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The Hell With Nexus Phones on Carriers, It’s Time to Leave Subsidies and Contracts Behind [Opinion]

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If you asked me back in late 2011, how I felt about a Nexus coming to Verizon, I’d probably have thrown out phrases like “greatest day in smartphone history” or “Verizon finally woke up!” Boy, how things have changed in just over a year. After over a month of delays before the launch of that phone, a lack of support on a software front from the get-go, and what seems to be a constant neglect of what one would assume to be one of the easiest phones on the planet to update, I no longer feel the same way. It’s been a painful ride since, one that has led me into hoping that Verizon never sees another one. Actually, I could probably take that a step further and say definitively that Nexus phones should no longer be tied to any carrier and that you should all think about your future beyond subsidies and 2-year contracts. 

Carrier Death

Google and Verizon gave this Nexus-to-carrier thing a shot with the LTE Galaxy Nexus, and we all know now that it was a complete failure on most accounts. Carriers are middle men, a cut-off throw that Google doesn’t want to make when they are looking home. Sure you can allow companies like T-Mobile to sell them, but that’s all you allow them to do. You don’t make separate Nexus phones for them, allow them to install bloatware, use different chipsets than your unlocked version, or even test any of the software that you plan to push over time. To remain in proper Nexus form, there can’t be someone outside of Google that needs to approve the latest software update or dictate when the phone launches. With the Nexus 4, Google has done this.

I hate to bring this up again, but the Galaxy Nexus on Verizon is still three full updates behind every unlocked Nexus device, and is about to be behind skinned devices if Big Red doesn’t kick their update approval process into gear. We all know that Verizon has the strictest update approval policy in the business, but for them to take as long as they have with a 100% purely stock Android device, is beyond being unacceptable. It shows a complete lack of care towards a product that should have been their easiest to manage. Give them another Nexus under the same set of rules that you played with in game one and you will likely be left with a similar outcome.

End of Subsidies

Another reason I’d love for Nexus phones to remain independent of carriers going forward has to do with a desire to see a change in the mindset of U.S. consumers when it comes to smartphones. I’ve talked about this in the past, but we need to get off the crutch that is carrier subsidies. You shouldn’t expect to buy a phone at a subsidized price of $199 every two years, because you know what that does? It locks you into two years of your life with that carrier and that phone, something no one should have to suffer through.

If you consider a phone to be the most important piece of technology in your life, which it typically is, then why not place a higher value on it? Sure, some phones cost $650 off contract, but if you look at how often you really need to buy a phone – every 1-2 years – then that price isn’t actually all that unreasonable. If you were to put $25-30 away each month for a couple of years, you’ll have enough to buy your next phone – the most important piece of technology in your life – without signing a new contract.

Let’s also not forget that Google and their Nexus line is attempting to set a new standard for unlocked phones by introducing them at insanely low prices. The Nexus 4 is currently selling on Google Play for $299 and $349. This is a long shot, but if this country realizes the power of buying unlocked phones coupled with the prepaid smartphone plan universe, what’s to keep those $650 unsubsidized prices from dropping?

Prepaid Plans = Freedom

But why is contract-less smartphone life important? Because it gives you freedom. Over the last couple of years, I’ve maintained a month-to-month AT&T plan for work purposes, but within the last month, decided I’d try out T-Mobile for a bit to see if my experience was any better. While both have their downfalls (lack of LTE at the moment), with the unlocked phones I use, like the Nexus 4 currently, I didn’t even need to buy a new phone to jump between them. All I had to do was swap out a SIM card.

But beyond the carrier aspect, you can’t forget that you have multiple choices on month-to-month prepaid plans that will give you better value than you are probably getting now. Companies like Solavei and Straight Talk offer up plans for $50 and $45 with unlimited talk, text, and data (with T-Mo’s HSPA+42 service to boot). It may not be LTE, but some of the download speeds you will see are just as impressive.

Most importantly, though, you can leave these month-to-month plans as you please until you find something that’s optimal.

Phone Unlocking Illegal

As has well been documented over the last week, unlocking of phones for use on other networks is now illegal in the U.S. If you buy a phone on contract with a subsidy (discount), you need the permission of that carrier in order to unlock your phone and take it elsewhere. If you buy a phone off-contract (hopefully it’s already unlocked) or an unlocked device that’s not tied to a carrier, this new unlocking rule does not affect you.

Final Thoughts

So while I’m running off on a bit of a tangent here (and could probably keep going), I’m really trying to make a couple of points: 1) You should do everything in your power to rid yourself of a 2-year contract. 2) Once you have done that, you are free to find the best possible smartphone and plan that fits your needs, which in many cases, is a Nexus, though the options are pretty endless these days.

Every day in our comments, when bringing up the Nexus 4, we see the complaints about the device having a lack of LTE or the fact that it’s not on Verizon. While the LTE argument may be a tough one to battle, unlocked and carrier independent Nexus phones are likely where the future stands. I’ve personally been using the Nexus 4 since the day it came out, and haven’t necessarily missed 4G LTE one bit. HSPA+ is plenty fast in most cases, plus the network coverage of AT&T and T-Mobile has really grown over the years.

