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Re: benefits of unlocking my Nexus
Generally, you'll get performance tweaks and additional features. If your phone's manufacturer lags behind on updates - and I'm sure that never happens - then custom ROMs can be based on a version of Android that's more up-to-date.
Before I bought my Galaxy Nexus, I used an LG Optimus V. It came with Froyo. I got tired of waiting for LG to update it to Gingerbread, so I flashed an unofficial variant of Cyanogenmod that was Gingerbread-based. I grew to appreciate many of the extra features that were included, such as having data toggles on the pull-down menu. I can't believe Google hasn't picked up on that yet!
It wasn't all smooth sailing, though. The ROM itself was based on Gingerbread, but the drivers for some of the phone's hardware components were too old to run on Gingerbread, so the developers had to cobble together drivers of their own to make everything work. What they created worked...but not as well as official software would have. Bluetooth, for instance, was such a battery hog that it killed my battery more times than I could count.
That's the trade-off you usually make with custom ROMs: less stability for additional features. If it's worth the risk to you, then flash away.