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  • Blog, Gadgets - Written by on Monday, June 3, 2013 13:53 - 11 Comments

    Buyer beware: No Aussie 4G support
    for HTC, Samsung ‘Nexus’ units


    blog Have you been hanging out for an extremely high-end Android smartphone with Google’s trademark ‘Nexus experience’? Have you been highly encouraged by the news that both Samsung and HTC are planning to launch versions of their flagship Galaxy S4 and One smartphones with a stock Android operating system (no vendor crapware), and that both will be available shortly through Google’s Play Store? It’s all quite encouraging, right?

    Well, bear in mind that the revelations of the new Samsung and HTC stock Android units over the past several weeks have shown that neither of these two new flagship handsets will launch with support for Australian 4G networks as yet. HTC’s blog launching the HTC One with the Nexus experience last week tells us that the smartphone will support only the 700, 850 and 1900 MHz bands in terms of 4G/LTE support, and it’s a similar case with the Galaxy S4. Engadget tells us that the smartphone will support LTE support for AT&T and T-Mobile in the US, neither of which appear to use the 1800MHz band used by Telstra, Optus, and soon Vodafone, in Australia.

    We’ve seen this situation before, to be honest. The best current stock Android experience can be obtained from buying the Nexus 4 unit designed by Google and manufactured by LG. Delimiter’s review of the handset found that it was one of the best smartphones of any ilk available in Australia — but we found it a little hard to recommend due to its lack of 4G support.

    So what’s Delimiter’s tentative opinion with respect to the stock Android versions of the HTC One and Galaxy S4? Flatly, we recommend that you do not buy one of these smartphones just yet, even if you are dying to get access to a next-generation smartphone with stock Android. At the moment, we have a Nexus 4 and a Samsung Galaxy S4 in our office, and we’ve recently reviewed the HTC One as well. We’ve actually tested all these units side by side. And the difference between these handsets is not great enough to warrant shelling out up to US$649 more for a stock Android Galaxy S4 or HTC One without 4G support, given that you can pick up an 8GB Nexus 4 for only AU$349 brand new.

    We highly recommend waiting for at least three to four months before you evaluate purchasing one of these new generation of Nexus units. In that time, we’re likely to find out whether either HTC or Samsung are planning to release Australian 4G variants of their new ‘Nexus’ devices. In addition, in that time we’ll also likely find out whether formal or informal software changeover packs for existing GS4 and One units (the ones already on sale in Australia and already supporting 4G) will become available. In addition, HTC has had a habit of releasing new handsets towards Christmas in Australia over the past few years, and we’ll also likely know more about the next Apple iPhone.

    Right now is simply a bad time to buy a ‘Nexus’ handset from the likes of HTC and Samsung. Without 4G, these handsets don’t have a lot of long-term usage viability, given the pace at which 4G networks are being rolled out in Australia, and we suspect you’ll be kicking yourself if you buy a non-4G Nexus-enabled GS4 or HTC One in June or July this year, only to find that new 4G Nexus flagship models are released in Australia towards the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014.

    It’s really hard to say this, given how desirable a HTC One or Galaxy S4 model would be with stock Android, and how we’ve been calling for precisely this kind of smartphone for several years in Delimiter’s reviews. However, the lack of 4G support is a massive problem and killer issue for these smartphones in Australia. Our recommendation is: Hold off for now — or you will likely regret your decision in a few months.

    One obvious alternative is to hack yourself your own ‘Nexus’ handset by cracking an existing 4G HTC One or Galaxy S4 and installing CyanogenMod or similar on it. We’d be interested to hear how Australians have gone with this process so far — CyanogenMod support can be hit or miss at times, but we normally hear good things around it. But of course it’s a little hard to recommend this ‘unofficial’ process for most people, compared to the normal vendor-supported models.

    Image credit: HTC

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    1. merc
      Posted 03/06/2013 at 5:46 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Bear in mind that even *if* the device has 4G support, it’ll usually only be the 1800 MHz band. Single Band 4G will eventually expose you to congestion and coverage issues. Australia is moving towards 4G in the 700 (APAC), 900, 2100, 2300, 2600 bands and possibly even the 3.5 GHz band. 900, 1800, 2100 and 2300 are currently being rolled out by various carriers. 2600/700 probably late 2014/start 2015.

      You might regret not having 4G in a few months, but as 4G becomes popular over the next year or so you might regret not having a multi-band 4G phone.

    2. Posted 03/06/2013 at 6:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

      As much as I think an HTC One with stock Android would be the best overall smartphone experience right now, you’re probably right that its best to hold off if LTE means a lot to you. On top of no LTE support, its also a shame that the One lacks a dedicated Menu button for optimal usage with AOSP, and that the camera won’t fully benefit from the Sense “ultrapixel” software. However ‘Beats Audio’ optimisation is still baked in apparently, to make the most of those nice front-firing stereo speakers.

      If I were in the market for a new smartphone right now, I’d almost be prepared to give up LTE and live with HSPA+, just to get an unlocked bootloader and stock Android on the One (and timely updates from Google!). It just depends on how much faith you have in HTC releasing a future version that supports Australian LTE networks (personally I think its unlikely for these “Nexus experience” devices).

