Hardware

Nexus 4 teardown: Easy-open case hides LTE hardware surprise

Bill Detwiler shows you how to crack open the LG-built, Google Nexus 4 and uncovers a hardware surprise inside.

Google's Nexus 4 offers a pure Android experience on an unlocked device, at a great no-contract price. It's also fairly easy to disassemble and hides a bit of a hardware secret inside.

The Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch IPS display (1280 x 768 resolution at 320 ppi), 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, 2GB of RAM, 8 megapixel main camera, 1.3 megapixel front-facing camera, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and comes in 8GB and 16GB versions.

Given its hardware specifications, the Nexus 4 can definitely hold its own against other high-end smartphones. And with its support for NFC and wireless charging, LG's handset is even a step ahead of many devices. What the Nexus 4 doesn't have is LTE support--at least not officially.

Overall, it's well-built, feels sturdy in your hands and is fairly easy to take apart.

Full teardown gallery: Cracking Open the Google Nexus 4

Cracking Open Observations

  • Simple to open and disassemble: Once you remove a pair of clearly-visible, external screws (Torx T5 ), the Nexus 4's back cover comes off without much resistance. The internal screws can be removed with a Phillips #00 bit. My only complaint about the phone's construction is the copious amount of adhesive used to hold the battery in place.
  • Replaceable battery: Despite being glued down, the 3.8V, 2,100mAh Li-Ion battery is replaceable.
  • Clean internal layout and modular components: The phone's interior has a straightforward design that makes removing internal components a snap. Also, many internal parts, such as the headphone jack and front sensor assembly, cameras, and Micro-USB daughterboard, are separate components and can be replaced individually.
  • Fused front panel, display, and internal frame: At one time, I criticized manufacturers for fusing a device’s LCD panel to the front glass. If one component broke, you had to replace both. But having spent too much time removing tiny pieces of dust from between the two, I’ve changed my mind.
  • Hidden LTE hardware support (sort of): Despite all its high-end hardware, the Nexus 4 lacks one increasingly-common feature on top-of-the-line smartphones--LTE support. Last October, Scott Webster wrote about the Nexus 4's lack of LTE support on CNET. Likewise, Lynn La criticized the device for not supporting LTE in her review. But a closer look at the phone's modem reveals that this may not be the case, at least for some Nexus 4 owners. According to Qualcomm's website, the Nexus 4's MDM9215M modem does support LTE. AnandTech found that the Nexus 4 does support LTE on Band 4, which operates in the 1700/2100 MHz spectrum. And, there are reports of people connecting to Band 4 LTE networks--mostly in Canada. There's no guarantee however, that it will work for you in your area or that the functionality won't be disabled at some point. So, even with this modem, there's still no real LTE support.

Bottom Line

The Nexus 4 may not have the stylish design of Samsung's Galaxy S3 or the outstanding battery life of Motorola's Droid Razr Maxx HD, but it's a solid phone and one that's not too difficult to crack open. And at $299 unlocked without a contract, it's definitely priced right.

For more information on the Nexus 4, including real-world tests, and pricing check out Lynn La's full CNET review.

Internal Hardware

Our Nexus 4 test unit had the following hardware:

  • Samsung 16Gb (2GB) K3PE0E000A-XGC2 LPDDR2 mobile DRAM
  • 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU
  • 8GB storage chip
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth module
  • Qualcomm MDM9215M modem
  • Qualcomm PM8018 power management IC
  • Qualcomm PM8921 power management IC
  • Qualcomm PM8821 power management IC
  • Qualcomm WCD9310 audio codec
  • Broadcom BCM20793S NFC controller
  • Texas Instruments BQ51051B battery charge controller
  • Avago A5505, A5704, and A5702
  • RFMD RF1156 Broadband Low Power SP5T Switch
  • Analogix SlimPort ANX7808 transmitter
  • Invensense MPU-6050 Six-Axis (Gyro + Accelerometer) MEMS MotionTracking Devices
  • Avago ACPM-7251 Quad-Band GSM/EDGE and Dual-Band UMTS Power Amplifier
  • SWY GFD49
  • S080CD 192311 ST33 2 T 45

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

10 comments
jeffeyg
jeffeyg

Unlike any other phone I've owned in many years. Drop it once and it's a paperweight... The screen is as Detwiler points out fused to the case and when it hits the ground it cracks worse than any old Palm after being left in your backpack for a month.

BEVERLY HOWARD
BEVERLY HOWARD

Two "pros" I would add to the list are NFC and Induction charging. While I look forward to experimenting with the former, I'm enjoying Induction charging much more than I thought I would... ...although I had to "level" the Energizer charger to keep the slick backed Nexus4 from crawling off the smooth slanted charging surface. Another plus is the apparent improvement in voice recognition and/or microphone... the recognition is far better than on the Nexus7 and reliable enough to use for almost all text input needs. Beverly Howard

eye4bear
eye4bear

Not having LTE is the reason I will not even think about this phone. If it had LTE, I would have one already.

Treeant34
Treeant34

Nice to know you can at least replace the battery. I agree on the price, good deal for what's in the box but there's no MicroSD. Why does Google persist in it's policy of no external storage for it's devices. I would love one of these but the lack of MicroSD is a game breaker.

rocket ride
rocket ride

"Fused front panel, display, and internal frame: At one time, I criticized manufacturers for fusing a device’s LCD panel to the front glass. If one component broke, you had to replace both. But having spent too much time removing tiny pieces of dust from between the two, I’ve changed my mind." Not to mention that cementing the two components together noticeably reduces loss of image contrast caused by reflections off of any air-glass interfaces inside the screen. One of the first devices in which they were fused was the Nook Color, which is known for having an unusually contrasty display.

thinker999
thinker999

I was definitely looking at this as my next phone upgrade. I was even set to live with the non-replaceable battery. But when I read many reviews mentioning many cases of the back cracking, and Google refusing to do anything about it, I decided against this phone.

cern741
cern741

Its $350 on the Google play store.

wirejockey
wirejockey

I'd like to see a company like Republic Wireless, use this device, along with Ubuntu Mobile.

sonicsteve
sonicsteve

Couldn't agree more. Every phone I've ever bought has had a memory card slot, save for the pre smart phones from the late 90's and early 2000's. LG fusic, microSD slot (not even really a smart phone) Galaxy i7500 microSD slot Motorola Atrix 4G microSD slot Motorola Razr V GT885 Wife's phones Samsung reclaim microSD slot Galaxy 510 microSD slot It's pretty much ludicrous to make a phone these days without one. The only reason ends up being blatant marketing/pricing BS like apple and their ridiculous price increases for the different amounts of memory in their Iphones. Smarten up Google, your phone meets the bill on all other hardware specs.

jeff.allen
jeff.allen

It's not about upgrades etc, it's simply Google want you to store YOUR stuff in the cloud. My wife recntly lost all her phone contacts. My Son suggested she should store them on the cloud. "That's how I lost them" was her response. My daughter added: "Well Mum, it's about to rain, why not take your phone outside and get them back!"...

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