Market Insight

Google unveils price competitive LG Nexus 4 flagship smartphone

October 30, 2012

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The Nexus 4 will be available on November 13th with two storage configurations: 8GB and 16GB, starting at just $299 for an unlocked and contract-free handset. The 16GB model will be available for an extra $50.

The Nexus 4 is made by LG and has high-end specifications: It has a higher resolution display than the older Galaxy Nexus, featuring a 1280x768 PenTile IPS+ LCD display, alongside 2GB of RAM, and Qualcomm's 1.5 GHz quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro.

In addition, Google has added wireless charging using its Wireless Charging Orb. This is the first time a Nexus smartphone includes a non-removable battery and has a glass back. Google and LG have included a 3G pentaband radio, offering up to 42 Mbps through HSPA+ but have omitted support for 4G LTE networks. 

The LG Nexus 4 is the one of the three new 'vanilla' devices showcasing the updated version of Google Android operating system, alongside the Samsung Nexus 10 tablet, and an updated Asus Nexus 7 tablet that now has a model with a cellular radio.

With Android version 4.2, Google has improved the camera software, keyboard, notifications bar, lock screen as well as enabling multiple user accounts on tablets. The Google Now feature can now find data from your emails such as flight data and hotel reservations and display it in Google Now at the relevant time.


The Nexus 4 is the fourth in the Nexus range of smartphones and the first time Google has partnered with LG to produce one. After working with Samsung for the last two Nexus smartphones, a change in manufacturer was essentially a necessity for Google to avoid accusations of favouritism. Given Samsung's dominance of Android smartphone shipments, Google decided to give LG a chance to showcase its capabilities on a high-end flagship smartphone.

However, the most important point is the price point. Google's pricing of $299 and $349 for unlocked 8GB and 16GB models respectively is extremely competitive for such high-end hardware. By comparison, the SIM-free iPhone 5 pricing starts from $649 for the 16 GB model. The Samsung Galaxy SIII has similar pricing to Apple, with the unlocked model begins at $599.

Controversially, Google has not included 4G LTE support in the handset, despite the use of a "4" in its name. There are currently 73 live LTE networks in 42 countries worldwide. However, of the big five markets in Europe only Germany and UK have live 4G LTE services. It is an important omission, but due to the variance of frequencies able to run 4G, a universal 4G chip does not yet exist. Including multiple chipsets within a device would drive up the price point, increase the size and weight of the device and drain the battery power. Google would prefer to not produce different variants to accommodate the 4G spectrum fragmentation issue. The lack of 4G LTE technology will limit its reach in some markets including the US, Japan and South Korea.

Android 4.2 is an important part of the Google announcement, indicating Google's strategy for the future of Android. The central slide-to-unlock ball has been replaced with simple side-sliding to access widgets and an upwards Windows Phone like, slide to unlock. With the on-going patent wars between Samsung and Apple, Google has been building around these patents.

Google's strategy has shifted from being an OS provider, to providing a complete ecosystem with devices, music, video, apps and books. These new Nexus devices combine with Google's content services available through the Google Play Store, plus Google Maps, and Google Music to complete the ecosystem: from hardware, to operating system, to content services.

The compelling price of the Nexus 4 will raise the profile of these services and increase the attractiveness of Google's ecosystem both to consumers and to operators.



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