Mobile Technology

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Nexus 4

Samsung Galaxy S4 vs. Nexus 4
Gizmag compares the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and LG Nexus 4
Gizmag compares the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and LG Nexus 4
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The Galaxy S4 has a higher-capacity battery
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The Galaxy S4 has a higher-capacity battery
The GS4 is plastic, the Nexus 4 is glass
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The GS4 is plastic, the Nexus 4 is glass
The GS4's camera has more megapixels, but that can be a deceiving spec
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The GS4's camera has more megapixels, but that can be a deceiving spec
All three processors are smokin'
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All three processors are smokin'
Sizes are all in the same general ballpark
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Sizes are all in the same general ballpark
The GS4's display is larger and sharper
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The GS4's display is larger and sharper
Gizmag compares the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and LG Nexus 4
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Gizmag compares the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and LG Nexus 4
RAM is equal, at 2 GB a pop
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RAM is equal, at 2 GB a pop
Samsung-ified Android, or pure Android? (disguise image: Shutterstock)
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Samsung-ified Android, or pure Android? (disguise image: Shutterstock)
If you need lots of storage, then you might be better off with the Galaxy S4
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If you need lots of storage, then you might be better off with the Galaxy S4
The Nexus 4 weighs 9 g more than the Galaxy S4
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The Nexus 4 weighs 9 g more than the Galaxy S4
No LTE for the Nexus 4
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No LTE for the Nexus 4

Nexus and Galaxy. The two brands represent opposing ends of the Android spectrum. Nexus devices have always been Google’s pure, untarnished vision of its platform. Samsung’s wildly-successful Galaxy devices, meanwhile, still use Android, but also threaten to overshadow it. What happens when you put the best of each side-by-side? Read on, as we compare the specs and features of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and LG Nexus 4.

Size

Sizes are all in the same general ballpark
Sizes are all in the same general ballpark

The Nexus 4 is a bit shorter, narrower, and thicker. But – when you look at smaller rivals like the iPhone 5, or phablets like the Galaxy Note II – you realize that the size differences here are pretty minor.

Build

The GS4 is plastic, the Nexus 4 is glass
The GS4 is plastic, the Nexus 4 is glass

It’s easy to poo-poo on Samsung’s use of plastic, but you could also argue that it allows the company to focus more of its expenses on things like 1080p displays and octa-core processors.

The front and back of the Nexus 4, meanwhile, are made of Gorilla Glass. LG helpfully placed a rubbery band around the phone’s edges, allowing for an easier and more comfortable grip.

That extra grip is a good thing, considering that – no matter how strong Gorilla Glass is – it’s going to be more prone than plastic to cracks and scratches.

Both sets of materials have their pros and cons, and this is probably one of the first big areas you’ll want to think about when deciding between these two handsets.

Weight

The Nexus 4 weighs 9 g more than the Galaxy S4
The Nexus 4 weighs 9 g more than the Galaxy S4

It’s impressive that LG managed to make the glass Nexus 4 only 9 g (0.32 oz.) heavier than the plastic Galaxy S4. We suspect the GS4’s larger battery (see below) has something to do with that.

Display

The GS4's display is larger and sharper
The GS4's display is larger and sharper

The Galaxy S4’s display is both larger and sharper than the Nexus 4’s screen.

Once you get to a certain level of sharpness (probably around 300 pixels per inch), cramming in more pixels ceases to play as big of a part. Both of these screens are razor sharp, and your eyes won’t likely see any individual pixels on either one.

That means the display technology will play a bigger part. The Galaxy S4’s Super AMOLED has blacker blacks (technically no light comes through black pixels) but hyper-saturated colors. The Nexus 4’s IPS display, meanwhile, leads to better viewing angles and more accurate color reproduction.

Processor

All three processors are smokin'
All three processors are smokin'

The Nexus 4’s Snapdragon S4 Pro chip is a beast. Ditto for both versions of the Galaxy S4: the North American version’s quad core Snapdragon 600 and the international version’s octa core Exynos chip.

In terms of benchmarks, the Galaxy S4 is going to beat the Nexus 4. In terms of experience, though, you probably won’t see much of a difference. All three processors should blaze through just about any app you throw at them.

