Hard to pass up: LG’s $399 Google Nexus 4 reviewed

We’ve already mentioned that the Google Nexus 4 has more than a passing resemblance to an upcoming LG smartphone, and outside of a few other specifications – connection speed, body design, camera, LG’s enhancements to the operating system – it should be a very similar phone.

One thing that makes this handset special, however, is Google’s inclusion of the next generation of its mobile platform, Android 4.2, which still keeps the “Jelly Bean” moniker from the previous version.

Much like previous Google Nexus handsets, this is Android the way Google intends it to be, and with Android 4.2, it’s a showcase for the latest edition of the platform.

New to this incarnation of Jelly Bean is a cleaned up drop-down notifications bar where you can still swipe things out of it once you’ve seen them, as well as expand emails and other notifications to see more information in that drop down.

Google has also added a better settings controller to this screen, coming up with a nice grid showing you mobile connection, battery life, brightness, option for aeroplane mode, bluetooth, and a shortcut to the rest of your settings.

Google's new lockscreen, with multiple homescreens on the lockscreen. You know, just because you can.

The lockscreen has changed considerably in 4.2, too, with a few homescreens you can swipe between before you unlock the phone, offering you quick access to emails, a clock, or even the full camera with a simple swipe before you bring the phone back to life. The homescreens on this aren’t the same as your regular one, with only a few widgets offered here, not the typical set.

Widgets on regular homescreens can now be resized, and an improved keyboard has been included too, adding Google’s own flavour of that gesture-based Swype keyboard we’ve become such fans of.

This last one is particularly nice, and even feels faster than the offering from Swype, though it may take some time to train it with your specific way of speaking, err, writing.

Google has also added more functionality to the camera, offering a “photo sphere” function that allows you to make your own miniature version of Google StreetView maps. It can take a few minutes, but people who like experimenting with photography can have fun with it.

There have also been changes to the photo editor, with retro effects added to emulate the Instagram look, frames, the ability to crop or rotate, and even take more advanced actions, such as changed sharpness, contrast, add vignetting, or play with curves.