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No LTE LG Nexus 4 brings Google back to its roots

Posted: , by Michael H.

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No LTE LG Nexus 4 brings Google back to its roots
One of the first things that people may notice about the new LG Nexus 4 is that despite its suite of powerhouse features, there is not LTE model. At first, we thought this could be just because Google was only announcing the version that was going to launch in the Google Play Store, and not the variant for certain carriers. But, it turns out that it was a conscious choice by Google to not build an LTE model, and it looks like Google may be going back to its old ways of trying to disrupt the carrier system a bit. 

According to Android chief, Andy Rubin, it was a "tactical decision" to not build an LTE model, and the reasoning included issues of cost, target audience, network availability, and carrier control. As a simple overall reason, it is just cheaper to build a device that doesn't have an LTE radio in it. Even with new hybrid chips, LTE adds cost to the handset, and causes issues with battery life. Apple seems to have sorted out the battery issues with the iPhone 5, but even so, Google had to decide if the extra cost was worth it, which brings us to the other issues. 

One of the top issues, according to Google, is that LTE networks simply aren't built out enough yet. Carriers have been working hard to roll out LTE networks, but Andy Rubin says, "A lot of the networks that have deployed LTE haven't scaled completely yet — they're hybrid networks [...] which means the devices need both radios built into them. When we did the Galaxy Nexus with LTE we had to do just that, and it just wasn't a great user experience." For example, if Google had built a Nexus 4 for AT&T's LTE network, it would only reach 77 markets in the US, and AT&T wouldn't be helping at all with the costs associated with building the device. And, since each carrier uses a different frequency of LTE band, that adds even more obstacles, according to Google. 

Some carriers, like Verizon, have built out large LTE networks, but that leads to another issue, which we have all seen first hand: carrier control. According to LTE Open Access rules, Verizon is legally obligated to allow unlocked devices on its LTE network, but right now, there is no such thing as an LTE-only network. Verizon and Sprint still use a combination of LTE and CDMA, and the proprietary nature of CDMA keeps Google from selling a Verizon or Sprint-compatible device unlocked in the Play Store. Without an unlocked device, Google has to rely on the carriers to push out software updates, which means months of testing and delays, especially from Verizon, neither of which are what Google wants with the Nexus brand. 

As we've seen from Apple and the iPhone 5, it is possible to make a phone that is compatible with almost all 3G and 4G mobile networks without compromising battery life. The issue of cost is still a real one, and readily apparent in that Google will be selling the LG Nexus 4 for just $349, while a 16GB unlocked iPhone 5 will run you $649 when they are made available. Even with the Apple tax factored in, that's a big difference in price. Google could have added LTE at least for AT&T and international users without adding too much cost to the device, even if Verizon users were left out, but that leads to the last issue: audience size.

Even with the big push last year, and the release of the Galaxy Nexus on so many major carriers around the world, Nexus devices are still essentially niche devices that appeal mostly to early adopters and developers. This limits the size of the audience that is actually going to buy a Nexus device. Combine that audience limitation with the limitations of LTE networks, and suddenly the potential customer base is that much smaller. And, really, we think that this last issue is the real key to the whole argument for Google. 

Yes, LTE adds cost, and LTE networks aren't fully formed yet, but the fact is that Nexus devices still aren't mass market devices. Average customers don't necessarily understand the benefits of a Nexus device, and maybe early adopters and developers don't make up a large enough audience to make up the added cost as far as Google is concerned. Add that to the fact that Google now has a viable way to sell directly to users in the Play Store, and Google can go back to one of its original aims from the days of the Nexus One: full control

Google doesn't want carriers dictating what features can and can't be enabled in stock Android, because once features begin to disappear, it is no longer really "stock" Android. On top of that, Google doesn't want bloatware on a Nexus device, even if it is just a couple "My Account" apps. And, of course there is the big issue of interference and carrier control which not only lead to the CDMA Galaxy Nexus being removed as a developer device, but it has added months of testing and delays to what should be fast, straight from Google updates. 

