Re: Is the Nexus 4 a good 2-year phone?
1. Coverage. AT&T's LTE Coverage is actually pretty good now. Their HSPA+ coverage is like twice that of T-Mobile. In many rural and "in-between" areas, T-Mobile is useless. AT&T's network also seems better at handling higher capacities than T-Mobile's. I had posted some Speedtests a while back on another forum, but after I moved here my median speeds on T-Mobile with a full HSPA signal (doesn't matter what kinda phone you have at these levels) was about 120 kbps down and a little over 1mbps up. It was like that all over here, and in the place where I later moved to (where I live now, they are basically useless). I called them about it and they said it was because their servers were over capacity. Never had an issue like that with AT&T.
Originally Posted by Qbancelli
I had them for about 22 months and ended up paying the ETF fee (I had two phones for myself from them) instead of waiting another month or so to drop them because their data speeds and coverage were simply unusable. The only thing good about it was the 5GB soft-cap and free tethering, but with such terrible speeds it doesn't even matter - similar to unlimited data on Sprint CDMA devices (Sprint at least has WiMax here, though, so you can actually get a better experience getting a GS24G from Boost Mobile than messing with T-Mobile).
2. DC HSPA+ doesn't offer many battery savings over LTE, especially in the latest handsets. Additionally, LTE barely affects your battery in the absence of LTE coverage.
3. On top of not really gaining anything factorable in battery efficiency, T-Mobile's devices almost never function anywhere near that speed (and almost always below HSPA+ 21Mbps speed, making that radio configuration functionally a waste in those devices). In the vast majority of cases, the devices never go above 14.4Mbps in download speed, and I've seen an HTC Vivid on AT&T's HSPA+ network clock 10.7 Mbps Down/3.2 Up here. It has a 14.4 Mbps HSPA+ Radio (and LTE, but LTE wasn't up yet, back then), so performing quite close to it's theoretical maximum. Even if AT&T had DC HSPA+ 84 Mbps, that device in all likelihood would have gained very little from it, since I was on T-Mobile and seen their speeds in a lot of big cities like Baltimore, DC, Philly, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Memphis, etc.
DC-HSPA+ 42Mbps can't even start to compare to LTE. It isn't, and will never be, in the same league. Even in markets where there are tons of LTE devices (i.e. iPhone 5s, Galaxy S3s, One X's, etc.) LTE runs circles around HSPA+. Nothing is gained by getting a phone with basically an unusable LTE radio, and when you try to evolve to certain use cases that involve uploading more data instead of just streaming and downloading, HSPA+ will offer a factorably worse user experience than LTE. Which brings me to that...
On an HSPA+ network when your uplink speeds are slow, a ton of applications start to falter. Skype stops letting you *send* video if it detects your upload speed is slow, VoIP applications (Skype, Talk Voice/Video Chat, Hangouts) in general really degrade in quality, file transfer speeds in IM applications suffer, Uploading Videos to services like YouTube or Facebook (especially 720p or 1080p of factorable length (i.e. longer than 30 seconds or so) becomes a chore, and Instant Upload functionality in apps like DropBox and Google+ go from being huge conveniences to absolute battery killers due to the time it takes to upload multiple 3.x MB images over the slower network - keeping your phone awake and transmitting long after LTE would have completed the job. I went to a Zoo and had Google+ Instant Upload drain my battery from 80% to almost nothing in like 1.5 hours because of the slow HSPA+ upload speeds. I can upload a 1GB file on LTE in that time (or less), and still have a ton of battery left.
Additionally, even though HSPA+ handles capacity worse than LTE, because LTE and HSPA+ coverage almost always overlaps, non-LTE data speeds get boosts indirectly due to the LTE devices that get offloaded to that network, which makes AT&T's network [for those who live in LTE markets] even more attractive, IMO, for those who don't mind forgoing LTE but want to use a device like this. That's not possible on T-Mobile, because they don't have anything but their HSPA+ network - everything is on it - which is why they're facing congestion issues here that Sprint (with WiMax), Verizon and AT&T (with LTE) don't have to worry about.
T-Mobile has congestion issues in many areas because their network is smaller, they don't have as many towers deployed as AT&T/Verizon, and their cheap prices attract a lot of people. AT&T and Verizon aren't immune from this either, but they have invested a magnitude more in beefing up their networks (and have LTE on top of CDMA/HSPA+ deployed in many of their problem areas, anyways). Sprint has continuously had issues with their data network being overloaded mostly due to the same issues T-Mobile has (being forced to compete aggressively on price and attracting a ton of customers on a much smaller network).
If you don't travel (much) and your coverage and data speeds are fine for your uses, stay/go with T-Mobile. But for me, it wasn't worth the cheap price they were charging for the service. It was just too bad to justify. I certainly wouldn't go with them just to get a Nexus phone, and after using LTE for so long I couldn't use anything that was limited to HSPA+.
From my armchair stance of seeing the market move from mostly downloading media to also uploading/sharing media, I can't consider anything without LTE worthy of a 2 year commitment. It's too limiting, for me, personally.