Why Missing Out On The Nexus 4 May Have Been A Good Thing

The Nexus 4 packs pure unadulterated Android into a quad-core powered black slab of sexy. It’s a great device at an unbelievable price. Problem? It’s gone mainstream. Not in the way hipsters refer to any semi-successful musician either. Google’s deliberate attempts to make the Nexus brand much more grandma-friendly has, in some respects, been a message to its most ardent “root first and ask questions later” fans. I can almost hear Andy Rubin say, we’re going mainstream now, you tech-heads can come along for the ride if you want but you’re not riding shotgun anymore. The “pure Android experience” is no longer being designed or marketed for the  power user.

I really wanted the Nexus 4 but after much deliberation I’ve had to conclude that I am not entirely drunk on Nexus Kool-Aid. The lure of a $299 (8GB version) price for a top tier unlocked phone was certainly tempting. So too was the appeal of receiving timely and undiluted updates. For many, the updates alone may be reason enough to buy this phone. When I examined the compromises Google made to court the mainstream customer I realized the Nexus 4 can not fulfill my needs. I suspect this may be the case for other tech-savvy Android users.

Matias Duarte has brought a lot of great design tweaks and polish to Android. His recent statements regarding omitting expandable storage, however, sound like a vote in favor of the casual user rather than the hard-core enthusiast. Few would argue that making Android more user friendly is a bad idea but improving that UI at the cost of functionality just doesn’t sit well with me. Yes, a microSD card does add another element of ambiguity regarding media storage. If that’s the trade off then I would gladly make finding where I saved a file just a tad more difficult in exchange for the option of cheap expandable storage. A 16GB device runs out of space in a hurry when it doubles as a media player.

Developer settings in Android 4.2: Like Dumbledore’s sister, the menu was deemed unfit for public consumption and was hidden from view. The menu can be called back from the dead without the use of a Ouija board, but its discreet placement is a not so subtle hint: this isn’t your hacker’s Nexus anymore. Or at least you aren’t its primary target anymore.

Android top dog, Andy Rubin shared another example of function trumped by user experience. Rubin cited battery concerns and a less than spectacular user experience as the reason the Nexus 4 is missing an LTE radio. Again, I would much rather be allowed the option to possibly sacrifice some battery life in exchange for access to an LTE network.

Speaking of the battery, it’s now enclosed. What has long been an Android advantage over iOS is no longer on the Nexus Quatro. The battery is easy to get to but Google and/or LG chose to, like the Optimus G, keep it internal. We can only speculate as to the reason but I’d wager it is a simple decision of design over function. Carrying a spare battery is not a major concern to some but it can be a godsend when traveling abroad or cross-country.

Samsung, the biggest Android manufacturer at present, is far from perfect but seems to be coming a lot closer to the mark than Google itself. They’ve clearly been killing it with the Galaxy SIII, but TouchWiz, even with fairly recent tweaks, leaves a lot to be desired. Of course if you’re the CyanogenMod nightly flasher-type we’ve been talking about, a crummy Android skin is not too big an obstacle to overcome.

Comparing the latest Samsung offering, the Galaxy Note II, to the Nexus 4 shows us why our hopes may rest with the manufacturers and not the pure Android experience. LTE is not available in a lot of markets but you can buy an LTE version of the Note II from 3 of the top 4 US carriers. The ginormous 3100 mAh battery is removable. The Note II can be purchased with up to 64GB of internal storage and you can still add to that with a MicroSD card. The only thing really missing from the Note II’s hardware is what it has too much of (no, not the S Pen or massive screen): The buttons. I much prefer the on screen buttons on the current batch of Nexus devices to the Note II’s hardware buttons.

I’m happy Google is continuing to develop Android into a more well rounded OS. I’m also happy Android provides us options even when Google wouldn’t choose those options for us. The election may be over but I’ll still vote (with my dollar) and support the Android I want to see. That’s not an Android that sacrifices functionality for ease of use. I think some fruit company is already doing that and I’m not interested in something that “JUST works.”

About the Author: Rudy Rivapalacio

Rudy is a Southern California guy who has used his tech savvy skills in a law enforcement and corporate security career. He often jokes about having a "Windows 3.1" tattoo and has the Bill Gates-like rule regarding no Apple products in the home. His two daughters (one at Cal, one in High School) have so far found a way to abide by that rule. When not glued to Android news or on Xbox live, Rudy is probably off traveling abroad. His West Hollywood apartment is littered with a few too many bikes, cameras and Android relics, but he's found a way to hide most, or some, of his toys from his wife. Rudy is a big Chargers fan, and consequently, buys beer in bulk.

  • GraveUypo

    yes. finally! man it’s so good to see someone not blinded by google bias on an android fansite. kudos to you.

    only part i disagree is the LTE bit. that’d only make it more expensive, bigger and it’d be useless for over 90% of everyone regardless of being a tech savvy or not , including me.

