If you are in the market for a new iOS smartphone, and you don't need to have the newest product, the iPhone 4 is the cheapest handset you can buy as new. You can pick up an unlocked iPhone from Apple for just £319 inc VAT. If you fancy moving over to an Android phone, however, slide over to Google Play and you can pick up the 8GB Nexus 4 for just £239 inc VAT. A 16GB model sets you back £279 inc VAT.
Two high-end smartphones, bought new for around £300. That's close enough to make for an interesting comparison - especially given that the newer phone is cheaper. Of course that is because Google is paying you to try Android, in effect, but that is an option for even the most dyed-in-the-wool iPhone user who is looking for a new handset. (See also: Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4S smartphone comparison review.)
Here then is our Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4 smartphone comparison review. Read on to find out which is the best smartphone.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4: Design and build
The Nexus 4 is as really well-built Android smartphone. The screen sits neatly flush to the bezel, the microSIM card tray slots in perfectly with no gaps and the buttons have a smooth action.
But it is easy to forget just how stunning the iPhone 4's build and design seemed when it first launched. Following the relatively lacklustre and curvy iPhone 3GS the iPhone 4 is a dense slab with square edges. Perfectly weighted it feels solid in the hand and led the way in design terms for many of the high-end phones that have followed. As ever with Apple phones, supreme build quality is a given.
The Nexus 4 is thin and light at 9.1mm and 139g. It feels great in the hand, like a smartphone that costs twice the price. There's a silver bezel around the 4.7in screen and on the back a glossy finish flat back with a matrix of tiny silver dots, each reflecting the light at different angles. The glossy finish can be quite slippery, but between the front and back of the phone is a frame with a grippy rubbery finish. There's no removable cover, and the microSIM card tray is located on the side.
The iPhone 4 weighs in at 137g, and measures 115x59x9mm, so it is thinner and lighter than the Nexus 4 - meanwhile aesthetic design touches make the iPhone 4 stand out. The overall design screams elegance - from the rounded, individual volume up and down buttons, to the ring/silent switch and the power/sleep button up top. The face and back are made of glass and the side edging is aluminum.
The buttons are nice, requiring firm pressure to activate and they give a pleasant response under your fingers. They also have subtle + and - symbols engraved in them, letting you identify them by feel.
Two beautiful, well-designed phones, and the iPhone 4 feels in no way dated.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4: Hardware and performance
Inside the Nexus 4 is a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, a quad-core chip clocked at a healthy 1.5GHz. Like a lot of the latest high-end smartphones, there's 2GB of RAM. This is impressive both on paper and in our benchmarks.
Here the iPhone 4 can't compete. How could it ? Technology moves on and this is a three-year-old phone.
As befits a smartphone that first launched in late 2010 the iPhone 4 uses a single core Apple A4 chip and just 512MB RAM. At the time it launched it was a noticeably fast operater, but its GeekBench score is in the high 300s: much slower than the Nexus 4. The iPhone 4's SunSpider score is also much slower, at 3.5. We haven't got a graphics framerate, but you can expect a similar drop off.
The bottom line is that the Nexus 4 trounces the iPhone 4 on performance. It matches the iPhone 5 on the benchmarks, and the iPhone 4 is two iterations older. But if it is total performance you are after you wouldn't be looking at an older iPhone, and in general use the iPhone 4 is a perfectly capable performer.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4: Display
The Nexus 4's 4.7in display has a resolution of 768 x 1280, giving it a pixel density of 318ppi. The iPhone 4 trumps that pixel density with the original 326ppi Retina display. Its 3.5in 640x960 resolution display is so fine, you simply cannot see the LCD dots.
The Nexus 4's larger screen is no slouch, however, and looks stunning with excellent contrast, rich colours and detail. We found it performed particularly well and better than most when outdoors in sunlight. Viewing angles are incredible too, thanks to the in-plane switching (IPS) panel.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4: Storage and connectivity
Storage is the biggest downfall of the Nexus 4, but it is also another area in which the now elderly iPhone 4 fails in comparison to newer rivals. Google only offers 8GB and 16GB models with no microSD card slot.
You also need to bear in mind that not all of this capacity will be available since the operating system and pre-loaded apps inevitably require a chunk of it. Our 16GB sample had around 13GB free. The iPhone 4 also allows no storage expansion, and now comes with only 8GB onboard storage as standard. In both cases you are encourage to host your media in the cloud.
