09
Nov
image
Last Updated: December 31st, 2013

Introduction

By: David

The Nexus 5 was perhaps the worst-kept secret in tech this year, but nonetheless, rumor and speculation built up a category 5 hypestorm around it - everything from the farfetched, like revolutionary camera tech and flexible displays, to the mundane-but-desirable, like a much larger battery or 3GB of RAM.

But now the Nexus 5 is finally here, and Google has, for the most part, built a very iterative product. As with every Nexus, the design is all-new, though the phone still carries that typically understated Nexus look. The display is just a bit larger, at 4.95", the 8MP OIS camera isn't a huge step forward, the phone isn't all that much lighter or thinner (9g and 0.5mm, respectively), and the battery has grown a paltry 200mAh. On paper, the Nexus 5 sounds a lot like most other high-end smartphones, and in some ways, even inferior to them. One might even say that going strictly on specifications, the Nexus 5 has little to offer over its competitors.

But Google probably isn't all that concerned with the competition, so much as it is with building the best phone it can to that incredible $350 price point. If you hadn't noticed, that price point has actually jumped from the previous phone by $50. Though, the $300 Nexus 4 was the rather pitiful 8GB model, whereas the Nexus 5 now starts at 16GB of storage, matching the price of last year's 16GB version.

Google has also addressed some of the Nexus 4's more obvious shortcomings with the Nexus 5. There's now a 32GB model. LTE support is standard, and works on three of the US's big four networks. The display, now 1080p though not much larger, is a massive improvement in terms of color reproduction. The camera is no longer a complete joke, and in most conditions, produces respectable photos. The awkward and often self-fracturing glass back plate has been replaced with soft touch plastic. The Snapdragon 800 processor is at the pinnacle of what the mobile SoC industry has to offer. It also remains genuinely impressive that Google can offer this phone at such an incredibly low price, and even at $50 more, the improvements made are easily worth the money.

The story doesn't end there, though, as Android 4.4 KitKat is without a doubt the OS's biggest overhaul since Ice Cream Sandwich, making substantial aesthetic and functional improvements to Google's mobile platform. Combined with the hardware of the Nexus 5, I would not hesitate to say this is the best Android experience money can buy today.

But there are shortcomings. Battery life is disappointingly inconsistent. The camera still lags behind those being made by Samsung, Nokia, and Sony (and even LG's own G2). The bottom-firing loudspeaker is just plain bad.

All things considered, though, this is the best Nexus phone yet. There's a sense of refinement and completeness both to the Nexus 5 and Android 4.4 that makes for a product Google has every right to be proud of.

Oh, and this review's a triple-header: Ryan Whitwam, Liam Spradlin, and I (David Ruddock) have authored various different sections of this piece, so look for the little byline under each major header!

Nexus 5: Specifications
  • Price: $349-$399 off contract on the Play Store
  • Processor: 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 MSM8974
  • GPU: Adreno 330
  • Network compatibility: Quad-band HSPA+, LTE bands 1, 2, 4, 5, 17, 19, 25, 26, 41 (NA model), Sprint CDMA
  • Operating system: Android 4.4 KitKat
  • Display: 4.95" True HD IPS Plus 1920x1080 (445 DPI)
  • Memory: 2GB RAM / 16-32GB storage
  • Cameras: 8MP rear (w/ OIS), 1.3MP front
  • Battery: 2300mAh, non-removable
  • NFC: Yes
  • Ports / expandable storage: microUSB / none
  • Thickness: 8.6mm
  • Weight: 130g

The Good
  • We all agree: Android 4.4 is the restyle the operating system needed. The new launcher is outstanding, Wallet works out of the box, immersive mode is going to be great in some apps, and the aesthetic changes are pretty slick, too.
  • The Nexus 5's display is truly excellent, a descriptor most previous Nexus phones have found elusive. Colors are extremely good, auto-brightness actually works, and sharpness is of course as good as your eyes will ever be able to appreciate.
  • This phone is crazy stupid turbofast. The Nexus 5 is easily the fastest Android handset I've ever used, and my colleagues would concur with me on that - the speed is simply incredible. Apps load faster, multitasking is snappier, and every facet of UI interaction just seems quicker.
  • I was prepared to be utterly bored by the Nexus 5's physical design, but I have to say, once I saw it in person my mind changed immediately. There's something very understatedly cool about the way the Nexus 5 looks - it's such a counterpoint to the fiddly textures and gloss and chrome so many other OEMs are using right now. As Ryan says, it's not a showstopper of a design, but it's eminently likeable, and from a feel perspective, Liam's dead on: "the softest touch in the universe."

The Not So Good
  • We were all absolutely unexcited about the camera. It's not bad, it's just not very good, either. Optical image stabilization helps out video a lot, but the lackluster variety and annoying placement of settings in the camera app can make actually taking a photo kind of an annoyance. Autofocus is also still just too slow.
  • Our collective thoughts on battery life were a pretty solid "meh." I've personally been having trouble with the phone not sleeping properly over the last few days, as has Liam, but Ryan's been managing a day's worth of usage pretty reliably. The battery life isn't horrible, but it could be so, so much better.
  • The bottom-firing external speaker just kind of sucks. It's not that loud, the quality is pretty awful, and the placement means you'll probably muffle it if you're holding your phone in landscape mode. I'm pretty sure this is the same speaker found on the G2, which sounds similarly bad.
  • Grumble grumble microSD cards grumble grumble removable battery.

Design and Hardware

By: Liam

The Nexus 5, as many have already said, is an unassuming device. The general shape is a natural evolution of the Nexus line - a rectangle with rounded corners and slightly curved top and bottom edges. When the screen is off, you've got a black slab and possibly a blinking notification light. When it's on you're looking at Android.

image

David will address the display, but there are plenty of other points to cover in the Nexus 5's overall hardware design.

