Google's Nexus 4 offers a pure Android experience on an unlocked device, at a great no-contract price. It's also fairly easy to disassemble and hides a bit of a hardware secret inside.
Full TechRepublic teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Google Nexus 4
The Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch IPS display (1,280x768-pixel resolution at 320 ppi), 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, 2GB of RAM, an 8-megapixel main camera, a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi, and it comes in 8GB and 16GB versions.
Given its hardware specifications, the Nexus 4 can definitely hold its own against other high-end smartphones. And with its support for NFC and wireless charging, LG's handset is even a step ahead of many devices. What the Nexus 4 doesn't have is LTE support -- at least not officially.
Overall, it's well-built, feels sturdy in your hands, and is fairly easy to take apart.
For more information on the Nexus 4, including real-world tests and pricing, check out Lynn La's full CNET review.
Cracking Open observations
- Simple to open and disassemble: Once you remove a pair of clearly visible external screws (Torx T5), the Nexus 4's back cover comes off without much resistance. The internal screws can be removed with a Phillips #00 bit. My only complaint about the phone's construction is the copious amount of adhesive used to hold the battery in place.
- Replaceable battery: Despite being glued down, the 3.8V, 2,100mAh lithium ion battery is replaceable.
- Clean internal layout and modular components: The phone's interior has a straightforward design that makes removing internal components a snap. Also, many internal parts, such as the headphone jack and front sensor assembly, cameras, and Micro-USB daughterboard, are separate components and can be replaced individually.
- Fused front panel, display, and internal frame: At one time, I criticized manufacturers for fusing a device's LCD panel to the front glass. If one component broke, you had to replace both. But having spent too much time removing tiny pieces of dust from between the two, I've changed my mind.
- Hidden LTE hardware support (sort of): Despite all its high-end hardware, the Nexus 4 lacks one increasingly common feature of top-of-the-line smartphones: LTE support. Last October, Scott Webster wrote about Lynn La criticized the device for not supporting LTE in her review. But a closer look at the phone's modem reveals that this may not be the case, at least for some Nexus 4 owners. According to Qualcomm's Web site, the Nexus 4's MDM9215M modem does support LTE. AnandTech found that the Nexus 4 does support LTE on Band 4, which operates in the 1,700/2,100MHz spectrum. And, there are reports of people connecting to Band 4 LTE networks -- mostly in Canada. Lynn shortly after publishing her review. There's no guarantee, however, that it will work for you in your area or that the functionality won't be disabled at some point. So, even with this modem, there's still no real LTE support. on CNET. Likewise,
The Nexus 4 may not have the stylish design of Samsung's Galaxy S3 or the outstanding battery life of Motorola's Droid Razr Maxx HD, but it's a solid phone and one that's not too difficult to crack open. And at $299 unlocked without a contract, it's definitely priced right.
A more detailed version of this story was first published on TechRepublic's Cracking Open.