Samsung phones may rule the Android roost, but the platform's biggest fans hold a special place for Nexus handsets. The latest, the Nexus 4, has been selling out as quickly as LG's (limited) shipments can stock them. But is the Nexus 4 a better buy than 2013's first big release, Sony's Xperia Z? Let's take a look.
The Xperia Z is a bit longer and wider than the Nexus 4, but it's also thinner. Though not quite classified as "phablets," both phones continue the wave of giant-sized Android handsets.
The Nexus 4 is a bit lighter than the Xperia Z. Both phones add some heft with glass backsides, which also give them a premium feel.
The Xperia Z has a larger display with many more pixels. But, in this case, does "more" really mean "better?" The Nexus 4 already has a massive screen, and few people will be able to discern individual pixels on its sharp display.
No issues – or differences – here, as both phones sport the speedy Snapdragon S4 Pro.
All even here as well, with both phones packing 2 GB of RAM.
The Xperia Z offers more storage, with 16 GB and an expandable microSD slot. To limit its off-contract price, LG and Google settled for 8 GB or 16 GB with no expandable storage in the Nexus 4.
The Xperia Z's cameras win the megapixel battle, with 13 in the rear and 2.1 in the front. This is, however, another category where you need to ask yourself whether more is better or overkill?
If you want the fastest mobile data speeds, the Xperia Z is your winner. To better sell off-contract, LG and Google skipped LTE in the Nexus 4. But its HSPA+ is still faster than 3G.
There isn't a huge difference in battery capacity, but many other factors determine battery life. With the Xperia Z's display packing over 2 million pixels, we'd take Sony's claims of "outstanding" battery life with a few grains of salt.
Sony describes the Xperia Z as "waterproof." Its IP55/IP57 ratings mean that it is dust resistant and can be soaked in three feet (0.91 meters) of water for 30 minutes, and come out as good as new.
As important as hardware is, sometimes it comes down to software – and the Nexus 4 wins that battle. Sony's custom skin covers Android 4.1 (updated to 4.2 soon after launch). But the Nexus 4 runs pure Android, and should receive immediate updates to future versions.
The Nexus 4's pricing is another perk. It starts at US$299 off-contract. Though Sony hasn't released carrier or pricing info for the Xperia Z, we expect it to start at around $200 on-contract.
If you're the hacking type, the Nexus 4 is your champion. Like all Nexus devices, you can easily unlock its bootloader, gain root access, and install custom software.
If you want slightly bigger and better specs, the Xperia Z is your phone. But do those specs outweigh the Nexus 4's great off-contract pricing, quick software updates, and pure Android?
No matter which phone you prefer, though, you may have to wait. Whenever LG replenishes its stock, the Nexus 4 typically sells out of Google Play within hours. The Xperia Z, meanwhile, is still waiting in the wings, and will release sometime in the next few months. If you want instant Android gratification, perhaps you'd be better off with the Samsung Galaxy S III.