The Shape

The shape of the phone, besides being an extension of the Nexus 4's general outline (and only just a little longer while retaining the same width - a feat in itself), follows the multi-part curve design we first saw with the Nexus 7, and saw carried over with the tablet's 2013 iteration. Matias Duarte, in a previous interview with the Verge, explained the curved design that's meant to feel comfortable in your hands - essentially it relies on a combination of curves and angles. A flat back with edges curved toward the front, cut off early by a sharp section that angles slightly inward. This is a design that's been refined since the Nexus 7 2012, but still works remarkably well.

hwcomp

'Hardcore Plastic'

In a recent interview, Duarte called the Nexus 5's soft touch material "hardcore plastic," separating it from cheap, quick plastic - this plastic was, evidently, machined and very carefully produced to result in what is the softest texture I've ever felt on a phone. The back of the Nexus 5 is positively velvet-smooth.

back

Picking up the device, it feels warm, inviting, almost grippy but not sticky (certainly less grippy than the Nexus 10). Like the Nexus 7 2013, the Nexus 5 has a horizontal, shiny "nexus" logo inlaid in the back. This and the subtle LG inlay are the only things disturbing the texture, but they aren't tactile enough to be disruptive or uncomfortable.

In my initial outline for this portion of the review, I had noted "the softest touch in the universe," and I wouldn't be mistaken to include those words here.

The only weak point in the "hardcore plastic" is the back, near the camera/flash array. This area seems kind of wiggly, and creaks a little bit. It's not an area I find myself pressing on a daily basis, but it would be nice to have more rigidity.

The Details

The Nexus 5 has several key design details that set it apart from other Nexus devices (and other phones in general). With such a minimal overall design, it's important to look at these, since they're the only further hints we have toward the N5's design intent. The first of these is the speaker grill.

Rather than having a section cut out of the top edge of the glass, or an oval-shaped earpiece somewhere farther down, the Nexus 5 has a simple circle punched out, with a speaker grill containing 35 teeny tiny holes drilled in concentric rings. I'll leave the speaker review for a later section, but the design is really unique. I can't recall seeing another smartphone with the same design element.

earpiece

Also on the front of the device is the notification light. It seems to be a little brighter than the Nexus 4's light, likely due to a larger opening, though the opening is still the same pattern as the N4, which makes for the appearance of a glowing light rather than a simple circle like the Nexus 10's LED.

image

The speakers have been a point of contention on the Nexus 5 in recent days - as it happens, only one set of holes on the bottom of the phone houses an actual speaker. The other set veils a secondary microphone. The decision to move the speaker away from the back of the phone was a good one (for those using speakerphone, at least), but the design of the speaker grilles is unremarkable. They are more utilitarian than they are beautiful, but perhaps that's okay.

speakers

Then of course there are the ceramic buttons. Duarte called out the buttons as "a little nice detail," with the ceramic material being chosen because it is "precise" and "natural." The power button on my device is actually a little wiggly, but the design and feel of the buttons are pretty much spot on. They are distinguished enough, texturally, from the soft-touch sides of the phone that they feel nicer, and the whole phone feels more thoughtful because of this difference.

ceramic

Around back, there's the aforementioned "nexus" logo, and the camera/flash array. The camera is actually the size of a usual mobile camera, but its lens is surrounded by a big, circular ring with glass on top, very similar to the new Nexus 7. Centered below that is the flash. To some, the ring may look a little ostentatious, but as part of an otherwise unassuming design, it makes an impression.

David's take: Online and in photos, the Nexus 5 looks pretty boring. In person, I absolutely love the sort of "stealth phone" aesthetic of the black version of the phone. It almost looks generic, but in a way that's cool. I can't really describe it - sort of like how the CR-48 in all its unbranded matte-black-everything glory looked like a secret agent's laptop. The Nexus 5 doesn't ooze style, it aerosolizes it and dispenses it with a hidden button from that sneaky little earpiece speaker grille. My only gripes would be that the matte plastic very visibly collects oil from your fingers, and the ceramic volume rocker and power button are a little too sharp for my taste.

Ryan's take: I know the Nexus 5 is not a stunningly beautiful phone, but I feel like it has the kind of design I've always wanted. The word stealth has been thrown around, and I'm down with that description. It does look nice in person, and the soft-touch back (and sides on the black model) make it very comfortable to hold. I love the matte band around the edge of the device, as opposed to metal or plastic on a lot of devices. Like the 2013 Nexus 7, it gets a little oily from your fingers, but seemingly to a lesser degree. I'm still not sold on the odd little round earpiece, but that's a minor detail.

Display

By: David

overall

The Nexus 5's LCD IPS display is, thankfully, not overly reminiscent of the one found on LG's G2, even if it probably is a very similar panel. The Nexus 5 appears tuned more to the warm end of the spectrum (LG's phones usually have a decided blue tint), but colors are much more accurate than those on many Motorola and LG handsets, which tend to be oversaturated. Being an LCD, though, black levels remain less than outstanding, and the display even has something of a yellowed tint to its whites, though not as much as you'd find on an AMOLED display.

Viewing angles are superb, though that could equally be said of phones like the HTC One or Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Brightness appears to be on par with the former handset, though, as while holding both the Nexus 5 and HTC One up in direct sunlight at the 100% level, I very much struggled to determine which was the more luminous, and both performed similarly even when held at an angle. Auto-brightness on the Nexus 5 also [thankfully] favors risking being too bright over too dim, a welcome departure from auto-brightness software on many modern Android phones. The downside, of course, is increased battery consumption than if it the setting were more aggressive, though just how much of a difference that makes is hard to really quantify.

All things considered, the Nexus 5's 4.95" panel is among the very best in any Android phone on the market today - you will not find a phone with a substantially better screen. That said, I think I still personally prefer the Galaxy Note 3's upgraded HD Super AMOLED panel, which combines the brightness of a very good - as opposed to a truly excellent - LCD (and, if you change the screen mode, the colors of one) with the deep blacks only OLED tech can provide.

The Nexus 5's display is top-notch, but it's increasingly competing with phones where this is the rule rather than the exception (looking at you, Moto X).

Liam's Take: The Nexus 5's display is gorgeous. During my time with the device so far, I've actually found myself flicking on the screen just to take a look at it. There's definitely a slight shift, and my dream of attaching a colorimeter directly to my mobile devices is as yet unanswered, but I don't think I've seen a "properly" calibrated mobile display yet. I'm willing to accept its minor inconsistencies with real world color in exchange for the excellent experience it provides otherwise. The display makes the Nexus 5 one of those devices that causes me to look at my old phone (the Nexus 4) with prejudice. Suddenly it (and its display) seems old.

