How to: Get T-Mobile LTE on your Nexus 4 for $30 a month
Since the Nexus 4 dropped in price, I saw some interest in getting this phone. I know there's a big barrier to entry: no LTE. I wanted to aggregate all the information for how to get (ultra-cheap) LTE on the Nexus 4 because I saw some questions (and frankly, this process is pretty involved). But if you can follow instructions, you should be fine. I tend to give a broad overview of the goals and focus on information that is relevant to the goal at hand. I also try to avoid specific, technical language that is intimidating to the uninitiated. This way, you know what you need to know and you know what your goal is for each step, so if you get lost, it'll make Google searching much easier I hope.
You can, of course, use another plan on T-Mobile, but many people find this $30 one to be the best bang for your buck. You can also possibly get another carrier's LTE assuming their LTE operates on band 4...this post is focused on this specific t-mo plan.
Standard disclaimer: I am not responsible for anything for anything you do to your phone (nor XDA, the Verge, or anyone else on the internet).
Step 1: Buy a Nexus 4!
Step 2: Buy your T-Mobile microSIM card kit.
Click on "Shop SIM Cards" > Add the microSIM to your cart
I have no idea why this is $10...it costed me only $0.99 back in November. It's a small upfront cost for that juicy LTE. If anyone can find it cheaper, I'll update this. FYI, when I ordered mine, it was delivered the next business day.
(be careful navigating t-mobile's site, sometimes they'll want you to add a plan with that SIM card. Do NOT add a plan at this point...just purchase the SIM card and get it in your hands, we'll buy the plan afterwards).
Step 3: Get the $30 T-Mobile prepaid plan.
This plan is not advertised really well on the T-mo site, but it still exists.
Follow the online activation steps that came with your SIM card. Online there should be a 100 minute unlimited plan under "Pay by the month." Picture courtesy CNET. As far as I know, the only way to select this plan is through the online activation process.
Note: This is for new activations only...so you'll need to get a new phone number to use this plan or port your number from another carrier. The only downside to this is you're stuck with T-Mobile's crappy voicemail, and if for some reason you don't keep your account filled, they will cancel the hell out of it and you'll lose your number. I suggest porting your number to Google Voice (detailed later).
It's a pretty usable plan: 100 minutes, Unlimited Text, "Unlimited Web." The Unlimited web is in quotes, of course, because they will throttle you to EDGE speeds after 5gb. That's still a remarkable deal. I've used this plan since the Nexus 4 came out and i've only hit the cap once and that was after much Play Music streaming...to be fair though, the web is literally unusable after the throttle, so keep an eye on it.
If the 100 minutes freaks you out, remember: this is prepaid. Just keep extra money in your account and if you go over your 100 minutes, it'll pull from this buffer zone. And for the love of God, make sure at least $30 is there the day before the bill is due...if it goes to pull the $30 and it's not there, they'll just cancel the line and you'll lose your phone number and will cause you major heartache.
Step 4: Unlocking the Bootloader (and other stuff)
Note: After this step, you will NOT get OTA updates anymore. It's an unfortunate side-effect, but when a new version of Android drops and you want to get your hands on it, go the Nexus 4 section of XDA and download the latest stock deodexed ROM and install. Or you can download and install a ROM using basically the same steps we used above.
Note 2: if you do decide to forgo the OTAs for LTE, keep an eye out on your data usage if you notice you're consuming more data but have no idea why. This happened to me when I was on a custom ROM and the 4.3 OTA dropped and my phone kept downloading it and trying to install it in the background and was failing and re downloading over and over again. I don't think this has ever been a problem in the past, but with 4.3, Google changed something.
Once you get your phone and you activate your plan and get your phone number, everything should be usable EXCEPT the LTE. Power it on and allow it to download the latest OTA if necessary.
To get LTE we need to A. unlock the bootloader so we can B. root the device so we can C. flash a custom recovery so we can D. install a hybrid radio that allows for LTE.
We can get you through A, B, and C no problem...D is more involved and detailed in the next step. And because I don't want to directly link to the radio, I'll direct you to an XDA thread and go from there.
Now before you go and get comfortable with your new Nexus 4, we should unlock the bootloader. Unlocking the bootloader wipes everything on your device (even the data partition and the "sdcard" partitions too).
Luckily with ALL nexus devices, unlocking the bootloader is stupid simple. If you've messed around with ADB, it's one line in command line to unlock it. There's tons of guides to install the Nexus 4 drivers and setup ADB if you google "root nexus 4" or something like that.
