Home / Opinions / Google Nexus 4 – the most-wanted Xmas gift no-one can buy

Google Nexus 4 – the most-wanted Xmas gift no-one can buy

Andrew Williams


Google Nexus 4
Google Nexus 4

The Google Nexus 4 is a phone that had the potential to change the way the public thinks about high-end phones. It offers specs not too far off those of a phone like the £400 Samsung Galaxy S3, but you can snag one for just £239.

Oh wait, no you can’t, because the thing is never in stock.

The Google Nexus 4 was released on 13 November, first sold through the Google Play devices store, where Google sells its Android phones and tablets. Without any public fanfare, adverts on tubes or obnoxious TV ads featuring silhouettes of dancing fools, the phone sold out in 30 minutes. You couldn’t even pre-order the thing.

A month on, the Google Nexus 4 has only been available to buy once more. It re-appeared on the store on 4 December. Seemingly within seconds, though, Google Nexus 4 went from being in stock with a short lead time, to available within a few weeks. Within minutes, the glaring red SOLD OUT sign was back on the Google Play devices store. The bar closed, the door locked, the streets empty.

On 10 December, LG’s Andy Coughlin spoke out to explain the frankly disastrous online launch, saying that the Google Nexus 4 had “proven extremely popular, and as such retailers have been met with huge demand.” It’s not so much an explanation as a statement of the obvious.

Even other retailers, which sell the device at a (relatively speaking) extortionate £400 SIM-free, have sold out – doubtless aided by the pre-Christmas rush. This is a phone with the desirability of a Samsung Galaxy S3 or iPhone 5, without the price to make parents weep into wallets.

sold out

Looking for Answers

The question is – why? Why have Google and LG managed to fluff up the launch of the phone when their collective experience should have made this a trouble-free endeavour.

To find out, we need to look back through the history of the Nexus series of devices.

The Nexus brand has been used by Google since 2010 to show off Android in its purest form, without the superfluous software bells and whistles that almost every other manufacturer insists on plugging-into their Android products.

It all began in January 2010 with the Google Nexus One. It was a phone made by HTC that would eventually be tweaked and sold-on as the more popular HTC Desire.

Google Nexus one

The Samsung-made Google Nexus S continued the series in March 2011, but was ultimately eclipsed by the Samsung Galaxy S2.

More recently, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus took on Google duties, in November 2011. The Samsung Galaxy S2 was still riding high back in those days – the Galaxy Nexus barely seemed to make a dent in its popularity.

These phones were sold through the Google Play devices store – previously known under a different name – but none made anywhere near the impact of the Google Nexus 4. For example, following the release of the Google Nexus One, Goldman Sachs’s sales predictions were slashed by a massive 70 percent after the phone failed to perform as expected.

Even the more popular follow-ups felt like humble wallflowers next to their non-Google branded counterparts.

What Has Changed?

It leaves us to ask, what has happened to the Nexus series? Why is suddenly able to make such an impact where it simply hasn’t for the past two years?

There are several reasons, and the most important is, of course, price. And this one didn’t start with the Google Nexus 4.

In July, Google released the Google Nexus 7 in the UK. As the Amazon Kindle Fire hadn’t been released in in this country at that point, this was the first budget tablet people had seen that was really worth buying. It was the astoundingly good result of an astoundingly brief three month-long design project between Google and Asus.

The Google Nexus 4 follows in this trend. The Google Nexus 7 was able to lure many away from the twice-the-price iPad. The Google Nexus 4 has lured many away from the almost-twice-the-price Samsung Galaxy S3.

The Breaking of the Fellowship

However, there’s more than keen pricing at work. The choice of partners is also crucial.

In the past, the Nexus range was designed and manufactured in co-operation with market-leading mobile-makers. HTC and Samsung were at the top of their game when they had their stint in the Nexus driving seat.

But nowadays, Google seems keener to work with the industry’s oddballs. The Google Nexus 7 was made by Asus, known for its quirky, geeky Transformer tablets, and the Google Nexus 4 was made by LG. With the best will in the world, LG is no longer one of the top mobile players. Vodafone currently stocks zero LG phones, Three just the one. The LG name can no longer compete in the UK at the top level.

And that’s why it was the perfect choice for the Google Nexus 4 project.

There is no phone that looks and feels just like the Google Nexus 4 on the market, but with another badge slapped across its face. It’s the same story with the Nexus 7. A distinct design allows these products to carve out their own identity in the market. It’s not just about price.

Google realised that its Nexus series needed more than just a solid design to succeed. It needed its own design – even if it was constructed by someone else. The black sheep here is, of course, the Google Nexus 10. But while that is just as “sold out” as the Google Nexus 4, we’ll have to wait to see whether it captures the public’s interest long-term as much as the Nexus 7 did.

Learning… but Not Quickly Enough

Google has learned, then, but it has seemingly failed catch up in other areas. That’s why we see the frankly embarrassing stock shortages online. The device store’s past failures have put the brakes on its current success.

But shouldn’t we at least celebrate the bold moves Google is making with its Nexus range? Or is robbing your Christmas tree of that little Nexus 4 box just too much to bear? Drop us your view in the comments.

