Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Google Nexus 4

March 15, 2013
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The day Samsung fans worldwide have been expecting is finally here: the South Korean manufacturer has officially unveiled the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Android smartphone that you’ll be hearing about a lot in the next few months.

With the hype swirling around the new Galaxy S4, we all have expectations from a follow-up to the best selling Android device of all time. Moreover, the competition in the Android ecosystem was never tougher.

One of the best Android smartphones currently available is the Google Nexus 4, a “pure Google” smartphone manufactured by LG that has attracted loads of interest thanks to its low price tag, but also its limited availability.

A note that I’d like to make before going further is that Google is now facing a problem that no one would thought of just a few years ago: the Galaxy brand has gained so much notoriety that it threatens to eclipse Android.

With that in mind, join us as we compare the Samsung Galaxy S4, the newest superphone, to the Google Nexus 4, the best smartphone running vanilla Android.

For a sum-up, you can jump to the video comparison below, or you can bear with us as we analyze our contenders in each of the following sections: display, design and build quality, internal hardware, and Android implementation.

Specs

Specifications Samsung Galaxy S4 Google Nexus 4
Dimensions 136.6 x 69.8 x 7.9mm130g 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm (5.27 x 2.70 x 0.36 in)139 g (4.90 oz)
Display 4.99-inch, Super AMOLED1920 x 1080 Full HD, 441ppi 4.7-inch Super IPS LCD768 x 1280, 318ppi
CPU and GPU International version

  • Samsung Exynos 5 Octa
  • Quad-core A15 (1.6GHz) + Quad-core A7 (1.2GHz)
  • PowerVR SGX544MP3

US version

  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 APQ8064T
  • Quad-core Krait 300
  • 1.9Ghz
  • Adreno 320
APQ8064 Snapdragon S4 ProQuad-core 1. 5GHzAdreno 320
RAM 2GB 2GB
Storage 16GB/32GB/64GB internalmicroSD, up to 64GB 8/16GBNon-expandable
Cameras 13MP rear, LED flash, autofocus, burst mode, Shot with Sound, Dual record, Smart Erase 8MP rear,  autofocus, LED flash1.3MP front, 1080p, 30fps
Battery 2600mAh, removable 2100 mAh15.30h talk time (3G)
Networks GSM, UMTS, HSPA+/LTE GSM, UMTS, CDMAHSPA+
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n acWi-Fi Direct, Wi-Fi hotspot, DLNA, NFCBluetooth 4.0 A2DPmicroUSB, MHL 2, infraredA-GPS Wi-Fi 802.11 b, g, nWi-Fi hotspotmicroUSB, DLNANFCA-GPS

Bluetooth 4.0

Operating system Android 4.2 TouchWiz UIAir View, Smart Scroll, Smart Pause, S Translate, Knox, S Drive Android 4.2 Jelly Bean

Display

The Google Nexus 4 uses a 4.7 inch IPS display running at a resolution of 1280 by 768 pixels, with a 326ppi density. This is probably the best non-1080p display around, with great brightness and contrast levels but also very accurate color reproduction.

In the other corner, Samsung has opted to equip the Samsung Galaxy S4 with a 5-inch Super AMOLED display that works at a 1920 by 1080 pixel resolution,  with a 441 DPI. Crispness and contrast levels are arguably better, but the over-saturated colors (and hence inaccurate color reproduction) still remain a problem for the SAMOLED technology.

Verdict: The display on the Samsung Galaxy S4 is both crisper and larger, but the display on the Nexus 4 features better color reproduction.

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Design and Build Quality

The Google Nexus 4 measures 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm (5.27 x 2.70 x 0.36 in) and weighs in at 139 g (4.90 oz).

Design-wise, the Google Nexus 4 is a very interesting smartphone, as the glass back (with a sort of holographic design on the back), the slightly curved display, and the on-screen navigational buttons make a very appealing combination. Unfortunately, the Google Nexus 4 is not without its problems, as many users reported that the glass back breaks a bit too easily.

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In the other corner, the Samsung Galaxy S4 maintains the design language with which Samsung has accustomed us in 2012. Compared to its predecessor, the Galaxy S4 is a bit lighter and narrower, but it retains the same asymmetrically rounded corners.

Verdict: The Google Nexus 4 feels more like a premium smartphone than the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Internal Hardware

CPU, GPU and RAM

The North American version of the Samsung Galaxy S4 will use a Snapdragon 600 system on a chip (SoC), consisting of a 1.9GHz quad-core Krait CPU, and a juiced up Adreno 320 GPU. The chipset is paired up with 2 GB of RAM.