I know the prepaid and unlocked smartphone worlds will never fit everyone’s needs, but as carriers push towards raising prices and locking you out of your own smartphones, it’s time to start looking at your options. Plus, life without a carrier deciding what your phone can and can’t do is quite refreshing.

  • John L

    The sad truth about this opinion piece: low- and working-class individuals who want a smartphone will be relegated to subsidized phones and contracts for mid-level or higher-spec’d devices. Otherwise, they will only be able to afford entry-level devices with antiquated OS’s with the un-subsidized model as suggested.

  • James

    I really want to go prepaid. I’m on Verizon, does anyone know what the policy is for prepaid smartphones on Verizon? As in, which smartphones can do it? On their website they make it sound like it has to be a special phone and not necessarily any regular smartphone. I have a Galaxy Nexus which I love and it makes me never want to have a non-Nexus phone again because my experiences with my Droid 2 left me scarred forever.

    Links to official Verizon policy regarding the phone would be awesome too if anyone has that with an answer. Thanks.

  • joejoe5709

    Good read. I don’t see myself leaving Verizon though. I’ve had them for over ten years and I know they have the best service. And even more importantly, most of my family and friends have Verizon so I get free mobile to mobile (and so do they). I just don’t see Google offering anything with CDMA radios let alone 4G so I might be screwed into a non-Nexus subsidized phone. Anyway, I briefly took a look at their pre-paid plans and they don’t look a whole lot cheaper than what I’m already paying. My wife is considering downgrading to a flip phone so if that’s the case, pre-paid plans might work. It would be really nice not to be locked into a contract – especially if Google continues to offer great prices for their phones off contract. I might even wait a couple months for all the shipping kinks to be worked out and perhaps a sweet deal on Amazon. And if the Nexus4 is any example, waiting for reviews is always a good thing (broken back glass).

  • MooleyBooleyTroll

    I didn’t buy the Nexus 4 because it was a Google phone, I bought it because I finally got fed up with spending over $100 month on 1 line for service. $350 for this device is a great deal and since I rarely use over 100 minutes of voice per month, I went with T-Mobiles $30 100 minute plan and keep an extra $15 buffer in case I do have overages. T-Mobile coverage here is OK and I understand Verizons coverage trumps it but to me it’s not $100 month better. I’d rather deal with the occasional dropped call and save $1200 a year. If Verizon gave me the same type of plan with LTE for even $60-$70 month I’d be all over it.

    • joejoe5709

      Ditto.

  • TheCraiggers

    Kellex, I’m so tired of hearing this. I understand fully that it gives us the freedom to change to other carriers, but what you don’t understand is some people, like me, don’t have the freedom now. I live in a place that barely has cell access. Two years ago, AT&T didn’t even have 3G in our downtown.

    I have no freedom when it comes to carrier choice, so for me being under subsidy is only a good thing. I see no reason to abandon it at the moment, especially when the only game in my town is Verizon. It’s not like I could get an unlocked phone and transfer it to another service.

  • mannequins

    I understand how you want to leave carriers and their 2 year contract. But why no nexus phones on carriers? Would you rather chose say a DNA over a nexus phone on Verizon?

    • http://twitter.com/rastor0 Rastor

      No Nexus phones on carriers is because carriers block updates, making it not really a Nexus anymore (where “Nexus” means “gets the newest Android OS releases”).

      It’s fine for carriers to specify exactly what phones they want to sell and load them up with a list of bloatware, but the Nexus line should stay out of that game.

  • brando56894

    I’m locked into a 2 year contract with Verizon (as I have been for the better part of the past decade) and I’m done with them because the coverage and speed that I get in my area is horrible. My 3G speeds are around 25-100 KB/sec. I barely use voice at all but my texts are limited to 1000 and I’m grandfathered in to unlimited data so I don’t wanna lose it.

  • arthuruscg

    Google should plop their ….. on the table and call it’s next phone a “table” and run voice thru Google Voice on wifi or carrier data.

  • Joe Isaacson

    I don’t think it is that hard to argue against the LTE. I have it on my thunderbolt and never use it because it drains the battery and sometimes is not available. 3G is not that much slower and a lot of the time I can use WiFi. If given the option between LTE and no LTE, I would take the LTE but the battery would have to be able to manage it.

  • Scott McFadyen

    Testament brother, I have been preachin this same message to the Choir for the last 2.5 years, glad we’re singing from the same hymn sheet. Can I get an Amen :D

  • http://thebeeobee.com/ thebeeobee

    OMG, who cares if your phone is 1 or 2 operating system updates behind the unlocked version. Can you not make phone calls now? Can you not send texts? Does your browser not work?

    You would leave verizon’s LTE just so you have a new notification section and lock screen widgets? This is one of the worst articles on this site, EVER.

    • delesh

      So you want to continue to pay thousands of dollars more than you need to and get told by carriers what you can and can’t do with your phone/data all for a few hundred dollars off the cost of a new phone every 2 years? That’s the real issue.

