No LTE for Nexus 4, Andy Rubin explains why


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!



  1. I can totally see Google’s point, and as the post says, it’s a very valid point. Carriers in the US have been granted power they should not have had. They dictate the devices, the bootloaders, the bloatwares, all in the name of “user experience”.

    Someone needs to take the fight against them, and make them stop doing things like that. I’m glad that Google had grown to the point where they can at least influence that power that the carries have.

    Apple did the same thing with their iPhones, but untimately that didn’t benefit any non-iPeople.

    • I agree, and am glad they are in a position to stand up to Verizon’s rein of tyranny. That being said, I still want the Nexus 4!

    • Thank You Google for FINALLY taking a stand against Verizon the #1 anti-android carrier. The lack of software updates and forced bloatware is inexcusable and we should not stand for it. I wish I could say this is going to make a difference, but nexus doesn’t have high sales volume so it probably won’t, but atleast Google has made a stand against Verizon to show their displeasure with Verizon. Now if more of US would vote with our wallets and move to other carriers that are more Android friendly Verizon might finally be forced to change their ways! What makes me mad is after 10+ years as an AT&T customer I switched to VZW for the iPhone5 and LTE. I’m happy with the i5 on VZW where Apple controls the updates, but I’m also an android user and this news makes me so mad that I’m supporting the evil empire at VZW and makes me wish I had stayed with AT&T even though they lack LTE in my city. I’m switching back to AT&T if Verizon doesn’t change their ways by the end of my contract.

  2. I think it’s the pricing. If Google bumps price to $350 for 8GB and $400 for 16GB, they might get an LTE radio in there. The budget pricing is the reason.

    • Another $15-$20 for a secondary radio chip isn’t a killer…. a combo chip might run a bit more, but it would probably get them CDMA/EvDO as well as LTE and GSM/HSPA. That’s what Apple did.

      But that still doesn’t get them on Sprint or Verizon if sold stand-alone. If Google’s committed to selling at a reasonable price, unbundled, GSM/HSPA/LTE is their only path, since Sprint and Verizon have locked networks. And T-Mobile doesn’t have LTE rolling out yet. And while LTE is very critical for Verizon/Sprint users (with EvDO Rev A maxing out at 3.1Mb/s down, and usually coming in much slower), it’s not quite as critical when you have HSPA+ (14Mb/s-21Mb/s, depending on the device and the network caps).

  3. The snapdragon 4 pro processor supports LTE built in, but with the 7-12 flavors of LTE frequencies, it wasn’t plausible to multiplex that much. However, depending on how it implements the IMEI and baseband in the kernel, I’m sure that the Optimus G’s regional baseband will be able to be hacked/used for nexus use.

    Where there’s a will, there’s a way…….

  4. This may very well be the biggest disappointment of the year in my book. Been waiting to upgrade my phone for the Nexus specifically, but now I have no reason to even consider it…..

    • I’m in the same boat! Was really waiting for nexus 4 but G3 looks like the way to go at this point…I understand google’s motivation here but I’m still a little bit bummed to be honest.

  5. Joined Verizon last year to get Galaxy Nexus. Will have to move to AT&T to get Nexus4.
    Anybody knows if the Verizon galaxy nexus will get the android 4.2 update?

  6. So they want it to be available for every network on the planet, so they leave out a large portion of the world that uses CDMA? Lame. All I want is a Nexus phone on Verizon. Don’t make me switch to AT&T, they already screwed me over too much.

    • CDMA is soo middle ages, face it this is outdated technology and only works in the US. GSM will work on most networks across this planet. So why focus on the US only

      • What do you expect them to do? Google can’t control Verizon. If you don’t like it, find a carrier that cares what you think..

        • I expect them to do what they did. Verizon deserves it. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t still suck for consumers. And yeah, that’d be great except Verizon is the only carrier with good reception where I live. No choice.

    • If you think AT&T screwed you wait until Verizon gets ahold of you. Look at any android phone on V and you’ll see a consistent track record of lack of software updates and even NO software updates for their android devices. They are absolutely the worst carrier when it comes to updating your android phone with the latest software. Good for Google for finally standing up against them.

