Will you buy Google Nexus 4?

In seven days the fourth-generation Nexus smartphone goes on sale at Google Play. The question: Will you buy? Early reviews are in (sorry, we don't have a device yet so you'll have to read elsewhere), and they're quite encouraging. Nexus 4 promises to be one of the best Android smartphones, perhaps the best period, available this holiday season. But better doesn't mean good enough for your budget, and you might be happy with current device or looking at Apple or Microsoft platforms instead.

LG makes the handset, which Google helped design. The search and information giant will sell two models with identical features but different storage capacities -- 8GB ($299) and 16GB ($349), unlocked and no contract commitment -- starting November 13. T-Mobile USA will sell a subsidized model the following day, requiring 2-year service agreement. Nexus 4 features a quad-core processor, doubles typical Android phone memory to 2GB and runs newest Jelly Bean. But unlike its predecessors, the smartphone has a fixed battery. Does that matter to you? It does to me.

Nexus 4 fits into Google's new three-device, three-screen size strategy: 4.7-inch phone, and 7- and 10.1-inch tablets. The company already advertises the Androids during US prime-time TV, with search and Google Now as hooks. Nexus 7 is available for $199 (16GB), $249 (32GB) and $299 (32GB and 3G). The larger tablet is $399 or $499 in 16GB and 32GB capacities, respectively.

My interest in Nexus 4 starts and stops with the battery. I find Galaxy Nexus capacity to be exceptional, and I can swap in a new battery on occasion, which usually is at events when shooting lots of photos or videos. I got just four hours from Galaxy Nexus during Comic-Con, and that was from near continual use. Swappable meant I could use the Google phone as photo and video camera. If Nexus 4 performs as well or worse, work would stop.

Something else: Nexus 4 lacks LTE, which is highly unusual for smartphones in this class sold in the United States. As an AT&T user who can't get much more than 3Mbps downstream consistently over HSPA+, no LTE is a big deal. My colleague Mihaita Bamburic disagrees and says Nexus 4 is plenty good enough without real 4G. Well, that may be true where he lives. For me, the phone would be an easy "no" if locked and bearing carrier commitment. Unlocked, no contract-required changes much.

Smartphones Compared

Except for the Android Army or Google Gang, most everyone else will presumably compare different phones. Here are specs for Nexus 4 compared to its predecessor and two others: Galaxy S III and iPhone 5. To help you answer the question.

Nexus 4: 4.7-inch display, 1280 x 768 pixel resolution, 320 pixels per inch; Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor; 2GB RAM; 8GB or 16GB storage (depending on model); 8-megapixel rear-facing and 1.3MP front-facing cameras; GSM/EDGE/GPRS (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), 3G (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz), HSPA+ 21; WiFi N; wireless charging; Bluetooth; NFC; SlimPort HDMI; accelerometer; ambient-light sensor; barometer; compass; GPS; Gyroscope; microphone; 2100 mAh battery; unlocked; Android 4.2. Measures 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm and weighs 139 grams.

iPhone 5: 4-inch display, 1136 x 640 resolution, 326 ppi; Apple A6 dual-core processor; 1GB RAM; 16GB, 32GB or 64GB storage (depending on model); 8MP rear-facing and 1.2MP front-facing cameras; UMTS/HSDPA/HSUPA (850, 900, 1900, 2100 MHz), GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), LTE (bands vary by carrier model and region); accelerometer; ambient-light sensor; gyroscope; GPS; proximity sensor; digital compass; Bluetooth; Wi-Fi N; 1440 mAh battery; carrier locked; iOS 6. Measures 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm and weighs 112 grams.

Galaxy S III: 4.8-inch display, 1280 x 720 resolution, 306 ppi; 1.4GHz quad-core processor; 1GB RAM; 16GB or 32GB storage (depending on model), expandable with microSD card; 8MP rear-facing and 1.9MP front-facing cameras; HSPA+ 21Mbps (850/900/1900/2100), LTE, GSM/EDGE (850/900/1800/1900); accelerometer; ambient-light sensor; gyroscope; GPS; proximity sensor; digital compass; NFC, Bluetooth; 2100 mAh battery; Android 4.0 and TouchWiz "nature" UI. Measures 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6 mm and weighs 133 grams.

Galaxy Nexus: 4.65-inch display, 1280 x 720 resolution, 315 ppi; 1.2GHz dual-core processor; 1GB RAM; 16GB or 32GB storage (depending on model); 5MP rear-facing and 1.3MP front-facing cameras; HSPA+ 21Mbps/HSUPA (4G LTE from Sprint or Verizon), 5.76Mbps (850/900/1900/1700/2100), EDGE/GPRS (850/900/1800/1900); Wi-Fi N; accelerometer; ambient-light sensor; barometer; gyroscope; GPS; proximity sensor; digital compass; NFC; Bluetooth; 1750 mAh (HSPA+), 1850 mAh (LTE); Android 4.0, or 4.1 (HSPA+ model from Google). Measures 135.5 x 67.94 x 8.94 mm and weighs 135 grams.

By the specs, there aren't loads of differences, except iPhone 5, which display and physical size are considerably smaller. All four devices offer near zero-lag camera shutters. As aforementioned, Nexus 4 isn't LTE. All support T-Mobile USA data frequencies, except iPhone 5. Apple's handset and the S3 are typically sold locked. Both Nexus mobiles are unlocked and contract-commitment free.

What About You?

BetaNews readers already have expressed their intentions in comments. "Nexus 4 and 10 aren't worth even a dime without LTE, SD and replaceable batteries", ilev quips. Reader tirtawn: "LTE -> Not an issue. Micro SD and battery -> is an issue for me. Still, I will upgrade to Nexus 4".

Balthazar_B: "I think the biggest negative is that it has no replaceable battery. Early indications are that battery life is OK but not great, and I'll bet there would be occasions I'd want to have a spare with me because I know I wouldn't be able to recharge in time". I'm with you there.

The amount of discussion about LTE surprises me. Jason Huff adds more: "It doesn't make economic sense for Google to make an unlocked LTE phone for 77 markets. That's a phone that costs roughly $200 more unlocked for just those AT&T markets. Europe is nowhere near the kind of LTE coverage to make this phone worth the extra $200. I've experienced LTE on both Verizon and AT&T. Right now, I live in a city without AT&T's LTE coverage, and I don't miss it. Not $200 worth of missing it anyway".

Sparxx2k7 says that "LTE is definitely a deal-breaker" and that "LG and Google's excuse for not including an LTE antenna is sketchy at best". More: "I have an LTE phone and my g/f has a 3G phone. LTE is lightyears faster, and I won't give that up".

What about you? Will you buy Nexus 4? Please take the poll above and further explain in comments below.

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