      • http://thebeeobee.com/ thebeeobee

        I pay $79 a month on Verizon for umlimited data and 450 minutes of calling. I’m not paying thousands of dollars more than i need to.

        • delesh

          I pay $30 on prepaid. $49×24 months is $1176 more that you are paying over a 2 year contract, but its obviously not apples to apples. My point is that by us as customers pushing a prepaid system we would force carriers to lower prices on all plans and offer more choices. It’s a win for all, even if you are happy on a subsidized plan. It’s not just about faster upgrades.

          • http://thebeeobee.com/ thebeeobee

            Yeah, but i get incredible value for that $80. I live in NYC and I’m a freelance web designer. Sometimes I can’t get wifi for my laptop when meeting with clients, so I always have blazing fast 4G that I can tether on my phone. I can tack that extra $30-$40 that I’m paying onto my client’s bill, if i want :)

            I used to pay $110 for Verizon before i realized that I could get rid of text messages (and just use google voice), and i was still very happy to pay that.

            And being that I’m staying on a grandfathered plan, i won’t ever be getting a subsidized phone again. Still worth it to me. Good debate, though.

          • delesh

            Yes, it’s awesome that you have a plan that works for you and feel you get what you need for your money, but I also think many are blindly paying too much. Verizon’s network is without a doubt the best and I wish that they would have been able to offer me what I felt was a good plan. I am just hoping that the whole US carrier system can get better and that there are good choices for everyone.

  • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

    This was not a rant against carrier-tied Nexus phones. This was a rant against Verizon. I saw no complaining about Sprint, no complaining about any of the GSM carriers worldwide who sold the Galaxy Nexus and also had to approve software updates (Vodafone Australia for one)…it is what it is. This basically comes down to one thing and one thing only…updates. That’s all you’re pissed off about.

    In the end, carriers put up the money to subsidize the phones, support them, and market them, so they have every right to demand approval of software updates to ensure that they don’t create a support nightmare for their staff. It’s pretty simple, really. Does the delay suck? For the 1% of us who give a s**t about updates, yes, it does. For the overwhelming majority of people who own this phone…no…it does not suck. They don’t care.

    To add to this, that same 1% is the same vocal minority who cares about contracts. Most people would rather pay a smaller dollar amount up front than pay full price for a phone. Most people don’t have any idea what GSM or CDMA even mean. Tell the average consumer that if they buy a T-Mobile smartphone at full price, they can take it to AT&T, but they won’t have 3G or 4G on it because AT&T uses different frequencies. I just made the general public’s head swim.

    Tempest in a teapot.

    • delesh

      The major issue here is that the carriers have too much control in the current contract-based system and slow updates are just a consequence of that. The problem is that the carriers have us locked into a system of luring us in with cheaper phones then bending us over with the cost of contracts. The result is that customers pay thousands more and carriers have ultimate control. In a more fluid system where customers can easily move between carriers, the carriers need to offer good service and value or else they can quickly lose customers. The subsidized model may be continue to be the ideal system for many and it shouldn’t go away, but the real issue is that the power needs to shift to customers and supporting the unsubsidized/prepaid model is a start. It’s something that will help all wireless customers. I’m voting with my dollars to help change the system.

      • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

        Again, though, you’re making my point for me. This argument is a tempest in a teapot. The only people who care about this issue are people like us. Good luck ever convincing the general public that buying a phone outright is a better deal than a 2 year contract. Plus, this argument really is disingenuous anyway. You pay $600 for a phone outright on Verizon, you’re free of a contract, but where are you going to take that phone other than Verizon? You’re not. You pay $600 for a phone on T-Mobile, you have no contract, sure you can take it to AT&T if you don’t mind EDGE data speed (after all, AT&T and T-Mo use different 3G and 4G frequencies). Phones will always be tied to a particular carrier or only a small number of multiple carriers. It doesn’t make financial sense for OEMs to make one single phone that works on every network known to man.

        • delesh

          Yes, the system is very closed down. And sure, you can say “this is the way it is and this is how it always will be, nothing I can do about it” or you can try to change a system that you feel is broken. I don’t like the system and the best way I can try to change it from my position is vote with my money and tell people about what I feel is a better way hoping they will help me change it. Because the system is so limited right now it means that going the prepaid route is not going to be for everyone. But I think the more we can slowly start to change the system in our favor the better. So it may be a “tempest in a teapot” right now, but who says it has to stay that way?

  • Brian Sargent

    Yeah….$650 every 1.5-2 years is a lot of money. The laptop that i have costed a shade over that and I will expect it to last me well over 2 years. I cannot see spending that kind of money every 2 years on a phone. While I love the technology and it certainly makes life easier and enjoyable at times…this thing is not a necessity. I can live without facebook, G+, twitter, email, and the like for the amount of time it takes me to go from work to the house. It would suck and I wouldnt like it at all…but it is not a need. I would rather save my money for things that I do need and save on toys if I can. If this X phone does not work on Big V and is sold on Play for subsidized prices, I will be forced to: keep my phone past the contract and use a device that will just get more and more bogged down over time, pay the subsidized prices and lose my unlimited data as well as renew a contract, or switch to another carrier that does not work at my house period. Unfortunately, those are my options. Hopefully, the X phone will come through for me.

