If you haven't heard by now, the Nexus 4 doesn't have LTE. It probably won't ever have it, either, based on what Andy Rubin told The Verge regarding the latest Nexus handset's network situation in an interview.
He talks a lot about "tactics" and "user experience" (read: battery life), but it really boils down to one issue: money. The fact that the unlocked 8GB version of the Nexus 4 is just $300 is absolutely crazy. Looking at the hardware, this is easily a $600 phone. Having used an Optimus G (the platform this phone is based on), I already know this is a truly premium device. The processor is the fastest one in any Android phone on the market, and the display is brilliant.
So, how can Google afford to sell it for $300? Honestly, I don't think they can - I'm pretty sure they'll lose money on each and every one of these. If, by some miracle, they're being sold through at cost of production, they're still going to lose money on things like advertising and R&D. Anyway, why is this relevant to the Nexus 4 lacking LTE?
Like I said, the interview with Andy Rubin comes back to two issues: the user experience, and the network compatibility ("tactics"). The user experience part is explained as being an issue of battery life, but really, Andy Rubin somewhat unintentionally lays bare a big issue with LTE: two radios. This adds to cost of production in two ways.
First, you have to pay the piper (eg, Qualcomm) for an LTE baseband chip, which involves lots of patents and licensing arrangements that probably make it fairly expensive. Second, you have to then make sure that LTE chip doesn't decimate the battery life, or in some other way make the user experience worse (connectivity issues, for example). Making sure that stuff works (on multiple networks) takes time. If you want a Sprint or Verizon version, you need a CDMA radio. Qualcomm does make "all-in-one" radio chips that work on pretty much every network out there, but as I said, these are probably significantly more expensive than the 3G-only models. You'd then need different software versions for each carrier's radio configuration, too. That means more work to support the hardware post-sale.
As for CDMA, then you have to deal with carriers that won't allow you to bring just any device onto their networks. Verizon has to certify and approve any phone on its network - 700MHz block C "open access" provisions be damned, because Verizon's CDMA network basically nullifies those requirements. Sprint is the same. That then means these carriers don't want you selling the hardware strings-free. They want to sell it with a contractual commitment. Then there's the cost of carrier certification, and going through the carrier software update approval regime. And that's if Verizon even wants a Nexus phone after its numerous PR boondoggles with the poor-selling Galaxy Nexus.
So, with CDMA out of the picture, bringing an unlocked, GSM LTE Nexus that's really only fully compatible with AT&T's 77-market LTE network to market probably wouldn't be worth the money, especially when you consider how historically poorly Nexus phones have sold. This is where Rubin's logic about UX and "tactics" does fall apart a bit, though - why not just have an LTE mode toggle switched to "off" by default, so 3G-only network subscribers could use it as a normal GSM device? And that's why I think cost is the larger issue.
Rather than play ball with the carriers (and pay the cost of that game), Google has thrown up its arms and said "forget it - we'll do it our way." Which means they're going back to the model they originally dreamed up with the Nexus One. Which seems kind of silly, in a way. But I like that idea, especially when the hardware costs half of what it did when they tried it the first time. Who knows - this might actually work.
But the fact that even the iPhone 5 now has LTE, whereas the latest and greatest from Google's Nexus line does not, is certainly a bit of a slap in the face for the Android-faithful. Then again - it is $300.
via The Verge