From the Editor's Desk: Sandy, Nexus and what's next

"What's it going to be like?" That was the question my wife posed to me sometime around Sept. 13 or 14 in 2004, just a couple days before Hurricane Ivan thrashed this part of the Gulf Coast -- and just some 56 hours before we were to be married. The answer, unfortunately. People were going to lose their homes, I told her. People were going to die. Beaches would erode, heritage trees would fall, and the very makeup of this relatively quiet (if quirky) community would be changed for a long, long time, if not forever. 

So it was with a heavy heart last week that I watched Hurricane Sandy blow into the Northeast. I knew what it was going to look like. Been there, done that.  It could have been worse. Much worse. A little more than a year after Hurricane Ivan, I sat in the newsroom, watching the AP photos start to roll in from Hurricane Katrina. Beyond heart-breaking.

These are very different times, though. Back in 2004-05 -- a couple years that saw an inordinate number of hurricanes hit the U.S. -- there was no Twitter. You couldn't upload to Youtube from your phone. Facebook was just a baby. The power went out, and the old-school FM radio (or maybe a TV with antenna) went on for a few hours. Being that unplugged was a blessing and a curse. For as quickly as we saw relief information shared following Sandy last week, so, too, did we see hoaxes spread. I wouldn't want to go back, though. To hell with the hoaxsters.

I really can't think of a worse way to document a storm than Instagram, though. Filters are a horrible idea for showing what it really looks like, to say nothing of the low resolution.

To the folks in New York and New Jersey and everywhere else affected by the storm: Stay safe. Stay patient. Help one another. When your power comes back on and life begins to return to normal, remember that someone else is still in the dark. Or has no home. Or lost a loved one. And you will get through it. This has all happened before, and it will happen again.

Oh, you were expecting some Nexus 4 talk?

So, yeah, the Nexus 4, Nexus 10 and Android 4.2

Like I wrote on Friday when the review embargo lifted, we're knee-deep in all this stuff. Android 4.2's got more in it than I realized at first. (Though it's worth noting that a lot of what you might have heard from some early 4.2 "leak" -- which wasn't even really Android 4.2 -- simply wasn't ever true in the first place. To hell with leaks.)

My tl;dr version of the Nexus 4 review: Damn good phone. A really good phone, both in terms of hardware and software. Folks are looking for it to be magical, though, and expectations still need to be realistic. There's no super 20-hour battery life. The camera (and the camera app) is much improved over the Galaxy Nexus. The phone is fast. It's a really good iteration -- not a revolutionary departure. Look for our review in the next couple of days.

The debate over LTE continues to rage on -- never mind that all the bitching in the world won't make LTE magically appear on the Nexus 4. It's not like Google didn't think this through. It's not like it doesn't have legitimate reasons for not including LTE. And it's easy to forget that so many countries are just now starting to get a little bit of LTE, to say nothing of blanket coverage. But, more important, I think folks still misunderstand the purpose of "Nexus" for Google. We've talked on our podcast about how at some point, despite the technological and licensing hurdles that come along with LTE, it's simply the next step for smartphones, and it will need to become standard on all phones. This time next year, should the next Nexus not have LTE, we'll likely be having a radically different conversation here.

The Nexus 10 tablet also is really good. But at the same time, I think I'm done with the larger-sized tablets. Seven inches (or thereabouts) is where it's at for me. Options are good, though. It'll be interesting to see where the next version of the Nexus 7 goes, in terms of hardware.

