Google slashes Nexus 4 price to $199 off-contract

At $300 for the 8GB version and $350 for the 16GB model, Google’s Nexus 4—made by LG—was already a great deal. Tuesday, Google’s flagship Android phone device got even sweeter thanks to a recent price cut that brings the 8GB version down to $199 and the 16GB model to $249.

With the price cut, the Nexus 4 costs as much as hot phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and Apple’s iPhone 5. The difference with the Nexus 4 is that you’ll own the handset outright, while the others require a two-year contract and are locked to their specific carriers by default.

The Nexus 4 features a 4.7-inch WXGA IPS display with 1280-by-748 resolution, 1.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU, 2GB of RAM, an 8MP front-facing camera, and 1.3MP front-facing optics.

The downside of the Nexus 4 is that it’s strictly a 3G phone with no LTE capability. Blazing cellular data speeds aside, the value of not being tied to a carrier cannot be understated. If you often travel overseas, having an unlocked phone is invaluable. And anyone who enjoys being free to drop their current carrier without much hassle will also find a lot of value in an unlocked phone.

Google also tends to send Android updates relatively quickly to Nexus phones as long as the hardware can continue to support the new version. Anyone wanting to root their phone will also have an easier time on an unlocked phone like the Nexus compared to a locked-down Galaxy phone.

Nexus 5 inbound?

The Nexus 4 price cut also raises the question of whether Google and LG are passing on savings from a streamlined manufacturing chain or if the rumored Nexus 5 is coming soon. Price cuts usually signal the imminent arrival of a new model, and a new Nexus smartphone with LTE should arrive soon, according to IDC research director Francisco Jeronimo.

Google first unveiled the Nexus 4 in late October, so it’s about two months too early to expect a Nexus 5, which is expected in October based on recent rumors. Also, the company can’t really push a new Nexus device right now after hyping the Moto X all summer.

Rumors about an expected Nexus 5 are pretty slim. Earlier this year, LG said it has no interest in making a follow-up to the Nexus 4, and it's unsure which manufacturer will build the next-gen Nexus.

Be aggressive, be be aggressive

The aggressive drop also signals that Google may be trying to preempt the arrival of a cheaper iPhone with its own bargain handset.

Motorola's Moto X smartphone.

The price drop comes at an interesting time for the smartphone market. Google-owned Motorola's comeback device, the Moto X, has just gone on sale in the U.S., and Apple is expected to announce new phones in less than two weeks.

"Google is keen to put the pressure on Apple ahead of the launch of a new cheaper iPhone model. It wants to get ahead of the hype," said Ben Wood, director of research at CCS Insight.

Jeronimo agreed.

"[Apple's launch] likely contributed to the timing. Vendors usually cut the price of their phones after a couple of quarters," he said.

At the same time, the price cut also pressures other Android makers, including struggling HTC and Motorola. Staying competitive in the smartphone market while getting along with its hardware partners is a delicate balancing act for Google, according to Wood.

Spreading the love

In addition to the U.S., Google has cut the price of the Nexus 4 in handful of countries including Australia, Canada, Germany, Korea, Spain and the U.K. On Wednesday, the new Nexus 7 also became available outside the U.S. The tablet's main feature is an upgraded 7-inch screen with 1920 by 1200 pixel resolution.

For comprehensive coverage of the Android ecosystem, visit Greenbot.com.

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