Ryan's take: I think the Nexus 5 screen is my personal favorite among Android screens, if I had to choose. The clarity is awesome and the colors are certainly close enough that I'd never be bothered. I don't usually care for the color balance of AMOLED, and the 5-inch size of the N5 has proven more manageable than I expected it to be. The HTC One's screen feels oddly cramped to me, though it has a higher pixel density. I never thought I'd think a 4.7-inch screen was small, but the distain for bezels has allowed LG to pack a huge screen into a phone barely larger than the Nexus 4. I feel like the auto-brightness is a little high, and the display does suck down power. Still, it looks good doing it.

Battery Life

By: Ryan

A lot of flagship phones come with huge batteries these days – 3000mAh or more is not uncommon. However, Google broke everyone's hearts by announcing the Nexus 5 with only a measly 2300mAh battery. I'll pause while you curse the heavens one more time.

After giving the Nexus 5 a few days to even out, I'm content with the battery life of this device. It's not amazing, but neither is it a disappointment. The measure for a usable smartphone for me is something I can take off the charger in the morning, and use moderately without worrying about running out of juice before I drop it on the charger that evening. The Nexus 5 can do that, but not much more than that.

2013-11-07 05.43.38 2013-11-07 05.43.28 2013-11-07 05.43.17

I'm seeing about 3.5-4 hours of screen-on time in 16 or 17 total hours of usage. That's from 100% full to impending shutdown, including some Reddit browsing, games, Gmail, Chrome usage, a few minutes of Maps, and some messaging. The device was left on auto-brightness and was connected to WiFi about half the time (note the WiFi bar in the graph is mostly full because of the always-scanning feature of Android). In short, a pretty average day.

Standby time for the Nexus 5 is very, very good – I imagine it could easily make it through two days if you don't use it much. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 also has smart core management so it doesn't need to spin up to full speed unless needed. The biggest battery drain by far is the screen – this phone sips power while the screen is off, and guzzles it when it's on. Still, screen time is acceptable.

It would be nice if this phone had a larger Li-ion cell, but it does well enough with the one it has. I am, however, somewhat wary of adding too many apps to the Nexus 5 lest one of them cause issues in the background. Google changed the way the BatteryInfo service works, so my customary wakelock testing apps don't work in KitKat.

David's take: I've been having major standby battery life issues on my Nexus 5 since Thursday (update: pretty sure that was caused by switching to the ART compiler, I switched back to dalvik and all seems normal again), but my first 2 days with the phone would echo Ryan's sentiments - it's decent, but it's not great. On LTE only, I feel I could probably make it through an entire day as long as I didn't spend an hour browsing Reddit here and there or use Maps a lot. It's not where I'd like it to be, though. When phones like the LG G2 or DROID MAXX are squeezing 3000mAh+ batteries into a pretty standard 5" frame, it's time for Google to step up the game until they can actually make good on vague promises of increased power efficiency at the OS level.

Liam's Take: Like David, my Nexus 5's battery life has been all over the charts for the past couple of days. Whether that's because I switched over to ART, who knows. Still, the battery has held up about as I'd expect. I'd essentially gotten used to "meh" battery life living with the N4, and I don't pull my phone out of my pocket too many times during the day, so I am fine with battery life for now. But I know it could be a lot better.

Storage, wireless, and call quality

By: David

The Nexus 5, like the Nexus 4 before it, can be purchased in one of two storage capacities. Unlike the Nexus 4, those capacities are now somewhat respectable. You can have your Nexus 5 with either 16GB or 32GB of space, of which a little under 27GB is available on the latter, and presumably around 11GB on the former. Even I find 11GB of usable disk space to be a bit confining, though I can understand Google's reason for offering it: enticing more buyers. I also know I wouldn't be the only one asking for a "pricing revolution" at the 64GB tier. Maybe next year.

Wi-Fi performance has been excellent for me, though I've been hearing mixed results from others. I know in particular that some Nexus 5 users are complaining of connection problems on 5GHz Wi-Fi networks (dropping and reconnecting constantly), but the problem doesn't seem very widespread. I had my own 5GHz issues, in that the phone seemingly refused to sleep when connected to my Wi-Fi on the 5GHz band. When I use the 2.4GHz network I haven't had any problems. In side-by-side testing with a Galaxy S4 and HTC One, the Nexus 5 was consistently faster in speed tests, and when it wasn't, it was not slower by much.

I tested Bluetooth with a wireless speaker, which worked just fine. The range is typical crappy Bluetooth range, so there's really not a lot to report there. The sound was just what I expected - pretty good, but still obviously Bluetooth.

Mobile data performance has been strong if unremarkable on AT&T's LTE network. Speeds are right where I expect them for my region (20-30Mbps down, 8-15Mbps up), and I haven't had any issues with the connection dropping or flipping to HSPA+ unnecessarily. No news is good, as they say.

Finally, call quality. I was quite surprised how good call quality on the Nexus 5 seems to be. While it's not as loud as I recall the Galaxy Note 3 being, it's very clear and not overly tinny - at least for a phone. I often worry about Google screwing this kind of thing up, so I was relieved that after 4 phone calls on the Nexus 5, at no point did I think to myself "this isn't loud enough" or "I can't understand the other person."

Liam's Take: I opted for the 32GB option, and that's exactly enough to keep me comfortable. With an LTE connection (and T-mo's unlimited plan) I don't feel a need to carry too much media around locally. I haven't had time to get an informed opinion about Wi-Fi performance, but data performance has been pretty much as I expected. T-Mobile's LTE performance kind of fluctuates depending on where I am, but the same was true of HSPA+ with the Nexus 4. Call quality, likewise, is what I'd expect. I've never been very critical of call quality, but the Nexus 5's earpiece does sound nice.

Ryan's take: I've been happy with the performance of T-Mobile's LTE with my Nexus 5, and WiFi has also been fine on my end. I've had it connected to a 5GHz N network most of the time and have yet to see any of the issues others report. Call quality has also been great for me – not that I like to take calls, but this phone sounds good.

