Galaxy S23 Ultra: Hands-On Netflix Password-Sharing Crackdown Super Bowl Ads Apple Earnings Google's Answer to ChatGPT 'Knock at the Cabin' Review 'The Last of Us' Episode 4 Foods for Mental Health
Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?
No, thank you

An appreciation for the Nexus 4, the little smartphone that could

The Nexus 4 proved that you could offer a great smartphone with a fantastic off-contract price. Will the Nexus 5 continue that welcome trend?

The Nexus 4 - sold out & not likely coming back

I didn't like the Nexus 4 when it came out about a year ago. No LTE? Not for me! But now that you can no longer buy it, I have a new appreciation of what it was. A good little smartphone at a fantastic price. Will the Nexus 5 give us the same and more? I sure hope so.

Google is "out of inventory" on the Nexus 4, in both the $200 8GB and $250 16GB versions. It's been that way for about a month, with The Verge having reported a source saying it won't be coming back, not with the Nexus 5 expected to come later this month.

I've had a Nexus 4 since it first came out, and there was plenty to like about the phone. It was fast, had the latest Android operating system on it, took great pictures, wasn't too big or too small. It did all I could want from a smartphone except having LTE speed.

For me, the lack of LTE kept me from wanting to use it on a regular basis over other phones I had with that high-speed data capability. So, I largely dismissed the Nexus 4 as a smartphone contender among the major options out there.

Couldn't beat the price
That's why I was pretty surprised when my 20-something niece, and a friend's 20-something daughter, were both desperate to get the phone toward the end of last year, when it was in short supply. Why? Why would anyone want a phone that lacked LTE?

For them, it was the price. For $300 (the price at the time), they could get a fully-unlocked phone that wasn't tying them to a contract. Maybe it wasn't as fast as other phones, but they also weren't having to commit to a two-year contact or pay heavily to avoid that.

Then earlier this year, I found myself using the Nexus 4 more myself. It was perfect for a trip to Germany, when I needed an unlocked phone that could be used with a local SIM. I also started carrying it more to work in conjunction with my Google Glass, using T-Mobile's fantastic $30 pre-paid plan for 5GB of data, unlimited text & 100 minutes of talk time.

Having it for Google Glass meant I also was using it more as a regular phone on its own. Yes, LTE with AT&T and Verizon on my other phones was still much faster. But the Nexus 4 did well, both in speed and as a great all-around device.

I perhaps appreciated the Nexus 4 most when I broke it. I'd been using a review unit that Google gave me. Replacing it wasn't a $800 disaster, if you didn't have phone insurance. It was $300. That's still expensive, but not at all what it would be like to buy a new phone at full cost.

I appreciated it again when getting the iPhone 5S. I have an old Verizon data plan which I don't want to lose, not just because it's unlimited but also because it's much cheaper than any of the new ones Verizon is pushing. But that meant buying the iPhone 5s at full price -- a $650 cost, at the lowest storage option. That's also in line with the cost of buying phones like the Galaxy S4, the HTC One or the Moto X off-contact.

Those are all great phones. But for half the price, with no contact, the Nexus 4 really shone among them. While you can still find it from third-parties, you won't get it for that original $300 or less price.

The Nexus 5 is expected to have LTE. That'll be great. But what I'll love, and what I so wish for, is that Google really continues with the groundbreaking feature the Nexus 4 introduced, one that could help shake up the mobile phone space -- making the Nexus 5 also a low-cost, unlocked phone.