The Nexus 4 is outstanding value for a top-quality smartphone - but only if you pay the right price. Here's how.
The Nexus 4 is a great smartphone. It offers true high-end build quality with a great feature set and Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, as well as the Nexus promise of timely updates to future Android operating systems. Despite a relatively paltry storage allowance and lack of 4G connectivity, at the right price the Nexus 4 is the best Android phone around right now, when cost is taken into consideration. But only if you shop sensibly. Here's how to grab a bargain when buying the Nexus 4. Updated, 15 January, with details of Virgin's new deals.
Best place to buy Nexus 4: Google Play
Because Google is subsidising the cost of the Nexus 4, buying it outright from Google Play is always cheaper in the long run. The Nexus 4 costs £239 inc VAT for the 8GB handset, and £279 for the 16GB flavour - unlocked and SIM free. Buy it outright for £279 and you can source a very healthy data SIM from around £10 if you are prepared to shop around (a quick straw poll of PC Advisor staffers reveals that two colleagues are paying £10 a month via GiffGaff, and another £15 for a particularly generous Three SIM).
Even if you are paying £15 a month for the larger capacity device, after two years your total outlay will be £639. That's a lot of money, but it is a lot less than you'll pay for any other high-end contract smartphone. And you can always quit whenever you want, by staying with the same deal and selling your phone, or quitting the SIM and getting a new contract phone. Remember - the key fact about the Nexus 4 is that Google's subsidy means it is a cheap, but high-end, handset.
So that's that then. End of article. Well, not quite. Like all the Nexus products, the Nexus 4 is in short supply. This could be because Google has been genuinely surprised by the levels of interest, possibly LG - the manufacturer - is incapable of supplying sufficient volume, or Google may even be driving up demand by limiting supply. More likely it is a combination of all of the above.
Either way, the Nexus 4 is available only from time to time on Google Play. If you need one right now, you may have to look elsewhere.
Best place to buy Nexus 4: eBay (or another online store)
Don't roll your eyes. A quick Google Shopping search brings up multiple listings for the Nexus 4 (search for 'LG Nexus 4', too). Many are out of stock, but lots of eBay- and online stores do have handsets in stock. The catch, along with all the other safety warnings that come from buying from an unfamiliar online retailer, is simple: price. Resellers exist to do exactly that - buy a product at one price and flog it on for more. Like ticket touts they recognise where demand outstrips supply, and move in to take advantage. (For more, buy a boxset of Lovejoy.)
It is indisputably a better deal to buy the Nexus 4 direct from Google. But if you just have to have your Nexus 4 in the next day or so, it probably makes sense to pay the premium up front in the form of a £90 or so surcharge on Google's own pricing, than suck up the cost of a contract. Just make sure you research the company from who you are buying, and don't allow your desire to get your handset quickly to colour your judgement. The Nexus 4 is a huge bargain at Google's price - start paying more and you should consider other Android phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S3 and HTC Desire X.
Best place to buy Nexus 4: on contract
Honestly, we wouldn't bother. Using PC Advisor's own mobile phone comparison engine, we found that the cheapest monthly deal was with O2, over two years, and with an initial cost of £189 supplemented by £10.50 monthly payments. That's for 50 minutes of calls, unlimited texts and a paltry 100MB of data, and it will cost you £441. That doesn't compare too badly to buying the phone outright for £239 and paying £10 a month for a decent data and calls SIM, but you are limiting yourself to O2, and that SIM deal is barely worth bothering with (you'll burn through 100MB in days). Why not go it alone and source a good SIM deal to which you are not tied?
More realisticially, you could get a free handset from Vodafone, and pay £29 a month for two years. This is the best deal we could find and includes unlimited calls and texts, and 2GB of data. You'll pay £696 in total, only marginally more than the gourmet £639 deal we outlined under 'Google Play', for a similar calibre of service. Still, you are tied in to the deal for two years, which means you can't flog your handset in a year's time and get the next great phone. Indeed, you're more likely to be sold into another long term deal.
That said, if you can't afford to buy the handset outright, a good contract deal such as the one outlined above is worth considering - just make sure it gives you all the data you need. There's no point in having a Ferrari and no petrol.
Check for the best Nexus 4 deals on PC Advisor's mobile phone comparison site.
Update: 15 January >>
Virgin Mobile today announced it is selling the Nexus 4 on contract. You can get the Nexus 4 for free on a range of two-year contracts. Tariffs start at £31 per month, with only 500MB of data. Pay £34 per month and £99 for the handset and you'll gain unlimited data while £36 per month allows 1GB of data with a free Nexus 4. The monthly price for a free smartphone and unlimited mobile internet is £39.
So even the cheapest deal will still cost you more than £700 and tie you in for two years. For the full story, read: Google Nexus 4 launches on Virgin Mobile.
Best place to buy Nexus 4: PAYG
We really have no idea why anyone would do this. You lock yourself to a network, with none of the benefits of a subsidised handset. The only deal we can find is £399 for the Nexus 4. Given that you could get it from an eBay store, unlocked, for less, this makes no sense to us.