Some other musings for the start of November

  • There's still plenty more fun to be had this year. Recent posts from @evleaks seem to corroborate our HTC Droid DNA pictures. Five-inch HTC on Verizon? This is gonna be good.
  • Speaking of HTC -- everybody seems to love 'em, so what do they have to do to catch a break? Their financials still aren't great, even if the phones are. Is Samsung (and to a lesser extent, LG) just too damn powerful now -- and too-well diversified as a company -- to let the likes of HTC and Motorola truly compete anymore? I certainly hope not.
  • An interesting read from Engadget's Jon Fingas on how Amazon and Google bringing us rock-bottom-priced hardware, and how it might not be good in the long term. I disagree, though. Amazon and Google have the ecosystems to support the lower prices -- the apps and music and movies and books. They have things I want, and hardware at the price I want it. And, best of all, it's free from the shackles of the U.S. carrier system. Apple's managed to do so with higher prices -- and higher margins -- and with higher-quality hardware. Samsung's found a place in the middle and has sold a ridiculous number of phones in the process. And that's good, too. This is the way the market works. And it's the way it should work. 

That's it for this week. Loads more Nexus and Android 4.2 stuff coming up. And if you haven't voted yet (I love early voting), get out there Tuesday. I'll know if you didn't.

Phil Nickinson
  • Great article Phil Hurricanes for me remain something to read about on the news. Horrible? Yes, but in a distant way. Living on the praries I worry more about a winter blizzard then hurricanes -- and even there, we might loose power for hours, not days (possibly weeks). Not that it diminishes how bad it is, but I simply can't relate. Prayers still going out to those who are affected. Nexus? Again, with my limited disposable income they too become something interesting to read about. I still like my Gnex (although I must admit the N4 has my attention, especially if it feels less plasticky then the Gnex, and has better radios). And I'm starting to wonder if I had the cash on hand and could justify parting with it for electronics, would I upgrade to the N4, or stay with the Gnex for now and get the N7? Hmmm...) Can't wait for your review. I'm actually helping a friend search for his first Android phone. Currently the SIII has top spot, but the N4 might be more suited for him.
  • I love the price of the n4, and I keep thinking they are going to feel pressure about the price being to low and revert back to 700$, like the other unlocked phones. I cannot wait to change from IOS to android!
  • As a matter of fact, i have little knowledge about N4, but i think it is not worse than ios, and i believe the n4 would have a good tomorrow.
  • Tough to say about next year's Nexus phones having LTE. Google's relationship with U.S. LTE carriers isn't all that great when talking about Nexus phones. Last year, Verizon delayed the Galaxy Nexus launch, for what seemed like forever, so it wouldn't affect Verizon's then newly released Droid Razr Maxx's sales. Verizon also added bloatware to the Galaxy Nexus, much to the dismay of Google, I'm sure. Finally, both Verizon and Sprint delayed Google's updates for months. This isn't what Google intended for the Nexus program, but Google has no leverage with the carriers when it comes to Nexus devices. They're not like Apple, who's enormous iPhone sales gives them the final say. Sure Nexus are "flagship devices", but they never sold well, perhaps to Google's lack of promotion. So the carriers have all the power, all the leverage over Nexus phones. If Google is to have a LTE phone here in the U.S., they're going to have to play by the carrier's rules. I don't see that happening any time soon. Google wants their Nexus phone's software untouched by carriers, and Google also wants full control of when their updates are released to the public. Neither side is willing to budge, so unless we see some major changes in the future, I don't see a LTE Nexus next year either. I have HSPA+42 in my area, so I'm not affected. Hopefully HSPA+42 will be widely expanded soon.
  • We got lucky this time. Sandy cruised by us about 200 miles off shore and just watered the flowers as it went by. Unfortunately, that just means somebody else has to deal with the chaos. Anybody else notice that Irene (storm #9) and Sandy (storm #19) hit pretty close to the same place at the same time one year apart? We've had twice as many named storms this year and yet Sandy was the first serious problem. I'm sure it doesn't look like it from New Jersey, but it's been a fairly lucky year.