      • So the real question is: Do I want to pay for service that I don’t get with AT&T so that I get updates to my phone, or do I want to pay for service that I do get, but never get Android updates with Verizon? Considering how many dropped calls I had with AT&T, even in places with “perfect” coverage, I think I’ll stick with the lesser of two evils, but then my only phone options are non-Nexus devices. Moral: Carriers suck.

  7. I’m torn. Love the verizon network, hate their tyranny, such as their #UnlimitedBetrayal of early adopter data plan users. Plus I hate the battery drain that is 4G LTE, despite awesome speeds and great coverage. Really, really, really want a Nexus 4. Going to have to check out my options for a new carrier.

    • LTE battery drain is a myth. I have a Galaxy Nexus… 4G is just like any other radio protocol. At my old office, in an old stone building in Philadelphia, I got substantially more device life on 4G than I did on my O.G. Droid on 3G. That’s because in the city, Verizon was using 3G on 1900MHz, which didn’t propagate as well as 4G on 700MHz, into buildings and all. So I got all-day life.

      At the current gig, we’re in a fringy 3G area. I don’t get more than half a day of use, some days. It actually saves a little power switching on WiFi, so my phone doesn’t have to try 3G for the various data things its doing. I didn’t even bother with that in Philly.

      And that’s the thing you need to know… the second most power hungry thing in your phone is the PA (power amplifier) for your cellular modem, and most of all, for 3G. Yes, a 4G device will typically use a bit more DSP than a 3G device. On the other hand, it uses much less power for the same uplink range. And the DSP section, the extra processing for the protocol, that’s shrinking with each chip generation. The power needed to hit your cell tower doesn’t.

      The cell tower tells the phone which power level to set. A typical 3G device can go up to 500mW average power.. but it’s got a crest factor of 8-9dB. That means that your peaks are not 27dBm (eg, 500mW), they’re more like 35-36dBm (eg, up to 4W). The new uplink modulation in LTE, SC-FDMA, has much lower crests, so you’re peaking at more like 1.5W. So that’s a much lower power amplifier needed, and so much less drain on the battery, when the signal’s not perfect. When you’re close to the cell tower, you won’t notice the cellular drain.

      In normal use, a modern cellphone’s display is probably sucking about 50% of the power. That’s the place to look first for power savings, if you need to. The first generation LTE chips weren’t great on power (the Galaxy Nexus is much improved, and I’m sure a phone released a year later is better yet — 4G is ultimately lower power than 3G, and it’s always been lower power per byte transferred), but they were also put in phones with anemic batteries and large, power hungry displays. This was essentially fixed with a larger battery.. and going 3G only doesn’t really change the problem.

      • “It actually saves a little power switching on WiFi”

        That is because WiFi is using considerably less power in its power-saving-mode than 3G/4G. So if you want to save power, than make shure that WiFi is always connected when you have the opportunity to do so and turn it of when no WiFi is in range.

  8. I couldn’t care less about carriers in the US. Many other countries have LTE networks (i live in Japn) and google’s new downgraded device (yeah i said it) isn’t an option for people like me.
    Bad decision Google. I wont waste my time with a new Nexus this year.

  9. I am currently using the Nexus S on Sprint (the carrier I have had since they originally began service in Phoenix) and have been contemplating a new phone. I was all the way to pressing the “purchase” button to order the iPhone 5 but backed out tat the last minute deciding instead to hold off, knowing that there was a new Nexus phone looming on the horizon. I must say that I am very disappointed that the Nexus 4 will not be available on Sprint. I have no interest in supporting the the red and blue carriers and their over priced restricted plans. With the position Sprint has taken with its plans, I want to support them even more. Just as Google is trying to do (and as Apple has been successful with), breaking the hold on devices, Sprint is waging the battle to try and break the outrageous control the two largest carries have over the cellular market.

  10. That’s kind of nonsense, that “hybrid” networks are a problem, or confusing to consumers. All networks are hybrid, at least in the sense that you’ll get bumped down to a lower speed protocol for various reasons: the cell is saturated on LTE, you’re too far away, etc. Plus, this is not something any user really had to think about… it just works.

