Recently Google officially announced its new flagship Nexus 4 (N4) smart phone. As expected it packs a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU with an Adreno 320 GPU, 2GB of RAM, a 4.7″ TRUE HD IPS+ 1280 x 768 screen, an 8MP camera, a 2100mah internal battery, NFC capability and 8 or 16 GB of internal storage. From a technical perspective the Nexus 4 is a beast. It boasts flagship specs in every department save for internal memory. As I suggested last month though, Google did this for cost cutting reasons. Flash memory is the most expensive component in modern smart phones and they clearly wanted to keep the price of the N4 down. They absolutely succeeded. An unlocked 8GB will set you back only $299.99 through the Google Play Store while the 16GB version retails for $349.99. The pricing is nothing short of incredible.
Compared to it’s predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus 4 is an improvement in virtually every way. While the bump up in specs is expected, the improvement in materials is a welcome surprise. The N4 quite frankly makes the Galaxy Nexus look cheap in comparison. Aside from the HTC One series and Motorola’s new RAZR HD phones, the build quality of OEM Android manufacturers is lacking. Samsung in particular has a history of using cheap feeling plastics in their phones. It’s nice to see LG and Google break from the pack and produce a phone with premium specs and materials. Yes the glass back on the Nexus 4 may end up being more fragile than the plastic back on the Galaxy Nexus, but it’s still a step in the right direction.
Google’s stated goal with the Nexus 4 is to free consumers from lengthy and expensive carrier contracts. In this regard it is only partially successful. From a price standpoint Google hit it out of the park. Unlocked smart phones typically cost a minimum of $599.99. Cutting that price in half is a major accomplishment. Unfortunately not having LTE is a fatal flaw. In the U.S. the N4 is only really compatible with T-Mobile and AT&T’s non-LTE networks. It won’t work at all on Sprint or Verizon. Google’s reasons for leaving LTE out include reduced battery life due to the LTE modem, and the fact that it means increased control from the carriers. While these are valid reasons, the Nexus 4 simply can’t make good on it’s mission without LTE. How can Google free customers from carriers if their flagship phone only works on one and a half of the 4 major U.S. networks? None of the Nexus phones sell in large numbers, but the Nexus 4 will likely be a total sales flop. It’s too bad because it’s a fantastic smart phone. I can’t wait for the Nexus 5 with LTE, it has the potential to be a real game changer.