An interview with a1jatt, the XDA user that discovered that the Nexus 4 supports LTE in Canada

We contacted a1jatt through XDA-developers and he was kind enough to accept our request to interview him. We conducted our interview through email. Before we get to the interview, it’s important to remember that prior to his discovery, the popular opinion was that the Nexus 4 does not and could not support LTE of any kind. Many professional bloggers, commentators and XDA users denigrated any opinion to the contrary.

Let’s take a look at the timeline of how the events unfolded.

November 13 – Nexus 4 goes on sale in select countries. If you haven’t read it already. We reported our attempts at trying to buy a Nexus 4 on launch day here.

November 13 – Brian Klug at Anandtech publishes his excellent review of the Nexus 4 and mentions that the Nexus 4 apparently has the hardware to support some LTE bands, at least in theory. Anandtech isn’t really a tech blog in the same sense as TheVerge is as they’re more a PC hardware review site. Nevertheless, they probably have the most comprehensive smartphone reviews on the internet. Bravo Anandtech.

“[Nexus 4] does have the hardware for it on bands 4, 2, and 1 in theory.” (source)

“Band 4 (AWS) could essentially be supported with the power amplifiers and transceiver that already are onboard the Nexus 4” (source)

November 16 – iFixit does a teardown of the Nexus 4 and reports that it has a Qualcomm WTR1605L seven-band 4G LTE chip. The same day, discussion starts brewing on XDA about the possibility of hidden LTE potential.

November 19 – Androidcentral publishes an article “No, your Nexus 4 won’t magically grow LTE support”. The tone of the original article was a bit condescending–which put some people off. After news broke that the Nexus 4 did indeed support some LTE bands, Androidcentral started deleting comments critical of the article and revised their initial post (presumably in order to save face). Apparently, Androidcentral is reviewing their policies regarding deleting user comments. As expected, redditors had a lot to say. Here are a few choice comments:

“That’s why you DON’T write articles in a condescending tone. You come off looking like an ass if you’re wrong.” -MSined

“Editing an opinion piece to reflect hindsight is really amateur hour.” -arkain123

“I guess it magically grew LTE support :p” -_mars_

November 22 – an LG spokesperson confirms to Techradar that the Nexus 4 cannot be upgraded to LTE through software:

“The modem contains 4G LTE capabilities but is only effective when combined with other essential hardware parts such as a signal amplifier and filter in order for it to work. It therefore cannot be upgraded to 4G LTE capability through software.

November 22 – a1jatt starts an innocuous new thread on XDA titled “nexus has LTE”. One hour later, he posts a video on his initial post. The video makes a splash on reddit.

November 23 – A day later,  the discovery starts getting picked up by the major blogs. TheVerge picks up the story and so does Engadget. Brian Klug at Anandtech conducts some serious testing and concludes that the “Nexus 4 Includes Support for LTE on Band 4 (AWS)”

“The conclusion is that the Nexus 4 at present curiously includes the software profile on MDM9215M that enables support for LTE on Band 4 (AWS), and users only need to set the appropriate network type preference in Android to use it. None of the other bands that there are even power amplifiers for have LTE support, which is unfortunate for users in places where carriers aren’t running LTE on AWS, such as the USA. For example, in the USA, AT&T previously discussed plans for LTE on Band 4 but has only rolled out LTE on Band 17 to date, and is rumored to be turning to refarming its PCS (1900 Band 2) and Cellular (850 Band 5) holdings for additional LTE capacity, perhaps in the stead of AWS. T-Mobile US however will use AWS for LTE. Nexus 4 LTE support is definitely unofficial (and somewhat surprising) at this point, but if you’re lucky enough to be in a place where your carrier has rolled it out on Band 4, it’s just a setting away.”

Joshua Topolsky remains unimpressed. He tweets on November 23:

“Nexus 4 LTE hack does not make it in any way an LTE phone. Works on one band, only in Canada. Shows how lazy LG was with chassis.” (source)

“In a million years something like this would not change our review. The phone lacks LTE in any reasonable, reliable, supported way.” (source)

Respectfully, we do not agree that it is hack. A hack involves doing something that it wasn’t supposed to do. Arguably, the Nexus 4 was meant to support Band 4 LTE as all that you need to do to enable it is to select the appropriate profile. That LTE profile was already in the phone. It wasn’t created by a user. Nevertheless, LTE is not officially supported by Google or LG and its usage hasn’t been sanctioned by the FCC, so we can understand why a reviewer would not consider such a hidden feature in a review. We’re debating semantics here, but we prefer to call it a “hidden feature” than a “hack”.

