As the Android world focuses on the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, it’s almost easy to forget about the Nexus 4. But the latest “pure Google” phone is still ringing up for a nice off-contract price from Google Play. Is it still a good buy? Or are you better off getting one of the newer flagships? Let’s see if we can answer that, as we compare the Nexus 4 and the HTC One.
No huge differences here. The One is a little bit taller than the Nexus 4, but it’s also a hair narrower. Neither phone is breaking any records in the thinness department, but neither is going to be a thick, uncomfortable slab either.
These are two of the most striking Android phones. The One, in particular, sets a new design benchmark with its aluminum unibody build.
The Nexus 4 has a solid construction of its own. Its back is made of glass, and its edges are lined with a rubbery band to help you keep a good, firm grip. It's a great balance of sharp design and comfort in the hand.
Advantage: HTC One. Both measure 4.7” diagonally, but the One’s 1080p display is much sharper.
The Nexus 4 still has a good display. Its pixel density (318 PPI) is in the same ballpark as the iPhone 5. If you’ve never seen a 1080p phone, you probably won’t have a single complaint about it.
But if you look at these two side-by-side, good luck going back to the Nexus 4. The One’s cutting-edge display is just that good.
Advantage: HTC One again. Both have Qualcomm-made processors, and the Nexus 4’s S4 Pro is nothing to sneeze at. Just a few months ago, it was the cream of the crop. But the One’s Snapdragon 600 is newer, faster, and has better power management.
Both smartphones have a good amount of RAM, with 2 GB a pop.
The Nexus 4’s cheap off-contract pricing has some tradeoffs. One of the biggest is the base model’s mere 8 GB of storage. That could fill up really quickly. The lack of a microSD slot isn’t helping matters either.
The One doesn’t have an SD slot either, but HTC pumped it up with a lot more flash memory. You’re looking at 32 GB or 64 GB, depending how much you want to pay.
On paper, the One looks really bad here. But that’s just on paper. The One has less megapixels, but they're larger (Ultrapixels). This improves its low-light performance. Check out our HTC One review for a more in-depth look at its camera.
Both phones also have some interesting software-based camera features. The HTC One takes “Zoes,” which are little three second video clips made up of 20 still frames. Share the Zoe clip as is, or pick your favorite still frame from the bunch. It can be helpful in capturing that perfect shot.
The Nexus One has Android 4.2 Jelly Bean’s new Photo Sphere feature. We're talking panorama, only one that wraps around in all directions.
Here’s the other big tradeoff with the Nexus 4. No LTE for you. Why would Google skimp on the fastest wireless technology? You can chalk that one up to carrier politics. Turns out it’s damn near impossible to release a compatible LTE phone without playing ball with the big carriers.
The good part, though, is that the Nexus 4 ships unlocked from Google Play. Sign up with a GSM carrier, and avoid those pesky long-term commitments.
The HTC One’s battery holds a bit more juice. As we mentioned, its processor also helps out with getting the most bang for your battery buck.
But there shouldn’t be much to worry about with either phone’s battery life. As impressed as we were with the One’s uptime, the Nexus 4 should also last a full day (with regular use) too.
The Nexus 4 runs the latest version of Android. And it always will (or at least it will as long as Google keeps supporting it). The HTC One is a full version behind Google’s latest.
The One also runs the HTC Sense UX, next to the Nexus 4’s stock Android. We can’t tell you whether you'll prefer Sense or stock Android. But we did prefer the new Sense 5 over previous versions.
Both phones run the standard suite of Google apps, including the Play Store, Gmail, YouTube, and Google Now. So nothing to worry about there.
If you’re looking to buy an off-contract smartphone, the Nexus 4 is still the best value around. Apart from some skimping on storage and wireless, you’re looking at a high-end Android phone (running the latest software) for only a little more than similar phones cost on-contract.
Note that the prices listed above are in USD. Also, that's what you'll pay ordering from HTC or Google Play, respectively.
Wrap-upSo which phone is better? For most of us, that’s going to be the HTC One. Amazing screen, cutting-edge performance, breakthrough design ... it and the Galaxy S4 are the cream of the crop right now.
But if you’re looking for lots of bang for your off-contract buck, the Nexus 4 is hard to beat. If you prefer pure Android, and like to get the latest updates first, the Nexus 4 fares better there too.
With Google I/O quickly approaching, there's also the chance that we'll be looking at an updated version of the Nexus 4 soon. Even if it isn't a proper follow-up, a new edition with LTE and more storage would only make it a better value. Might be worth waiting to see if we hear anything on that front before throwing down for a Nexus 4.