But there's an easier way...There's an all-in-one application made by WugFresh to do all the legwork (A, B, and C) for you.
Download from here, express your gratitude by clicking that link underneath his name.
Basically you need to download this toolkit, then install the Nexus 4 drivers from here, launch the toolkit and click the unlock, wait, then Root and flash the custom recovery.
Step 5: Flashing the Hybrid Radio
Ok, so after you unlock, root, and flash the customer recovery as per the toolkit, we just need to get the radio onto there. You can actually go ahead and start setting up your phone if you like, nothing beyond this point should mess with your data.
When you're ready, on your Nexus 4 using Chrome, go to this XDA post and download Hybrid 0.33/0.84 and also go here and download the LTE enabler. These should go to /sdcard/downloads and we can reach that from the custom recovery.
When you have those downloaded, power off your phone completely. Once the phone is off, while pressing the Volume Down button, press and hold the power key. Keep pressing both these keys down until you see the Android mascot and you're in the bootloader. Press volume down a couple of times until it says "Recovery Mode." Hit the power button to go into the custom recovery. I believe Wug's toolkit installs TWRP by default, so you should boot into that.
Tap wipe > advanced wipe > check dalvik cache and cache > swipe to wipe. This may not be necessary, but I do it anyway whenever I flash something new.
Go back to the main screen and tap Install > browse to the file (again, if you downloaded it with Chrome, the files should be under /sdcard/download. Tap on the EnableNexus4LTE.zip > tap on "Add More Zips" > tap on the hybrid radio > swipe to flash. It may take some time to flash the radio. After it's done, hit reboot system and let it boot.
Step 6: Adjust APN settings
We're almost there!
This boot will take a bit longer because it's rebuilding app cache. Once it does boot, you'll notice you won't have any mobile connectivity...don't freak out, give it 10 minutes or so and let the system warm up to these new radios.
If you have any problems, I strongly suggest you check out this XDA thread, because I'm positive someone ran in the same problem as you.
Once you see mobile data pop up (should have 3G), open up the dialer.
Type this in to get to the super-secret menu: *#*#4636#*#* > Phone Information > go down to "Set preferred network type" and switch that to "LTE/GSM auto (PRL)"
Now go into Settings > More... > Mobile Networks > Access Point Names
I believe by default, you just need to change it from epc.tmobile.com > fast.t-mobile.com. Don't forget the hyphen...it took me hours to figure out what I was doing wrong until I realized that the HSPA APN didn't have a hyphen between the t and mobile, while the LTE APN does.
You can also create a new APN if one isn't there. In any case, make sure the settings match these below:
Name: T-Mobile US LTE
APN type: default,supl,mms
APN protocol: IPv4/IPv6
After that, make sure the fast.t-mobile.com APN is checked, you may need to toggle airplane mode to start seeing LTE. Keep in mind since 4.1 (I believe), the network protocol is properly described through the icon. LTE will have a "4g" icon, HSPA as "H", HSPA+ as "H+". HSPA and HSPA+ will fall back to a "3g" icon when not actively uploading/downloading.
And just to be certain, you may want to make sure that T-mobile LTE service is live in your area. Check out this nifty site to see if LTE service is live in your neighborhood: http://www.sensorly.com/
Step 7 (optional): Google Voice and other goodies
As I said before, porting your number to Google Voice is best to minimize the risk of losing your number if you forget to pay the bill and to take advantage of GV's neat features.
I won't go into detail about setting up GV, because it's kind of straightforward. Port your number to GV, wait 24 hours (to the minute), download the app and setup Google Voice on your phone. I ignore my T-Mobile number and never give that out...I don't even know what the number is! Don't follow any guides on the internet that say you can replace T-Mobile's VM with Google Voice. It's not possible under this plan unless they recently enabled call forwarding on prepaid, a requisite for Google Voice's VVM.
I would also take advantage of all the time and effort you put into rooting your device by installing a custom kernel. You can do many things with a custom kernel like underclocking and overclocking, but the biggest advantage for this phone is the ability to customize the color profile of the screen. I was able to turn the washed out screen of the Nexus 4 into an LCD as vivid as the new Nexus 7.
I recommend faux's kernel and his app fauxclock. You can google search for some color settings (mine is 250-250-250, 13-10-27, 0-0-0)
Post below if you have problems or if something doesn't read well or any comments, suggestions, etc. Good luck! Enjoy having one of the cheapest smartphone bills, with fast LTE, on one of the cheapest flagship smartphones!