November 27 – Androidcentral and Anandtech join forces to discuss Nexus 4 LTE in a 30 min podcast. TL;DR on reddit.

What will Google do now? What about the FCC?

This discovery may actually cause some trouble for Google or LG. The Nexus 4 has not been certified by the FCC to run LTE. Therefore, LTE usage on the Nexus 4 is unsanctioned. The FCC documents for the Nexus 4 can be seen here. Has Google licensed the technology to use LTE on the Nexus 4? We don’t know, but that’s another potential issue. There many many patents involved with LTE technology. Samsung sued Apple over the iphone 5 over this very issue. There are also rumors that Google may disable the unofficial LTE support in the Nexus 4 in future updates. So far, it’s only a rumor.

Does LTE work on my carrier?

We have seen reports confirming that LTE works on Rogers, Bell, Telus, Virgin and Fido in Canada. Very few carriers utilize Band 4 for LTE outside of Canada. Therefore, it doesn’t appear to be working in the US. However, T-Mobile may support Band 4 LTE in the future. Here is a list of all of LTE networks and what band they use.

How do I enable LTE on my Nexus 4?

You need the following things to get LTE working on your Nexus 4.

1)      An LTE enabled SIM card
2)      An LTE enabled data plan (depending on the carrier)
3)      An LTE APN (depending on the carrier, some carriers make you use a different APN to use LTE)

Follow the instructions in the video tutorial here or you can follow the step by step guide on Howardforums here or on Mobilesyrup here or on Techcrunch here. Instead of punching in *#*#4636#*#* every time, you can install an app called Phone Info.

Is there another way to enable LTE?

Disclaimer: Do this at your own risk of course. If you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t do this. Seriously, if you’ve never heard of Odin, or you don’t know how to flash back the factory images from Google or a custom ROM using Rom Manager by Clockwordmod, do not do this. We’re not responsible if you mess up your phone.  

Yes. For the super dorks out there, you can permanently do this without the Phone Info app by editing your build.prop–as first reported by stenzor. If you don’t know what a build.prop is and your Nexus 4 isn’t rooted, this is probably not for you. Remember that if you do this, you won’t get any further updates from Google. To restore updates, you’d have to put back the original build.prop for Android 4.2 which can be downloaded here (graciously uploaded by efrant). You should set the permissions of the original build.prop to 644 (for you *nix nerds).

All that you have to do is edit build.prop (located in /system) using your favorite file manager of text editor and add the following three lines to the end:

telephony.lteOnGsmDevice=1
ro.telephony.default_network=9
ro.ril.def.preferred.network=9

Save build.prop and do a factory reset. The LTE network selection should be permanent now.

Is everything working normally when you enable LTE?

Google and LG do not official endorse LTE. There’s no telling what will happen to battery life or if all of the software will work. From most reports, everything seems to be working fine (including wifi tethering), except for maybe Google Now which may have some issues. From what we understand, the Nexus 4 has a compatible LTE antenna and amplifier (despite what everyone says). If you’re getting slow speeds, check out which cell towers are near you here. If Google Now isn’t working, try to turn on your GPS. That sometimes does the trick. If that doesn’t work, try setting the Nexus 4 to LTE/GSM or to LTE only and try again.

Let’s get to the interview!

An interview with a1jatt

Hi a1jatt, thank you for agreeing to this interview. We’re sure that a lot of people are curious about how you discovered that the Nexus 4 supports LTE (at least in Canada).

hippowise: Did you read any technical specification documents or FCC documents before the discovery? If so, what did you find? What motivated you to try to get LTE working on the Nexus 4 when everyone (and we mean everyone) in the world said that it wasn’t possible. Nearly all of the bloggers in the world seemed to believe that getting any sort of LTE to work on the Nexus 4 wasn’t possible because it was missing hardware (antenna, amps, etc.). LG themselves issued a statement saying that “the [Nexus 4] cannot be upgraded to 4G LTE capability through software.”

