Google announces the Nexus 4

The Google announcement may have been cancelled due to Hurricane Sandy but that didn’t stop them from showing us the goods. Personally I was hoping the event would happen just to see their retort to Apple’s dig on the Nexus 7 from last week’s iPad Mini unveil. Oh well, I’m sure the jabs will continue in future events.

Google announced both a phone and a tablet but I really only care about the phone. They’re calling it the Nexus 4 and The Verge has a preview. It’s made by LG and I’ve never known anyone to own an LG smartphone so I know next to nothing about their products. Unknown quality aside, on paper this thing is a beast. Here are a few things I consider important:

  • 4.7″ screen (1280×768 @ 320ppi)
  • Quad core Snapdragon S4 CPU @ 1.5GHz
  • 2GB RAM
  • 8GB or 16GB storage
  • Wireless charging
  • Android 4.2

I left out the obvious stuff, of course it has NFC, WiFi, and Bluetooth although as with the Nexus phones before it, there’s no SD card slot.

The screen has almost the same ppi as the iPhone so I bet it looks fantastic. LG is also laminating their display to the glass (again, like Apple) which might not be something you notice consciously but you do notice it.

I’m still not clear why we need a quad core CPU in our phones but I’m guessing this Snapdragon is up to the task of pretty much anything you can throw at it. The 2GB of RAM is generous and will likely help extend the life of this device. I suppose no one will complain if it has too much power, better than too little.

I don’t understand why phone manufacturers are offering 8GB options in 2012, it seems like we all have more than enough media to fill that and then some. I suspect it might be needed to hit the price point but it would be nice if 16GB were the floor. I have no proof but I like to think the cost of 8GB vs 16GB chips are fairly negligible in bulk. Of course, the big push toward cloud storage might make 8GB more than enough in the next year or so.

I still consider wireless charging to be a gimmick but I’ve never owned a device that used it. Plugging my phone in at night isn’t a chore and all the wireless solutions I’ve seen still require a mat or dock that takes up space on your desk or night stand. Since I’ve never actually used it, I’ll reserve my judgement until I have. It’s a neat selling point no matter what.

Possibly the best feature is Android 4.2 which as Google describes it, is a “flavor” of Jelly Bean. I have to wonder how much emphasis would have been placed on this iteration of Android had the event taken place. The Verge has a sneak peak at the new version and it seems like a nice bump from the Jelly Bean we were introduced to a couple months ago. Most notable is the introduction of user accounts on tablets, how many of us have been clamoring for that? It also appears they stole some of Swype’s thunder with the new keyboard. How Apple-like!

Did you notice something’s missing? Two somethings really, there’s no CDMA or LTE options for this phone. In fact, we’re transported back to 2010 where, like the Nexus One, this phone is only available from Google and the only carrier mentioned is T-Mobile. Naturally, this has caused an uproar from the internet community, no LTE? What is this, 2011?

I’m sure Google didn’t want to release a Nexus phone without LTE, especially since the Galaxy Nexus had it so why the step backwards? I can’t help but think the blame falls on Verizon’s shoulders. The Verizon Galaxy Nexus roll was full of problems, mainly caused by the carrier’s want to control it. In fact, if you have the unlocked GSM version, you were running Jelly Bean long before VZW users. That’s not what Google had in mind for the Nexus line.

Sadly, the time for Google to strong-arm their way into the carriers is long gone. Unlike Apple who offered AT&T exclusivity then used that to leverage all kinds of power over them and subsequently VZW and Sprint, Google seemed to let VZW walk all over them. Now they have no choice but to slink back to the Play store and sell the phone themselves.

To some people, this is a deal breaker due to poor quality GSM signal. As I understand it, AT&T is useless in New York and certain areas of California but here in the Detroit Metro area, AT&T is fast enough to be useful at any time of day. It’s not LTE quality but it’s almost always usable by which I mean at least 2MB/s. If it came down to it, I’m not sure I would let the lack of LTE stop me from buying this phone and I most certainly understand what Google is up against.

I saved the best part for last: the price. As with previous Nexus devices, Google is eating some of the cost in the interest of getting it into our hands. The only official carrier deal available is with T-Mobile where the Nexus 4 can be had for the standard $199 with 2 year contract. For those of us on AT&T or who don’t want to deal with contracts, the 8GB version will cost you $299 while the 16GB will run $349. These prices are a far cry from the normal $600 range most smartphones retail for.

I’ll admit I’m intrigued by this LG Nexus, especially because it’s not a Samsung product. I was hoping for a Nexus device by Motorola but it looks like that might not happen until next year if Google allows it at all. While LG is a relative unknown entity in the smartphone race, they might have a winner here.

One last note before I wrap this up, I didn’t feel like getting too in-depth with the looks because it’s a pretty boring looking phone, the only real personality it has is the weird sparkly glass back and I’m not even sure that’s all that exciting.