Unless you’re up-to-date with consumer tech news, you might not have known that Google released its fifth Nexus phone around Halloween 2013. A Nexus phone is, in short, essentially the product that results from Google partnering with a manufacturer such as HTC, Samsung or, as in this case, LG, to debut a new version of Android with. The Nexus 5 is the Nexus phone for 2013, and exudes the Google influence, more so than any other phone on the market. If you use any of Google’s services, whether it be Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Google+, YouTube, Maps etc., you’re guarantee a best-in-class experience on the Nexus 5.
When I first unboxed this phone my first thought was that it looks like a phone for a grown-up. The design is simple, minimal and says a lot by saying very little. It’s not recognisable like an iPhone and it’s not noticeable like a Galaxy Note – it’s subtle and not distracting. The phone comes in black or white, though the front is black on both. It fits great in my hands at 69.17mm wide, 137.84mm tall, 8.59mm thick and 130g light.
The front is clean and dominated by a 4.95-inch, 1920×1080 (445 ppi) display with minimal bezels around its edges. Even though the display is large, one-handed use is still comfortable. The display is crisp and calibrated to be quite warm. If you’ve ever used a Samsung phone and noticed the blue tint of its display, the warm tone of the Nexus 5 is a welcome change. Against the plain design of this phone the display takes centre-stage. The face of the phone is disrupted only by the front-facing camera, and a relatively unique earpiece. The circular earpiece on my white version stands out amongst the plainness of the black face and not in a good way. The back of the black version is soft-touch, grippy plastic. The white-back version has a harder matte finish which gives it a very sturdy feeling.
In almost two months of daily usage my white back is still clean and spotless, though I stick it in a case if I’m wearing blue jeans – just in case the colour rubs off. On the back, the main camera is highlighted by a distinct black circle, that reminds me a little of a satellite dish. It’ll draw your attention when the back is facing you, however it’s not as obtrusive as the earpiece on the front. Ports, Buttons and the Speaker The top of the phone houses the 3.5mm headphone jack and the noise-cancelling microphone. Having the headphone jack on the top is problematic – I want to be able to hold my phone and put it in my pocket without shortening my headphone cable by 15cm or having to worry about damaging the wiring near the headphone connector.
It’s a minor, but daily inconvenience. On the right side sits the power button and the Micro-SIM slot, and on the left are the volume buttons. The power and volume buttons are ceramic (for whatever reason). They are a bit sharp on the edges, but have a nice click to them, and you won’t have trouble finding them with your eyes closed. Along the bottom sits the main microphone, the loudspeaker and the Micro USB port. Whilst it may appear to have two speakers at the bottom, in the left set of holes is the speaker, and in the right is the microphone.
I’ve had trouble with previous devices that had their speakers on the back, as it usually required cupping the sound around to the front, and the Nexus 5’s placement of the speakers on the bottom still isn’t perfect, particularly if you are using the phone in landscape mode to play a game. If your finger even slightly covers that speaker grille, the sound almost completely disappears.
In early December Google pushed out an update to address issues with the camera. Initially the shutter speed was too slow and the focus was hit-or-miss. Whilst the update did significantly improve these, the camera is still far from the quality and experience on flagship phones like the iPhone or Galaxy S4.
The rear-facing camera is an 8MP shooter with Optical Image Stabilisation technology, and the front-facing ‘selfie’ camera is 1.3MP. It performs really well in the middle of the day with plenty of lighting but anything other than that, whether it be a moving object or a low-light situation at night, and you should probably take more than a few shots to be safe. I’m not a big phone camera user as I usually carry around a point-and-shoot, but if your primary usage is on Instagram, Snapchat or video-calling, then the camera will be more than adequate.
Performance and Battery
As with every new version of Android, Google has focused on streamlining it and making it smoother and faster. Android 4.4 KitKat is no exception to this, and coupled with the internals (a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU, Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM) this phone is FAST and POWERFUL. Apps open and close without delay, scrolling is slick, and resource-intensive games such as Asphalt 8 or FIFA 14 load quickly and play powerfully.
The Nexus 5 houses a 2,300 mAH battery with wireless charging, which Google says lasts up to 300 hours standby time. My phone will definitely last me a full day – on average a fully charged battery will last me 11-12 hours with 4 hours screen on time. Of course, usage patterns will differ person-to-person. To demonstrate the combination of performance and battery, with my previous phone (a Galaxy Nexus) listening to music and reading the news on my 25-minute commute to uni would use up roughly 20% battery. The same usage on the Nexus 5 would only use about 5% at most. If I didn’t use the screen and only listened to music, I’d arrive at uni with the battery at 99%. Suffice it to say, battery life and performance on the Nexus 5 has been very impressive.
Pricing and Conclusion
The 16GB model comes in at AUD$399.00 and the $32GB model at AUD$449.00. Google has done as much as possible to reduce the price of the Nexus 5 and that is most evident in the camera and speakers. Relative to the $800+ price tags of phones such as the iPhone, HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4, the Nexus 5 is a steal.
I purchased this phone with the knowledge that I’d be first in line for updates, I won’t ever have to worry about manufacturer overlays and app duplicates as found in HTC Sense or whatever Samsung is calling their ‘TouchWiz’ these days – I get a clean version of Android that just works. With my mobile contract ending soon, I’ll be moving to a SIM-only plan and it’s a massive saving over the phone-bundled contracts the carriers are offering today. I’d gladly recommend this phone to anyone. Get on it.