Nexus 4

The Nexus 4 may not do everything some of the others do, but it has one thing going for it -- the Android Jelly Bean experience

There are a lot of choices for folks looking for an Android-powered smart phone. None of us here want it any other way, and we know that a big part of the reason for Android's success is that it's available in hundreds of different ways. To take that even further, once you get an Android phone in your hands, you can do all manner of things to the way it looks and feels to mold it even more to your liking, all without changing the firmware. Custom launchers, keyboards, dialers and more can make any Android phone into something that you control. Some people obsess over this, and their creations are simply amazing.

I just think that most of the people buying a smartphone aren't doing it with the intention of changing everything about the phone, and are generally interested in the way it works right out of the box. When I think of it that way, without things like Nova Launcher and Swiftkey in play, I've come to the conclusion that seven months after its release, the Nexus 4 is still the best way to experience Android Jelly Bean. 

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Now I'm not saying that the Nexus 4 is the best smart phone ever, or any other crazy claim that is so subjective that nobody can agree with. There are things in other smart phones that I think are done better than they are on the Nexus 4. I'm actually pretty fond of both the HTC One and the Galaxy S4, and think for a whole lot of people they are a better choice than the Nexus. Nobody can say you made a bad decision if you picked one up, and the same goes for recent phones from Sony and LG. There's some incredible hardware out there that runs Android. But they don't deliver the same Android experience that the Nexus does.

Galaxy S4 and HTC One

That's both good and bad. Google clearly still has work to do to catch up with their partners on a few things. Samsung has the way phones interact with each other all tied up with things like S Beam and Group Play. HTC delivers when it comes to ways to share your pictures with Zoes and Highlights. And Intelligent Auto mode on the Xperia Z camera and associated software to turn what the camera sees into a beautiful picture is simply the best in the business. The Nexus has next to nothing to compete with these services and software. And the next version probably won't, either.

So why do I say the Nexus 4 is still the best way to experience Android? Because of its simplicity. Phil sent me a white Nexus 4, because he knows I'm shallow and love me some white shiny things. Of course as soon as it got here, I had to drop everything and set it up to play with it. That's what smartphone geeks do -- I know you all can feel where I'm coming from. Rather than install all my apps and set everything up, I decided to just install things as I need them. And I haven't done very much of it.

Sharing is caringThe way Jelly Bean handles the things a smartphone was designed to do -- things like go online, get your mail, connect with friends on social networks, send messages and make calls -- is pretty damn elegant if you give it a chance. Google has turned Android into a polished, competitive and to me superior operating system. I miss the way I can share a highlight video like I can on the HTC One, but I appreciate the excellent way my sharing options are delivered in the Jelly Bean gallery app when compared to the Sense 5 version. S Beam is awesome, and does much more than Android Beam (and does it faster as well), but it only works with other TouchWiz devices. That's not even mentioning the things like front facing stereo speakers, or sensors that can operate the phone by watching my eyes. My Nexus will never have any of that, but I think the trade-off is worth it for all the things that it does well.

Apparently, plenty of people agree with me. Enough to have Samsung and HTC (and likely Sony) build their own phones with a take on Jelly Bean the way Google does it. People want to feel Jelly Bean the way Google intended, on hardware from a company they know and trust. The merits of these devices are best left for another discussion, but someone sees value in doing it, and we're glad that the people interested will have that choice.

I'm not trying to convince anyone here. I'm just jotting down a few thoughts and sharing them with you. You might feel differently, and likely will tell me as much in the comments. That's OK. You make your choice, and you should be happy with it because that is all that matters. That's what I'm going to do as well. My Nexus, my five or so apps that help me do what I need to do, and me will carry on. I'm loving the minimalism as a stark contrast to the other phones I've used of late, and think a few of you all agree with me.