Besides being each company’s flagship smartphone (and having the number 4 in their names), Google‘s new Nexus 4 and the 2010 iPhone 4 have a fair bit in common with each other.
This could be a good thing, if you remember just how popular the iPhone 4 was. Unfortunately, in this case it’s more of a bad thing, and hearkens back to “Antennagate” and the iPhone 4′s other problems. Do any of these features remind you of anything?
A glass back
With the iPhone 5, Apple finally moved from a crack- and scratch-prone glass backplate to a solid, aluminum unibody construction. Google doesn’t seem to have gotten the memo that the former may have been a bad idea, however, and the Nexus 4 has a sparkly glass back surface.
While sparkly things obviously have their fans, the Nexus 4′s chassis also seems to lean towards the brittle side. Joshua Topolsky, who reviewed the Nexus 4 for The Verge, managed to crack the glass when he accidentally knocked his phone off the table. Meanwhile, Droid-Life’s Kellex found that setting the phone on a stone countertop caused its glass back to fracture in two.
Even Topolsky’s glowing review of the Nexus 4 said “It feels slow,” and “There’s simply no way to ignore this deficit.” That’s because, like the iPhone 4, the Nexus 4 lacks a 4G radio (even though it has the chip to support one if it had it).
The iPhone 4, however, was released in 2010, when 4G was still a new thing and the Android “superphones” which supported it had enormous screens and horrible battery life. Today, even the iPhone has 4G. Possibly because of bad blood between Google and the wireless carriers, which appear to resent Google’s selling phones unsubsidized and sans “customizations,” the Nexus 4 does not.
Selling out fast
Every one of Apple’s iPhone models has sold out faster, and more dramatically, than the one before. Google’s Android devices, in contrast, haven’t tended to do so … although the new Nexus smartphones and tablets are starting to have this problem.
How bad is it? After Google finally got a new wave of Nexus 4s up for sale, they sold out in about a half-hour. Google claims that it hasn’t actually sold out, but even if you spotted the Nexus 4 on Google Play, chances are you ran into technical glitches which kept it out of your shopping cart. Tipster “Syko Pompos” told the Android Police blog how to get around this and place your order, but expect to wait months to receive it.
Public relations nightmares
It hasn’t quite reached Antennagate levels yet, perhaps partly because the Nexus brand isn’t as well-known as the iPhone (the iPhone 4′s antenna problems were actually shared by many smartphones). But most of the press coverage of the Nexus 4 lately has been about how you can’t get one. Or else, how if you want one you’ll have to either buy it on contract or pay a lot more to get it unsubsidized from T-Mobile.
On the plus side (for the Nexus), this problem is only partly caused by the Google Play store’s technical errors. The biggest reason it’s taking so long to get out to people is, like with the iPhone 4, simply how popular it is.
Jared Spurbeck is an open-source software enthusiast, who uses an Android phone and an Ubuntu laptop PC. He has been writing about technology and electronics since 2008.