Despite its lack of LTE breaking our hearts, the Nexus 4 remains almost perpetually sold out in the Google Play store. It's obviously a popular device, especially among Android enthusiasts, but just how popular is it? In a thread in the xda-developers forum, the community has used serial numbers to work out exactly when and where their smartphones were produced, and also give us a clue as to how many Google has managed to sell.
The serial number starts with three numbers followed by a letter. Within this code, the numbers reveal the month and year of manufacture, while the letter relates to the country of manufacture. For example, 212K would refer to a device made in the 12th month of the year 2012 in Korea. Later in the serial number is another three-digit number that appears to rise sequentially depending the date of manufacture.
It may not be precise, but it at least gives us an idea of what's going on with Nexus 4 stock
By utilizing this system users were able to pinpoint roughly how many devices were being produced per month (70,000 in October, 90,000 in November, and 210,000 in December), as well as discovering that many phones were being made after being ordered. One user discovered — through an LG help page that lists the exact day of manufacture — that his device was produced three days after being ordered, and then took a week to make it to Kentucky from Korea.
While it's obviously an imprecise science — carriers and retailers still have devices in stock unsold, while conversely some Google Play customers are still waiting for their Nexus 4s to arrive — xda's number watching does give us some idea of the number of devices Google and LG are shifting, as well as LG's manufacturing capacity. With just 210,000 devices manufactured in its most productive month, and Google Play stores still listing the smartphone as sold out, it doesn't appear as though LG will be able to keep up with demand for the near future at least, unless it significantly ramps up production soon.