Saturday, November 10, 2012

How Google';s Nexus 4 Made Me A Hypocrite

Image representing Android as depicted in Crun...

I've been in the market for a new phone for awhile now. I documented my purchase of a Palm Pre Plus in this BLOG a month or so back. The Pre was really cheap and provides me with an OK stopgap  but it wouldn't have been a good solution for me two years ago when it was released and it is downright primitive now.

I was really close to pulling the trigger on a Samsung Galaxy Note 2 a week or so back. I went as far as transferring our one current upgrades to my number and starting the checkout process. That is when I discovered that Verizon was going to force me out of my unlimited data plan. They offered me a two gigabyte plan for $10 less than I'm currently paying for unlimited data. I was not impressed and aborted the purchase.

I discovered later that Verizon has locked the boot PROM on the Note. This annoyed me as well since Verizon has a nasty habit of layering extra stuff on top of Android that degrades the user experience. I'm sure their marketing department thinks of this as "adding value" which is one of many reasons I'm not a fan of Verizon's marketing group. The Note is a big investment even with the subsidy, I shouldn't have to put up with this kind of malarkey.

But here in the US Verizon has the best network. There may be areas where this isn't the case but based on coverage maps and my own experience Verizon does a pretty good job. They aren't cheap though and they are anything but open. Even their LTE phones require CDMA right now which pretty much rules out any non  Verizon phone. Given the limited coverage of LTE that isn't a huge deal but as coverage expands I suspect Verizon will continue this practice. They clearly subscribe to the concept that the best customer is the one you have in a (figurative) straight jacket.

Enter the Nexus 4, Google's latest foray into smart phones; this time in partnership with LG.

The Nexus 4 is getting mixed reviews with many people praising the build quality but questioning the absence of LTE (4G).

I criticized the iPhone 4S over a year ago when it came out as a GSM/CDMA only phone. I'm going to make two justifications for my change of heart in regards to the Nexus 4. First LTE isn't expanding as quickly as I'd hoped. Even today its not much of a factor outside of major urban areas. My second justification is based on cost. The iPhone is an excellent and well respected product for many reasons but it isn't cheap. Unlocked iPhone 5's are not available yet but rumors point to them costing about 2x what the Nexus 4 does. I'm willing to sacrifice LTE for those kinds of savings. Its also the case that while GSM is "old" it is also much more open than LTE right now and more than fast enough for anything I'm planning on doing. It may take me a bit more time to blow through my monthly data plan on GSM but I can live with that since it would be only a tiny fraction of a month in either case if I were using either technology at peak bandwidth.

There are other things missing from the Nexus 4. Internal storage options are limited to 16GB and there is no expansion slot. The battery is not removable either which means you're living from charge to charge with no option to keep a spare around for those situations where you'll be away from power for an extended period of time. Those compromises would be annoying in a subsidized phone at this price or in an unlocked phone at twice the price but for $350 unlocked I'm thinking very seriously about the 16GB version. This would mean leaving Verizon since they don't support GSM but I'm more than OK with that at this point.

In the past I've criticized Apple for selling a phone that had a non removable battery, antiquated broadcast technology and no ability to expand storage. All of these "short comings" are present in the Nexus 4. As the title of this post says, wanting a Nexus 4 makes me a bit of a hypocrite given all that but it also shows that price matters. I'm a value shopper. I want good products and good prices and am willing to compromise on features if I feel like what I'm buying will satisfy my needs and the price is right.

Will I pull the trigger? I'll know on Tuesday when the Nexus 4 is available to order. $350 is a great price but its still a lot of money so I'm still waffling.

Image via CrunchBase
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  1. GSM is not how you transfer data. GPRS or HSPA is. Stopped reading after this. Lessened your credibility.

    1. Jay,
      Fair enough.

      I know HSPA and HSPA+ are data centric but I won't pretend I'm an expert on cell technologies. Really I was talking about the phone itself. My basic point being that the Nexus 4 is from my perspective a great value given the price and that the whole LTE controversy is kind of beside the point.