RAM

RAM is equal, at 2 GB a pop
RAM is equal, at 2 GB a pop

Our two entrants are tied up, each with 2 GB of RAM.

Storage

If you need lots of storage, then you might be better off with the Galaxy S4
If you need lots of storage, then you might be better off with the Galaxy S4

This is a big-time advantage for the Galaxy S4. The 8 GB offered for the entry-level Nexus 4 isn’t a lot. Add to that the Nexus 4’s lack of an SD card slot, and you could find yourself cramped for free space.

Fortunately, the 16 GB edition of the Nexus 4 only costs US$50 more than the 8GB version.

There’s also the matter of off-contract pricing. Namely, the Nexus 4 was built for it, and the Galaxy S4 wasn’t. Carriers haven’t yet announced pricing for the GS4, but you can bank on around US$200 or so on-contract. The Nexus 4 starts at $300 off-contract.

Wireless

No LTE for the Nexus 4
No LTE for the Nexus 4

Here’s another tough call, as there’s no LTE for the Nexus 4. It does support HPSA+, which offers faster than 3G speeds ... but LTE it is not. You’ll also need to sign up with a GSM carrier for the Nexus 4, as CDMA (that's Verizon and Sprint in the U.S.) networks aren’t supported.

Cameras

The GS4's camera has more megapixels, but that can be a deceiving spec
The GS4's camera has more megapixels, but that can be a deceiving spec

Megapixels make for an easy-to-read metric for these graphics, but they make for a far-from-perfect representation of camera quality.

We’ve yet to put the Galaxy S4 through the paces, but you don’t have to worry about the Nexus 4’s shooter. It takes great shots, and can easily replace a point-and-shoot.

Battery

The Galaxy S4 has a higher-capacity battery
The Galaxy S4 has a higher-capacity battery

Here’s another stat that isn’t an absolute indicator of experience, as many other factors determine actual battery life.

The Nexus 4 offers solid battery life: under typical use, it will easily last a full day. Does that mean the Galaxy S4 – with more capacity – will get better uptime? Maybe, maybe not. When you consider that it has LTE and a display with over a million extra pixels, it may need that extra capacity to match the Nexus 4’s uptime.

Software

Samsung-ified Android, or pure Android? (disguise image: Shutterstock)
Samsung-ified Android, or pure Android? (disguise image: Shutterstock)

One of the most surprising things about the Galaxy S4 is that it will ship with the latest version of Android, 4.2.2.

But you’d be forgiven for thinking the Galaxy S4 runs its own operating system. Samsung is increasingly hiding its Android roots under a heavy layer of “TouchWiz” – complete with a bevy of crazy features (facial-recogntion scrolling, fitness tracking, photos with accompanying audio clips ...).

Meanwhile, the Nexus 4 – like all Nexus devices – runs “pure Google,” or stock Android. What you see is exactly what Android’s creators and designers intended - and nothing more.

Though the two phones run the same version of Android right now, that may not last long. Without manufacturer skins or carrier crapware, the Nexus 4 will be first to receive future Android updates. Samsung has improved its support for updates, but GS4 owners will have to wait much longer for Key Lime Pie (or whatever the next major version is called) than Nexus 4 owners will.

Wrap-up

Most smartphone rivalries are framed around iOS vs. Android, Apple vs. Samsung, or iPhone vs. Galaxy. But there’s a new division growing within Android: Samsung’s Android vs. Google's Android.

Samsung has made the platform as commercially appealling as possible. Some of TouchWiz’s features are gimmicky, but it’s hard to argue with Samsung’s results at the cash register.

Google, meanwhile, has made great strides in improving the platform’s core performance, enhancing its surface aesthetic, and adding useful features like Google Now.

So how do you choose? Do you go with the pure, vanilla version of that platform? Or do you prefer a glitzy coat of Samsung paint layered on top of it? Throw in the questions of LTE vs. HSPA+ and off-contract vs. on-contract pricing, and you have a tough decision. We can’t make it for you, but we hope we've set the table for you to find the best answer for yourself.

... but if this decision wasn’t hard enough for you, then you can cast your net a bit wider and see how the Galaxy S4 compares to the HTC One, Galaxy Note II, and iPhone 5.

