Cutting corners, pinching pennies
Last modified on Tuesday, 30 October 2012 10:00
Google’s fourth generation Nexus handset is finally out and it is getting some pretty positive coverage. It’s a high-end device priced more like a mid-range device, so it’s understandable that many Android fans are putting on their “shut up and take my money” face.
However, although it offers stunning value for money, the Nexus 4 is far from perfect. Starting off with radios, it lacks LTE support, which could be a big issue for US consumers. As far as the rest of the world goes, it shouldn’t make much of a difference in most markets. Google doesn’t think LTE is ready for prime time, but we beg to differ. Optional LTE for the US market would have been great, but Google obviously did the math and concluded that it’s not worth the effort. Lack of LTE will be a deal breaker for many US consumers. On the other side of the Atlantic, well, we don't really care much.
The Nexus 4 also falls short in terms of storage. It’s understandable that Google had to shave off a bit of NAND to hit the $299 price point, but 8GB is just taking it too far, as consumers will probably end up with about 5GB of storage with no expandability. The 16GB version hits the sweet spot, it should be enough for anyone not hooked on music or Android games, but a 32GB version is not available. We can only wonder whether the Nexus 4 will get the Nexus 7 treatment in a few months and get a 32GB version.
In terms of specs the Nexus 4 does quite well, it can easily match $499 high-end Android devices and that’s good news for consumers, but very bad news for Android handset markets. Samsung, HTC, Motorola and even LG do not have anything that comes close in terms of value. They can’t be all that thrilled with a $299 Nexus, can they? At least they can still bet on LTE and more storage.
Google chose LG to build the new phone and this is not necessarily a bad thing. LG does know how to make a decent phone, but it has terrible software support which is luckily a non-issue with a Nexus device. However, brand recognition is a problem. Google’s Nexus line has been around for four generations and now features three devices, but most average consumers have never heard of it. Geeks love the Nexus line, but the average Joe associates Android with Galaxy, or DROID brands, rather than Nexus. Many uninformed consumers will wrongly assume the Nexus 4 is just another LG device.
Design wise, the Nexus 4 doesn’t look half bad. Minimalistic and elegant, with a glass back, it looks better than the Galaxy Nexus, but it’s still not in the same league as the iPhone or some stylish Android handsets. However, it’s still a pretty good design on a (very) tight budget. Nobody expects ceramics or aluminium for $299. Speaking of costs, $299/$349 is great for unlocked devices, but the cost on a two-year plan in the US is pretty high. We can only hope that carriers will offer the Nexus 4 bundled with dirt cheap plans, which would be great for cash strapped consumers, especially in Europe.