Mysteries of Google's Nexus 4

Mysteries of Google's Nexus 4

Summary: In Blade Runner, the Nexus 6 was a potent yet flawed model that was hard to find and caused its maker no end of problems. Google's Nexus 4 may yet replicate that story.

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Our reviews guru, Charles McLellan, has been bowled over by LG's Nexus 4, which combines top-notch hardware and unconditional Google love with an unbelievably low price tag of £239 for 8GB ($299 in the US). It would be the must-have phone for the modern Androidista - if you could actually get your hands on it.

The first batch sold out of the Google Play store in moments. There's no date given for the next lot becoming available, nor has Google said how many were or will be on offer at the headline price.

nexus-4-bottom
LG's Nexus 4 - the essential phone for the Androidista, if you can get your hands on it.

You can get them, of course - but at nearly double the price - from network operators. Who can blame them? The eBay price for N4s is around that, so the market can bear it, and with the deafening buzz around the device who's going to turn down all that free publicity? For a device that looked as if it was going to thoroughly stick it to the operators by bypassing their plumptious margins and unwelcome flabware habits, it's doing them a lot of good.

The Nexus 4 would be the must-have phone for the modern Androidista - if you could actually get your hands on it

Which is a bit odd. Did Google not know that selling a top-spec smartphone at half price would be popular? If it did, where's the stock? Retail is a dirty business, and it's not unknown for a fabulously attractive offer to be out of stock from day one, so that eager punters can be sold on something a bit richer once they're over their disappointment. But that's sharp practice, and not something which would rebound to Google's advantage in the long run. It can't afford to lose trust, no matter how.

And that's not the only mystery to the Nexus 4. One of the few missing features is the lack of LTE, the 4G standard that isn't quite de rigeur this year but most certainly will be the next. This is understandable on a phone that's had every spare cent of cost shaved off in order to be ultra-competitive, and would certainly be excusable here. Except - it has the LTE hardware built in. The modem chip and the radio amplifier are on the circuit board, just not connected in software, nor to an antenna (which means they won't be switched on through an update later, just in case you were hoping).

Baffling. Either have LTE and sell on it, or save the money and boost your margins. But to have spent the money on the chips and have no way to make it back? Two explanations are possible:

The N4 was going to be an LTE device, the chips were bought and the boards were built, but the feature got pulled at a late stage. Thus, the first batch of products will have the vestigial parts, and LG will swallow the cost. Or, the N4 is a rebadged LG Optimus G, sharing the production line without gutting the G's premium price point. It can be cheaper not to run two production lines and take the pain of over-equipping the discount model. This is especially true if you have over-ordered parts or have them tied to a quantity price break from the suppliers you can't escape.

If the first explanation is true, then future Nexus 4s may be quite different inside - and we may all be waiting for that redesign to come through before Google restocks at the original price point. LTE retailing remains hard to manage, with some 13 international variations to cope with and more to come, and everyone's learning from the experiences of the first wave of LTE smartphones.

Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that you can't get a Nexus 4 at the advertised price and nobody's saying when you next can. That's a major mark against Google, one that needs to be addressed, and an opportunity for its competition to raise questions about the company's integrity and ability to deliver on the demand it creates.

Topics: Smartphones, Android, Google, Mobility

Rupert Goodwins

About Rupert Goodwins

Rupert started off as a nerdy lad expecting to be an electronics engineer, but having tried it for a while discovered that journalism was more fun. He ended up on PC Magazine in the early '90s, before that evolved into ZDNet UK - and Rupert evolved with them into an online journalist.

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9 comments
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  • Dirty tactics

    To sell the most top end phone for such a cheap price raises lot of suspicion...Its looks like a Google tactics to reduce the sale of iPhone 5 and WP8 devices this holiday season.... Nexus 4 will vanish from the market in 3 months time and will re-incarnate as an LG phone...
    owlllnet
    • I think you might have something there....

      It's been a fall of spoilers. Basically here's what happened; MS said they had new mobile devices comming out. Except this time it was different; they looked pretty good. So Apple and google have played spoiler on it; both hoping to crush it before it can get a proper foothold; they both profit more from a two dog race than a three dog one. Apple did a good job of taking pre-orders of their mini on the day surface went on sale to take the "sells out in a day" headlines away. Then google rushed their ludicroudsly cut price phone to market just as the first windows 8 phones actually became available; they don't look new and exciting once someone starts offering the same tech at half the price.

      There's only one problem; they were both working to these spoiler release dates; not ones they had created, so they havn't been able to get the stock in place - apple didn't even know when they'd be able to get 4g mini's to market when the wi-fi version went on sale. It's been a case of "it has to be out before christmas" no matter what, and neither giant has been able to meet demand. They've taken the gamle of releasing early so that consumers know their products are real... They just can't touch them yet.

      Of course everyone does it; it's no different to ms announcing the surface in a panic without working models straight after apple's keynote earlier the year; apple's tablet market share was all encompassing and their stock would not be available for 6 months; they had to let people know they were there as soon as possible; the surface you really want doesnt even exist for a couple of months yet.
      MarknWill
    • Re: tactics to reduce the sale of iPhone 5 and WP8 devices this holiday sea

      Oh, that nasty, horrible Free Market Competition offering superior products at lower prices! There ought to be a law against it!
      ldo17
      • Loss leader

        @ldo

        Loss leaders are quite a common tactic in most retail areas.
        Obviously it is tempting to reduce the "loss" by not actually making much of the product for sale, and then perhaps dribbling out limited quantities to feed and maximise the hype,spoilage and damage to rival products..
        Dave Tasker
  • Not enough internal storage...

    I could live with 32Gb, but not 16Gb. With 16Gb I can barely add a pared down, 128Bit version of my music collection, with little room for anything else. Right now Amazon is selling 32Gb microSD cards for $18.00. My next phone will absolutely include an SD card slot.
    dsf3g
    • On board storage not necessary

      You can store up to 20,000 songs in Google Music. No need for SD card.
      louishelps
  • Baffled by Google's stupidity

    I'm baffled by Google's complete silence on Nexus 4 availability. Web site only says it is out of stock. There is no way to order and wait for availability. How can they know what the demand is? What is truly stupid is there has been NO RESPONSE from Google about when new inventory will be available. Their sales associates have no information. They have not made a statement to shareholders or to media. We can only assume that we'll have to wait for the Nexus 5 (or whatever the next phone will be called).
    Jim__J
  • all best serials

    that unpleasant, awful Totally free Industry Competitors providing excellent items at reduced prices! There ought to be a law against it! all best serials
    miklyhity
  • Mine is on the way..

    I received an email today saying they were going to be available at noon pacific time. Google Play was locked up for a while and then cleared. I got two of them ordered and confirmed..
    So, a wait but less than the rip off price of ebay!!
    eas_trader