My phone background
This past Friday I finally received my Google Nexus 4 in the mail. It was a day of high anticipation as I have been using my old phone for about 3.5 years. My old phone, for those who are not long time readers, was a Palm Pre which I purchased day 1 from Sprint. It was the running gag around town whenever I pulled out my lovely Pre.
I love webOS and I loved my Palm Pre. No it didn’t have a giant screen, a million apps in the marketplace, or hardware made out of chiseled aluminum, but it did have the smoothest UI I have ever used and functionality that many other smartphones didn’t have until later.
I watched Palm fall apart and the HP Touchpad debacle was the final nail in the coffin for any hope of future webOS products. I watched the mass exodus from Palm with a keen insight to where Matias Duarte would land. See Matias was in charge of the user experience for the Pre which I loved so much. He headed over to Google to head up the Android line and thus so did my eyes.
My experiences with Android were always clunky compared to the Pre. Things that were easy to do on the Pre were always a couple more steps on iOS or Android. However, over time Matias’s work started to shine through. When Jelly Bean was released in July of 2012 I knew Android was finally up to snuff for the user experience to make the switch.
I was ready to jump on the Galaxy Nexus at the enticing price of $350, but it was 9 months old and I knew a new Nexus would be coming soon. So I dug into my patience pocket and waited and waited. Based on all the rumors surrounding the Nexus 4, I was ready to buy it review unseen.
So, what did I get myself into? Is the Nexus 4 worthy buy? Is Jelly Bean a good substitute for webOS. In a word, yes. Now I’m not going to spend the rest of this article talking about the pixel density of the screen, what type of antennas, or the weight and shape of the device. For that I recommend The Verge’s review. My review will be from a consumer’s perspective who likes to be cutting edge – but doesn’t like paying for it.
As of December 11th, 2012, the Google Nexus 4 is the best phone on the market and the one you should buy without a moment of hesitation. The tangible aspects of the phone are on par, above, or slightly below the competition. The screen is glorious, HSPA+ provides fast speeds, and the phone feels of high quality.
Where the Nexus 4 outshines the competition is the unsubsidized price of $299 & $349 respectively. For reference the iPhone 5 16gb is $649, the Galaxy SIII is $600, Nokia Lumina 920 is $700. These are all flagship devices for the respective devices.
Now this is where you say, “Hey I can get it much cheaper if I sign a 2 year contract” and you’d be right – sorta. See, the simple fact is that you are paying for the price of the phone but it’s baked into your contract. In addition to being locked into a contract and paying higher monthly fees, you also are at the carriers whims for upgrades of the software.
This my friends, is where the Nexus 4 is revolutionary. What Google is doing is shifting consumers away from long contract plans where the carriers have the control, to a model where consumers are in control. The Nexus 4 is about freedom and control. If you want to travel globally, you don’t need to get permission from some company and their arbitrary rules – you just go there and get a new sim card. If you want the latest version of the OS on your phone, you don’t wait for your carrier to add bloatware and send the upgrade – you do it your self.
By purchasing your phone outright you now can switch carriers any damn time you want. No contract fees, no headaches, just simple this company’s plan works best for me. With more competition and easier movement from customers we will see prices begin to drop and more options to fight for our dollars. Capitalism in action, baby!
So, I purchased a Straight Talk sim card which piggy backs on the T-Mobile infrastructure. Straight Talk is an MNVO that leases bandwidth from traditional cell phone companies. The Straight Talk plan is for unlimited* texts, minutes, and data. Unlimited is a touchy subject, because if you start to hinder the performance of their network they’ll cut you off. I looked back on my Sprint data usage and it’s typically under 2gb per month which I hear is the magic mark for data usage. Assuming you aren’t abusing their bandwidth your performance should be fine.
Speaking of performance, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the HSPA+. As you can see from the screenshot I get about 15Mbps down which is twice as fast as my home network which is about 7Mbps down. The common complaint about the Nexus 4 is the lack of LTE, but to be honest, I personally can’t complain with anything faster than my home internet speeds. At 15Mbps I won’t have any problems loading maps for navigation, watching videos on YouTube, or streaming music from Pandora. I have no idea what you would needed higher speeds for on a mobile phone – it’s not like you will be downloading giant torrents.
Speaking of LTE on the Nexus 4, it is actually built into the phone and can be unlocked via a simple hack. You just dial: *#*#4636#*#* and go into the “Phone information” and from that screen you will select “LTE/GSM/CDMA auto (PRL)” from the pull down menu. This is for LTE Band 4 and not available on all carriers or locations, thus they are not marketing as having LTE.
On Sprint, my wife and I were paying $125/month for two lines, 1400 minutes, unlimited data and texting. That was after taxes and after the corporate discount. If we had decided to stay on Sprint and renew our contract that price would have gone up to $145 because of a rate increase. On Straight Talk our monthly bill is $100/month after taxes for unlimited data, text, and minutes. Similar plans on T-Mobile plan would be about $145 after taxes & discounts. AT&T and Verizon aren’t even close to those prices. So we are saving $45/month or $540/year.
By going with this plan I have more incentive to not get pulled into consumerism and always purchase the latest greatest phone. The longer I go without buying a new phone the more money I save. By purchasing a phone which isn’t tied into the carriers whims it will also be updated for a longer timeframe and thus be more relevant.
If you are in a market for a new phone, there is no reason you should purchase anything other than the Nexus 4 and it’s time to unstrap the chains of the carriers. This is your step toward phone freedom!