    Plus, Verizon at least claims to be finishing their LTE buildout sometime next year (fingers crossed). That’s well within the useful lifetime of any device you buy this fall. Or go back to AT&T… for quite some time, only about 1/5th of their network supported 3G…. the Cingular/AT&T Mobility merger had them upgrading all those DAMPS cells to GSM, and then they decided they really needed HSPA+, so another round of upgrades. Didn’t kill anyone, or confuse anyone, dropping to 2G. Probably pissed a few off, but hey, you will grow to hate your wireless carrier for something. It’s inevitable.

    And for the most part, 4G/3G fallback just plain works…. case in point is the aforementioned Galaxy Nexus. It just works. They did use two different radio chips, but that yields the additional advantage of 4G data and talk working together… can’t get that on an iPhone (the iPhone 5 has to drop down to 3G to use data and voice simultaneously).

    I think this is more along the lines of LTE not being necessary for Google’s business. You need this to launch on Verizon, but if Verizon’t not interested… or Google’s annoyed at Verizon’s ridiculous delays on device upgrades — doesn’t make Google seem to be keeping their Nexus promises if Verizon can drag out an upgrade by 3-6 months. Could also be that Google’s been happier this time selling the HSPA+ Galaxy Nexus direct — the first device sold in the USA that can do 3G on both AT&T and T-Mobile. Sure, they could add LTE in there, but probably not the time for that, as T-Mobile is shuffling radio bands around to make room for LTE, and all we know is that they’re not at 700MHz like Verizon and AT&T (probably at 1700MHz, which gives them the same range disadvantage they’ve had versus Verizon and AT&T all along, but they don’t have much choice, that’s the lowest frequency spectrum they own).

  11. I see Google’s point, but it’s still a dealbreaker to me, my carrier runs on GSM but has LTE 4G, could look over the only 16 GB of memory with a fast data connection, but no LTE just killed it.

  12. Dear Andy needs to get us the LTE.

    3G is 11 year old tech no matter how much duct tape they put on it.
    Nobody needs a 300 dpi tablet, though it’s important to trump the iPad 4 for the Nexus brand.

    When Australia and UK sue Apple over crappy LTE, even Apple fixes it, in less than six months.
    It’s the wrong thing for Google and Nexus brands to not have LTE,

    despite any short-term benefits. What we have now, Andy should have called

    Nexus 3G!

    • Uh, the Nexus 4 supports HSPA+, which is up to 84Mbps down. That is much faster that what is typically considered “3G” – even if it isn’t quite LTE. Sure, if you’re on a CDMA carrier “3G” is much slower. My two year old HSPA phone seems plenty fast in terms of bandwidth – I get a few Mbps in typical use which isn’t much slower than my FIOS connection at home. Most websites can’t go faster than that anyway.

      Sure, I’d rather see LTE, but I wouldn’t want to pay extra for it.

  13. its a great phone at a great price..I think that is the point…we all really go for the latest and greatest technology like the LTE, but the majority of customers out there have no idea of the difference, or even what is really happening in that area…I deal with tons of Smartphone users….for android and 90 percent or more dont even know they have it or what the LTE or other Networks really do

  14. I considered the Nexus 4 and decided to go with the Samsung Galaxy Note II. There wasn’t enough compelling about the Nexus 4 that put it over the GN2 in my mind. Plus the GN2 has LTE radios built in. Also Samsung’s Jelly Bean update for the GS3 came a lot quicker than previous Android updates. Hopefully this means a change in their policies regarding Android updates for their flagship devices.

    For me Samsung won my dollars with the GN2 device that is on par in every way with this latest Nexus 4.

  15. Another reason they may be doing this is because LTE isn’t standard across carriers. Verizon is band 13, AT&T band 17, smaller regional carriers are on band 12, Sprint on yet another. Thats why there are 10+ variations of the Galaxy S3. This way, Google can make one device.

  16. Unless you’re a developer that really needs an Android 4.2 device, or if you’re a gamer that cares more about running games than internet connectivity, then it’d be tough to justify this device, even if it comes unlocked at $299.

    Also, while I realize there are logistics to coordinate with the wireless carriers for any device roll out, but leaving out about 55%* of the US wireless market seems like a questionable decision.