a1jatt: Only thing I knew was that the chip in the phone was capable of LTE. I was not sure if it would work but I had stopped listening to the manufacturers and tech site etc. after GPS was enabled on HTC Touch by xda-dev community and then phone and SMS apps were enabled on 7 inch North American Galaxy Tab by mixing and matching the software and then AWS was enabled on Galaxy Note. On the Nexus 4, I was just curious to find out if the functionality was disabled at the modem firmware level or just in the settings.

hippowise: On November 22, you posted a new thread on XDA-Developers entitled “nexus has LTE” with the following message “Don’t know if it was posted already but I just discovered that nexus 4 can be used on telus LTE network.” along with a screenshot. We were wondering if you really did not know that your post would make worldwide news or were you simply being modest? Some people commented on how “laidback” your initial post was. If we had made such a discovery, we would’ve been yelling it from the rooftops!

a1jatt: You can say both. I didn’t know it was that big of a deal and also, my friend and family consider me a calm and laidback person. So even if I knew it was a big deal, my post would still be very laidback.  Other thing is, there is way too much talent on the xda developers. I was thinking may be somebody has already posted it and also I did not want to sound like a fool saying I found something that people already knew.

hippowise: Most users initial response to first initial post was “shenanigans” “video or GTFO”, “faksies”, “troll”, “HSPA+”. How did you feel when you first read those posts calling you a liar? Were you surprised that some XDA users were skeptical of the veracity of your claim even after you posted a video?

a1jatt: No, that was expected. I was waiting for those comments when I posted it.

hippowise: We know that it wasn’t your intention, but your discovery has have made a lot of professional bloggers look pretty silly. Androidcentral’s article was one of the most critical of LTE believers in their article “No, your Nexus 4 won’t magically grow LTE“. Apparently, they even deleted user comments to save face as their original article was written in a slightly condescending tone. Have you received any fan mail or hate mail? Have you been approached by any other blogs, LG or Google or any other companies for comments?

a1jatt: I have received lots “great work” private messages from fellow xda members. There are very few other sites that gave credit to xda-developers for this discovery. For example I sent a note to mobilesyrup with a link to the post on the xda-developers, they just ignored it, but then next day they posted it on their site with credits to some other site. Howard of howardforums posted an article on his site saying he heard a “buzz” about it, never gave credit to xda developers for it.

hippowise: I’m sure that our readers would be curious to know a little bit more about you. We can tell from your profile that you’ve been a member of XDA for almost 5 years now, but that’s all that we know. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself (age, sex, city, educational background, general interests)? Do you consider yourself a geek?

a1jatt: I am in my late 30s, I live in Calgary Alberta, I have education in mechanical engineering and computer science. I am not employed in I.T., it is more of a hobby now. I don’t consider myself a geek but my friends and family think I am. I like to buy new phones and tablets whenever I can afford and I like Silverlight and java/android/android accessory development kit programming.

hippowise: How does it feel being a tech celebrity overnight? Did you tell your friends or family? How was their response, if any?

a1jatt: I really don’t think I am a celebrity. Now, I just feel like a real xda-developers member. When I told wife about it, she was little less mad at my phones and computers for a day or so.

hippowise: Last question. When you find the hidden SD slot in the Nexus 4, will you let us know first?

a1jatt: Will you believe me without a screenshot or a video ???

That’s it folks! We’d like to thank you a1jatt for agreeing to interview with us and on behalf of all Nexus 4 users all over Canada. Thank you for persevering and sharing your discovery with the world. You’re probably one of the most beloved tech geeks in the world in the last week. Enjoy the limelight.

Closing remarks

In our view, a1jatt has not received nearly enough credit for his discovery. It has made news worldwide, often without any credit to him. That’s one of the reasons why we decided to reach out to him in order to raise his profile and to thank him for his efforts. If he didn’t figure it out, probably someone else would have, but that shouldn’t diminish his accomplishment (as you can make that argument with any discovery). In our opinion, giving credit to XDA-developers is pretty good, but ideally one should link to the relevant XDA thread or they should credit a1jatt by name. Worst would be to not give any credit to a1jatt or XDA-developers at all which sadly seems to happen quite often.

We’ll leave you with this meme posted by droidmakespwn