Audio and speaker

By: David

Headphone audio from the Nexus 5 is top-notch, basically the same as you'll get from any Snapdragon 800-equipped phone, as Qualcomm provides all of the DAC / amplifier bits to produce the sound. And hey, according to Google, the Nexus 5 will use a lot less battery than normal when playing back audio, which is a plus.

This brings us to the speaker. The Nexus 5 has one loudspeaker, despite an appearance that may lead you to believe otherwise. You see, on the bottom of the phone are two identical grilles flanking the microUSB port, which you might assume are both involved in the production of sound. But you'd be wrong. Only the left side actually makes any noise - the right side houses the microphone, though the size of the grille is obviously overkill. The choice to have the grille on the right is 95% about form, 5% about function. It doesn't need to be there, it just looks nice.

Anyway, the one speaker the Nexus 5 does have sounds pretty mediocre. It doesn't get very loud, the quality is pretty gag-worthy, and the positioning of the speaker itself is really just kind of stupid. At least if it's on the back you can cup your hand around it to amplify the perceived volume, but with a bottom-firing speaker there's a substantially higher chance you're going to position your hand - especially in landscape mode - such that the speaker gets at least partially covered. It looks cool but the functional utility is questionable at best, and the performance of the speaker itself makes this aspect of the phone a substantial letdown.

Notably, the LG G2 also has a pretty subpar loudspeaker when placed up against the competition from Samsung and HTC, which leads me to believe the N5 is using the same component. It's better than the Nexus 4's, but not by much.

Liam's Take: Like David, I think the bottom speaker (not speakers, unfortunately) is pretty lame. I will say, though, that the bottom placement is better (in my opinion) than the back-placement on the Nexus 4, particularly for those who use speakerphone. I don't find myself blocking the speaker, but then again I don't use the speaker that much either.

Ryan's take: I pretty much agree with the above. The speaker is not terribly good. It does what I need it to – mainly to tell me I have a notification. I'm not as bothered by the loudness as David, though. It seems acceptable in that department.

Camera

By: Liam

The camera is perhaps one of the most hotly discussed aspects of any flagship phone. With the Nexus 4's poor track record (in fact the entire Nexus line has had somewhat of a problem getting the camera right), the Nexus 5's camera is a ... focus for much of the Nexus-buying community.

In an attempt to get a handle on whether Google's actually making any progress toward the Nexus devices being "insanely great cameras" (as Vic Gundotra has been famously cited for promising), I shot several comparisons between the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5.

The short version of this story is that the Nexus 5 is indeed better. Besides the obvious enhancements like OIS (optical image stabilization), the software and processing seem to handle photos better, expose more evenly, and at least try harder than the Nexus 4. That isn't to say the Nexus 5 has an excellent camera, though. It is still almost certainly outpaced by cameras like those on the HTC One or iPhone 5s.

What Does "Good" Mean?

But if I may interject my own editorial thoughts, it's hard to objectively call a smartphone camera "good." So much of what makes a smartphone camera good is the experience you get while shooting. Ease of access, a smart and thoughtful interface, and quickness are all hugely critical aspects of this experience.

In this department, it seems Android is actually kind of taking one step forward and two steps back. The camera (as I'll discuss in GTKA later) largely has the same interface as in Jelly Bean, but now shooting in HDR gives you quick feedback as if it's already taken the photo, then a freeze while it actually takes the photo, then you see your photo. This is silly.

And Jelly Bean's camera interface was no looker, either. There are smart and thoughtful features in there, but they aren't easy to get to. They are obscured by multiple layers of this weird thumbnail swipe-up secondary interface...thing, which puts too many actions between you and the things you might actually need to do.

The camera interface hasn't seen a lot of really smart features in a while, either. Photo Sphere is great, and panorama is neat, but the lack of any additional "nice to haves" is lamentable. It may be unfair to call out certain features as being absent when they were never promised in the first place, but some of Google+'s new photo features would be welcome, and even Samsung's  "best shot" feature is a nice-to-have that would bump up the experience a notch.

Doing It All For Me

Part of the "smart"ness I discussed earlier is the ability for a camera to just take the shot for you without any monkeying. My personal opinion as someone who is used to DSLRs and compact mirrorless cameras as primary shooting devices is that making the shot excellent is up to the photographer.

A smartphone camera, in my mind, should be able to carry out two separate trees of action - one tree in which the goal is to "capture the moments that matter" (whatever that means to you), and one tree in which the goal is to take really nice looking photos. In my universe, an ideal smartphone camera would have the software power to produce really decent results with absolutely zero involvement, but also the ability to produce excellent results with a little effort. This means making adjustment features more transparent and accessible, and really optimizing software for the phone.

Neither of these things has happened yet.

Can really good results be produced with the Nexus 5? Yes. In order to do that, does one have to put in an unnecessary amount of thought? In too many instances, also yes. On a bright sunny day I snapped a pretty great exposure of the Javits center in Manhattan with HDR+. But had the conditions not been right, it would have certainly taken more effort.

IMG_20131108_080459

Comparison Shots

All of that aside, let's see how Google has improved their flagship smartphone's camera since last time.

IMG_20131108_141040 IMG_20131108_141038

Left: Nexus 4 Right: Nexus 5

IMG_20131108_143608 IMG_20131108_143623 IMG_20131108_143606 IMG_20131108_143621

From left: Nexus 4, Nexus 4 HDR, Nexus 5, Nexus 5 HDR+

IMG_20131108_190811 IMG_20131108_190816

Left: Nexus 4 Right: Nexus 5

IMG_20131108_143720 IMG_20131108_143724

Left: Nexus 5 Right: Nexus 5 100% (3.9x) zoom

IMG_20131108_192952 IMG_20131108_192958 IMG_20131108_192914 IMG_20131108_192922

IMG_20131106_195412 IMG_20131106_195427 IMG_20131106_195403 IMG_20131106_195417

From left: Nexus 4, Nexus 4 HDR, Nexus 5, Nexus 5 HDR+

Video

One area where there has been notable improvement is video capture. This is where the OIS camera module really shines. As a quick test, I recorded the same horse race with the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 stacked one on top of the other. The amount of shake present in the N4 video is definitely noticeable compared to that in the N5's sample. Audio capture was also impressive, given the level of background chatter present.

