Tried to buy a Nexus 4 recently? Unless you’re happy to pay inflated eBay or carrier prices, you’ve probably been struggling, as Google’s latest Nexus phone is more-often-than-not out of stock through Google Play. This has been a problem since the very beginning, when the phone sold out within a few hours of being launched, and has only sporadically been available online since then.
So what’s the problem? Is it insanely popular, or is there a bottleneck somewhere in the manufacturing and distribution process which is slowing everything down? A discussion thread over at the XDA-Developers forum has produced some interesting information which shows there’s a chance it’s all this and something more.
It all began with a forum member decoding the serial number on his Nexus 4, which shows its date and country of manufacture, while the final four digits increases by one for each until produced. This has enabled those with a penchant for maths to work out how many Nexus 4 phones have been sent out by LG and when.
High demand, low production?
The figures show LG produced 70,000 Nexus 4 phones in October 2012, 90,000 in November and 210,000 in December, giving a grand total of 370,000 devices. Turn around in some cases is very fast, with a few days passing between the device being completed and it being received by the customer. Of course, none of this is the same as an official sales figure from LG, and the estimate doesn’t include all the phones sent to networks around the world.
While 370,000 of anything can normally be considered a lot, it’s rather low for a three month production run of a device which has proven extremely popular. In December, sources in China estimated Nokia was producing 600,000 Lumia 920 devices per month and it still couldn’t keep up with demand. Remember, the Lumia 920 costs twice that of the Nexus 4 too. The Nexus 4 figure also appears to be considerably less than estimates for the Nexus 7 tablet, as an initial production run of 600,000 was rumored for the tablet just prior to launch, sales of at least a million in December and a total of more than five million expected to have shipped after six months. Did nobody guess a cheap high-end smartphone would sell equally well?
So, demand for the Nexus 4 is high and apparently so is turnaround, but production seems low. Is this the fault of the number-crunchers working out LG’s production targets before launch – Nexus phones have never been massive sellers, after all – or is it lethargy on LG’s part due to an unwillingness to push a cheap device without its name printed on it? Whichever it is, frustrated customers will only hold on for so long, and all it could take is a similarly well-priced device to come along soon for Google and LG to lose its rapidly diminishing goodwill entirely.