  • Twofourturbo

    My Galaxy Note 2 just said “The Nexus Who??”

  • Scott Martin

    this may be a slightly stupid question.. i’ve been on a grandfathered unlimited data plan and there’s no chance i’d want to ditch that. would i be able to put one of these unlocked, play store purchased, un-subsidized nexus phones on my plan whenever i want or would i have to switch to a month to month plan?

  • http://www.facebook.com/archercc Ryan Stewart

    Im hopefully right behind you. I just got the order confirmation and am hopeful for a quick shipping notification. Once my N4 comes Im going to be a Strait Talk customer. Everyone seems to like them but even if I don’t I can move on after that first attempt without a penalty.

  • Bob

    Thanks for taking the time to write this article.

  • http://infotainmentempire.blogspot.com Rob

    “If you consider a phone to be the most important piece of technology in your life, which it typically is, then why not place a higher value on it? Sure, some phones cost $650 off contract, but if you look at how often you reallyneed to buy a phone – every 1-2 years – then that price isn’t actually all that unreasonable. If you were to put $25-30 away each month for a couple of years, you’ll have enough to buy your next phone – the most important piece of technology in your life – without signing a new contract.”

    THIS. Unfortunately, almost everyone I know is so friggin’ cheap there is almost no way they would want to do this. They do not understand it from this point. They do not understand why I like to buy new phones so often. I love knowing that in a couple months I will be free to leave Verizon if I choose or I can keep buying phones off contract to preserve my unlimited data until they yank that from us. And the day that happens… well, I won’t be a VZW customer anymore and I sure as hell won’t have an ETF to pay!

    • George Fayad

      + a billion. I’m keeping my unlimited LTE data until they rip it away from me. My contract is up in 2 months and I plan to keep my GNex until I find a VZW phone worthy of replacing it. It may not be the fastest device out there anymore, but the dev community is keeping it alive and well (currently running JB Sourcery and it is the fastest rom I’ve used to date). If another phone ever makes me question my GNex loyalty, I’ll buy off contract, but not before I test out the GSM networks in my area.

    • Prox

      People need instant gratification.

  • http://twitter.com/JalopyCrown Dustin Sexton

    ‘To hell…’ not ‘The hell….’
    Grammar nazi? No, but that is a headline on a professional website. Get it right. :)

    • joejoe5709

      Disagree. “The Hell” still makes sense.

  • Tim Lawlor

    I just want a carrier to switch to the plans they have in the UK. I spent 4 months there and used a sim from 3 the whole time. something like 200 minutes 1000 texts and unlimited data for like $45-$50. That included free tethering and hotspot.

  • Art Carter

    great article!!

  • steve james

    For this to work using your numbers your monthly bill would have to drop $25-30 a month. We all know that won’t happen. If they get rid of subsidies than your bill probably wouldn’t drop at all.

    • delesh

      When I left Verizon and went prepaid my bill dropped $70/month. If more people keep pushing this type of model then carriers would be forced to offer competitive prices.

  • owan

    If I wasn’t grandfathered into my unlimited contract over Verizon, I would have gone un-subsidized a long time ago. One thing I will say though: in this article it says you can switch around between carriers on the Nexus 4. True, but its an illusion of choice.. You can swap around a few of the fine print details in pre-paid deals, but you’re still only dealing with 2 networks. If neither work well near you, tough luck

  • Jose

    Well done Kellex. Your article is a great reminder of why it makes sense to think outside the box. I have read Droid LIfe religiously for over a year, and acknowledge that the information I received to be more educated about my decision to end my contract and go Nexus/PrePaid has been an awesome decision with Zero regrets. Keep up the good work Kellex and gang.

  • Jonathan DeJong

    I honestly have no idea about this but how does Apple get around the Verizon process when updating *phones? Shouldn’t Google be able to do the same with a Nexus? I don’t see Verizon bloatware on my gf’s *phone but my GS3 is full of it…

    • JoshGroff

      They do their updates via i-Tunes, not OTA. I think that’s pretty much it. The carrier doesn’t have to approve it because it’s Apple rolling it out.

      • Panicswhenubered

        Actually, they do them over the air since iOS5. Prior to that, it was through iTunes.

        • JoshGroff

          Oh, didn’t know that. >.>

    • http://randomphantasmagoria.com/ Shawn

      It has been speculated that Apple is subject to the same approval processes. They just hold back the updates until they have approval from all carriers, and then they roll all updates out at once to all carriers.

  • Aaa

    Well, by that same token, the most important thing to a person is their body, and therefore, their first priority with their money should be to eat healthfully and include more fruits and vegetables in their diet. Unfortunately, people have different priorities with how to spend their money. :) $300/yr just for the phone, without any service, kind of hurts when you look at it that way. When I spend $600-$1000 on a computer/TV, I want it to last more than 2-3 years.