Both the Nexus 4 and iPhone 4 are jammed with connectivity including dual-band Wi-Fi, 3G cellular connectivity, and Bluetooth 4.0. The Nexus 4 also offers an NFC (near-field communications) chip and wireless charging, and you can connect that handset to an external display a SlimPort HDMI adapter. There's no support for 4G with either phone.
Both have 3.5mm headphone jacks, but while the Nexus 4 charges from standard micro-USB, the iPhone 4 connects via a now outdated proprietary Apple connector (for which you can at least buy plenty of sound bars and speaker docks).
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4: Camera
The Nexus 4 and iPhone 4 sport similar, dual camera setups. The Nexus 4's rear-facing snapper has an 8Mp sensor, shooting up to 3264x2448-pixel shots. It offers autofocus and an LED flash, as well as high-end camera features such as touch focus and geo-tagging. You can capture video at up to 1080p at 30fps, too.
The iPhone 4's rear-facing camera gives admirable results when used for snapping hi-res stills, or taking HD video. Still images are bright and finely detailed at their new-found 5Mp (2592x1936-pixel) resolution. Zoom in to actual size and you'll see a little JPEG noise – but this kind of microscopic nit-picking is normally reserved for a review of a dedicated camera. A white LED flash helps indoor shots, with simple on/off/auto switching overlayed on the full-screen viewfinder. You can even switch to the video VGA camera here for easy group self-portraits.
But video recording is even better. We tried the video camera on the Thames boat-trip with some moving-water shoots, tortuous scenery to capture accurately, and the MPEG-4 compression engine took the challenge by recording sharp high-definition film with no motion artefacts whatsoever.
The iPhone 4 and Nexus 4 also both offer lesser, front-facing cameras for video calling.
Neither phone will replace your SLR, but both have excellent smartphone cameras, and remove the requirement for you to carry a seperate compact camera. The Nexus 4 just about edges it here, but it's not a deal breaker.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4: Price
We don't normally give price its own section within a review but the Nexus 4 deserves it. At £239 for 8GB and £279 for 16GB, it's no wonder the Nexus 4 is so often sold out on the Google Play Store.
Getting a phone free on a contract is nice and normally necessary to get your hands on a top-flight smartphone without your bank balance taking a serious hit. The Nexus 4 is a game changer in the sense that it allows consumers to get a high-end smartphone for an affordable price minus the contrast of a lengthy contract. Therefore, you can select a SIM-only deal to suit your needs which can be changed almost whenever you like.
The iPhone 4 is a bit of a bargain, too, although it pales into insignificance alongside the Nexus 4. The iPhone 4 costs £319 direct from Apple. This may seem expensive, but it's actually perfectly fair for a high-end smartphone. Indeed, the test scores and features of the iPhone 4 make it a good buy today (where it was a great buy in mid 2010). The problem for the iPhone is that Google is subsidising its Nexus devices in order to gain market share for Android, which makes all other smartphones look expensive by comparison. It's the Nexus that is out of step with the market (in a good way), not the iPhone.
Nexus 4 vs iPhone 4: verdict
On the face of it there is simply no choice: the Nexus 4 is the best deal on the smartphone market right now, and the iPhone 4 has been superceded by the iPhone 4S and iPhone 5. That is all true, and we heartily recommend the Nexus 4. It is a staggering deal. But there is still some merit in choosing the iPhone 4. The iPhone 4 holds its own against almost any phone on the market other than the iPhone 5, Nexus 4, the more recent Samsung Galaxy phones, the Xperia Z, HTC One X+ and the high-end Windows Phone 8 handsets.
And if you have an older iPhone, and have purchased lots of apps, changing to the Nexus 4 will hold the hidden cost of replacing your apps - as well as potentially buying new cases, speaker docks and accessories. The Nexus 4 is in short supply, too. You may have to wait a while to take advantage of its low price. Finally, the Nexus 4 is only a great deal if you buy the handset outright and source a SIM separately. We've yet to see a good contract deal for the Google phone. But if you want to be on a contract, or simply cannot afford to buy your handset up front, there are plenty of good contract deals for the iPhone 4.