October 31, 2014

No LTE for Nexus 4, Andy Rubin explains why

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With all the hub-bub going around today about the Nexus bomb that Google dropped, some have noticed that in the specifications for the Nexus 4, there’s no mention of LTE. Google covered every base with the Galaxy Nexus, launching it in LTE variants on Verizon and Sprint, and of course an unlocked HSPA+ device for the GSM carriers. But with the Nexus 4, it appears that they’ve taken a different approach.

It might not make too many Big Red customers very happy, but in an interview with The Verge, Andy Rubin explains the reasoning behind Google’s choice to launch the Nexus 4 with only HSPA+ radios. It’s a great interview, and Rubin makes some very valid points from Google’s perspective. When asked about the Galaxy Nexus, Rubin had this to say:

[pullquote1 align="center" textColor="#0000fa"]“A lot of the networks that have deployed LTE haven’t scaled completely yet — they’re hybrid networks.. which means the devices needed both radios built into them. When we did the Galaxy Nexus with LTE we had to do just that, and it just wasn’t a great user experience.”[/pullquote1]

As if the user experience with LTE radios wasn’t enough motivation, we all know how Google had to play by Verizon’s rules when it came to bloatware and updates with the Galaxy Nexus. The point of the Nexus line is to provide users with a purely stock experience, and this is another reason Google may have stayed away from the CDMA carriers with the Nexus 4. Furthermore, the unlocked GSM variants were updated to Jelly Bean almost immediately after the release, but Verizon users had to wait for months to get their hands on Project Butter and Google Now.

When it comes to the GSM carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile, however, it’s a different ballgame. These carriers allow unlocked devices to run on their network, and AT&T is even allowing any unlocked device to access their LTE network (although the technical details are still being worked out). There’s also the question of financial motivation (or lack thereof) for Google to make LTE variants of the Nexus 4. Providing LTE versions of a device can be costly without subsidies from the carrier, and the incentives aren’t really there for Google just yet anyway. LTE is still a growing technology, and it wouldn’t really be in Google’s best interests to sully their device just to get a few more Nexus 4’s sold. Some say that if Verizon would allow unlocked LTE devices to work on their LTE network, this might change. But for the time being, Big Red users won’t be getting any Nexus 4 love.

In the end, it really boils down to one of two things, each with its own arguable point. Google either doesn’t have time to play by the rules of LTE-equipped carriers (read: Verizon) when it comes to Nexus devices, or those carriers are adding too many unnecessary bells and whistles for Google’s taste. While it is a somewhat controversial move on Google’s part, Andy Rubin sums it up pretty well:

[pullquote1 align="center" textColor="#0000fa"]“Tactically, we want to make sure the devices are available for every network on the planet.”[/pullquote1]

So, what are your thoughts on the lack of LTE in the Nexus 4? Anyone on Verizon thinking about switching carriers just for the Nexus 4? Drop a comment below!