  • I can't even read articles on Engadget or The Verge anymore. Their love for Apple seeps into every word they type and its outright disgusting. The article on Engadget is basically a whine about how people may not think there's value in an over priced iPad when they can get a better specd device for cheaper. HELLO?!?! Its called competition. Amazon and Google have found a way, and if others want to compete they will too.
  • Fingas's article really makes me SMH. I agree with you 100%
  • I won't reiterate what other tech writers have said but I think you guys are giving Google a pass to easily. They could have worked with the carriers and they chose not to. To say it isn't what the Nexus program is about is a cop out too and ignores the fact that the program is obviously changing. As one writer put it, it was laziness pure and simple. Shame on Google. I'll be giving my money to HTC (and keeping my GNex of course, which has been a fantastic phone).
  • I think some of my comments made in my earlier post would beg to differ. It's not exactly Google's fault.
  • It's a big world out there. In lots of countries you don't have to "work with carriers". You don't have to deal with things like CDMA or what carrier will have a phone. You make a phone it works across the world using their standards, you buy a SIM for whatever carrier you want (or SIMs for a few different carriers) and pop it in the phone. LTE is not important for most of the world (the biggest market).
  • "Laziness" is the last reason there's no LTE on the Nexus 4. 
  • +9000
  • +9000 more
  • The purpose of the nexus line has been evolving since inception based on the needs of Google.
  • VZW relies heavily on Motorola for their branding, Google should of leveraged Moto against vzw, to come up with a compromise. I'm in my thirties and I remember a time when corporations used to work together for customer loyalty and satisfaction, now we are nothing but dollar signs grouped by age brackets and statistics to corporations. It used to be for the people by the people, now it is for the money by the money.
    You'd think with all the social media out there people would ban together to form groups and use their buying power to get corporations to change their ethics and habits, but maybe america is too dumbed down and really turning into sheep and do follow what corporations demand of them, instead of demanding from the corporations.
  • As Always great article Phil.. I can only imagine what it is like in the affected areas. Coming from Maryland and dealing with the winters etc you get used to it, couple of days of shoveling and its business as normal. But these storms and the amount of impact from Winds, Flooding etc is akin to biblical destruction. I am proud of how the tech community has come together to donate, give resources and get the word out about how much is needed. I was there in katrina helping out with Verizon and if we had the social networks and always on news cycle then we have now alot of lives would have been saved.
  • The answer, unfortunately. People were going to lose their homes, I told her. People were going to die. Beaches would erode, heritage trees would fall, and the very makeup of this relatively quiet (if quirky) community would be changed for a long, long time, if not forever You didnt tell her that.
  • What is the point of this comment? It does not contribute to the discussion whatsoever.
  • Can any of you that are saying you will not buy a Nexus 4 only because of the lack of LTE please explain to me why HSPA+ is not fast enough for you? Im being serious with a real question and not an attack. When Im not on WiFi i use a decent amount of data streaming video and a lot of music. I honestly think HSPA+ is its current state, where I live of course, is plenty fast. I have asked this same question a lot but everyone shys away from answering it. Even Josh T of The Verge didnt give a straight answer. "Uh i use my phone for business and have to download a lot of files....". I just want a real world scenario that a majority or even a large amount of people would face that would justify a connection speed of 20mb+ as opposed to the 5mb I get currently. Again, no flaming or bashing, just a real logical answer. I would like to understand the other side of this argument. Thanks.
  • It's simple: Neither Verizon or Sprint support HSPA+. Just because these Nexus phones are cheap enough to not be bound by contracts doesn't mean we still aren't bound by carrier. I don't want to be on T-Mobile or AT&T. I want to be on Verizon. I want Nexus. By making it HSPA+ only, I am essentially being bound to the carrier. Wasn't part of the Nexus program to have freedom of carrier choice?