Addendum: Android 4.4.1

The headline feature of the Nexus 5's update to Android 4.4.1 was a set of tweaks to the phone's camera. Primarily, these included changing the decision-making process that balances gain and shutter speeds to get an optimal photo, autofocus and startup speeds, and a number of changes to the Camera app's UI.

I detailed these changes in What's Really New, so I won't repeat them here, but it's worth re-examining the experience here in light of the update.

In the original review (above) I explained that the real issues with the Nexus 5's camera had almost nothing to do with the camera itself. The hardware is capable of producing good (even really good) images, but it was held back by software and user experience that just felt plain lacking. The hardware/software combination didn't fit what I considered to be a good mobile camera experience, or one that approached the "do it for me but let me choose to do it myself" vision I described for the ideal mobile camera.

Those opinions have remained largely unchanged with 4.4.1 (and, subsequently, 4.4.2). Using the camera is more reliable, and overall better now, but the actual Camera app is still the experience's fatal flaw. The camera's viewfinder is still woefully inaccurate, settings are hidden high in swipe-activated trees, and as a whole, capturing a great photo still requires a lot of thought.

This isn't necessarily a problem unique to the Nexus 5 - as Director of Engineering for Android David Burke said to the Verge, people expect DSLR quality out of a phone camera for some reason, so actually accomplishing that while also reducing the experience to one that requires the least involvement from users is next to impossible. As daunting a goal as that is, the camera app keeps Nexus devices' cameras from reaching their potential, which itself is likely still a far cry from the quality we see in our wild imaginations.

David's take: Nexus phones have never had a great camera experience, and the Nexus 5 doesn't change that. It's not bad per se, but overall I feel like the camera really gets the short end of the stick on Google's priorities, both in terms of hardware and software. Pictures are decent, but autofocus still feels slow and unreliable, and I really cannot stand Google's overly minimalistic camera app. It just kind of sucks, in my opinion. That said, I think this is the best camera on a Nexus to date, though that doesn't really say a whole lot. It's adequate.

Ryan's take: I didn't go into this expecting amazing pictures, but a modest improvement over the Nexus 4 seemed plausible. That's really what we got. It takes nice images in good light, has improved low-light with less noise, and records video nicely. I'm a little concerned with how long it takes to focus before taking a shot, and Google's camera software isn't helping. The camera is fine, but that's it.

Software

Stability And Performance

By: Ryan

Let's get this out of the way: the Nexus 5 is insanely, stupidly fast. I'm sure you've used an Android device that seemed responsive at the time, but the Nexus 5 is at least as good, and probably better. Swiping through the homescreen is buttery smooth in a way that Project Butter could never touch, and apps launch incredibly fast.

Comparing to the 2013 Nexus 7 – which is no slouch – the Nexus 5 easily launches most apps twice as fast. This is one of the few things on modern smartphones that still leaves me feeling like I'm waiting on the phone, but not with the Nexus 5. Switching apps is also snappy – nearly instantaneous.

2013-11-08 04.35.18 2013-11-08 04.35.30

If you put stock in benchmarks, here are some.

Chrome has notorious responsiveness issues on most devices, and this is one of the few places the Nexus 5 falters a bit. It's smooth most of the time, but there is an occasional hitch on heavy pages – I should stress occasional. The overall experience is still improved. The widget list is another place I always encounter a spot of lag on Android devices, and the Nexus 5 again improves on things, but doesn't get it perfect. The momentary hesitation while the widget list populates is much shorter than with other devices, though.

The takeaway when it comes to performance is that Android has been tightened up considerably and the hardware is super-powerful. The things that were smooth on the Nexus 4 are even smoother on the Nexus 5, and the handful of laggy bits have been eliminated, or at least drastically reduced.

Moving on to stability, I have very little to say because there's nothing to complain about on my end. I haven't had a single app hang and the device hasn't done anything bizarre like restart or bootloop. There are a few apps that aren't compatible because of changes in Android 4.4, but that's not really the phone's fault. The experience using the Nexus 5 is simply killer.

David's take: Good god this phone is fast. Easily the fastest phone I've ever used - it's really no contest. As Ryan said, opening and switching apps is much more snappy than it used to be, and every aspect of the OS really seems to have been sped up. The only device I've used that feels this quick is the NVIDIA Shield, but that has a CPU heatsink, fan, and a 720p screen. The Nexus 5 hauls ass. Stability has also been great for me.

Liam's Take: I don't have too much to add here. The phone is really, really responsive, and it's an absolutely wonderful experience in that regard.

Android 4.4 KitKat

By: Ryan

Google has served us three helpings of Jelly Bean in the last year and a half, but now it's moved on to a new treat-themed OS. Android 4.4 KitKat is probably the biggest revision to the platform since Android 4.0 brought Android out of the dark ages. This version brings a plethora of tweaks, feature additions, and UI changes. Still, no software is perfect, right? It's time for a KitKat taste test.

The Launcher Is Swoon-Worthy

From the first time the Nexus 5 leaked, the launcher was a major topic of discussion. For all the behind-the-scenes changes Google has made in recent years, the home screen looked almost the same from Android 4.0-4.3. KitKat shakes things up, and I think we're coming out of it much better off.

2013-11-08 04.15.21 2013-11-08 04.15.28

Google has recently indicated the 4.4 launcher on the Nexus 5 is going to be exclusive to that device for the time being, but I'm going to treat it as a part of Android 4.4 as a whole. This UI feels like the future of Google, and it's easily the most user-facing improvement for KitKat. From the moment the device is switched on, the transparent navigation bar and new icons are inviting and let the UI really shine. This is just scratching the surface of the new launcher, though.

The Nexus 5 comes with only a few home screen panels instead of the customary five. If you want more, you can just add more icons and widgets to create additional panels. Want fewer screens? Clear them off and Android deletes the panel completely. I think this approach is fabulous – it gets to the heart of what a home screen is supposed to do. It contains your most important content, but if you don't have five screens worth of vital stuff, why have all that wasted space?

2013-11-07 23.15.39 2013-11-07 23.15.50 2013-11-08 04.15.54

I wondered exactly how far Google would let users take the dynamic home screen count and I got bored at 25 panels. It's a little bit bizarre, because who has that much stuff? Still, it's also kind of amazing Google engineers didn't feel the need to impose an arbitrary limit.

