Does Android have a new King? This title is usually passed by default to the latest Nexus phone, but the Nexus 4 is a unique bird. Though it's a top-of-the-line handset, Google and LG made a few trade-offs. How does the Nexus 4 compare to the reigning Android monarch, the Samsung Galaxy S III? Let's take a look …
Both phones sport slick designs. The Galaxy S III has a slightly larger surface area, but is also thinner. The Nexus 4 has a glass front and back, sandwiched together with a plastic band.
The Nexus 4's back is even bedazzled, and – under the right light – will emit a subtle glitter. Fear not, though, masculine geeks: we're talking more Nexus One live wallpaper, and less My Little Pony.
The thicker Nexus 4 also tips the scales a bit more than the S3. Though there are lighter phones on the market, neither device has a lot of heft.
Both displays should look great. The Nexus 4 has slightly higher resolution, and – with its smaller screen – a bit higher pixel density as well. Some customers are turned off by the Super AMOLED PenTile screen in the Galaxy S III, but most agree that it's one of the leading smartphone displays on the market.
It's hard to say which phone has the edge here, particularly with the different Galaxy S III models sold in North America and everywhere else. Perhaps the simplest answer is that you'll be hard-pressed to find many apps that tax either phone.
The US version of the Galaxy S III matches the Nexus 4 with 2GB of RAM, while its international counterpart has 1GB.
This is a potential drawback for Nexus 4 customers. To keep its off-contract price down, Google and LG limited the base model to 8GB of internal storage. The Galaxy S3, meanwhile, starts at 16GB, and can be expanded further with a microSD card.
This is the other big tradeoff for the Nexus 4: it lacks LTE. The "3G" label above is a bit deceiving; the Nexus 4 utilizes HSPA+, which can reach theoretical speeds of 42Mbps. This is often marketed as "4G," and - if you live in the right area - you can potentially get LTE-like download speeds.
Both phones have equal wattage, but remember that other factors affect actual battery life. We'll have to wait until the Nexus 4 releases on November 13 for actual uptimes.
On paper, the cameras look similar. The Galaxy S3's front camera has a slightly higher megapixel rating.
Nexus devices are beloved for many reasons, but one of the biggest is that they run stock Android. The Nexus 4 – along with its big brothers, the Nexus 10 and Nexus 7 – heralds the arrival of Android 4.2. The new version of Jellybean brings several new features, like a Swype-like trace keyboard, wireless display mirroring, and a 360 degree panorama photography tool called Photo Sphere.
Perhaps even more importantly, the Nexus 4 should receive future Android updates long before the Galaxy S III. Though the handset will also be sold directly by some carriers (like T-Mobile in the US), it will primarily be sold in Google Play, where there is no update approval process. Even the models sold by carriers will still be running stock Android, so there shouldn't be many concerns.
The Nexus 4 is also one of the first big handsets to ship with wireless charging capabilities. Buy any Qi-compatible wireless charging accessory, and the Nexus 4 will be good to go.
It's worth reiterating the Galaxy S III's advantage with LTE. If you live in an area that supports the blazing-fast network, this could be a deal-breaker. Even in areas where HSPA+ can rival LTE's download speeds, LTE tends to have superior upstream speeds and lower latency.
Summing upYou can easily call the Nexus 4 the new cream of the Android crop, but you could still make the same argument for the Galaxy S III. The devices' specifications have a lot in common. The Nexus 4's pure Android experience could tip some customers its way, while the S3's LTE could tip many more in its direction.
Our advice? Don't worry about titles: just find which phone works best for you, and enjoy.