The international version of the Galaxy S4 will use the new Exynos 5 Octa SoC from Samsung, a chip that pairs a quad-core A15 cluster and a quad-core A7 cluster (in big.LITTLE configuration), alongside an Imagination Technologies PowerVR GPU.

The Google Nexus 4 uses the Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC, consisting out of a quad-core Krait CPU, an Adreno 320 GPU, coupled with 2GB of RAM memory.

Unfortunately for Nexus 4 owners, while the Snapdragon S4 Pro was the hottest SoC back in November 2012, when the Nexus 4 launched, the Exynos 5 Octa is a very capable chipset. Looking at benchmark scores, it’s obvious that the Galaxy S4 is the more powerful device.

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Storage

One of the weak spots of the Google Nexus 4 is the fact that it comes with only 8GB or 16GB of internal storage, with no microSD expansion option. For users that like to carry all their media on their phones, the lack of better storage options is a big nuisance.

In contrast, the Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with 16GB, 32GB or 64GB of internal storage and can work with microSD cards of up to 64GB.

Cameras

The Samsung Galaxy S4 uses a 13MP primary camera and a 2MP front facing camera. The Google Nexus 4 is equipped with an 8MP primary sensor and a 1.3MP secondary sensor for video calls.

One of the highlights of the Nexus 4 is the ability (specific to Android 4.2) to take PhotoSpheres, the 360 degrees panorama that are similar to the those you can see on Google’s Street View service.

Nexus-4-photosphere-ad

Samsung has worked to differentiate its device by adding a number of interesting camera features, including the ability to attach sound snippets to images or the dual recording mode (similar to what the LG Optimus G Pro offers)

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Battery

The Google Nexus 4 uses a 2100 mAh non removable battery, and it is safe to say that battery life is not one of the strong suits of the Nexus 4, especially if you’re a power user.

The freshest member of the Galaxy S line uses a 2600 mAh removable battery. While the stamina of the device isn’t something that we can evaluate yet, at least you have the option to pop in a backup battery and make sure your device works when you need it.

Verdict: The Samsung Galaxy S4 wins this round in every single sub-category.

Android implementation and software

The Google Nexus 4 runs vanilla Android 4.2 Jelly Bean out of the box, one of the few smartphones that do that at the moment of this writing. Moreover, Nexus smartphones and tablets are usually updated to the latest Android version within a week following the official announcement from Google.

All other high-end Android smartphones are still running Android 4.1, although Jelly Bean was released roughly four months ago. The same thing will happen with the next version of Android, likely to be called Android 5.0 Key Lime Pie.

In the other corner, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will launch with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean out of the box, but layered with Samsung’s TouchWiz custom UI on top. It must be said that, out of all manufacturer overlays, the TouchWiz version on the Galaxy S4 brings the biggest number of new features and tweaks to the table. Looks are really a matter of personal taste, but it’s generally accepted that the design of TouchWiz is not as inspired as the Holo interface featured on Nexus devices.

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Verdict: Stock Android and timely OS updates make for an unbeatable combination.

Hands-on video

Conclusion

Choosing between the LG Google Nexus 4 and the Samsung Galaxy S4 is not an easy task, and ultimately boils down to your personal preference. Here’s what I mean by that:

If you want a decently powerful and more compact, more premium looking smartphone that will receive timely OS updates, go for the Google Nexus 4.

If you’re craving for five inches of 1080p SAMOLED goodness, as well as top-end specs, a microSD card, and a removable battery, the Samsung Galaxy S4 is the way to go.

But what do you guys think about this battle? Between the Nexus 4 and the Galaxy S4, which one do you prefer, and why? Vote in our poll.

Which smartphone do you prefer

View Results

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Comments

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Dye/575025297 Mike Dye

    Software is more important than these needless high specs. Sure the nexus 4 could use more storage and a better battery but all in all its the stock experience that wins for me.

    • Taurus_G4

      for some even 12GB is more than enough but yeah moooars always better….

  • http://www.facebook.com/marc.adam.12 Marc Adam

    Not impressed. Touchwiz remains awful.

  • federicoc73

    Nexus is the way to go.
    F.

  • Interesting

    If you see the results of the poll, people here like pure google. I do too. I want an SD card, but I would be willing to give it up for stock android.

    So, I think google is not at risk of seeing the galaxy brand overtake the android brand. BUT, what either HTC or Samsung could do to blow google out of the water is to add a check box in Settings that would switch between stock android and Sense ui/touch whiz. Then people like me would venture away from nexus.