The left home screen is now the "main" one, and the others trail off to the right. This places Google Now one swipe to the left from the main panel. I wasn't sure how to feel about this placement at first, but now I'm sold. It makes accessing Now much more smooth and it feels like an integral part of the OS. You're not using a phone that happens to include Google Now in the search experience. You're using a phone, and Google Now is just part of the deal. My only complaint here (and it's a minor one) is that Google Doodles look kind of crappy with the search bar placement.

Google Now voice search is also built into the home screen, so saying "OK Google" will trigger a voice search. That's great, but why only the home screen? It baffles me a little. I can only hope this is just the first step for a more expansive voice search experience throughout Android.

2013-11-06 19.29.11 2013-11-06 01.15.40 2013-11-08 04.18.58

The app drawer now has the device's background behind the icons instead of just black, which is a nice touch. Something is missing, though – widgets have been given the boot from the app drawer. This cleans up the UI in the drawer nicely (helped by the transparent navigation and status bars), but some folks might not notice widgets are even around. In general, it's not a good idea to hide features from the user, but they're not that hard to find.

The widgets, wallpapers, and a settings shortcut are behind a long-press on the home screen. Even if you've filled up all the spaces on your screen, you can press on the screen indicator or at the very edge of the display. That strikes me as a very "engineer" approach, but gets the job done. From there you can grab widgets and drop them on any screen. The home screen panels can even be rearranged – finally. This is a wonderful addition.

Google nailed the launcher, and I really, truly hope this comes to more devices.

Your Files From Everywhere, And Also Printing

One of the coolest features of KitKat sounds incredibly mundane when you first hear it. Try to get excited about this: New storage access framework! See? Not riveting, but it is going to really streamline file management. The idea is that a cloud storage app (or anything else that connects you to files you have stored elsewhere) can register with the system as a storage provider. Then any app that wants to access all your files can implement the framework to bring all those locations together.

2013-11-07 03.53.03 2013-11-08 04.21.31

This shows up as a slide-out navigation menu on the left. It can be used to browse recent files from all the listed sources, individual services, or local files. Other apps that don't list themselves as storage containers can still show up at the bottom of the list as a separate link.

Google Drive supports the file management system, of course, but Box is also ready out of the gate. App developers should get on board, because this is a killer feature.

Google also added printing support to the core of the OS, which I guess people are excited about. I hate printing things and will avoid it at all costs, but you can do it more easily from the Nexus 5 as long as you've got a printer on your network or hooked up to Cloud Print. It works, and it's nice to have, but it won't set the world on fire.

Immersive Mode And UI Tweaks

Continuing the theme from the home screen, Google has included a way for developers to call for the transparent navigation and status bars. Right now, most apps will just use the standard black bars – even Google's own apps usually do this. The status and navigation bars can also be completely hidden in any app. For a demo of this, check out Google Play Books or the Gallery's video player UI. It really lets you take advantage of that giant screen.

A quick edge gesture will return the navigation buttons so you can leave the app – this is also how you check the status bar and notifications. We had a demo of this a few days ago, but it's so cool it bears repeating. If you get a notification while in an app or game that hides the status bar – whether it takes advantage of the new immersive mode or not – you can drag down from the top of the screen to see the status bar, and again to pull the notification shade down. This alleviates a major pain point in Android.

2013-11-08 04.28.38 2013-11-08 04.29.21

The idea is that apps will be able to create more attractive interfaces with the system UI completely hidden or just transparent. The transparent bars do look awesome, but you can't just overlay them on anything – a busy background looks messy with the buttons overtop.

The general look and feel of KitKat is more modern, and I think, a step forward for Android. There are a lot of little things that make the platform feel more complete. Google has committed itself to making white icons and accents work in Android, and I'd say it has been successful. The UI doesn't look bland after the removal of #33b5e5. In fact, the blue might have been a crutch.

2013-11-08 04.24.15 2013-11-08 04.24.27 2013-11-06 22.12.25

I don't want to give you the impression that the UI is perfect, though. There are still foibles sprinkled throughout the OS. For instance, the signal bars don't form a perfect slope, and are actually positioned lower than the WiFi icon. Some of the shades of gray used in Android 4.4 apps are also slightly different colors. Then, there's that holo blue, which still shows up from time to time on buttons and in text – it seems oddly out of place.

2013-11-08 04.40.15 2013-11-08 04.38.25 2013-11-08 04.42.27

The gray haze at the top of the app list on the right is the white edge glow

While Google has excised #33b5e5 from almost all parts of the system, it still shows up in a few widgets and apps. However, the edge glow has been changed to white (except in the Gallery, oddly). On dark screens this looks great, but in mostly white apps – like most of Google's card-style interfaces – the glow effect is hard to make out and actually looks a bit dingy because the gray tones are all that come through.

NFC Freedom

Google Wallet works out of the box with the Nexus 5 and KitKat despite the lack of a secure element. This signals a new era for Google's contactless payment system, and this is actually one of the most important things in KitKat – it's just not that flashy. Android 4.4 includes support for Host Card Emulation (HCE) that allows the device to manage payments using the standard non-secure hardware.

2013-11-08 04.30.02 2013-11-08 04.30.12

When you open Wallet, the setup process takes about three seconds. On older devices with a secure element, the activation process took at least 30 seconds as the app accessed the NFC chip. Not to mention the process sometimes failed or resulted in a frozen phone. Once the abbreviated setup is complete in KitKat, Google Wallet will show up in the Tap & Pay system menu. It is the only option there right now, but I sincerely hope more apps start adding support for HCE.

Everything Else

Google added a native screen record function, which was nice of them. It's not entirely there yet, though. It only works over ADB with a computer, and there is no sound. It will get the job done for a quick app demo, but it's not what enthusiast users have been hoping for.

Google seems to have again neglected the camera app in KitKat. Sure, it has HDR+ in the place of regular HDR, but the feature set is still woefully behind the apps provided by Samsung and HTC. Google really needs to pay some attention to the picture taking experience in Android going forward, even if the sensor itself is just middling. A good app can make up for a lot.