  • You really expect Google to let Verizon have a Nexus again after the Galaxy Nexus debacle? If you really want a good phone on Verizon that will be well-supported, get a Motorola Droid RAZR HD. Better yet, get the developer edition. That way, you can root/unlock and flash the leaked Jelly Bean build or CM 10 (4.2 when Google releases the source). Or you can get a Galaxy S III if you don't want to pay full price for the phone and root/unlock using the exploit they found. No, these options aren't ideal, but neither is a Nexus on Verizon, apparently. If you want to stick to Verizon, these are your best options at present. (HTC Droid DNA looks cool, but the screen could kill its battery life, and 5 inches is too big for lots of folks, including me.) And make sure you really need Verizon. If your contract is up or you can afford an ETF, buy a Nexus 4 from the Play Store and try Straight Talk (AT&T) for a month, then T-Mobile's unlimited 4G prepaid plan for another month. If you really can't stand it in your area, go back to Verizon and get one of the phones I suggested (or another, better option that they introduced while you were gone). Then you can sell your N4, use it as a Wifi-only second device, mount it on the wall, or something like that. As far as your closing question, it's really freedom of carrier choice, as long as your choice carrier uses GSM. CDMA isn't used nearly as much worldwide. Verizon is probably the only one keeping it alive, and that won't last past 2015.
  • Phil- Great thoughts on the victims of Sandy. Best wishes to them. I regularly call out Engadget editors for their biased affinity for anything Apple including recently the iPad mini which I just felt they (Stevens and Murph)were swooning over for no good reason. I'm going to call you out for sounding like a Google apologist. I understand the point of the Nexus program (mostly). I get that LTE hardware requires licensing of drivers from the likes of Qualcomm. I really do. The problem is that Google has already let the LTE genie out of the bottle (or lamp, whatever) with the Verizon and Sprint Galaxy Nexus. There are some technologies where companies get to take back for whatever. The 3D display on the HTC EVO 3D comes to mind. That technology is nonessential, (at least currently) non-evolutionary, and just simply wasn't mature enough at launch. On the other hand LTE, at least in the states on Verizon and AT&T, is mature and quickly becoming widespread. You know better than I do regarding which markets are lined up to get LTE from which carrier. Google essentially took an unquestionably evolutionary feature away from consumers. They took a step back. We'd all blast Apple, Microsoft/Nokia, or RIM for doing the same thing.
  • Samtime,
    You are totally ignoring a few issues
    1. The CDMA nexus update debacle that Google was clearly unhappy with
    2. The fact that this device is $350 unlocked which is unprecedented for a phone with these specs
    3.There are a number of other LTE high end you can buy from any carrier Many people believe that the reason that Google left out LTE was in order to have FULL control over updates/upgrades like the nexus program was intended. For 299/349 I feel it is an understandable trade off. I do understand that this means that people on CDMA don't have access which is unfortunate but Google is trying to make a point to the carriers.
  • Let's break this down. Your argument, from what I understand, is that since Google has already done LTE and LTE is a technology mature and widespread enough, the Nexus 4 should have had LTE. Well,
    1) Google's first shot at LTE (that is Sprint/VZW Gnex) was a mess in terms of battery life and, yes, updates (you know, the first reason why you buy a Nexus?). Google seriously does not want this experience again, since delayed upgrades only degrade the value of Nexus brand.
    (Now the second point is where my brain's just not going to work.) LTE is NOT, I repeat, NOT, mature enough or widespread enough for Google to include it in a global model. LTE fragmentation is one horrible mess that no phone manufacturer can get out of, even Apple. (You can buy an unlocked iPhone from Canada, but not from US Apple Store. Think about it.) There is not a practical frequency standard for LTE, and the frequency war makes it impossible for global phones to have global LTE, and hence no LTE and no CDMA. Heck, LG made the phone and they can't even release the phone in Korea because Korea is all WCDMA & LTE. This phone is following near-global standards and things that can be handled by AOSP, and LTE is not one.
    The only route Google can shoehorn in LTE that I can see is a carrier model, and we know Google doesn't want that. Should we really criticize Google for releasing an unlocked, global-minded phone that lacks some communication features included in carrier-locked phones? All your examples are from US (VZW and AT&T) and to say "Oh, since WE have LTE, Google's being an idiot for not including LTE!" is, in my opinion, a selfish and childish tantrum that does not consider the global situation regarding wireless communication as a whole. Again, to quote the latest AC podcast, not having LTE in this case is "a feature, not an omission."