    • Aaa

      My second counterpoint, which wasn’t fully complete, is that its actually the service that is the lifeline, not necessarily the phone (you claim it to be the phone itself). A phone that can’t surf the web or send texts isn’t that useful. That’s why carriers have us in a lock.

      • Nick

        But you have to quantify the savings that Kellex’s method provides you. Cheaper service on a month to month basis ($50 MTM vs. $80 on most carriers) pays off the phone in 2 years or less (assuming we’re talking about the Nexus 4) so one could argue that most people would be indifferent between the two options in terms of all in costs. However, being able to jump carriers at a moments is a valuable benefit, and if enough people go this route it will force carriers to work harder in order to retain customers. This could mean more aggressive pricing, more freedom with rooting/unlocking, pretty much anything to keep an advantage over competitors.

        As more and more people start to go the MTM route, I’d be willing to bet that more companies would start selling their phones directly and prices much closer to that of the current Nexus 4. Imagine a world where we all buy direct from Samsung or Moto, and carriers just provide service (much like Comcast) without getting in the way. One can dream (here’s looking at you El Goog)

  • InyRules

    Unfortunately for me, I signed a value plan with T-mobile because I outgrew the pre-paid plan I was on with them. Of course about 2 months after I did that, they came out with their $70 unlimited everything prepaid plan. That didn’t sting too bad, as my value plan bill is currently lower than $70. Honestly, with the way the other 3 carriers are right now, T-mobile is the only company where I don’t mind singing a contact with, only because they seem to be the only company that isn’t trying to bend us over every month with our bills. Sprint may offer unlimited everything, but how usable is it really? Verizon and AT&T seem to be at war over who can charge customers for less. T-mobile isn’t perfect, but at least HSPA works and I have the option to pay off my phone whenever I like and keep my monthly bill low.

    I honestly would have loved to have gotten a Nexus 4 on my value plan and paid less than $400 for the phone, but it wasn’t available when I needed a phone, and Google’s current trend of no removable batteries and no SD slot was a major turn off, as I need a device that can house the majority of my music and some videos while I travel to areas where I won’t have coverage. Enter the Note 2. Love the article, and I agree that the Nexus program of buying and OWNING your phone is the future, but like you mentioned, it can’t work for everyone’s needs right now. I’ll revisit the prepaid and unlocked phone world when my contract is up, as it worked great for me with the Galaxy Nexus for a while. Hopefully it will suit all of my needs in the future.

  • Jonathan LeBlanc

    I work for AT&T Mobility Customer Care. I understand your viewpoint, but each day,
    I can’t count the number of customers I get that call in and won’t
    settle for anything BUT a free or EXTREMELY cheap (sub $20) phone. It
    FAR outweighs the number that actually pay for their phone. If I could
    argue this point on the phone, without getting fired, I would, but
    AT&T wants nothing more than to lock you into contract for 2 years.
    It’s insane how many people take the bait for a garbage shit-tier
    Android phone and willfully lock themselves into contract AND THEN
    complain about locking themselves into contract.

  • http://twitter.com/SofiaSamme Sofia

    Dual Cell (DC-)HSDPA, known additionally as twin Carrier, is that the natural evolution of HSPA by means that of carrier aggregation within the downlink. http://tinyurl.com/b9qc2d2

  • http://profiles.google.com/chuckg73 Charles Gallagher

    If I could get out from under Verizon’s thumb before the end of my contract today, I would cancel and get a Nexus 4 and go prepaid in a heart beat.

  • ChrisI

    If you’re going to pay full retail price for a phone, you’d be a sucker to also pay $100+ every month for service. If you’re going to do away with carrier subsidies, then you need to be realistic and also realize that monthly plan costs should drastically be reduced as well.

    • delesh

      Exactly, carriers need to start offering cheaper unsubsidized plans. If more people keep moving to prepaid carriers might be forced to do that in the future (hoping).

  • Guest

    So… I have a little dilemma and would love to hear some feedbacks.
    I’m currently on Verizon with the grandfathered unlimited data. My 2 year contract is up and my Droid X is demanding a retirement (it’s been a fun 2 ride but my DX is on the verge of death any day now…)
    I’m planning to get the Galaxy Note 2 and since there’s no way I’m going down to the new tier plan, I’ve been looking at off contract/international phones and moving to Straight Talk (AT&T sim). 
    After looking at Straight Talk’s website yesterday, I realized that they got rid of the AT&T tower option and only offered the T-Mobile tower regardless of my location. I then read some article on the web mentioning the removal of AT&T SIM cards from the Straight Talk website and I manged to snatch a AT&T SIM card off of Walmart since they are still selling remaining supplies. I tried calling Straight Talk and their customer service was pretty horrible. Tried to reach sales rep multiple times but got hung up after being transferred… 
    This bad experience got me rethinking about my decision to go prepaid especially with the removal of AT&T tower seeming sketch… 
    I’m reconsidering leaving Verizon despite the fact that I have to buy the phone unsubsidized (with their stupid logo on the home button) to keep unlimited data and pay the double of prepaid services.
    Can anyone on Straight Talk give some insight to their service (coverage, speed, ease of use, etc.)? Anyone know what’s happening with the Straight Talk AT&T tower?
    Also any tips on what I should do or where I can get the most affordable off contract or international GN2? 

