It was a little surprising to see Google announce a new Nexus device this year without LTE support. While LTE deployment is still lagging behind in many regions, the good old USA is fast becoming blanketed with speedy 4G. Now that the Nexus 4 is in the wild, iFixit has taken it apart, and you'll never guess what they found. Yes, a 7-band 4G LTE radio chip. The plot thickens...


The chip in question, the Qualcomm WTR1605L (highlighted in green above), supports all currently operating LTE networks around the world. This chip is probably a holdover from the LG Optimus G design, which the Nexus 4 is based on. Nevertheless, here we have a pentaband HSPA+ phone with a dormant LTE chip inside. Forums are already abuzz with posts calling on ROM devs to wake up the chip, but that probably isn't going to happen.

First, there's no guarantee that the device even has an antenna that supports this radio. Should that not be an issue, iFixit found no LTE power amplifier on the board. That's the part in a phone that takes electricity and turns it into radio waves. It's also the principal reason your device gets hot enough to fry an egg. Basically, it's important, and the Nexus 4 only has a UMTS power amplifier inside. We also know that devices like the T-Mobile Galaxy S III have permanently disabled LTE chips inside. Even if everything else was sorted out, the chip could still be dead.

We're probably going to have to live with HSPA+ on the Nexus 4. This discovery is just a reminder of what could have been.

[iFixit; Thanks, armyman966]

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • paradox460

    This pisses me off more than anything else. Now its not even a cost saving issue. Its google saying "FUCK YOU" to Galaxy Nexus customers

    • http://tech.gtaero.net/ Navarr Barnier

      That's not true.

      There are still costs involved with the antenna and the power amplifier. Both financial and battery, and whatever they have to do to make the LTE carriers happy.

    • imneveral0ne

      If they activated it, they would have to pay qualcomm or whoever to use it.

      • andy gowrley

        Exactly the license to use the chip and the other parts needed probably are far higher. plenty of commercially sold electronic devices where the components inside are detuned or not fully enabled.

    • ssj4Gogeta

      More than anything, I think they wanted to avoid another Verizon Galaxy Nexus, which defeats the purpose of buying a Nexus phone.

    • http://twitter.com/redbullcat Phil Oakley

      It probably cost nothing to very little to leave the chip there.

  • TylerChappell

    Seriously? This is beyond ridiculous. If they never intend on having LTE, then why include the hardware component that makes it possible. They act as though it would be drastically more expensive if the Nexus 4 had LTE, and yet here it is, the physical component for LTE and somehow it's not going to see the light of day.
    I'll die if they release a 32GB LTE-enabled variant in the future.

    • Devin Cofer

      Because it was cheaper to leave it in and not make LG use two production lines for that stage, I imagine.

      • Ken Gorab

        Granted, silicon isn't as expensive as it used to be, but still I feel as though it'd be significantly cheaper to not waste thousands of chips.

        • ssj4Gogeta

          Sometimes it's costlier to put in all the engineering effort to make hardware changes. Besides, Nexus is a low-volume line (or so Google thought, judging from the shortages), so it made more sense.

          • Nevi_me

            It's not something new, Intel, AMD and Nvidia have been doing this with processors and graphics cards. Want a cheaper graphics card? Sure, we'll downclock it, turn off a few cores and make sure you can't turn them back on.

            In the end, we save on reengineering or production setup costs, and you save by getting a cheaper device.

            In other news, Apple turned off some pixels on the iPad mini because consumers weren't ready for retina on the mega iPhone

          • ssj4Gogeta

            Yes, but silicon chip manufacturers also have another reason - making use of defective dies. Of course Intel and others also deliberately disable features and downclock when imperfect dies can't meet the demand for a low-tier product.

    • Chris Clark

      It would be much more expensive. This way they don't have to pay for more antennas, different models with different antennas for global markets, amplifiers or license fees. It's cheaper to leave in a chip that's probably disabled any ways.

    • Timothy Bess

      When did google "act as thought it would be drastically more expensive if the nexus 4 had LTE"? I've only heard that from people completely unaffiliated with google. And as other people have pointed out, there are more than just hardware costs.