It may not be good news for users who have been hoping for an LTE Nexus this year, but for those who had worried about what the Nexus brand was morphing into (including us), it is nice to see Google taking control again. We may be years away from having unlocked LTE devices, and it is still possible that an LTE Nexus 4 will come in the future, but for now Google has brought the Nexus brand back to its roots, and that's a potentially very significant move.

source: The Verge

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posted on 29 Oct 2012, 15:30 26

1. alouden (unregistered)

I was hoping for an LTE Nexus for Verizon. But I completely understand and agree with Google NOT producing such a device. Nexus and Verizon seem to have opposite meaning anyway.

ANyway, no matter what phone I get next, it will be rooted and free of Verizon's bloatware.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 15:50 1

10. PhenomFaz (Posts: 1236; Member since: 26 Sep 2012)

just get the new nexus..problem solved :)

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 16:33 4

23. alouden (unregistered)

It won't work with Verizon.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 16:43 5

28. therealestmc (Posts: 342; Member since: 23 Jul 2012)

Leave Verizon then. Are they the only network in your area?

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 19:03

56. alouden (unregistered)

I could, but am in a family plan. I know what my options are. Would love a Nexus, but I understand it isn't possible if I stay with Verizon. So I will look to other options: the Note 2 (although the obscene branding by Verizon has pretty much rulsed that out), the upcoming HTC phone, a potential LG Optimus phone, others I am unaware of...Not ieal, but that's how it goes.

posted on 30 Oct 2012, 01:56 1

74. AWiseGuy (Posts: 68; Member since: 30 Oct 2012)

I've heard you can just scratch off the branding from the home button as it isn't baked into the plastic. Alternatively, you could buy a replacement home button, but that would be a risky replacement.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 16:35

25. remtothemax (Posts: 260; Member since: 02 May 2012)

...wait, what?

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 16:43 2

27. alouden (unregistered)

HSPA+ is not compatible with Verizon. And there is no LTE radio. This Nexus in its current state cannot be used on Verizon. Someone wrote below that it will only be released by tmobile.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 17:19 4

36. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

released "in stores" by Tmobile.

It's able to be used by any GSM carrier though and its sold through the Play Store.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 17:27 2

41. alouden (unregistered)

Yes, forgot that part. Thanks. It is sold unlocked and can be used on HSPA/GSM.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 16:53 8

29. Goldeneye (Posts: 419; Member since: 22 Jan 2011)

Looks like only Apple is capable to make carriers "my way or the highway" hate to say it but even Crapsung bends to carriers desires, just look at the Verizon's Note with the stupid branding.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 18:05 6

49. Kjayhawk (Posts: 293; Member since: 07 Oct 2010)

I'm sorry people but I just don't see this phone selling... 16 gb and no lte. It might be good for a small crowd but I wouldn't expect any big figures on this phone. Despite the Fact the phone has every other awesome spec one could imagine with probably the most ridiculous price point EVER!!!

It's a great phone no doubt but I just can't see it getting popular with the masses.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 15:32 6

2. Atrixboyyy (Posts: 359; Member since: 03 Nov 2011)

Google should be more honest and just say it. u.s hasn't built its LTE enough and doing wat they did wit the vzw nexus would just shackle their profits .

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 19:59 1

62. Goldeneye (Posts: 419; Member since: 22 Jan 2011)

Are you kidding? The US is where LTE is being deployed faster than anywhere else in the planet, Europe and Asia barely started deployment, sure LTE still I'm its infancy but here in the US is where by next year will be available to the masses.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 22:52 2

70. Zero0 (Posts: 592; Member since: 05 Jul 2012)

The problem is that, while LTE coverage is decent, one can't live exclusively on LTE. Data on LTE is fine, but voice over LTE has barely been tested at this point, let alone deployed at full scale.

