I have a lot of respect for Android handsets. Before I switched to the iPhone from my Blackberry (shudder), I looked at the range of Android-powered handsets that were available to me. The Samsung Galaxy III? It is a seriously impressive phone. I would even, gasp, consider an Android phone, if not the fact I have so much invested in iOS (that’s another post entirely). Today, however, Google launched the Nexus 10 and Nexus 4 and seemed to leave something out: Google Nexus 4—a flagship device—doesn’t support LTE.
From The Verge, Google seems to have their reasons, but like Matthew at TNW, I don’t really buy them. I get the whole interoperability thing. I get making sure you can make one great phone for the world. However, it just seems like unless Google wants to play in the handset backwater, they need to step up their game—and investment.
For Google, Nexus is a flagship brand that represents the best of Android, with Google leading by example to show other hardware manufacturers what Android can be. And though partners build the hardware, Google wants direct control of the software on Nexus devices with no carrier intervention. That alone means Google can’t sell an LTE device, as there’s simply no access to LTE networks without working with carriers in one way or another: Verizon and Sprint’s LTE networks still require compatibility with their 3G CDMA systems, and there’s essentially no such thing as an unlocked CDMA device. AT&T’s fledgling LTE network runs on different frequencies than other LTE networks around the world, so Google would have to build a custom phone for just 77 markets in the US. Doing that without AT&T’s financial assistance makes little sense.
If Samsung and Apple can do it—and are fighting each other for the title of best handsets—why can’t Google? Is Google really just fighting for the bottom? Apple included LTE—after being chided for its absence in the iPhone 4S—in the iPhone 5. Lots of other handsets have LTE and work around the world, so why couldn’t Google do the same?
I can’t claim—yet—to be an expert in all things handsets in the world, but I just don’t think that Google is making the right play, and their reasoning seems like “oh you caught us, so we’ll say something”, when pushing for faster connections makes for better mobile experience.
Everyone else has the battery life issues fixed (maybe not entirely). Samsung and Apple have handsets all over the world. Yes, LTE isn’t available everywhere, but it’s one phone Apple is selling. Maybe Google’s real reason is that they want to show people how to make a great handset that can be made widely available. Maybe Google wants to see if leaving out LTE can work for a smartphone.
I’m not sure what is going on with Google and the Nexus 4, but even this review from betanews is pretty harsh on Google, so maybe we’re not all crazy.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
Hat tip: TNW