More features >

brian evans

December 14, 2012, 8:59 pm

mmmmmmmmmmmm very interesting


December 14, 2012, 9:38 pm

I'm not even near any country where this device is available for me to buy (play store devices not supported in my country) and as such had to resort to extreme measures just buy & import this device... Had to get a concierge service to physically buy it, and then ship it around the US, until they can ship it off to me.
Still don't have the device in hand yet, but if there is a will there is a way, and my order has been placed :)

So they may have made a boo-boo with the play store and stock issues, but i would much rather wait and have an epic and unique phone from an underdog than be a sheep like everyone getting a GS3 or an Iphone5.
Dont get me wrong! Both of those devices are epic, but my mind is set on the Nexus 4...

Grant Butler

December 15, 2012, 12:12 am

Specs not far off? You mean better.......

Rajesh Mukkavilli

December 15, 2012, 2:41 am

I am from India...Google play devices are not supported in India..But still I used a proxy server to order a nexus 4 on the 1st day and it was shipped to my friends address in US and later shipped it to me within one week. Where there is will..There is a way

avinash mokal

December 15, 2012, 4:01 am

Hi Rajesh, how much did it cost you to get hands on this here in india ?

Anton Melser

December 15, 2012, 9:15 am

I would argue that the ADP1 was actually the first "Nexus" device, in many ways at least. It had the pure Google experience without the promotion anyway.


December 15, 2012, 9:45 am

I think the whole thing shows tha Google is good at search engines and tons of other things but absolute crap at sales. Even a novice understands that design, manufacture/supply, marketing, and sales/distribution are all integral links in one chain. Google really screwed it up this time. That said, I do really like their kit.

Aimar Wajad

December 15, 2012, 3:25 pm

I brought mine on 4th December, but still have had NO UPDATE... Nothing from google, this will definatley be the last time I buy a phone from google.
I'd rather pay the extra £100 and get it when I want it.


December 15, 2012, 4:00 pm



December 15, 2012, 5:01 pm

Which is exactly what I did and I tell you....it was more than worth it and that is coming from an ex I-phone user!

Tony Barry Hercules Johnson

December 15, 2012, 5:18 pm

I ordered mine on 4th Dec at 5.10pm confirmation e-mail at 5.12pm estimated delivery 1-2 Weeks. I thought that's sounds OK. But then I started hearing reports abt people receiving there phones after a few days and that they had ordered there phone after me. While mine kept saying pending!!!!!!!!! So I gave Google a call 2days ago and they told me I'm on "back order". And they confirmed some people who ordered later than me have already received there's :-[ . now when I look its entered pre-order!!!!!!! Wtf I don't see me getting it before Christmas. But hey its only a phone

Tony Barry Hercules Johnson

December 15, 2012, 5:23 pm

I wouldn't bet on getting it before Christmas. I'm in the same boat. Mine was saying pending a whole week till I gave them a call now its switched to pre-order :-[ if it doesn't ship on the 18th they will refund the delivery charges. That's at least something.


December 16, 2012, 10:47 am

This article doesn't actually explain *why* the phone is so hard to buy, just recounts a bit of history.

Could it be, as many suspect, that Google doesn't actually want to sell too many so much as make a point to handset vendors that they should cut prices and boost features. If so, Google is right.

Eric Stephen

December 17, 2012, 12:03 am

got mine a week ago! so epic.

Rajesh Mukkavilli

December 17, 2012, 1:17 am

Total: $360.89 Including bumper, Shipping and California Tax. One of my relative was traveling back to India then, so he got the phone along with him..hence shipping charges from US to India was 0. Note: I used a Indian credit card to make the payment


December 17, 2012, 8:30 am

I am planning to ask my cousin in the US to buy one. Does it work fine under Indian networks? No internet/3G/calling/network issues?

Rajesh Mukkavilli

December 18, 2012, 12:59 am

Not even a single Issue so far. Its perfect


December 18, 2012, 5:30 am

Great. Thanks. I hope its in stock and gets delivered before he returns!

Sachin Thakur

December 18, 2012, 10:42 am

Same thing happened with me as well! I eventually cancelled my order yesterday.


December 26, 2012, 3:17 am

i wanted to do the same but i was too late.

Dima Rudeshko

December 27, 2012, 3:05 am

Hah. "Where there is will..There is a way" I spent the whole night without a sleep, waiting for this phone to appear online (on Nov. 13th I believe). When it finally opened in the morning, i tried to buy it 5 times refreshing the page. Server errors... couldn't order. Finally ordered on Dec. 3rd, and have to wait until the January the 30th to get it shipped, then another 2-3 days to be delivered. Not fair...

Aashish SJ

December 27, 2012, 5:23 am

Hey rajesh, Can you help me with the same as well ??I have been trying over a month unsucessfully

Mark Ellis

December 27, 2012, 9:51 pm

Just got an email from Google today to say that my Nexus 4 has shipped! Wooop!

shikher juneja

January 1, 2013, 1:42 pm

can you please explain me how did you order. it'll be really helpful to me


January 10, 2013, 3:02 pm

Rajesh, you can use the camera on the phone to take pictures of all the girls, you and your friends, gang rape on the bus. India is finished. The jobs are coming back to you UK masters and the handouts are over.

comments powered by Disqus