    • Frederic St-Pierre

      The LTE chip apparently comes stock with the Qualcomm solution inside the Nexus 4, so that point is moot. It wouldn’t make anything bigger or more expensive. All it’d do is force LG/oogle to support it. And like you said, that 90% of the people would find it useless. :P

      • http://MyShocker.com Nudo

        there’s no LTE amplifier, just an antenna. I don’t know the facts, but berhaps the LTE amplifier is what takes up space? It’s missing from the Nexus 4.

      • GraveUypo

        then i guess it’s just another excuse to their arsenal.

  • http://jordanhotmann.com/ Jordan Hotmann

    It’s nexus or nothing for me. The lack of updates and relying on devs/hackers to hack together drivers for updates has left me unsatisfied with the non-Google experience.

    And I disagree with the point that because the dev settings are hidden that this isn’t for hackers. The Nexus 4 is meant to be a great phone for everyone, and the common user has no business messing with some of those settings so hiding them a bit is good. Anyone who is going to mess with dev settings will have no problem taking a few seconds to unhide them.

    I look forward to purchasing the Nexus 4 after the holiday season.

  • http://twitter.com/blaktron Chris Dupres

    Umm, nexus phones haven’t had expandable storage for 4 years now and lte is market specific in implementation right now, so you can’t sell a generic one.

    • http://twitter.com/homncruse Aaron Burke

      Wait, someone who understands rational logic? Am I in the right place?

  • mark beckford

    Nice write up!! I like the fact they hid the Dev Settings. People shouldn’t be playing around with those setting if you don’t know what there doing!!

  • http://www.dsaif.tk/ Saif

    Someone should go tell Samsung & HTC to use on-screen buttons.

    • BigE

      On screen buttons are hidden on the Samsung SIII and Note2. If you add a line in build.prop it will activate.

      • http://www.dsaif.tk/ Saif

        All Android 4.0+ devices have that. Hardware buttons are still sticking in your face.

  • Plerisei

    Targeting the average consumer is always going to make more money. The reasons you stated for better battery is not going to be most people’s experience. Google is not only trying to make the Nexus a reference device, but they are trying to make it, as you stated, more mainstream, and in order to do that, they are not going to be able to satisfy every hardcore tech’s desires, its not going to happen. I’m actually happy they did not go the LTE route with the phone; it isn’t just about LTE; they don’t have the clout to override carriers like Apple has, and the battery life on the galaxy nexus is abysmal. I should not have to spend extra money unnecessarily just to be able to use my phone all day. Hopefully now that they own Motorola, they will just make Maxx like versions of the Nexus in the future the standard version. Just give it a 3300 maH battery, and LTE battery consumption is a non-issue.

    Having had an LTE phone with horrific battery life (Gal Nex), I am more willing for to have a slower connection like HSPA+ 42 MB on tmobile network, than to pay what I currently pay for verizon, and have better battery life. But that’s a personal preference. The things I mainly use my phone for don’t really require the great speeds of LTE. HSPA+, from what I’ve heard, is plenty fast, it just isn’t as fast as LTE. I went down to 20 Mbps on Comcast when I began working for them because it was free. And there are days I greatly miss the 50 Mbps connection I once had; but the reality is that 20 Mbps is plenty enough bandwidth, it just means I may have to wait an additional 2-3 seconds before I stream something.

    Same thing with this phone; if I am unwilling to wait 5-10 additional seconds to stream video, or 1-3 more seconds to load a page, all the while saving within the range of 35-60 dollars monthly on my phone bill, something is greatly wrong.

    What functionality has been sacrificed for ease of use? The functionality you speak of is all hardware related and has nothing to do with the software. Making the software easier to use has nothing to do with a removable battery or lack of LTE. They are completely unrelated. Durante’s excuse for no microsd card is worth to be thrown down the toilet. The response makes absolutely no sense. They could have easily made the software in such a way that makes it easier to access the data on an SD card. The truth of the matter is they did not want to go the sdcard way so that they can push their cloud services more. I just think they are dishonest regarding the reason why, when obviously its clear as day: “WE WANT MORE OF YOUR DATA ON OUR CLOUD, NOT ON YOUR PHONE!”

    • matt

      Ya, its stupid use the cloud, all the carriers are going to non unlimited data, so it would be hard to use the cloud

    • http://www.twitter.com/Wicked_1 Wicked1

      I was hoping they would spit out some nice Nexus devices under the Motorola name, but it doesn’t seem like that’s the plan, as of now. Google has said that they really only purchased Moto for their patents, but it seems silly to not use a ready made phone manufacturer that you own.

      • Plerisei

        Precisely. They now own the manufacture that has the best build quality and radios in the game. If they do not use it, they are insanely stupid.