  • Incredible_Culp

    I’ve spent about 2.5-3 hours reading the majority of the comments — and i did not come across the issue that I’m about to explain..

    I’ll try to keep this pretty short and to the point, because if i wrote down everything in my head, ill be typing for a couple of hours lol..

    Firstly, it depends — it depends entirely on your plan — not so much on the price of the phone. Why? This is my reasoning — Why spend 650 on a phone every 1-2 years knowing a cheaper phone 2-400 can basically do the same thing.. to me, that’s throwing money out the window — Sure, buy a phone for 650 and you better plan on taking care of the thing like its a china doll and be able to have it for 3+ years… Because you know in a short amount of time, the phone you just bought will be considered old, and now you’re like damn.. Unless you’re the type of person who ALWAYS needs to be up with the new technology.. Just root your phone and you WILL be up with the new technology. ha..

    And plus, what’s really going to piss you off is when/if you break the thing (drop it, lose it, etc etc) then you’re out $650.. I’d MUCH rather pay another 2-400 on the same phone than another $650.

    Secondly, it depends. Again, it depends. Depends on what? It depends if you’re grandfathered in, in my opinion. If you’re grandfathered in in any plan, i think you’re golden. I cant speak on family plan owners because I’m on an individual plan with Tmo — But i don’t see any point to jump ship and get on a pre-paid plan when my 2-year contract is better.. How you say? — My bill is $52.xx a month — I’ve been on the same plan for going on 4 years. I get unlimited everything, free night and weekend minutes with 500 anytime minutes, blah, blah, blah, but with a 2GB LTE data cap.. I personally don’t mind the cap because i use WiFi the majority of the time i.e. school, home, friends houses etc. and only use data when I’m “out” but once i use up all that 2GB cap limit, (which i hardly EVER do — can’t remember the last time i did) the regular 3g/4g speed is fine, still fast.

    My “old” plan is better than the current plans out to date. With t-mos $30 plan, its good. but only good if you don’t use more than 100 minutes.. i go over 100 minutes all the time, but i never come close to my 500… sure, now you say well, tmo has a $50 unlimited plan. Yea, with a 100MB LTE cap limit IIRC.. and yes, i said that the normal 3g/4g is fine, but only after 100MB?? i at least want to experience the LTE for awhile lol .. So its not worth shaving down a few bucks just to get that pre paid plan.. then there’s the $70 plan.. unlimited everything. I’m still winning. All i need to do is purchase the 4g unlimited data for a measly $10 more, and that’ll make my monthly bill out to be $62.xx (including tax).. I haven’t done that because, like i said, i don’t use data that much.. Mainly WiFi…

    The point of all that is this — i honestly think it depends on the plan… My HTC is a year and a half old (maybe just a year) and i have the latest updates these “super phones” have and possibly better. Yes, i would LOVE to buy the new thing out.. But is it necessary..?? As long as my devs over at XDA keep updating/making ROMs (4.1-4.2) and keep updating/making kernels (OC’ing option to 1.9ghz) i don’t see the reason to upgrade my phone… (unless it breaks) then ill go buy the “newer” phone… But even then ill probably buy the 2nd best thing — i’ll root it and i’ll be up there with the “next big thing.” Then that falls into the category of non-rooters, then i understand on buying that “new” phone.

    Ya’ll see what im sayin..? Had to get this off my chest. lol

    Hopefully some of you understand what I’m saying.. I tried to keep this short haha — i can keep goin if you dont understand. *rubs-eyes* *yawns* :-P

  • wm snyder

    Iv’e read most of the comments here and agree. it’s is my opinion as i have stated before, take the phones from the carriers and you have equaled the playing field. you would accomplished no contracts,no subsidies ,latest tech and cheaper prices from manufactures . this also means better updates as well as cheaper services and unified carrier standards. this put you in the driver seat. the nexus from google could be the begining .

  • Travis

    As a frustrated gnex owner on Verizon I definitely needed to hear this. Rant away kellex!

  • Austin

    I agree, it’s time to get away from carriers they over change anyways

  • http://www.facebook.com/nfujiwara Neil Fujiwara

    I have Verizon Cell service and Verizon FIOS. I hate the contract that I have with Verizon Wireless, but it gives me an artificial sense of security with my lines. I love my contract with FIOS because it locks the carrier to a rate even with channel fees going up. For me there is no point in being a consistent “Free Agent” when you find the service that meets your needs.

  • trixnkix637

    I’d jump all over the Nexus 4 if it had 4G LTE. For me that’s just a deal breaker. I get absurdly bothered when my GS3 ventures into 3G territories. Plus I’ll probably hold out for the GS4. Samsung has really impressed me over the years and took the place Motorola left in my heart long ago.

  • overclock

    I hope Verizon will get another Nexus or a Nexus phone is released that can be activated on Verizon with LTE. Verizon just needs to get me the phone, I will handle the updates myself. I understand not everyone is rooted, but everyone with a nexus should be.