    • Interesting

      Oh, also, that Tizen thing…that just shows that Samsung is going to do their own OS someday anyway. If I were google, I would not allow Samsung to build any more nexus devices starting in 2014.

    • http://www.dsaif.com/ Saif

      Google is doing that with Motorola X Program

  • Terrence Taylor

    Impressive hardware, but I can’t deal with TouchWiz.

    • NicholasMicallef

      Then get CM 10.1, the SGS series gets the most developer attention just after Nexus devices. I have CM running on my nexus devices anyway, so TW or not doesn’t make much difference to me.

  • A.Noid

    I would blow out the OS on the S4, and replace it with Cyanogen 10.1 Once Samsung releases the kernel source, because of the expansion options not on the Nexus. I can get my semi-vanilla Android O.S. That way without sacrificing storage.

    • asakura

      be sure to get the USA version because the exynos chipset have barelly any love remaining on the CM team, Samsung pretty much laughed and s****ted on their faces giving out sources and support, lets see if exynos 5 its different

  • Usaamah Gill

    I prefer the LG Nexus 4. That said, Samsungs innovation is all software. The Optimus G Pro already has the same specs (compared to North American version of S4) and a MUCH better display (LGs IPS >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Samsungs AMOLED), so hardware wise LG already has a better phone out. The only thing the S4 is superior in is software.

  • Tony in ND

    I would like to see a comparison with the xperia z.

    • Taurus_G4

      already on this Site

  • http://www.facebook.com/yoni.infante Yoni Infante

    wow is not even the octa core and look the difference lol :P waiting for the octa core :D

  • M.Beg

    And the winner is….plastic

  • http://twitter.com/BrianEdwardGoss Brian Edward Goss

    Seriously??? Are we already describing the Nexus 4 as “decently powerful”?!? A phone comes out with a newer processor and now the Quad Core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro is only “decently powerful”? Many people who want a Nexus 4 haven’t even been able get one yet… and now the phone is just “eh”? This reminds me of bloggers who were recommending the Galaxy Nexus to anyone who would listen right up until the day the Nexus 4 dropped – then all of a sudden started telling people “you can probably ‘get by’ with a Galaxy Nexus for ‘a few months’”. I usually buy the latest-greatest hardware myself, but this idea that phones magically turn into junk the second a new chip comes along is not serving anyone. I already own the Nexus 4, and will probably pick up an S4 as well… I think they are both great phones.

    • http://www.facebook.com/danc92 Daniel Clarke

      I concur!

    • Lee

      Why would you need two phones?

  • Steve Anthony Herrera

    If I could have stock/vanilla Android on the S4, that would be ideal.

  • tomn1ce

    I pick the the S4 with all the update delay and all….the N4 is not available on vzw and I’m not about to give up great service for a 12GB crippled N4…..I currently have the G-Nexus and so far its running good I may change it by the end of the year though depending on the availability of VoLTE capable devices….

  • http://www.facebook.com/danc92 Daniel Clarke

    Biggest advantage of Nexus 4 is that it is literally half the price of what the Galaxy S4 will be at launch. Plus, the guarantee of always latest Android is a huge bonus. I had a Galaxy S2, it was a great phone, but the wait for Ice Cream Sandwich felt like a lifetime, and the wait for Jelly Bean… well I didn’t even bother, I just bought the Nexus 4 and now I have fallen in love with it!

  • Magneira

    Of course having a bigger display with a bigger resolution and only 500 mha will make the S IV last more than the Nexus 4 right?… but no…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=603603991 Gisela Conte Soriano

    I love Samsung but Im a Nexus4 owner.. and for the use I give to my phone it works fantastic for me! of course this is a personal appreciation ..as I dont use or play games and the 16GB of storage are super enought for me. I love my phone! and for the price I paid.. Im more than happy! and my battery last the whole day! Im a medium user …. and its really hard in a way to compare this two devices!

  • me!

    NEXUS 4 ( for vanilla android)

  • http://twitter.com/lukamlinar Luka Mlinar

    The awesome Nexus 4 vs. an S3 with a software update.
    Yeah, I’m gonna go with Nexus here thank you :)

  • Θάνος Σούλης

    If you want updates and pure android then you preffer the nexous 4 but if you like power and more to show off then you can grab an s4.

  • Riyan

    I’m new here and am planning to purchase a N4. But I read lots of issues regarding the push email. Is this really true?