unremarkable”.

If rumors are accurate, the Nexus 5 seems to have learned from the mistakes of it’s predecessor, and it could shape up to be a very nice device, indeed. Google showed us what it can do on a budget. Now it needs to show us what it can do to make a high-end, flagship device affordable.

If Google is smart enough to challenge the system with a device that shares the specs of the LG G2, and manages to keep the price near that of the the Nexus 4, this device will definitely make its mark on the entire industry.

Here’s to hoping Google not only gets it “right”, but knocks this one out of the park!

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.