      • Nevi_me

        This phone is meant to be used internationally, yes in the US people are crying about LTE, but many other countries don't care much (except some of Europe).
        In South Africa we've only started with LTE 'trials', data still costs an arm, a leg, and sometimes the whole body.

        Also, anyone who's been in an area with no 3G coverage without switching to GPRS/EDGE/whatever loses more of their battery because the fracking antennas are busy sniffing out for faster networks when there aren't any. I would imagine LTE might be the same.

        Poor Google's already struggling to ship orders from Play Store, imagine if there were different versions for different countries ... I think the decision was about user experience across the world.

    • donttrollmepeople

      might be more expensive for lg to design another board without the chip. discounts come with quantities.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucyparanormal Daniel Tiberius

    Wow that is really bizarre. I remember T-Mobile putting LTE in a phone or 2 since they'll have a network for that in the future. Maybe they'll work some magic to turn it on at some point. Very mysterious.

    • ssj4Gogeta

      It isn't "mysterious". It probably shares the mobo with Optimus G, which does have LTE. It's cheaper than designing a new mobo.

    • JG

      Also, I don't believe it has anything to do with T-Mo not having a substantial LTE network, as the phone isn't carrier locked for T-Mo & can be used on AT&T, who, if I recall the commercials correctly, claims to have a bigger LTE network than Verizon (who claim to have the largest in the nation)... So if it were a "We'll turn it on once we get our network up" kind of issue, wouldn't AT&T N4s already have LTE activated?

      • Josh

        I believe the AT&T claim is that theirs is the FASTEST, while Verizon's is the LARGEST. Verizon's map is bigger, while AT&Ts 4G speeds are significantly higher. Personally, I prefer having 10MB/s everywhere I go rather than 40MB/s whenever I go into the city, but that's just me.

      • Dwayne_Chapman

        That claim is "4G" not LTE.

  • godsfilth

    Still saves money in not having to retool the MOBO and change up the machines but also because they dont need to pack in a bigger battery, they dont need to license the frequincies and stuff, they dont have to fight for the right to release binaries, saves on componets like antanne and power amps too

    • Gus

      Why include the LTE chip too? Is there no way to keep the same motherboard without wasting a chip that's permanently disabled?

  • spydie

    That's funny, the t-mobile Note 2 has LTE on board that all the forums are saying it's just a matter of time before T-mobile turns it on with software when they get their LTE up and running. What do you think?

    • vx117

      That's why that phone is $650, while the Nexus 4 is only $350. LTE is disabled hardware-wise to cut some costs.

      • shonangreg

        To cut costs in hardware? The chip is there. Unless these chips grow on Korean LTE trees, they cost money. Or to cut costs in licensing?

        What are you saying?

        • Nevi_me
        • http://www.facebook.com/paruhang.chamling Paruhang Chamling

          Contrary to popular beliefs, the chip costs almost nothing when mass produced. They're priced solely based on competing products and licensing fees and manufacturing costs are negligible.

        • vx117

          I said the LTE is disabled. Not removed. Disabled LTE means no licensing fees and that save money.

    • ssj4Gogeta

      But this one doesn't have all the required hardware.

  • aerojad

    Can't get 32gb internal. Can get a deactivated LTE chip. trolling google trolls.

  • topgun966

    Perhaps it could have been a prep for a carrier version down the road? that might make the most sense out of them all next to it being a holdover from the Optimus G

  • rockstar323

    So.... Anyone tried to stick a Verizon sim in it and see what it does?

    • Nevi_me

      Mine exploded /s

  • bloomtronzero

    Kinda like how the Nexus S had a chip that supported FM radio, but it couldn't be used at all.

    • Nevi_me

      That wasn't a hardware problem. I remember the times when devs were getting FM to work, it was a software problem. The devs that got radio to work on most devices had to either write their own drivers (by modding the ones that chip makers provide). It's one of the reasons why some ROM ports won't have wifi or whatever working, have to start from the ground.

