It might be one of the most sought after and, unfortunately, hardest-to-find devices in the market now, but that is just a testament to how great the Google Nexus 4 is. This great phone seems to perpetually be sold out in the Play Store, but thankfully users who are waiting for their spot in line will still have a chance to experience what is arguably the best experience of Android to date.
If you do happen to be one of the people lucky enough to become Nexus 4 owners over the holiday season, then you are probably having a blast looking through your new toy. To get you started, I’ve compiled some of my favorite tips and tricks for this latest and greatest Google device. Even if you are a seasoned Android user, there is likely something new here for everyone.
I’m going to get one thing out of the way before I get started – this is as much an overview of the new features packaged into the latest Jelly Bean 4.2 as it is a look at some good tips and tricks for the dynamite official Google device, the LG Nexus 4. It is important to revisit some of the features that make Android such an attractive operating system for our beloved smartphones and tablets. Don’t worry, though – there is definitely something here for everyone. See my video review at the end and let us know some of your favorite tips and tricks for the Nexus 4 in the comments!
The Nexus 4 might be an absolutely gorgeous device, but it does suffer from some fragility issues. Even a small drop might make your Nexus 4 shatter and destroy that glass covered body. This isn’t just true for the glass back of the phone, but also for the Corning Gorilla Glass protected screen. Bottom line – be careful with this one.
With that spirit in mind, any of your beloved devices can benefit from some extra protection. Screen protectors can keep your display from being scratched up by the elements while cases can save your phone from certain death. I personally don’t put screen protectors on my devices and instead invest in a good sleeve or minimal case.
For the Nexus 4, this Crumena case by SGP Spigen has been my protector. My phone easily slides into the outer leather and inner felt compartment, protecting my phone when I am not using it. I’m pretty careful with my phones and tablets when I’m using them, so protecting them at all other times is my intent. For extra protection, there are a ton of other cases out there for your choosing.
It might be one of the coolest features found in a number of different phones nowadays, but the Nexus 4 has a companion wireless charging module that brings it to a whole new level of cool. Unfortunately, the availability of the Nexus Wireless Charging Orb has been… non-existant.
Which is a shame, because the Orb is one of the coolest looking docks out there. Thankfully, the Qi standard of wireless charging makes the Nexus 4 compatible with other products, like the Energizer 3 Position Mat or even the mat designed by LG. Some reports state that the Orb is appearing on various websites overseas, so hopefully it will only be a matter of time before we can all take advantage of that cool factor.
One of the cool new features of Jelly Bean 4.2 is the inclusion of lockscreen widgets. It isn’t necessarily that widgets are available on your screen, but instead there are entirely new screens to swipe through. From the lock, you swipe left and right to different functions, like a neat camera screen that loads directly into the camera app.
It is almost like a quintessentially Google way of doing what some other apps and custom ROMs have been doing already. It might not be the most elegant way of adding functionality to the lockscreen, but it works and feels unique. You can add new widget screens from an available stock list that is sure to grow with new versions of Android. Probably my favorite one is the calendar screen, which makes looking at my next appointments nice and easy.
There is also a messaging screen, the default clock screen, and automatically appearing music widget for certaing apps like Spotify. I’m excited to see what updates this feature will get, though the current functionality is welcome already.
This is one of the more basic tips for all Android devices, but it is one of my favorite things to do on any device, as it often comes in handy. Sometimes you want a copy of what you are currently looking at on the screen, but the way to save it isn’t obvious or easy. Taking a screenshot of the display is a quick and easy way around it.
And it is simple enough – just hold the power and volume-down buttons together and a flash will happen on your screen. The resulting image will be shown to you in the notification dropdown, and then you officially have a copy of whatever you were looking at. This is a great feature of any Android device because you can use it for just about anything. What do you use it for?
This is a feature that I was actually quite happy to see become part of stock Android – a quick settings toggle in the notification dropdown. Since Froyo, I have been using custom ROMs in order to take advantage of their inclusion of power widgets in the dropdown. Now, in the Nexus 4’s new Jelly Bean, it is easily accessible by a button in the corner. Your most used settings are now easily accessible, making control of your phone even easier.
But you don’t have to bring down your notifications just to get to your settings. A simple two-finger swipe down brings up the settings dialog all the same. Now something that makes your life easier… just became even easier.
Here is a tip for all you clutter-ridden users out there. Sometimes I look at people’s phones, no matter what platform they are using, and there is nothing but icon after icon after icon littering the screens. If that is how you like to operate, that is fine; personally, I prefer to have everything within no more than a few quick swipes and presses.
With that in mind, there are a few ways to ensure that the clutter doesn’t drown you. One of the first things you should do with your new Nexus device is turn off one of the more annoying features of the Play Store application – the one that automatically puts an icon of newly installed apps on the homescreens. Especially for us seasoned Android users, restoring accounts on new phones can prove troublesome if the Play Store app is just populating our precious real estate on the homescreens with icons of every single app being installed. Very annoying, but very easy to prevent by turning off this one option in the Play Store.
