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T-Mobile USA Nexus 4 v. Google Play Nexus 4

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Not all Nexus 4 smartphones are born equal, and the recently announced version from Google sold through the Internet search giant’s Play Store offers some slight variations to the model announced and sold through U.S. wireless carrier T-Mobile. Let’s take a gander and explore what the nuances are and which version you’ll decide to buy if you live in the U.S. market.

1. Capacity

unnamedGoogle is offering the Nexus 4 in either 8 GB or 16 GB capacities with the lesser storage option priced at $300 and the higher end model costing $350. Though T-Mobile’s press release doesn’t mention capacity, Phandroid is reporting that T-Mobile will be selling only the 16 GB model, though the catch is that going through the carrier will mean you’ll have to sign a two-year commitment whereas you’ll be paying full-price up-front through Google. There is a difference in pricing, which we’ll discuss next.

2. Pricing

The Nexus 4 unlocked through Google starts at $300, which is an excellent price for an unlocked smartphone with quad-core processing, a 720p HD display, and a great camera to start. In the U.S., the phone has a penta-band 3G GSM/HSPA+ radio, meaning you can hop along on T-Mobile, AT&T, or a number of pre-paid GSM carriers. The T-Mobile version is sold with a contract. Customers have two options, depending on the plan they opt for. On the Value Plan, customers will pay $200 up front and will finance the rest of the cost with 20 payments of $20 each for a full retail price of $600. On the Classic Plan, T-Mobile subscribers will be bound by a two-year contract with a payment of $200. There definitely is less up front cost, but you’re restricted to a two-year contract going through T-Mobile while you get a device that’s slightly more through Google but have no contracts to deal with. Both the Play Store and the T-Mobile versions are sold unlocked so you’ll get flexibility here.

3. Speed

It’s unclear if there are any significant internal differences between the Google Play model and the T-Mobile edition at this time as the press release was rather vague. However, it’s been reported that the Google Play version supports a slower 4G HSPA+ connection while T-Mobile’s edition supports up to 42 Mbps HSPA+, and neither version supports 4G LTE, unlike the hidden gem we’ve discovered on the T-Mobile Galaxy Note II. In the end, it really doesn’t make much of a difference if it’s the 21 Mbps HSPA+ connection on the Play Store edition or the 42 Mbps T-Mobile version as those are theoretical speeds–real world performance will be much less than that. On the Note II’s 42 Mbps HSPA+ connection, I got around 3-8 Mbps on average.

Other than those three key areas, both phones appear identical right now. We’d still recommend getting the Google Play Store version if you can afford the extra $150 up front cost; doing so will net you a savings of $250 on the Value Plan and will give you more flexibility to use your upgrade for a future device, if you so choose, on a Classic Plan as you won’t be tied into a contract and can use that upgrade for something in the future.

Tech enthusiast in Silicon Valley enjoying the possibilities of ubiquitous connectivity, information sharing, and collaboration enabled by mobile broadband. You can contact Chuong on Twitter @chuongvision or search +chuongvision on Google+.

15 Comments

  1. joey j

    10/31/2012 at 7:47 am

    Play store version is also hspa+42. They changed it on the website yesterday.

  2. jdp

    10/31/2012 at 7:52 am

    Google Play Store is now showing their version of the LG Nexus 4 with HSPA+42 under “Tech Specs.”

  3. Lowe Knows

    10/31/2012 at 9:35 am

    Is it possible to get insurance on phones you pay for fully?

    • eli

      11/01/2012 at 6:20 pm

      Go to squaretrade.com, I recently bought me a $50 warranty for my Nexus 7, thank god it has accidental damage from handling in it, my little cousin threw the damn thing and shattered the screws, I recently filed a claim and am going to send out my tablet soon. hope this helped!

  4. jj

    10/31/2012 at 10:03 am

    You’ve got to update your story. Both versions have been confirmed as HSPA+42 and value plan is $15/mos.now . Still a terrible deal unless you really really need unlimited high speed data and wanna pay more and get into a 2 yr contract. If you use more than 2gb..tmo prepaid can give you 5gb for $70 or if u only need 100 min you can get the ‘Walmart plan’ for a ridiculous $30

  5. Noel

    10/31/2012 at 1:35 pm

    I am desperately in need for a High-end Nexus phone since my aging N1 can’t keep up with the devices with modern specs, therefore i will be getting the 16GB N4 come 11/13 from the play store but wish there was a 32GB or even a 64 option. I had a few reservations at first, due to no SD card slot, no removable battery, the limited int storage and LG as OEM but the device looks very solid with some gr8 specs and a sweet sweet price for such a caliber device. I see good things happening for this device that is if no issues crop up when it finally hit the hands of the Nexus fans.

  6. km

    10/31/2012 at 4:11 pm

    Is the software any different on the phone coming from T-mobile then Google? For example, T-mobil phones have wifi calling which is a T-mobil specific feature. Would a N4 from Google running with a T-mobil sim have that feature?

  7. Dennis

    11/01/2012 at 4:05 am

    What is Samsung and who is the Apple iPhone? I just know the LG Nexus 4.Have seen the details:http://www.factitup.com/2012/11/01/lg-released-nexus-4/ and must say,much better than the other Smartphones. The new android software willmake it possible!!

  8. minicraig

    11/01/2012 at 5:21 am

    Looks like the T-mobile version has no extra features including no wifi calling, and costs almost double the price…. Remind me why you wouldn’t do what any sane person would and buy it direct from Google for significantly less?

  9. TyroneJ

    11/08/2012 at 11:52 am

    Is it true that the T-Mobile version won’t support WiFi calling?

  10. Jimbo James (@ForcelessYoda)

    11/09/2012 at 10:36 am

    There is no T-Mobile version of this phone. T-mobile is just selling the phone with contract for $200. You can purchase the phone from them at the full retail price of $350 if you wanted to without extending your contract or adding it to a Value Plan. The value plan with $200 up front and $20 a month will not be for 2 years. You will not be paying up to $600. You will pay more than $350, I think the term is a year of payments at $20 a month.

    The reason there will be no wi-fi calling is because it is a Nexus device. Google will not allow any custom software to be pre-installed. It will come with pure vanilla Android as installed at the factory. No gimmicks, no branding other than LG and Google.

  11. Choda

    11/11/2012 at 5:11 pm

    i-diots not using upgrades? That’s what they’re for. It’s $250 for a 2 year plan (been with them since before G1) and keeping classic (cheaper and better than value) subsidized plan at same cost. No brainer…google direct would be $100 more.

    Stop doing the obama math.

  12. JPark

    11/14/2012 at 12:00 pm

    it also looks like the screen has been downgraded on the TMo version….

    From the TMo Nexus 4 page:

    HD Screen with Superfine Pixel Density
    The screen of this device delivers a vibrant, detailed image, thanks to superfine pixel density (217 ppi).

    From the Google Play page:

    SCREEN
    4.7″ diagonal
    1280 x 768 pixel resolution (320 ppi)
    WXGA IPS
    Corning(R) Gorilla(R) Glass 2

  13. meanderer

    12/14/2012 at 7:18 am

    I have been a loyal T-mo subscriber and plan to stay with them for another 2 years (T-mo is fine in NYC), so tell me why the heck not to upgrade with T-mo, some of you got really bad math or live out in the woods where T-mo can’t find you *grin…

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