    • trixnkix637

      Agreed to have a non-rooted Nexus is like eating pancakes without syrup. Yea it’ll work but it kind of defeats the purpose.

  • Philip A. Kaiser

    While I wholeheartedly agree with 99% of this article, there is one small caveat that needs to be addressed, warranties.

    If there is one thing that the carriers do right, it is handling the warranties of their devices. I am not talking about dropped or damaged phones, that is another topic, I am talking about devices with factory problems that most of us have encountered at least once in our smartphone lives. Bad radios, devices that kill memory cards, faulty charging circuits, dead pixels, cracked LCDs (not digitizers), etc. These are all factory problems that VZW, and most carriers, will handle in a store or over the phone and they will generally have a replacement device in your hands within a day or two.

    I am not sure what the process is for the new Nexus, but I can attest that I have had to deal with Asus, Motorola, as well as Samsung directly for issues. Each time, I had to send the device to them and wait weeks to have it fixed, or a replacement shipped back.

    Like you mentioned in your article, this is probably the most used device in our personal lives which is why I find it completely unacceptable to spend so much money to be without the device for weeks while someone decides whether they will fix it or not.

    I have very little love left for Verizon these days and I am looking to leave but I will be honest, this is something they have always done right by me and it is something I am very carefully monitoring into the future when I make my decision of where to go. I just about went nuts when dealing with my tablet going through warranty work with ASUS. Not only was my device not fixed properly, I had to send it back, which was another 3 weeks. In retrospect, when I have problems with my phone, if I call VZW before 4MST, I can have a replacement the next day.

    • trixnkix637

      Hmm. I’ve never had to send a phone directly to the manufacturer (I’ve had Moto, HTC, Samsung, & LG). Anytime I had an issue, I sent it to Verizon & Verizon sent me a refurbished device usually next day if I reported it early enough.

      • Philip A. Kaiser

        That’s my point. When you are under contract and buy a device through them, they act as middle men and take care of the issue and replace your device as part of their service in your contract. No contract however, you have like 30days from date of purchase. After that is up, it is between you and whatever brand you bought, just like any other electronic device.

  • nxmehta

    I want to use Verizon’s network, and I want a real Nexus phone. I don’t care about subsidies or buying a phone outright. Apparently this it too much to ask though.

  • bull3946

    I really wish people would quite touting T-Mobile as a viable carrier alternative to Verizon or AT&T. It simply isn’t. That’s not saying it can’t work for some people, but T-Mobile just doesn’t have the spectrum to fill in all the small areas. If you need to rely on your phone at all while traveling, T-Mobile simply isn’t an option.

    I drove from Pittsburgh to the DC area this fall. I used my phone extensively for navigation as well as streaming music from various sources (Play music, Pandora, etc.) It worked pretty much flawlessly. Verizon had me in LTE coverage for about 95% of the drive.

    On T-Mobile, I would have been dumped into Edge about 30 minutes into the 4 1/2 hour trip and stayed there until about 10 minutes from my destination. My expensive smartphone would have had no more functionality than a flip phone of a decade ago. This is along major highways (PA Turnpike and I70). That’s not savings or smartphone freedom. That’s cutting off my nose to spite my face.

    T-Mobile is HIGHLY dependent on both where you live and how far you stray from where you live. If those things don’t limit you in respect for coverage, great. However, that simply isn’t the case for the vast majority of people out there.

    That leaves the equation of what carrier to use down to Verizon or AT&T. Yes, you can use a Nexus 4 on AT&T, but you don’t pay less for service for bringing your own phone and unlimited is a pipe dream. You can get “unlimited” with straight talk but reliability isn’t as good as the main carriers (I know people on straight talk, there’s not a month that goes buy that they don’t have some problem.)

    So, it finally boils down to “is a nexus device worth (at best) a lateral carrier move and (at worst) losing unlimited. The answer, for most people, is a resounding “no.” Updates aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. 4.2.1 isn’t not exactly a shining beacon of stability and compatibility. To suggest there aren’t worthwhile alternative phones on the market when we’re surrounded with things like the Razr MAXX HD, SGS3, and Galaxy Note 2 is just silly.

    I agree that the subsidy cycle needs to end and that Verizon is a bit too controlling with equipment on their network, but the Nexus solves neither of those problems nor are they gateways to solving those problems as you simply cannot substitute one network for another as if they were all the same. There’s a reason why both AT&T and Verizon have churn rates UNDER 1%. Carrier mobility is HARD and it has nothing to do with contracts for phone subsidies. It really has to do with spectrum allocation, backhaul capacity, neighborhood zoning boards, and family members.

    • Shaggy723

      I’m not going to argue with any of the points you make considering carriers. But I would like to add that 4.2.1 on my GSM GNEX and Nexus 7 does indeed work great. Since the latest update, I haven’t had a single issue and the same goes for the others that I know that received the update. I’ve heard people complain online, but I have yet to see any of the issues materialize on either of my devices.

