A couple of years ago, I made an honest attempt at exploring the world of Android. I purchased several devices, including a Nexus S, for what was supposed to be the pure experience. Needless to say, there were too many shortcomings in so many areas of the OS — from lack of UI/UX cohesiveness, to the general quality of third party apps. I used Android for exactly 30 days, and in the end, I needed to go back to my iPhone.
Last week I purchased a Nexus 4, as I figured two years should have been plenty of time for Android as a platform and ecosystem to grow. Indeed in so many ways it has — in other ways, not so much. For now I’m just going to discuss the hardware itself. Whilst I’m still not a fan of phones with gargantuan displays, the general quality of the hardware feels solid in my hand. Gone is the plastic shell that shrounds so many Android phones. Google partnered with LG (an seemingly odd choice to me) to produce a device that feels far more iPhone-esque, in that Corning’s famous Gorilla Glass 2 adorns the front and back. Unfortunately once the device is turned on, there are some noticeable shortcomings.
The most glaring grievance is the absolutely unacceptable camera they decided to ship this with. It’s widely held that the iPhone 5 still holds the number one spot as the best camera to ship on a smartphone. Perhaps I’m spoiled by my iPhone, but I was just not prepared for how awful the camera was. As someone who does not carry a point and shoot, my phone is the camera that I use on a day-to-day basis. Consider how much the people at Apple care about photography, each generation of iPhone has seen incredible improvements to the optics and sensors that they ship with. I don’t know if anyone at Google has the same passion for photography as the people at Apple — I can only imagine there must be. So that begs the question: How did anyone approve the use of the camera hardware in the Nexus 4? Not only does it produce photos with much poorer colour gamut, but the low light performance is atrocious and is completely unusable to me. This is a shame and unfortunately is the nail in the coffin which led to my decision to return the device only two days after purchase. There were also other minor annoyances, such as the weak vibration motor, which also managed to produce a slight (disconcerting) hollow noise after each vibration.
All of this left me feeling disenchanted, as if the Nexus 4 had shipped with a camera near or on par with the iPhone 5, it could have been a stellar Android phone. I will continue to keep a close eye on Android hardware, as it no doubt will continue to improve. I’m hoping a revision to the Nexus line will resolve the aforementioned problems I conferred. HTC’s One seems to be even nicer than the Nexus 4 in terms of build quality, however it’s disappointing that the company continues to ship these devices with their own customizations layered on top of Android, which in my opinion make it much worse. The aluminium construction feels solid, and whilst I haven’t tested the camera, it does appear to have much better optics than any other Android phone I’ve encountered (on paper). I don’t know if buying an HTC One and then rooting it so I can put stock Android on it is worth the hassle. If you can convince me otherwise, please let me know.