  • Zach

    Nexus or bust.

    Also, it was Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid.

    You guys should add in a Google sign in for your comment section

  • http://MyShocker.com Nudo

    lol “missing out”
    Just wait for it to come back in stock sillypants.

  • Brian Parkerson

    Lack of LTE, removable battery, expandable storage and/or limited internal memory are all individually deal breakers for me. I have a GNex and love it ,however, I would do without the “True Google Experience” in exchange for these deal breakers. An unlocked, rooted device can give me EVERYTHING I need including an “Excellent Google-Like Experience”. I have to mention, being on Verizon’s network has its quirks, but I, as well 75% of its customers, have continual LTE for over a 200 mile radius. LTE alone offers me a much better user experience than “True Google” ever could! Just my opinion….

  • wwsiralexd

    I am beginning to hate Android, not the devices themselves. It’s the people who write about it.

    My god, you writers are as juvenile as those people in the other camp.

    • RTWright

      Well what you just posted isn’t all that mature either, to come and say you ‘Hate’ something due to the comments being made? Little harsh and uncalled for. If people don’t voice their opinions, then nothing ever gets discussed and then everyone feels it’s all okay how things are with something.

      The only thing juvenile here is someone coming here complaining about people posting here. That’s pretty silly.

    • oli72

      I totally agree

  • RTWright

    First off let me clear a few things up, the Samsung Galaxy S III, yes, is 16, 32 and 64GB internal with expansive Micro SDcards up to 32 more GB of storage. I have the 32GB internal, I love it. But to get it unlocked, I’d had to spent over $700 for it. That’s a major difference there for a top end device from an OEM vs the Nexus.

    Now for the Negative side of the Nexus, specifically a man named Matias Duarte… His statement was stupid to say the least. For ages now, ALL users have had access to devices with multiple storage capabilities. Hell, I bet you more than 70% of computer users have more than one HD, more than one DVD/CDROM drive, more than one Extrenal HD…. But for the longest time, almost every mobile device ( Even my old Moto Razr ) had expandable storage. No one had a problem using it then nor do they have a problem using it now. His argument was stupid, flat out stupid. He’s basically saying the basic user is not intelligent enough to figure out something as simple as a SDCard.

    What I find funny, is all you do is put it in. Android sees it, Apps see it and most of them even ASK you if you wish to use that as your Media / File storage, once you select Yes then Ok, it’s done! You never have to worry about it again. Now, our article Author here is right on the nose when he says that even a 16GB internal fills up super fast if you use it for heavy Media ( Music / Movies / Games ) along with all the Apps. So expandable storage to be added to the Nexus line would at least, give you the choice of Using it, or NOT using it. At least it should be there. It wouldn’t and shouldn’t cause the cost of the unit to go up that much at all. It’s a lame excuse to take something from you that ‘THEY’ ( as in Google ) feels you don’t need.

    All I have to say to that, 30 million GSIII’s sold can’t be wrong! It may have not been the main selling point for most on it, but it is damn sure one of them. Now, as far as the battery goes, yes, it would be nice to have that too, all that means is making the back removable and done. How could that have hurt a thing? What happens if the battery just up and goes bad? It has and can happen, no man made electronics is beyond failure. With this case you would more than likely have to send it back to Google because it is not part of a Carrier and that means you can’t just run to a local store and exchange it. Also the spare battery argument can be brought up, if you are a heavy traveler I can see that. I just keep mine plugged in as often as possible. If I were going all over the world of even just the states? Yeah I’d buy one or two extras for that reason, but again that one I feel is more minor issue.

    Yes they will sell more as a mainstream device, but like I said, GSIII is pretty mainstream and 30 million sold, I would say that shoots down all of these arguments rather well. I also as of going to the GSIII have not had a hard time getting updates. Which is impressive and a pleasant surprise considering I came from the HTC Evo 4G which got crapped on by both Sprint and HTC as far as updates go. More excuses were given for not updating that one than I care to recount.

    As far as the Hacking goes? If you’re buying a Nexus for that, then you have no reason to complain, it’s still a hacker’s dream device. Except with rather low storage on it. Also if you’re one that roots your device, it doesn’t matter where you get your updates from, because you’re constantly trying out something new anyway. I know, because I was doing just that on my Evo. I have not had a single reason to root my GSIII yet.

    I think my main point is, while the Nexus brand is popular, which I’m glad to see to an extent. I find that Google is turning into Apple on us though in how it’s constantly designed with it’s limitations mentioned here in my post not so much the Author. I personally will never purchase a Nexus branded devices till I can add a SDCard to it at least. 8GB is not enough for me, myself I’m a graphics designer and a photographer and use my device for displaying my work to clients and as well doing a lot of transporting of my files when needed and I shoot exclusively in RAW format. So I can’t afford to have my device with just 8 or 16GB.