      BlackBerry had the same issue, they shipped OS 7 devices with an integrated radio chip, but no software. Only in 7.1 were they done with it.

      • bloomtronzero

        It was a software problem on some phones, but the Nexus S never got its FM radio working, ever. I don't remember the technicalities of it, but the gist of it was 'it couldn't be done'

  • mcoope3

    Actually I heard the top end model has 32GB storage but 16GB of that are disabled on a chip with no bus connection to the processor or memory. It was cheaper to include 32GB but deactivate some of it.

    • Zaatour36

      humm, that doesn't make any sense!

      totally strange idea

      • fixxmyhead

        I'm high right now but that other guy is fucking stupid that they disabled 16gb of storage

        • mcoope3

          man ur fucking stupid tarded. Its called sarcasm. pull that tube of krazy glue away from your nose for a minute and look up the word

          • PacoBell

            Sarcasm. Right... Nice save.

          • mcoope3

            Also the native resolution of the screen is 2560 x 1536 but they have it running at 1280 x 768 because they saved on the graphics chip so every 4 pixels are being downsampled to 1 pixel. If my inside sources at the factory turn out to be incorrect on this perfectly serious assertion, I use sarcasm for a save, because that is what evil people like me do, we try to deceive and then dont accept moral responsibility, god save our souls! /sarc asm!

          • Nevi_me

            Let's not push it now

        • RxRx

          This is not something new. I bought a dualcore amd cpu and unlocked it to quadcore, because two cores are factory locked.

    • fixxmyhead

      Man ur fucking retarded.

    • Timothy Bess

      Whoever downvoted this is taking him too seriously. This is why /sarcasm tags are important.

      • Devin Cofer

        It's stupid as sarcasm too, sorry. What's the sarcastic point? That it's silly to leave an LTE chip and disable it? Because there are obviously reasons to..

        • mcoope3

          Just like there are obvious reasons to have an upper cortex in some peoples brains but leave it disabled. Its much easier to just turn it off than to have to redesign the skull.

          • Nevi_me

            Still no /sarcasm tag. I'm cracking up in laughter btw

      • selonmoi

        What if I recognized it as sarcasm, but found it whiny and stupid, so downvoted it anyway?

  • Khalid

    Or, it's sitting there because Google intends on using it for a Google-branded data service at some point in the next two years, whether with Dish or something different.

  • James Barr

    Would it REALLY have been that hard to sell a unique unlock code for phones so you could pay the LTE license fee to Google to get it unlocked for LTE? It can't possibly be that much money. $10? $15?

    Ugh. What a waste. :(

    • http://kennydude.me/ Joe Simpson

      There isn't the rest of the hardware to use 4G.

      • James Barr

        I know, I meant under the assumption that they had decided to include what else was necessary, instead.

      • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

        There is, stop spreading this. Android Police is simply wrong.

        • Elias

          What's your source? I want to believe you, but not without a reliable source.

          • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas


  • http://www.facebook.com/people/keriyn-theph-di-xan-limited/100000964831199 เกรียนเทพ ดี อันลิมิเตด

    In short, WHY?

  • pengu

    It will also same them money when they release the 32GB LTE version in a few months

  • Stefing

    The downpoints of the Nexus 4 are all meaningless for me - SD card: not needed any more, Removable battery - non-issue (when's the last time you had to remove a battery on Nexus ICS device) and 4G - WAY too over-priced, give it maybe another 5 years - and won't you have a different phone by then anyway?

    • SuperAndroid

      Last time I had to remove my battery was around a week ago on my Galaxy Nexus. Reason? It freezed in the lockscreen, nothing worked... neither touchscreen, power button or volume buttons worked. After waiting a couple of minutes~~ I removed the battery and restarted my phone.

      This has happend about three times since I bought my Galaxy Nexus, which was last year. So well; it's nothing I need to do every day or so, but it still happends.

      • Kookas

        You can still do that by holding the power button (and that will always work because it's independent from the SoC).