There are already some third-party apps that utilize root to trigger the screen record function from the device itself, but these are still in the early stages. I do have some hope these apps can give us at least a little more functionality.

Sensor batching is also a nice thing to have, once apps begin to properly support it. The idea here is that apps will not stream sensor input constantly while the device is asleep, but will only do so periodically. That allows the phone to stay asleep more of the time and save battery. Apps will have to be updated to support it, but some of the new sensor types will require hardware support.

I know opinions are divided on the new dialer app, but I lean tentatively toward liking it. It's nice to be able to rearrange the top contacts, and I also dig having recent calls right on the main screen. The popup number pad is also fine by me. However, the lack of swiping navigation is confusing. It doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of Google's design language. It's okay, but could use some work.

Oh, and you want IR blasters? Android has that now. The Nexus 5 doesn't have IR, but future devices with these components will be able to take advantage of IR natively. However, this doesn't include reading IR signals, just sending them.

Lastly, I just want to point out the cool new location settings in Android 4.4. You can choose the type of location mode used system-wide from a simple menu, and it also lists all the apps that have recently requested your location and how they went about it.

Is KitKat Tasty?

Google has made Android more attractive and faster, which you can't really complain about. The immersive UI features are also going to be stunning if developers utilize them properly (imagine Timely with transparent system bars), and the death of #33b5e5 isn't as sad as we might have thought.

Features like Host Card Emulation and the file management framework might not be sexy, but they could make a big difference to a multitude of devices as KitKat makes its way into the world.

kk

The new homescreen looks and works great. The improved screen management is excellent, though I have to wonder why you can add so many home screen panels. Having Google Now right there makes the feature seem more relevant to my interactions with the phone, and the improved voice control is at least a step in the right direction. I wish there was more detail on how this launcher was going to be integrated into the larger Android platform for other devices – frankly, the lack of information makes me slightly uneasy. It would be a bummer if future KitKat devices didn't have the new homescreen UI. Android 4.4, as implemented on the Nexus 5, is a very good bit of software.

David's take: Oh boy, a big Android version bump. I always tell myself that I'm not super concerned about OTA updates and such, but when a new and exciting version of our favorite OS arrives, I have to admit I still want it immediately. And for once, I think there's really strong justification for that desire. Android 4.4 is the most beautiful version of Android to date. The redesigned launcher is outstanding, and I absolutely love that Google Now is a bigger part of the launcher experience. I love the transparent navigation buttons (even if I'm pretty meh on software buttons themselves) and notification bar, the uncluttered app drawer, and just the look and feel of it all. But it's not perfect.

The new dialer app is just way, way too busy visually. Extremely cluttered. It needs more contrast or fewer elements. Or both. Either way, I sort of spaz out every time I open it trying to find stuff. The camera app still sucks. OK, Google, I get it: you want the camera app to "get out of the way" and just have a big beautiful viewfinder so you can snap photos to your heart's content and then send them to Google+ for auto-awesomeing and vignettes and crap. I just want to be able to tell the camera what to do. I'd also like non-sucky auto-focus. Until you come up with a magical camera app that captures a great photo every single time, it seems a bit cocky to provide your users such limited control over the photo taking experience.

Oh, and is it me, or does the unlock gesture have a longer minimum throw distance than it used to? I've adapted, but I just sort of noticed that. Overall, though, KitKat was the freshening up Android needed at this time in its life, and I'm really enjoying it.

Liam's Take: We have a new Getting To Know Android segment coming soon, so without going into all the gory details from that post, I will say that, leading up to 4.4, I was wondering what the next big move would be for Android from a design/UX perspective. KitKat answered that question - Google is working on refining the great core ideas they had with Ice Cream Sandwich, while providing additional goodies to encourage developers to craft great user experiences as well.

The KitKat launcher takes some getting used to, and there are still plenty of things to clean up (I'll save those for Stock Android Isn't Perfect), but KitKat is definitely a huge step in the right direction for Android.

Overall, my impression is that KitKat is a more modern, mature version of ICS/JB, largely ditching the bright-blue-on-black of versions past for refined, white iconography, simpler imagery, and a heaping helping of delightful animations and UI touches that not only make stock Android better, but encourage developers to craft better user experiences as well. Stock Android really stands on its own these days. It's a major selling point for the Nexus devices, and at this point feels more thoughtful than just about any third-party skin I can think of.

All of that being said, I will echo David's sentiment about the Dialer app - I am still bumping into a huge learning curve with the Dialer. There are a lot of interactions in that app that simply go unexplained, so I am almost always left wondering how to do exactly what I want. I'll get used to it, but - for all its good intentions - the Dialer app is not designed on par with Android's other apps.

Conclusion

Ryan's take: Can we just step back for a moment from grumbling about mediocre camera performance and a less that stellar speaker? This phone costs $350, and I don't think there's another Android device out there I'd rather use. After having this phone in my hands, I'm sold on the design. I was worried it would feel cheap compared to the (admittedly fragile) Nexus 4. However, it feels incredibly well-put-together. There's no give to the soft-touch back, and the entire frame is solid yet light. By the way, it's only $350.

Android 4.4 is a refreshing change to the platform, and it's an absolute joy to use backed by the insanely powerful hardware in this phone. Likewise, the screen is among the best you can get on a smartphone, and did I mention it's $350? Sometimes I just turn it on and stare at the screen for a moment because it's so stunning – the new transparent system bars really help with that too. There are so many features in KitKat that have potential to make Android better on a lot of devices. I really love the launcher, immersive mode, and the more mature design sense. I'm excited to get a first look at them on the Nexus 5.

David's take: The Nexus 5 is a phone I would, and will, happily call my own. I'm cautiously optimistic an OTA update will iron out some of the battery life issues, and to be honest, I don't take a lot of photos, so the camera is less of a disappointment for me than it might be for other people.

For the price you're paying, this is the best phone you can buy. Even without the value allure, it's pretty clear this is also the best Android experience on any device currently available, period. It's extremely fast, has a lovely screen, and it's an elegant hardware showcase for the biggest update to Android since Ice Cream Sandwich. I think this is the phone Google has always wanted to build - corner-cutting and compromised design have been hallmarks of Nexus phones in the past, but the Nexus 5 feels so much more focused, and so much more Google.

