Google’s Nexus 4 and why it changes everything within the Android space

Features Richard Goodwin 17:26, 5 Nov 2012

Google’s Android 4.2-powered Nexus 4 is priced like a mid-range handset but has better specs than most flagship devices. So how did Google pull this off?

Google’s LG-built Nexus 4 is due out in the UK on November 13. It features Qualcomm’s new quad-core S4 Snapdragon Pro CPU, Android 4.2, and 2GB of RAM, making it one of the most attractive releases we’ve seen in a long time. 

But perhaps the most compelling aspect of the Nexus 4 is its price, which starts at just £239 for the 8GB version direct from Google.

How did Google do this when a similarly specced handset from the likes of Samsung, HTC, Nokia, or Apple, would cost you from anywhere between £350 to £600? We spoke with IDC analyst Francisco Jeronimo to get his take on the Nexus 4’s pricing and what it means for the space at large. 

Jeronimo agrees that, despite the handset’s high-end spec, Google is clearly aiming the Nexus 4 at the middle of the smartphone market. With prices starting from £239 for the 8GB variant, the Nexus 4 is an extremely compelling proposition, particularly with Christmas just around the corner.   

‘At this price point Google is clearly addressing the mid market, which is key for the future growth,’ said Jeronimo. ‘Whether or not they are making money I can't tell, but I guess Google's strategy is not to make huge profits from this phone.’

We’ve yet to test the Nexus 4 but we have seen Qualcomm’s quad-core S4 Snapdragon Pro CPU in action and the results are impressive to say the least. Couple this with 2GB of RAM, Android 4.2, and the Nexus 4’s HD IPS display, and what you’re left with is anything but a mid-range device. 

It’s also clear from the pricing that Google is going after first time users and is not trying to compete with the likes of Apple or Samsung in terms of price. It’s a good approach, and one that’s been proven to work before – see Google's Nexus 7 campaign. 

The Nexus 4 is no Nexus 7

With the Nexus 7, however, there was obvious corner cutting: limited storage, no mobile data, and no SD-support. But the startling thing about the Nexus 4 is that it matches – and in some cases surpasses (CPU, RAM) – the spec of the iPhone 5 and Samsung's Galaxy S3. 

So while the handset does have limited storage and no 4G, it’s still very much a high-end device in terms of design, specs, and hardware. Viewed in this context, we think a lot of consumers will forgive Google for omitting LTE and large volumes of storage. 

‘In Western Europe and the US the feature phone segment is declining sharply but in other regions feature phones are still popular. In those regions smartphone adoption will not be driven by expensive iPhone or Galaxy S3 devices, but by mid to low-end priced smartphones.’

With the Nexus 4, Google is effectively giving consumers a mid-tier device with high-tier hardware, performance, and specs – something that has not yet been done in the space. Usually mid-tier Android devices are competitive on price but compromise on experience. 

‘Google is trying to prove to the market that a low-priced Android smartphone does not mean a cheap experience,’ said Jeronimo. ‘That said, no one else – ZTE, Huawei, Alcatel – was really trying to improve experience at this price point.’

A handset of this calibre while being great for consumers could spell bad news for Google’s hardware partners who will struggle to match what Google is about to offer consumers.  

Just look at the Nexus 4’s spec sheet. It’s as good as the Galaxy S3 on paper and costs almost half the price. That’s going to cause some serious ripples in the Android Kingdom, and everybody from the bottom to the top will be affected. 

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