      • bull3946

        I wish I could say the same. I have both a Nexus 7 and a Nexus 10 and 4.2.1 has been rocky. Bluetooth is utterly broken on both of them. I can choose to EITHER stream audio to my Supertooth bluetooth speaker OR have data connectivity. Trying to do both kills the wifi connection on both of them (I’ve tried two different wifi routers.) This really ruins one of the main reasons why I bought a Nexus 10, to use streaming HBO Go and Netflix in places around the house where I don’t have a TV. I’ve encountered the same with my bluetooth headphones. My Nexus 7 would reboot randomly about once every few hours after the update. The only thing that cured that was scrubbing the device down with adb and manually wiping and reflashing all the partitions, just doing a factory reset didn’t work.

        My Nexus 10 has some instability issues, mainly with chrome (both normal and beta) where it will hard lock the device, requiring me to hold down the power button to cycle it. It also likes to drop off wifi when sleeping even though I tell it not to.

        I have two friends with GSM Galaxy Nexuses and the update has caused a quite a bit of instability leading to random reboots. A factory wipe may fix that problem, but we shouldn’t have to wipe our devices between every update.

        Besides all that, 4.2.1 just feels rough around the edges. There are numerous UI glitches (pull down the settings shade and then swipe down from the top of the screen again, you’ll pull the shade down further without tracking with your finger) and added functionality like lock screen widgets feel rushed and unfinished.

        I’m really looking forward to IO as I really want a bug fix release for my two tablets.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Pronchick/679790407 Michael Pronchick

      I have been from Philly, PA to DC and Philly, PA to Boston. Both times with a friend who had a gnex on verizon. Mine is on tmobile….when tmobile went to edge…within minutes verizon was on 3g. When he had LTE and I had H+, I had better download speeds. Verizon 3g is slower than tmobile edge, fyi.

      • Michael Quinlan

        Thanks for a true side by side comparison.

      • bull3946

        Eastern PA and the eastern seaboard corridor has good T-Mobile coverage, west and central PA do not.

        Also, the big difference is, Verizon’s LTE coverage improves month over month. T-Mobile coverage really won’t improve much at all. They don’t have the spectrum to expand.

        If T-Mobile had the full turnpike corridor, I79 corridor, and I70 corridor covered in HSPA, I would be more willing to give them a chance around here. But, they don’t and are unlikely ever to have coverage that good.

    • Michael Quinlan

      I can’t argue with you’re assessment of Verizon, but your T- Mobile comments sound like speculation. Without devices from each carrier side by side, you can’t really day what would have happened.

      • bull3946

        It’s only speculation if T-Mobile is woefully inaccurate with their coverage maps. Their coverage in the Philly area is quite good, but take a look at the PA turnpike. 3G/4G coverage ends in Greensburg and doesn’t show up again until you get to Harrisburg

  • imconfused

    The only problem with this is carriers like verizon and at&t will still be charging the same price for the plans. Getting phones at a subsidized price is part of the logical reasoning for them to charge those prices… if we did away with it, then we would be paying 650 or so for a handset and then their prices for plans too. It’s kind of like shooting ourselves in the foot.

  • Shaggy723

    As many others here, I totally agree with your opinion, Kellex. Then again, I usually agree with your opinions, which is why I keep frequenting this site.

    I am currently loving my unlocked Nexus with my prepaid unlimited everything plan on T-Mobile for $50 a month.

  • jrshermz

    Removing subsidies is OK just let me keep my unlimited data plan.

    • Hunter

      and maybe lower the price to compensate for removing subsidies

  • George

    I agree with this completely and already started moving in this direction. I gave up my Verizon G-nex with unlimited data and moved to Metro PCS for $25 a month and I’m going to hang in there and wait to see what happens with the T mobile/Metro PCS merger or the possible Google/Dish thing. My next device will be a unlocked Nexus device for sure but until then I’ll have my N7 to get my Android fix. Great article

  • http://www.facebook.com/dmf273 David Fairweather

    Let me know when I can run an unlocked off-contract Nexus with LTE on Verizon. Until then I’ll stick with my rooted GNex.

    • trwb

      That will be in 1990…never, that is never going to happen.

  • trwb

    CDMA carriers are dead definitely. GSM is the lesser of 2 evils. Prepaid is sweet, was on it a year, but couldnt take the damn restrictions and horrible customer service from ST. Went to Att for $80 per month and a subsidy on a brand new HTC One X+. Spending $400/yr more on plan but saved $450 on a phone.

  • R

    I left Vzw February of ’12 and have been contract free since. It is an awesome sense of freedom. There are many choices out there for someone that doesn’t want to be locked down anymore. I have had 3 different phones since, all of them being gsm phones. Since frequencies are different among gsm carriers, I have gone through highs and lows with data. But now I’ve found a pretty good combo phone/plan and have been extremely happy. I don’t have anyone telling me i cannot tether my device, I can root and change roms at my leisure…No BS like it was when i was carrier tied. I agree, I believe unlocked nexus devices are going to be a real big hit, and I hope it takes off soon. I don’t much care for being locked into anything, freedom in all aspects of life is what makes life great. Break the chains that bind you!

  • Turb0wned

    Im kinda getting more excited about the Motorola X phone than I got with the Nexus 4.