UPDATE: As pointed out by reader Allison in the comments, the Qualcomm MDM9215 chip iFixit found in the Nexus 4 supports “LTE Rel9,” so perhaps the Nexus 4 is LTE compatible after all, at least with some LTE bands. If so, the functionality would appear to be “turned off.” This could be because Google plans to offer an exclusive version of the device through specific carriers in the future. If so, that would certainly be good news for those of use who currently aren’t consider the Nexus 4 due to its lack of LTE.
I had been waiting anxiously for a new Nexus smartphone from Google for a long time. Whenever I read a new rumor about the device, I posted it on this blog. And when I first heard the Nexus 4 from LG would not support LTE, I scoffed at the reports, thinking it simply wouldn’t make sense for Google and LG to cripple the flagship Android device that way.
I still don’t think it makes sense, at least in the North American market. But apparently Google and LG disagree. When the two companies made the Nexus 4 official late last month, they confirmed those earlier LTE rumors; the Nexus 4 does not support LTE. It does, however, have an embedded Qualcomm WTR1605L seven-band 4G LTE chip, according to iFixit, a company that “tears down” new devices to assess their internal makeups.
There’s just one problem: That LTE chip is about as useful as a spent fire extinguisher in a blazing inferno, because the device does not have a built-in LTE radio to send and receive LTE data. Why not? The Nexus 4 is an evolution of LG’s Optimus G, which has LTE, and LG likely left the chip in the Nexus 4 body so it didn’t need to institute a new process to remove the chip, and in turn, increase overall manufacturing costs. It probably costs more to include an LTE chip, but maybe not as much as it would to remove it and tweak the hardware.
Google’s Android chief Andy Rubin told TheVerge.com that the decision to omit LTE in the latest Nexus devices was a “tactical issue,” but I don’t really buy that explanation. I think the companies decided not to offer LTE Nexus 4 devices because they would have had to build in different LTE radios compatible with the different LTE bands in the United States, and that would have notably increased manufacturing costs. This is particularly relevant because Google plans to sell the Nexus 4 unlocked via Google Play—and unsubsidized by carriers.
I still think Google and LG could have—should have—offered some LTE version of the Nexus 4, even it was only available through carriers, or it was significantly more expensive than the Nexus 4 without LTE. I would have purchased one. Instead, I’m sticking my Samsung Galaxy SIII, which supports LTE.
Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.