Contract free Google Nexus trumps Verizon. Here's why.
Droid Did. Now Nexus Does. Contract free Google Nexus trumps Verizon. Here’s why.

Verizon dropped the price of its version of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus this week. That Android is one heck of a smartphone (my review) and I know of several converts who have tossed their iPhones in favor of it. And at only $99 it’s also one heck of a bargain.

There’s only one problem: that pesky contract locks you in for two years.

Once upon a time that might not have been a big deal, but the pace at which mobile tech is advancing could cause many to take stock before signing on the dotted line. Verizon’s new capped data plans don’t exactly help make the case for diving in either.

My suggestion?

Go unlocked.

You can have your cake and eat it to. Get the Nexus direct from Google. SIM it up via T-Mobile or AT&T and forget the hassles of contracts. Unless you’re a die hard Big Red fan, this strategy makes sense for several reasons:

Nexus enjoying its day in the sun.

1. No contract

I’m convinced month-to-month will eventually be the norm, with shorter contracts (say, 6 or 12 months) as possible alternatives. Carriers, of course, like to lock you in. Captive customers make for predictable revenue streams. If you jump on the Google bandwagon and buy an unlocked Nexus direct, you don’t have to worry about early termination fees, nor do you have to sit on the sidelines when that next big Android arrives.

2. Nexus GSM/HSPA+ has better battery life

Count me as surprised. Really surprised. In my review of the Verizon CDMA version of the Nexus last December, I came away impressed save for battery life. I called it woeful. Indeed, it literally sucked. You could sit there and watch the battery bar icon fade before your very eyes. So when I made the decision to finally upgrade to the GSM Nexus from trusty Motorola Droid (2009!) I braced myself for the extended battery, and charger dance. However, the GSM version doesn’t need an LTE antenna, and the resulting reprieve on the battery is noticeable in day-today use.

3. It’s slimmer too

Because there is no LTE antenna, the GSM Nexus is thinner. It might not seem like much dimension-wise when you consider the hard numbers, but in the hand it’s noticeable. To me, the Nexus is the most elegant (curved glass), well designed (micro-USB and headphone jack both at bottom), slick (Jelly Bean!) manifestation of the Android experience- and, yes, that includes the uber Samsung S III folks (check it: Nexus goes toe-to-toe)

My Nexus home screen. Jelly Bean does in fact run buttery smooth, and Google Now is a helpful feature.

4. Jelly Bean… plus first access to the next big Android upgrade

With Nexus you’re standing at the front of the Android upgrade line. It’s like flying with status. But only if you own the unlocked version. If you order a Nexus, it will arrive at your door with Jelly Bean, ready to go (it’s brilliant). Carriers are notoriously slow in releasing Android upgrades. Many don’t even have Ice Cream Sandwich yet. Boo hoo to that I say!

5. Google is likely to release new Nexi this fall

Sure the Nexus is 7 months old; by most accounts that’s over half-way through its lifecycle. Fear not. If you go unlocked and walk away from Verizon and its contract laden ways you enjoy the luxury of choice. If a new uber Nexus lands this fall as is likely to happen – Google has launched all of its Nexus devices  (Nexus One in 2009, S in 2010, Nexus in 2011) at year’s end – then you’ll be able to easily upgrade. Simply eBay your Nexus, and go for gold.

6. GSM is global

World travelers will want to go GSM anyways. If you’re traveling abroad, with the unlocked HSPA+ Nexus you can pop in a SIM from any number of global providers and pay as you go.

7. For the data hungry: T-Mo’s little $30 secret

Well, it’s not exactly a secret. The plan is promoted (in ghastly pink) all over their site. For $30 you can get unlimited data. Try that with the other guys. There’s a few catches. For one, you get the first 5GB at 4G speeds, but after that you’re bumped down to 3G. For most this won’t be an issue – I discovered that I use only about 1 to 1.5GB of monthly data. The other limit is talk time. Only 100 minutes are included. Again, this is not as big a deal. You can buy more minutes, or simply look for a VOIP alternative, and make calls using data. All the other kids with the pumped up kicks are doing it.

So there you have it. 7 reasons why you should just say no to contracts, no to Verizon and vendor lock. Nexus is a world-beater, and go toe-to-toe with even the Galaxy S III (a great phone too, TouchWiz notwithstanding). The unlocked, GSM version though is the cat’s meow, the darling of darlings. Go Jelly Bean, go Google direct, say I, and don’t look back. Are you with me?!