    Sorry if my English was a bit off--I'm a South Korean native, and my English probably isn't up to the native standards even after 3 years of living in Indiana.
  • The only one acting like a child is you. I'm in no way throwing a tantrum. In no way did I call Google idiots. I'm criticizing Google for going backward on a critical feature. These same guys on the AC podcast will downgrade a phone in the year 2012 for omitting LTE (they haven't done it yet but trust me they will). You have to be fair and consistent. You cannot give Google a pass just because they're Google. You cannot give them a pass just because HSPA is good enough and licenses for their drivers are likely expiring. You cannot give them a pass just because this phone is already cheap. Make another price point. Sell the phone subsidized through carriers. There is no such thing as a global standard because of the varying frequencies used throughout the world. Yes, HSPA might be a technological standard used throughout a large portion of the world but so will LTE. Google needs to accept that fact. LTE is not a gamble like Wi-Max. Btw, if you remember correctly, Google was supporting Wi-Max with their Nexus S and their prior stake in Clearwire (or did we forget that?). Don't give me that nonsense about Google not wanting to work with carriers. We've seen it with EVERY SINGLE NEXUS PHONE. They can and have already demonstrated the willingness to work with carriers and gamble with technological standards. Did you really say LTE wasn't mature? Fragmentation doesn't determine maturity. The fact that it has been proven to be fast and reliable makes it mature. The fact that Qualcomm's integrated LTE radios in the S4 still have tremendous battery life makes it mature. It's mature. Trust me. Nexus has little value with the average consumer. You know what Android brand does? GALAXY. Hands down. Hurting a brand that doesn't hold much weight with average consumers means you're not hurting anything. If there is one thing I've come to expect from Google is that they're willing to push the boundaries of what we can do. The Nexus One pushed Google's hardware partners to utilize higher end hardware. Google Fiber is bringing 1 Gbps to neighborhoods in KC. They had a freaking skydiver record his jump with Google Glasses! Don't give me these excuses. I expect better from Google.
  • Google is positioning nexus to a global market, neither cdma nor lte is prolific on a global scale. I'm sure cost was a major factor in the decision they made regarding lte. Sure they will reduce their potential market with this choice, but it's not just about a few million people on a legacy network, or a few million people who can access a new technology, it's about a worldwide market. At least that's my guess.
  • "You cannot give Google a pass just because they're Google." I did not give Google a pass for being Google. I gave Google a pass for having just an unlocked model. "Make another price point. Sell the phone subsidized through carriers." Let's dissect US alone.
    VZW: Has iPhone, Droid, and a crap ton of money. "Why the hell should we agree to keep stock Android on that phone of yours, Google? We got the money and the authority. If you want that phone on the Big Red, we should be able to load up some sick bloatware, or at least test the software... if you catch my meaning."
    AT&T: Has iPhone, Nokia's Windows Phone, and a crap ton of money. Remember how Nokia's newest Lumia's have been AT&T exclusive? Who wants to push that, right?
    Sprint: Has iPhone, but should Google really make a CDMA model just to target Sprint? (In a relatively unrelated note, the argument that since Google is willing to gamble e.g. with Wi-Max, it should implement LTE is an oversimplication, and oversimplication is a logical fallacy.)
    So, what about subsidized models? I'm sorry, but when it's been shown that the LTE-enabled models of the Gnex was basically an update hell because of the carriers Google gets a full justification either way (to be or not to be). Apple's case is amazing in this respect, by the way, because the iPhone's sheer popularity has allowed Apple to handle most of the updates while keeping bloatware out of the phones. Nexus is not iPhone. Subsidized Nexus (probably with LTE) will mean that carriers will get their knives on the phone. Google's move is a giant middle finger to this, especially to the U.S. giants. Read the Verge's article on the interview with Andy Rubin carefully for more on this.