    • 27yearold

      SD card - every game takes 2 gb now, HD videos take gbs, driving dashcam video takes many gb. it's absolutely necessary and best of all, as tech progresses, so will the space you can put into your aging phone.

      4g - cheap, fast, HD netflix hook up to tv whenever

      removable battery - i always replace stock battery with extended battery, because phone should last AT LEAST 3 days. no question.

      missing qwerty - makes this phone a toy, not a work horse and shit controls for games and shit controls for remote desktops

      enjoy angry birds, because that's all your phone is designed for

    • CatFart

      Oh that's right, because the cloud is awesome. Until you hit your measly 5GB cap on monthly usage. Then you wish you could just simply load another movie or two to your phone via your PC, but alas, you don't have any space left for that because apps take up so much space these days... and if not these days, then what about in a year or two? Remember what's "acceptable" by today's standards will be garbage in 6 months.

      • Melissa Peterson

        Just use Wi-Fi to download the video on to the device, it's faster and doesn't use your data plan. Unless for some reason you don't have Wi-Fi at home?

  • Garry DeWitt

    Neat, gives me hope for a vzw version yet.

  • Mark G

    Could be the yield rate of the LTE chips is poor, and failed units end up as non-LTE Nexus4's

  • http://profiles.google.com/olavamjelde Olav Alexander Mjelde

    I dont really get the LTE fuzz.. Why do you need so fast connections on a phone with so little storage? Even with HDSPA+ you can get a good bandwidth.

    • Owen Finn

      It about ping times.

    • http://kennydude.me/ Joe Simpson

      I think in the USA 3G networks tend to be quite "busy and full" and LTE isn't, so it's faster (for now)

      • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

        That may seem true, but ... during the storm Sandy, my house lost power, and I had to stay in my bro-in-law's house. He had power, but his Optimum cable modem did not work. In his house, a dozen of people stayed there as a shelter. In the first day, anyone using AT&T, T-mobile and Sprint had no connection at all, while I have 3G (Verizon.) The second day, everyone had connection back (can you believe it, my bro-in-law's cable modem was still down) but all were unstable and slow. I, however, got strong 4G LTE signal, and I used it to tether my laptop so that I could work.

        I was thinking about switching to T-mobile in order to get the Nexus 4. But after the Sandy, I am thinking it twice. It is not the speed that counts, but the coverage --in the Northeast, Verizon just seems unbeatable.

        • splunk splunk

          lol, storm hitting, city shutting down, family in danger, in a house with 12 people where all communications are down, but thank goodness my Verizon is up so I can get back to work.

        • JG

          I've been considering switching as well, but am a little iffy on if T-Mo's coverage will be comparable to Verizon's... I'm thinking of stopping by Walmart or wherever & picking up a burner on T-Mo's network. I can use it to test the network make sure it has a comparable offering before I go through with the actual switch.

          Keep in mind that while the other refugees with you who used non-Verizon networks may have had no to wonky connections, this is during a state of natural disaster and may not be indicative of standard service provided. The network is going to be degraded severely.... Cell towers could be damaged & knocked offline and with all other forms of communication offline, the extra load will eat up available resources a lot faster than normal. [*Which is why its generally considered good netiquette to reserve mobile networks to emergency use only during disasters - you wouldn't want someone to die because they couldn't get a connection to call for an ambulance because you were hogging the network so you could get your TPS reports in on time or were downloading the latest Monday Night Football episode]...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      To me, it's about latency - pages and everything loads on LTE much faster than HSPA+ in my experience.

    • JG

      I would actually argue the exact opposite. That a better connection would be ideal for a smaller storage phone. The reason for the smaller storage is to focus people into relying on cloud based services more. Why carry 32GBs of MP3s when you can have your entire 120+GB music library available to you with Google Music. A better connection would allow for a much better streaming experience and encourage the user to use it more often. Just think of all of the buffering pauses in the middle of streaming a movie while you were on dial-up vs the pauses on cable (or the lucky few who have Google Fiber)...

