How I would change the Nexus 4

Taylor Martin
 from  Concord, NC
| February 6, 2013

As many of you know, I purchased the Nexus 4 the moment it came back in stock last week. The phone arrived a surprising two days later and I immediately popped my SIM card inside and never looked back. It has been entirely too long since I owned a Nexus smartphone, and I was more than ready to get back into the modding saddle.

But as I explained on Monday, the Nexus 4 isn't exactly the best smartphone I've ever managed to get my hands on. That title easily goes to the Galaxy Note II by Samsung … for now. It's a more complete package that addresses the majority of the issues I have with most smartphones, like battery life, storage space, etc.

Though far from perfect, the Nexus 4 is special. It's a Google device that offers the pure Android experience, unadulterated, exactly as the Android developers intended. It carries the promise of always being up-to-date with the latest software from Google and being among the first to get any new features. And it's all but guaranteed to receive an abundance of custom ROMs and other mods.

The hardware and build quality, aside from the seemingly fragile glass back, is fantastic, yet the specifications leave me wanting more. That has been the case with every Nexus smartphone date. However, the Nexus 4 is the closest to comparable with the best flagships since the Nexus One.

Clearly, one of the most important factors and selling points of the Nexus 4 is its price point. It is the best bang for your buck as far as unlocked smartphones go, and that doesn't come without its fair share of setbacks. Many of those come in the form of cut corners on specifications and high quality components. But lets assume cost and the price of the device aren't an issue. I still would have purchased this phone for $500, so that counterargument is invalid.

So how would I change the Nexus 4 to make it the perfect device? Below I have listed some of the most important changes I would make to Google's latest Nexus smartphone.


Trade glass for Kevlar or carbon fiber

The glass back of the Nexus 4, while quite nice to look at, has received a lot of negative feedback. Not only is it a fingerprint magnet, but it is extremely fragile. While many initially thought it was a given that the glass back of the Nexus 4 would be Gorilla Glass, it was discovered that the back is actually not Gorilla Glass, and it's just as susceptible to cracking and shattering as any other pane of glass that isn't chemically hardened.

The Internet is littered with images of Nexus 4s with cracked glass on the rear that range from hairline cracks, deep cracks that span the entire length of the back and even total shattering that leaves craters and glass shards to nick and cut any unexacting fingers.

Plain and simple, the glass back may look great, but it was a terrible idea and a terrible solution to the cries of many about the cheap, plastic battery door on the Galaxy Nexus. If I had my choice in material for the back panel of the Nexus 4, I would either pick the Kevlar backing found on Motorola's DROID RAZR models or a faux carbon fiber, similar to the skin I applied to the back of mine. The carbon fiber skin almost feels natural, as if it was meant to be on the back of the phone. And, well, it isn't going to shatter or crack from the tiniest of drops.


More storage, larger battery

For anyone who has read practically anything I've written in the last several months, these changes should come as no surprise. The battery life on my Nexus 4 has been paltry, and that may simply be because I've been using a Galaxy Note II for the last four months. Still, the Note II and DROID RAZR MAXX HD have effectively raised the bar and, likewise, my personal standards. Any smartphone that doesn't easily last a full day is going to be disappointing.

The 2,100mAh cell inside the Nexus 4 is just okay. Nothing more, nothing less. Even 400mAh more, or 900mAh, would be great. And I would be more than willing to pay for that. The same goes for storage. Shortly after launching the Nexus 7, Google and ASUS created a 32GB model and discontinued the 8GB model. Here's to hoping they do the same for the Nexus 4 – drop the laughable 8GB model for a 32GB model and fix the price accordingly.


Better rear speaker

For months now, I have been using phones to view more and more content, especially video. However, on the Nexus 4, the typical hand-cup over the rear speaker only partially works. If you turn the device over, you will notice the rear speaker is just a tiny little slit, about a half-inch long. It's entirely too easy to completely cover with just a finger, and it's not very loud to begin with.

Perforating around this speaker, rather than simply cutting out a small slit would make it more difficult to completely cover. But this device is deserving of a higher quality speaker, too. It's quiet and tinny.


Slightly larger display

After using the HTC DROID DNA and Galaxy Note II for a while, stepping down to the 4.7-inch display of the Nexus 4 has been difficult, to say the least. I explained last week that the perfect display size for me is 5-inches. The Note II started to feel a little too big in normal use, but the DROID DNA was a perfect balance of size and display real estate.

I still feel like the Nexus 4 is a little small for my tastes. Not to mention, the on-screen buttons make the display feel even smaller, as they take up precious space.


With all these changes I would make, you could argue that this would hardly be the same device. That's partially true. But there is no device out there that has all the things I want. I still want a Nexus device, and I absolutely love the design and feel of the Nexus 4. It's just that the low price of this device forced LG to cut corners where it arguably shouldn't have, where people would be willing to pay more for additional features and better specifications.

I still love my Nexus 4 and plan to continue using it. But make no mistake, it's far from perfect.

How would you change the Nexus 4, ladies and gentlemen? More storage space? A larger battery? Swap the glass back for something more durable? Larger display? Or would you change the Nexus 4 in a totally different way? Sound off in the comments below!

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