15 comments
Rob K
don't forget 1 thing people if you live in Canada the Nexus 4 has fully functional LTE and it's light speed up to 70 megabytes per second in good areas. I would take the Nexus 4 over the S4 any day, simply because it runs stock Android.. this means you're always updated with the newest Android software to the minute, rather then constantly stuck months behind with a non Nexus. TouchWiz in my opinion just degrades the entire Android experience as you will find out if you ever use a Nexus, if you want some of the features of touch wiz you can run add ons or themes with Nexus no problem
Mark Reeder
Another thing not mentioned in this article is price. I'm guessing the S4 is going to run a couple hundred dollars more than the Nexus 4 from Google. When you factor that in, the slight edge that the S4 has essentially evaporates.
Joao Lopes
The Galaxy S4 will sell great but the Nexus 4 is still the best bang for the buck. Question is, IF you have the money to buy a Galaxy S4 why go the Nexus 4 route instead? In my particular case I was considering the Galaxy S4 but after watching Samsung announcement I decided to go for the Nexus 4. Here is the reason why. The Galaxy S4 comes packed with lots of features but it is still a transitional smartphone as were still dealing with two Galaxy S4 versions. The 4G one and the 3G one. Keep in mind I live in Europe where 4G is still in its infancy but it´s catching up fast. When buying the Galaxy S4 you are faced with one decision. Pay $600-700 for one or the other version. If you buy the 4G one you'll probably get a processor that is slower. $600-700 is a considerable investment so you'll probably keep that phone for at least 2 years. It´s better to have the best processor available right now. If you want the best processor you go the 3G version route but it locks your future carrier options. And again if you buy the Galaxy S4 on contract, you´re basically stuck with that phone. Here is a third option. Save the money, buy a completely unlocked Nexus 4. Later this year and surely next year we will have faster mobile phones that will handle both 4G and 3G. You'll have saved $300 to buy the next Nexus device that will surely support both 4G and 3G and will even be faster and powerful than the Galaxy S4. No you won't get the top phone out there but you'll be able to upgrade more often for the price of a single Galaxy S device. And no need to get locked to a carrier. A great advantage if you like to save money by switching carriers from time to time. If I bought the Galaxy S4 I would
Michele Li
I have a S3 and was waiting to upgrade to the S4 so I can get the wireless charging (hate plugging in at night), but found out it's a $100 add-on. Then I found the Monster Watts Stealth Qi wireless charger SET for $40, and it comes with the S3 wireless receiver which fits under the phone's back, plus the charger is S4 compatible. And yesterday they announced that they will accept the S3 receiver for trade-in when the S4 one is available.
Bruce Ward
let's have this little comparison again when keyLimePie is out, and the S4 doesn't have it [and probably won't for months]. and after buying my phone outright, i am still not paying anything per month for it [but i'm obviously prejudiced, i already made the right choice.]
Ajgnd55
They say the display is over saturated, but CNET as well as Android Authority has reported that display testers and reviewers have found the display to be crisper and more natural, and isn't as over saturated as the GS3 was.
Saba Tokme
i do not like the Nexus, it is not popular...S4 features very far more superior... S4 will constantly sell millions alongside with iphone only and no other android can beat the sell of S4..
Daishi
@Mark. Price was mentioned in the article. The S4 will be about $200 on contract, the Nexus 4 is $300 off contract. The off-contract price of the S4 will be about $600. I suspect this factor to weight pretty heavily on individual decisions. $600 is a lot to drop on a phone but for people already paying monthly for subsidy pricing (most of the US) the S4 is the better deal.
pmshah
I have followed Joao Filipe Pinto Lopes"s system all my life when it comes to PC. Never go for currently the latest and the best. Go for technology that has been proven. The difference would allow me to upgrade my system in a year's time as the prices fall. I do the same with the phones. I have to have the NEED and not WANT, to upgrade my phone.
Evan Brom
I have a Nexus 4 and I am excited to see it even being compared to a phone that will cost over 2x as much. Sure LTE may be nice, but I don't often need the added speed and I think any speed issues I get come from the cheap straight talk service with AT&T and not the device itself. The added life / resale that a nexus device should have due to auto updates is nice. However if some one said hey I will do a flat trade my s4 for you n4 I would do it. (and then sell it and buy another n4 and keep the extra cash maybe)