High-End Specs + Low Price + No Wireless Contract = Success For The Nexus 4

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Have you heard? The Nexus 4 is a hit. UK buyers effectively depleted the Google Store’s supply almost immediately after it was available. Of course without hard sales numbers that stat is a little useless. Google has yet to comment. But it’s still telling of the demand. People want this phone. And for good reason (even though it doesn’t have 4G LTE).

The Nexus 4 is something new. It’s essentially last year’s high-end phone priced very well for this year. It lacks 4G LTE — a notable downside to the phone in some markets. However, most of the world does not have 4G LTE yet so the point is moot for many buyers.

The LG-Made Nexus 4 packs specs just slightly better than last year’s Nexus phone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The CPU is faster, there’s twice the RAM, the battery is bigger, and, interestingly enough, it features inductive charging. But the two phones share similar feature hardware like a 4.7-inch screen and NFC. Neither version have expandable storage.

The Nexus 4 sold out nearly instantly. The Galaxy Nexus did not.

Google, which clearly learned from the Nexus 7 tablet, priced the Nexus 4 very aggressively. The 8GB version is only £240 in the UK — the iPhone 5 costs £529 there. In the US the phone costs just $299, but does not require signing a two-year contract. You’re free to use the device however, whenever you want. Sign up for a new GSM wireless carrier every month if you want. No commitment.

The Nexus 4 is a long time coming. Google has wanted to eliminate the carrier from the buying process since the original Nexus. But the timing wasn’t right. The original off-contract Nexus was too expensive and the smartphone market was too small for that phone to be a big hit. Now, four Nexus generations later, Google has a proper retail outlet in Google Play and the technology matured to a point where this model simply works. Plus, everyone wants a new smartphone now.

This sort of device, a true world phone that’s sold without the shackles of a contract, is a major innovation especially in the certain markets like the US. It’s something that many industry watchers expected Apple to do years ago. As long as the device is sold in huge numbers, the only loser in this sort of scheme is the wireless carrier as they cannot lock a person into two years of overpriced data. However, if the device flops, the OEM and perhaps brand (LG and Google here) could take a huge loss without the safety net of carrier subsidies.

The Nexus 4 launches worldwide today. As of this post’s writing, it had yet to hit the Google Play store in the US.

Would I buy the Nexus 4? Nah, it doesn’t have 4G LTE and that’s important to me. However, the Nexus 4 is a fantastic phone and the sales numbers will a lot of people would rather be free from carriers than use their high speed but pricey networks.