    Our devices are used for a LOT more than just being a Phone, Text or Email mobile product. We’ve come to depend on them for a lot more than that, to take options away from you or give lame reasons for not offering them at all is just a mockery of the consumers. To state we’re not intelligent enough to make use of these options is arrogant to say the least. I posted that directly at Matias Duarte on his G+ page. I have no regrets of stating my opinion, that’s exactly what it is too and I know a lot of people that felt the very same way….

    • RTWright

      By the way, the thing he said about TouchWiz? How many of you on any device really use the default interface? I know I don’t, I use Nova, Apex, TSF, ADW or whatever I feel like. My primary is Nova and I just love TSF how it works is very unique but it’s pricey. But Apex and Nova are right head on with each other and not that expensive at all and they have free versions too. TouchWiz, Sense and all the others tend to be rather clunky and or overly bloated ( Sense falls into Bloated file size ). At least with Nexus, it’s the default Android UI….

    • Chivo

      I’m hearing ya RTWright. Its reasons like that that have got me ordering a 920 (WP8). After a gs1 gs2 and a one Xl, if the only way to get timely updates comes in a low storage glass covered over hype… I’m out.

      And yes I modded all three of them and the average consumer shouldn’t need to do that.

    • http://www.twitter.com/Wicked_1 Wicked1

      Exactly, I have 4 External Hard drives for my PC, and watching shows and movies on my PS3. This trend is disappointing. It seems what we were complaining about before, the different manufacturers and UIs, may be a god send now, when it comes to those making high end devices with sd slots and removable batteries. I’ve had my S3 for 3 days and already feel the need to root it, but not for the usually reasons. I just want to root it to get rid of some bloatware, to enable the apps2SD function, and to reinstall my games and apps with my Titanium backups. I don’t really see the need to flash ROMs at the moment. I’ll run rooted Stock. Also, like you said, I don’t use the Touchwiz launcher, I use Apex.

  • NickyA

    aaawww cute…are you butthurt that you missed out?

  • Major_Pita

    I’m going to pass on the Nexus 4. I got over the ‘no SD card’ thing when I got my 32GB GNex. It’s not great but it works. Now… having a choice of 8 or 16GB of storage AND a non-replaceable battery?? You have got to be kidding. At this point If I can unlock a boot-loader, have 32GB of storage, and alternative battery options, I’m all in. I don’t care if it’s a Nexus device anymore.
    Samsung seems to be about the only company who hears what customers want, and combines it into several devices. Big screens, fast SOCs, expandable storage and replaceable batteries.
    Duarte, you’re being a dick. It’s not about your perception of what Nexus users want. You are starting to sound like you’ve acquired Apple’s “we know better” mindset. Google – show this guy the door if he doesn’t see reason.

  • WarrenIs

    1. i disagree with the level of importance youre putting on expandable storage. i dont know if its ‘googles vision’, but i truly believe there isnt a real strong reason to have any media saved on the device at this point. upload music to google music, upload movies to box since the nexus supposedly comes with 50gb box storage, and download docs and picutures to either google drive or dropbox. As regularly that i flash new roms, and even further, as regularly as move from pc to pc, or image new OS’s, i never have to worry about backing things up or losing data. random storage of media belongs in the cloud

    2. in my opinion, the only people who care about the developer options, are the same people who root and flash. devs and flashaholics get what they want, while the average consumer gets a great stable cant F it up phone, which makes the average consumer like stock android more and, non stock adroid phones sell less..

    3. everytime i dropped my nexus, the back cover and battery would fly out. i felt great that it was essentially absorbing the shock reducing breakage on the screen, but hated that now in the middle of an nyc street, i have to gather all these pieces and reassemble it. point is, whats a con could be a pro or vice versa, depending on the user.

    4. the biggest things i think you fail to see is the price and the potential for this device. the big carriers are hemorrhaging money from us with these contracts. with a 30 dollar data plan, theres no reason voice and text should cost 40-60 bucks when google voice is free. a cheap high spec unlocked phone, when on a high speed data only hspa+ 42 plan if you need it, or a tethered to a cheap mobile hotspot plan while relying on high home/work wifi speeds, is great to curb the greediness of the carriers, while devs get an extremely customizable phone, and the casual consumer gets a stable gorgeous smooth device.

    i agree that if you really need those things this phone doesnt offer, you shouldnt buy it, and you should look elsewhere. I just disagree that Google somehow ‘dropped the ball’ just because they dont have the specific things you want. I am an android enthusiast and flashaholic, and this device is perfect for me in everyway

  • Android

    what is this guy smoking?

  • oli72

    Thx God it’s ur opinion Rudy. google is awesome. stop bitching and get another phone to write or talk about.

  • iondream

    Why the heck is anyone asking the head of interface design about the inclusion of an SD card?