    *At the end of the second quarter of 2012, according to CNET, at the end of Q2 2012, “Verizon reported it had a total of 111.3 million wireless customers. AT&T said it had 105.2 million wireless subscribers. Sprint and T-Mobile reported 56 million and 33.2 million subscribers respectively.”

    • How many of those 111.3 million customers would have bought the Nexus phones? How many nexus phones were sold for the GSM networks over the Verizon network? CDMA only exists in a few countries while GSM exists in most countries. LTE in even less number of them. So given the choice of getting a low priced product to the world or deal with the Verizon BS, Google made the right choice. 4.2 will show up for the Galaxy Nexus, it will just depend on when Verizon wants to let it through.

      • Hmmm… I’m in Hong Kong and although its a small place, we have 5 independent carriers and the ALL support LTE now. That’s 100% of the carriers with LTE networks and 0% with CDMA. So I would be careful when you quote stats that say that LTE is less deployed than CDMA…

  17. Really ? Seems to me that we are not getting the truth about this . As a Verizon gnex owner I can say that I would never want to give up 4g speed for battery life . I may need a quick charge midday on my 1750mah stock battery , but the 2100mah battery I bought from verixin for $25 solved that problem. Not to mention I can disable LTE whenever I wish to conserve battery life .
    Apple just climbed up to 4g technology , now Google is going to go backwards in technology ? The apple masses will have much fun with this , just wait and see .
    “This just in , the next nexus will have a 3 inch screen for superior battery performance .”

    • I fully support this move! First, I’d rather have unlimited 4G data on T-Mobile at a slightly slower speed than paying twice as much to have my Nexus crippled by Veri$on. Secondly, they had their chance last year and the screwed it up for the rest of us that don’t want to pay an arm and a leg to live by Veri$on’s rules. Lastly, Apple is so far behind Android at this point, any mumblings from the Apple fan boys about the lack of LTE will hardly detour the audience Google is targeting with the Nexus program.

  18. Google is all about openness and I salute them for fighting Verizon’s closed system that ultimately is hurting everyone. I will never be a Verizon customer and therefore I’m happy to save the cost of a LTE radio and the added engineering expenses to have it implemented. LTE is not technically more “4G” than HSPA+ (we’ve had that discussion before – look it up), so the Nexus 4 still supports 4G (42Mbps HSPA+) – just not LTE.

  19. It seems that consumer friendly path to go would have made a 2G/3G/4G phone with support for pentaband HSPA+ (3G) and LTE bands 1,3,5,7,20,40. To do this would have been an antenna nightmare, but a success would have given them another patent that Apple WOULDN’T have, and would have made a phone that could be used on ANY GSM/LTE network on the planet without multiple versions.

    I would think that the best user experience would be NEVER needing to worry if you phone would work with ANY carrier or ANY SIM you put in it. I don’t understand Rubin’s statement: “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.”

    Although the cost is more for the “swiss-army” radio in a phone, it’s enormously lower then needing to by an extra phone to use a different carrier.

  20. ummm 2.5mbps or 20-30mbps? it’s deal breaker 4 me. Would rather pay $700+ and get what I want. Still love my gnex, but will probaly get a note 2

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  22. Great article, and I am really happy Google is doing what they are. LTE is nice, I’ll admit, but Verizon is Cray with how controlled their network is. I am terminating my contract with them the day the nexus 4 comes out and moving to T-Mobile. The truly unlimited data is enough in itself dto do it. The nexus 4 is just the icing on the cake

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  26. I am dumping Big Red. It is going to cost me $250 but I am going to sell my GNEX to help cover that cost. I am leaving 1) I am tired of poor 3G coverage. I live in the downtown Chicago area and once I step into a building I typically drop to 3G and the speeds are very bad. The main places I go dont have 4G coverage. 2) LTE kills the battery and it is overrated for cell phone use. 3) Price, the monthly fees are just too high. 4) Updates, updates, updates…where are they?! It takes them months to get out an update….even on a Nexus device! 5) I am “grand fathered” into the unlimited data however when my contract is up I will have to pay full price if I want to keep the unlimited data. So I am done with them.

  27. I’ve already decided to leave Verizon for blocking Google Wallet on my Galaxy Nexus. I’m not driving all the way to Salt Lake City just to use Isis.