    And while I agree that the technology of LTE itself has been polished enough, it still has a LOONG way to go in terms of worldwide implementation. As of current state, if Google wants to go LTE, the company might as well make a bunch of different CDMA models.
    By the way, you still didn't add anything about your case only applying pretty much to U.S. While LTE networks are being developed in other nations, I see about 2 years till they at least become pretty common on other continents. It's not that there is no future in LTE (because it is the future); it's just that it's too far away when you look at the globe as a whole, and that for Google, LTE comes bundled with the leashes made by the carriers. Google has pushed a boundary with Nexus 4, by the way, and it's not Android 4.2. I probably should not have said "childish" as much as I should have rather said "arrogant."
    P.S. Sorry for beating a Straw Man in my last comment. I know it's a logical fallacy, but I just thought it would have more of an effect.
  • Have you (or anyone else faulting Google for not doing LTE) ever, even for a second, considered that Google and LG aren't done yet? When Google released the Nexus 7 this past summer, some people were all like, "Nexus 7, Y U NO store more than 16 GB? Y U NO have 3G?" Guess what: Google heard, and Google brought a 32 GB version after Asus managed to get the manufacturing cost down. Google/Asus started with a Wifi-only version to simplify the design and manufacturing, then added 3G/HSPA+ support when they had the time to figure out the design and manufacturing process. Do you really think they'll stop at 16/32 GB with Wifi only on the Nexus 10? Do you really think they'll stop at 16 GB for the Nexus 4? The answers are "No, I'd be shocked if they stopped there" and "It may take some time, but they'll probably add a 32 GB option." I think Jerry's idea is a good one: make an LG Droid Something-or-other for Verizon that's basically a CDMA version of the N4, but doesn't bear the Nexus name. Do something similar for Sprint and/or other LTE carriers (like AT&T in the US or EE in the UK, once O2's exclusivity deal ends). They'll have to charge extra and possibly include a bigger battery, but it's not out of the question. Google and LG have just gotten started. Give them some more time, for crying out loud.
  • Been there, done that with Hurricane Wilma in 2005, lost power for a week and Internet/television (cable) for two, limited access to fuel and months of recovery. It sucked for sure, but I can't help but think those in the northeast are acting a bit spoiled with this storm. Suck it up people! *it happens, deal with it like an adult! :( (no weenie whining!) As to the HTC DNA and Nexus 4, both are abject failures to me for their lack of a user replaceable battery. While I'm enjoying vanilla Jelly Bean on my Nexus 7, hardware trumps software every time, Nexus or not. So I pre-ordered the Note 2 on Verizon. I'll be rockin' an awesome piece of hardware (with great software too) on a super fast (and expansive) modern LTE network with the ability to swap for a fresh battery on the fly and tether to a charge as a last resort! :D
  • If the cost of this Nexus 4 was $500-600 w/o LTE then I would agree with the outcry. But for all those whining about no LTE, can you list another phone with these specs for the price point of $300 out the door? That's a WIN in my book. Those crying about no LTE can go buy an S3 for $600+
  • Another storm is going to affect the Northeast later this week.No it isnt going to be a hurricane or a northeaster.But it will bring rain and cold to the Northeast, to most of the same area that was affected by Sandy. Yup I been there and done that with the Hurricane thing to .I was without power for about a week tho ,but that was long enough
  • And still no case reason for needing LTE over HSPA+. Everyone complains about it because they think they need it because of the TV. No one has given one reason as to why. The Verizon/Sprint reason is moot because they have already shown they won't let the devices be pure android and receive prompt updates. Therefore Google isn't going to let them dilute the Nexus name.
  • Why can't HTC catch a breaK? [holds up his pricey, 11 month old, semi-functional Amaze that HTC cannot or will not fix with a much-needed, long overdue software update] They don't treat their customers as their ambassadors, and ensure every single one has a happy satisfied customer story to tell. HTC owners like me will tell you run away from any model (including the One series) as fast as you can. That's why they're struggling. Apple has this figured out, Amazon has this figured out, Google is catching on fast (Galaxy Nexus release, Nexus 7 release, Nexus 4 release). HTC ... still in pre-school. Heck with 'em.
  • It does not matter who is next. Manufacturers and telcos won’t sell a handheld device if they don’t update on Google’s schedule.