Other than that, you should remember to take advantage of all that Android has to offer. In stock offerings, using folders to organize your apps is a great way of exchanging just one extra tap for some extra cleanliness. You can even put those folders in the dock and completely free up your screen space for widgets and other more useful information.
If that Google Search bar is proving to be more of an eyesore than a useful tool, installing a replacement launcher will add loads more functionality while removing those things you don’t need. Nova is my favorite becuase of its gesture shortcuts. Along with putting all my apps in proper folders in the dock, these shortcuts make it easy to access my most needed apps – freeing up room for more important things on the homescreens.
Here’s where you get to have a little fun – one of the best updated parts of Android Jelly Bean is the new camera. First thing you find is that the interface has been overhauled. Instead of static menus, a touch-and-swipe interface has been put in place to remove anything that might cover up your viewfinder. This allows for a better view of your shot and the interface just works for a touchscreen. After you take your picture, there is even a built-in photo editor that allows for further creativity. Add a filter, a border, crop the photo, or even change the exposure.
With the camera being more fun to use, you should be able to take all of the Instagram pictures that you want, keeping up with your friends who are all cluttering your feed with food pictures and self-portraits. However, there are a couple extra features that have been added in – aside from an improved panorama mode, the inclusion of Photo Sphere brings another way of capturing your surroundings. By using a spherical grid with dots that you align with, you can take a Street View-esque picture of your current 360-degree view. It might not be practical, but it is a fun and creative tool to use from time to time.
Of course, you can just keep on Instagramming.
This is actually new to me – while it should be common knowledge already that you can add multiple fields to any contact card in your People application, I didn’t’ know that there was a new one thrown in the mix – phonetic name. Now, for the most part, this can come in handy for any of your contacts that have hard to pronounce names. You can spell out, phonetically, the way that it is pronounced so that the Google Search application will easily find the contact in question without much fuss.
This opened up a new possibility for me, actually, as I now use a different field to make voice dialing a little easier – nickname. I mostly use this for family, like my brother. If I were just to say his name, Ryan, in Google Now, I would get a number of different people with that same name, including my brother. Now that I put ‘brother’ in the nickname field, Google Voice Search is able to find it when I say ‘brother’ and the correct Ryan comes up after the command.
If you happen to use the phonetic name feature for someone with, for example, a long Hawaiian name, I’d love to see how you sound-spell it out.
It is almost a travesty that there are many users out there who still can’t enjoy Google Now. As perhaps Jelly Bean’s greatest addition to the Android ecosystem, Google Now is a part of the operating system that you should be using more of. Here’s why.
The newest iteration of Android Jelly Bean brought more cards to the Google Now application, automatically bringing information from e-mails into plain sight for easy reading. Even if you have over a thousand unread e-mails, the Google Now application will be able to find the most relevant information and create a card for it. Within the last couple weeks, I’ve had tracking information for my packages coming to my home appear, even before I found the e-mail in my rather cluttered inbox. Also, with the recent trip to the Consumer Electronics Show, my flight info and status were at the top of the list.
There is, of course, more to the Google Now application than just the magical cards. At the top is an easily accessible search bar that allows for quick queries either by typing or voice. The voice search function of Google Now happens to be highly functional, and is activated by just saying ‘Google’ after entering the app. This is a great feature that has become one of my most used on the Nexus 4. If I need directions to a location, I say “directions to” the place. I can set an alarm easily by saying “set alarm.” Other functions use the previous phonetic name tip – Google Now will be able to recognize names better after they have been properly set.
Jelly Bean 4.2 brought one last great feature into its operating system, and it is called Daydream. If you have ever owned a Blackberry (good job on making the switch, by the way), you probably used it as a bedside clock because after plugging it into power, the clock app automatically appeared. It was admittedly a nifty feature that has now basically been brought into Android. Luckily, the Daydream function has been given more than just a clock appearance.
The Daydream application can be activated whether or not your device is docked or plugged in, so make sure it is set properly first. After that, you can pick either the simple clock appearance, a colorful Jelly Bean screen much like the Easter egg, or a couple different ones involving your saved pictures. With a bigger screen, your Jelly Bean powered device could double as a photo frame for your favorite pictures, but perhaps with the Nexus 4, it is most practical to keep it at the clock. That way, when you plug in your phone, it will continue to be useful even when you aren’t personally using it.
It’s okay to Daydream – in this case, it can prove useful.
The Nexus 4 continues to be one of the best phones in the market right now – this is illustrated by the fact that it is perpetually sold out, but luckily there are more devices on the horizon for all of you who are still waiting. If you are one of the lucky people who got get their hands on the latest and greatest that LG and Google have been able to create, then I hope this tips and tricks list helped you get the most out of your new, incredible smartphone.
Are there any tips and tricks that you would like to share with us? Feel free to comment below and stay tuned for all the best Android news here at Android Authority!