The only option is to run two antennae, which is a battery killer. And in any event, the money that would be spent licensing LTE patents would drive the price up significantly.

As for producing CDMA/LTE models as with the Galaxy Nexus (and to a lesser extent, the Nexus S), the reason for not doing so is pretty clear. Google wants all Nexus devices to be pure Android. Not mostly pure Android except for when Verizon delays an update or throws on their proprietary apps. I would love for Google to push Verizon and Sprint to get out of the way like Apple is able to do, but for now, the best they can do is not offer devices on those networks.

While it's a shame that there is no LTE, the fact of the matter is that we're talking about a phone that sells for $350 unlocked. To ask for a quad core processor, 2GB of RAM, and a high-res display with decent build quality at this price is crazy. But to ask for all that AND LTE, that's truly absurd.

posted on 30 Oct 2012, 10:13

80. Atrixboyyy (Posts: 359; Member since: 03 Nov 2011)

Its not the first country to have LTE not even in the first 5 and yea deployment has been fast but only on vzw which is why I said "doing what they did with the last nexus would limit profits" both LTE and non LTE variants should be sold at least until LTE is available EVERYWHERE.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 15:33 7

3. fanboy (Posts: 38; Member since: 07 Mar 2011)

Noooooooooooooo iPhone 5.0s for me.


posted on 29 Oct 2012, 15:36 6

4. cretinick (Posts: 148; Member since: 25 Jan 2011)

I would buy it... If they sell it to me!

Unfortunately Google seems to dislike Brazilians money...

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 15:41 5

5. The_Innovation (Posts: 610; Member since: 18 Jul 2012)

So what carriers is the Nexus 4 coming to?

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 16:02 2

16. parkwaydr (Posts: 572; Member since: 07 Sep 2011)


posted on 29 Oct 2012, 16:27 3

20. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

directly, it will be sold through Tmobile. However Its unlocked GSM capable of every GSM carrier in the world.

There is no advantage to buying it direct through Tmobile except that you can put it on a payment plan if your on Value and dont want to pay all 350 up front.

If they promise its still a "non carrier" device that way, I might go for that. However if it has a Tmobile logo on it, its a carrier device, and I'd rather just buy it outright from the play store. Got my wife's N7 that way and it was quick n painless.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 17:03 1

33. The_Innovation (Posts: 610; Member since: 18 Jul 2012)

Yea it makes sense.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 17:24 1

39. protozeloz (Posts: 5396; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)

I would root for the 350 on the play store and problem solved :)

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 16:07 1

17. Dr.Phil (Posts: 1218; Member since: 14 Feb 2011)

As parkwaydr said, probably T-Mobile as AT&T has already released the LG Optimus G which is basically the non-Nexus version of this device. Although you will be able to buy it unlocked through the Google Play store for AT&T and T-Mobile.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 16:59 1

31. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2705; Member since: 26 May 2011)

Only officially on sale through T-Mo, but the unlocked will work on any GSM carrier, including AT&T. Given the history of Nexus, I'd expect a Sprint model at some point, it might be a few months from now though.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 15:43 5

6. medicci37 (Posts: 1282; Member since: 19 Nov 2011)

Still wish Google would have sprung for a sd card or made a 32 gig version.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 16:57 1

30. TylerGrunter (Posts: 1524; Member since: 16 Feb 2012)

Like so many of us...

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 17:20 4

37. remixfa (Posts: 14255; Member since: 19 Dec 2008)

Agreed. Id much rather have an SD card slot or a larger/more removable battery than LTE.

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 15:44 8

7. Ninetysix (Posts: 2452; Member since: 08 Oct 2012)

No LTE? What is this 2011?

posted on 29 Oct 2012, 15:54 6

13. wumberpeb (Posts: 453; Member since: 14 Mar 2011)

What kind of device has a certain ESSENTIAL feature on last year's model but not the newest one? Ridiculous

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