Why not? Because Google doesn’t want to be beholden to carriers. But while the reasoning might make sense for Google, it makes no sense at all for you.
And it makes the Nexus 4 seem like an oddly backwards flagship device — especially now that Apple’s competing iPhone 5 does support LTE.
On the upside, it’s one of the best bargains for an unlocked smartphone: It starts at just $299 for the 8 gigabyte version ($349 with 16GB) with no contract. T-Mobile is also offering the 16GB version for $199 with a typical two-year contract.
For those who don’t yet have access to LTE networks, or who simply don’t care about running the fastest cellular speeds (to which I say, huh?), the Nexus 4 will be a delight. It’s nowhere near a revolutionary Android phone, but LTE aside, it’s a decent upgrade over the Galaxy Nexus. It also fits nicely in Google’s new Nexus lineup, which includes the Nexus 7 tablet released earlier this year and the new Nexus 10 tablet.
Shipping without fast wireless broadband is still a shame though. It’s as if, no matter what Google does, it simply can’t release a truly no-compromise flagship phone. And as we’ve seen earlier this year, leading Android manufacturers have wasted no time in one-upping Google’s Nexus offering.
The Good: Bold and speedy
From a distance, you could easily mistake the Nexus 4 for the Galaxy Nexus. They both share the same basic shape and rounded corners, but the differences are clear upon closer inspection. Its screen is completely flat, unlike the gimmicky curved screen in the Galaxy, and its rear is made up of Gorilla Glass, instead of cheap plastic. The Nexus 4 features a slightly larger 4.7-inch screen, but it’s a barely noticeable difference from its predecessor’s 4.65-inch display.
The glass rear obviously evokes the iPhone 4’s design, but now that even Apple has moved away from such a precarious choice, the Nexus 4 looks a bit dated. The holographic grid doesn’t help much either — it’s as if it was designed by a technician trying to evoke high art, but whose only reference was 8-bit video games.
Overall, though, the Nexus 4 feels much more solid than the Galaxy Nexus. I’ve never understood Samsung’s love of plastic smartphone cases, and I felt like I was going to break last year’s Nexus whenever I removed the rear cover. In exchange for a more solid feel, you can’t remove the Nexus 4’s rear — which means you’re stuck with the battery and storage that comes with the phone.
What’s most surprising is that such a solid device comes from LG, a company that has released plenty of Android smartphones, none of which has ever stood out from the competition (Samsung, HTC, and Motorola phones). LG’s design inexperience still comes through in several ways, though: For one, there’s that holographic rear. And the soft material bridging the front and rear of the phone, while comfortable, feels uninspired — especially compared to solid case designs from HTC’s One X series, the iPhone 5, and even Nokia’s Lumia line.