  • jammer

    "That's the part in a phone that takes electricity and turns it into radio waves."
    Ummm, not exactly but most people won't know the difference.

  • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

    Do you think it will be possible to enable it with a custom ROM?

    • http://kennydude.me/ Joe Simpson

      Read first

      • Luis Augusto Fretes Cuevas

        it doesn't answer my question, because is mostly wrong about the "buts", according to Anandtech:

        Band 4 (AWS) could essentially be supported with the power amplifiers and transceiver that already are onboard the Nexus 4, but again it ultimately comes down to a particular OEM choice whether these get supported."

        I'm more concerned about drivers.

  • http://pharaohtechblog.blogspot.com/ Conan Kudo (ニール・ゴンパ)

    In theory, the Nexus 4 is fully capable of LTE, but critically enough, it won't support Sprint's Band 25 (as it only supports regular old Band 2), or AT&T/VZW 700MHz bands. If LTE was turned on, the only LTE bands that would work are bands 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, and 8.

  • matoz

    So, maybe the next generation of Nexus 4. revision comes with LTE... (activated)

    • donttrollmepeople

      it would be nice if it gets a refresh for spring/summer. if it sells good enough, who knows.

  • JG

    "First, there's no guarantee that the device even has an antenna that supports this radio"
    Um.... Wouldn't the people who sacrificed the perfectly good N4 be able to see if there was in fact an antenna in the phone somewhere? I'm assuming it doesn't evaporate when exposed to air/light/whatever...

    • donttrollmepeople

      i think its more of a 'he didnt take it apart kind of thing'. why speculate on things you cannot prove. if ifixit says there is a chip and not an antenna then i guess i should shut up. but i dont remember seeing it last night. otherwise i have to think back on the nexus 4 hoax.

  • donttrollmepeople

    nice post. you spelled it all out for us.

  • alain

    It doesn't make any sense to put an expensive chip if you don't plan to use it. They don't need to redesign the whole thing, just not placing the chip at production time. Changing the program on a pick and place machine is easy and inexpensive. If they sell millions of nexus 4, they could have saved millions of dollars.

  • Treyhunnid

    enable it on a cdma version!

  • Ivan

    The WTR1605 is the radio for the MDM9615 modem.. Qualcomm sells chipsets that are fuseblown (IE LTE disabled) to create several tiers of products. It's easier to sell the same chipset for less money (with LTE disabled) than it is to create a new chipset that just lacks LTE. So yes, the LTE feature is likely permanently disabled (dormant) via a fuseblow script but that's because it makes for a cheaper chipset from Qualcomm - they charge a premium for their multimode radios and the pricing structure reflects how many features are enabled. Also, there is a huge cost savings by not supporting LTE at the PCB level - the entire RF front end for LTE (matching, duplexers, PAs, antenna switches etc) is expensive and consumes a lot of board space. It also forces a lot of design trade-offs. The RF front end has to be designed into the PCB from the beginning and is quite complicated to support so many bands... In other words, if Qualcomm is a dinner restaurant, they've got a huge menu.. But that doesn't mean you're going to order everything on the menu for dinner... You can't eat everything (support every band) because it's expensive and you'd get full (board can't support every feature). Disclaimer: I'm a Qualcomm hardware design engineer and worked on MSM8960 for the past 2 years which is paired with WTR1605.

  • Ashraf

    The Avago ACPM-7251 Quad-Band GSM/EDGE and Dual-Band UMTS Power Amplifier support LTE !

  • Mike Fraser

    For arguments sake regarding nexus 4 and lte chip i live in Canada and have 2 nexus 4's lte does 's work couple months back there was a hack you could do manually without root to enable and use lte on the nexus 4 it works on rogers, bell and telus all you do is open your dial pad and dail *#*#4636#*#* settings for your phone opens choose phone settings scroll down till you wcdma click on that option scroll down till you see option lte, gsm, cdma auto (prl) you might have to rename you access point name but after that voila lte on nexus 4 and if i must say its blazing fast dont believe its all over the net just google how to enable lte on nexus 4