    3. Dave
      Posted 03/06/2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink | Reply

      But the ‘Nexus’ HTC One and Galaxy S4 have only been announced for the US market so far and, as far as I know, it hasn’t been announced when or if these devices will be made available in Australia. You won’t be able to buy one of these devices in Australia. And I expect that it they ever do come to the Australian play store they will have 4G applicable for the Australian market.

      Personally before upgrading my Galaxy Nexus I’m waiting for either a Nexus 5 or maybe the Moto X. Both of which I would expect to be available later this year.

      • Posted 03/06/2013 at 6:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

        True. HTC One is US Playstore exclusive for now, but you can always use a friend in the US, or one of those delivery service middlemen to import one. Of course warranty will be an issue though.

        Definitely looking forward to seeing more about the Moto X. Particularly if it has a sub 5″ screen (I want something I can use one handed) and awesome battery life.

      • Posted 03/06/2013 at 7:27 pm | Permalink | Reply

        “You won’t be able to buy one of these devices in Australia”

        Yes, you’ll be able to buy them through local retailers such as Mobicity and probably Kogan.

        “I expect that it they ever do come to the Australian play store they will have 4G applicable for the Australian market.”

        There’s not much evidence to support this. The Nexus 4 didn’t see Australian 4G support, and I doubt that Samsung and HTC believe the Australian market big enough that they will sell enough 4G models to justify specifically creating a new 1800Mhz model.

        Personally, I think the Moto X will probably be the next Google-designed Nexus device — and I’m not expecting it until 2014. With the ‘Nexus experience’ on the One and the S4 available, I think the next Google-branded superphone will take a *while* to arrive.

        Of course, I probably would think that, as a Nexus 4 owner :)

        • Dave
          Posted 04/06/2013 at 9:27 am | Permalink | Reply

          “There’s not much evidence to support this. The Nexus 4 didn’t see Australian 4G support, and I doubt that Samsung and HTC believe the Australian market big enough that they will sell enough 4G models to justify specifically creating a new 1800Mhz model.”

          The Nexus 4 isn’t available as a 4G phone anywhere, not just Australia. Sure it has the chip and you can activate it but it doesn’t have a signal amplifier for it so it wasn’t intended to be used on 4G. It’s certainly not a supported feature anywhere. The Galaxy S4 and HTC One are already available with 4G variants for Australia and the ‘Nexus experience’ is just different software.

          “Personally, I think the Moto X will probably be the next Google-designed Nexus device — and I’m not expecting it until 2014. With the ‘Nexus experience’ on the One and the S4 available, I think the next Google-branded superphone will take a *while* to arrive.”

          Motorola have already said the Moto X will be launched between now and October (http://goo.gl/xLjPJ) and as Google are trying not to annoy their other partners I doubt this or any other Motorola phone will be Googles next Nexus phone. Google have so far released a new Nexus phone in the last quarter for the last 4 years although the Nexus One was a bit later coming in early January. If not a new Nexus, I would expect at least a revamped Nexus 4 by the end of the year.

        • Stephen
          Posted 04/06/2013 at 9:32 am | Permalink | Reply

          Renai – the Nexus 4 doesn’t have 4G support anywhere, just some users hacked the radio in Canada.

    4. Stuart
      Posted 03/06/2013 at 8:00 pm | Permalink | Reply

      Buy the Australian HTC One, put nova launcher on it, and you’ve got the best of all worlds. As a previous Nexus One, the GNex owner, I was pleasantly surprised by the HTC apps. Arguably the dialler and calendar is more versatile than stock, and the email app (not gmail) is definitely better for Exchange support.

      I bought this Saturday on the gamble that I could get a nexus rom but I definitely won’t be changing.

      • Posted 03/06/2013 at 11:16 pm | Permalink | Reply

        Good pointers, but there are other reasons people may want a Nexus device. Unlocked bootloader, the latest version of Jellybean, more available system resources (due to Sense being completely gone) and timely updates directly from Google, being the biggest ones.

        There are downsides with camera and button layout running on the One though (and even though Beats Audio is enabled, there’s no option to switch it off like you can with Sense) so its certainly not for everyone. The HTC One with Sense (& of course LTE) is an awesome device and probably still the wisest option for most people.

    5. Djos
      Posted 04/06/2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink | Reply

      Wow that’s lame!

      I was actually thinking the sgs4 based nexus phone might tempt me back to droid but no chance without 4g – looks like I’m gonna buy the next iphone after all!

      Ps, I will never again buy a non-nexus droid phone after experiencing 1st hand oem/carrier controlled handset that was stuck on 2.3 for more than 12 months after 4.0 was released!

    6. Dan
      Posted 07/06/2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink | Reply

      Correct me if i’m wrong but wasn’t all this 4G/LTE band segmentation between Australia and the rest of the world (esp’ the US) brought about ’cause Aussies winged about the schedule for shutting down the analog TV network? If it had been shut down on its original schedule the 700MHz band (and others) would have been available for LTE…? Thus the US release Nexus devices in discussion could have been sold and used here in Oz no dramas..?

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