Liam's take: The Nexus 5 is undoubtedly a great phone. As Ryan said, the flaws that it does have (many of which may or may not be fixable via software update) are far outweighed by how well-designed, thoughtful, slick, and - oh yeah - affordable this phone is. The fact, of course, that Google was able to make this one of the absolute best options out there for those wanting an Android phone is due in large part to the functional and aesthetic improvements in KitKat. It's a new direction for Android, and the Nexus 5 makes the perfect vehicle for it.

Ryan Whitwam
Ryan is a tech/science writer, skeptic, lover of all things electronic, and Android fan. In his spare time he reads golden-age sci-fi and sleeps, but rarely at the same time. His wife tolerates him as few would.

He's the author of a sci-fi novel called The Crooked City, which is available on Amazon and Google Play. http://goo.gl/WQIXBM

  • Hoggles

    Good job on the reviews guys.

    But....

    This phone is so unremarkable in so many ways.

    Huge let down. Not a great phone...with a horrible camera.

    I'll keep my GS4

    Next

    • evolutionx1

      okay

    • Chris

      "Not a great phone...with a horrible camera."

      I'm sorry, but this is one ridiculous and ignorant-sounding comment. I wish it had a better camera too, but balanced between the price, hardware and software, it is the best phone on the market, by a long-shot. Period. Also, I've had a Pentile display before. The contrast is amazing, but other than that, this N5 display is just so much better.

      $400 for 32GB Nexus 5, and you're saying "Not a great phone?" Even not considering the much lower price than other phones in its class, it's an absolutely amazing phone.

      That said, it would still be nice to have a more "premium" Nexus option too. I'm sure there are people out there who wouldn't mind paying more for it. I am one of them.

      • Greg Nelson

        On speed and responsiveness alone this is a great phone, period.

      • Oli72

        totally agree. most people want that super phone micro sd card 3ghz super pixel metal body killer camera. go build ur own and stop whining. this nexus 4 or 5 beats all phones out there if u see the value for what it is. also compare it to other phones and ur lifestyle.

        • Régis Knechtel

          I agree with most of it, but "go build ur own" is the shittiest argument ever! How do you expect them to just go and build a phone?

      • mavericksid

        Till the price of nexus 5 and Galaxy S4 in my country is same. I'll go for Galaxy s4 and flash a custom rom.

    • Bruno

      Interesting from someone who doesn't have a great phone...

    • http://daveysmind.tumblr.com David M.D.

      Unremarkable in so many ways...but all you said was the camera.

      So...contradicting or just wanted to brag about you have a GS4?

    • Oli72

      thx for opinion. but.... stay with what works for u. nexus 4 works for some and nexus 5 works for others. nexus 4 owner. that nexus 5 is beastly just like the other nexus products. ;-)

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      Enjoy your horrible Lagwiz and shanty-grade plastic and let people enjoy their Nexus 4s and Nexus 5s.

      kthnx

      • southerndinner

        Enjoy your god awful camera

  • cheeto0

    Great review, I think its the best review on this Device. Too many sites put their review up too fast and didn't spend enough time with the device. You really hit all the points well. I used the phone for a week and pretty much agree with most of what you guys said.

  • David Margolin

    But it still doesn't make toast :(

    wake up google... everyone wants toast... give the people what they want... Not buying one until the toasting functionality is built in...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      That's not expected until Android 6.2 Toasted Bun Muffin.

    • http://daveysmind.tumblr.com David M.D.

      Great! Now you're gonna make me want to just spit on my Nexus 5.

      I believe we should start the Toast movement. If I don't get it by 4.4.5, I'm gonna be angry. >__<

    • http://www.ronakg.com/ Ronak Gandhi

      There's an app for that. Look harder.

      • Elliot Kotis

        Im sure Chainfire has a root app for that!

    • Ivan Myring

      Yeah, I was really hopeful after project butter.

    • Quest

      What it really needs is bacon

    • Simon Belmont

      It has toast notifications. Does that help?

      No? Okay, sorry.

    • Al McDowall

      Actually, it can do. They tied in the functionality with G+ and hangouts. Start a hangout with five or more friends and arrange to meet in a set location. It's currently only been beta tested, but toast should be doable (if a little inefficient)

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V94shlqPlSI

    • GrebGoneBad

      Mine gets hot enough on occasion to create warm bread, does that count?

  • caustictoast

    Ryan I gotta say. Your usage patterns as described in the battery section were very similar to mine. Right down to punchquest on the battery breakdown.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    What if I don't care for the price? Everyone concentrates on how it makes a bunch of compromises but it's OK because it's so cheap. Well, great. But I use my device so much every single day that I am OK with paying several hundred dollars more for it.

    I don't want to compromise on battery, which has been absolutely all over the place here. The camera is crap - it doesn't focus right and takes way too long to do so. No advanced picture modes, such as Best Picture, at this point just doesn't cut it. The speaker is absolutely pathetic, probably the worst one I've heard on an Android phone in years. Lack of storage options, as always, and we were expecting it, but coming from the 96GB Note 3, it's yet another big compromise. No IR blaster, even though most flagships this year ship with one and KitKat even add official support for it.

    The Nexus and KitKat do have a lot of redeeming qualities but the hardware and software still leave a lot to be desired for smartphone enthusiasts.

    I have been deliberating for a week and eventually decided as a Note 3 owner that the Note does a better job right now in areas that matter most, outside of UI, and that really sucks, as I had high hopes for the Nexus this year. It did fix many problems with the previous Nexus generation but still fell short IMO.

    Maybe next year? But allow me to express my doubts because if Google doesn't put the very best hardware and software out and concentrate on compromising with price again, the Nexus will never be the best device available. And that's a shame. I really wish they made a special edition without compromises even for twice as much $.

    • Greg Nelson

      Okay, then it's not the phone for you, plain and simple. It seems to me that perhaps you may have some sort of phone phixation that maybe you need to go see a Ph.D phor.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Yeah, you could say that, considering my job involves dealing with phones all day. But I don't think I'm the biggest phone nut at all. I just want the perfect device.

        • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

          Fair enough. Although a perfect device. Doesn't exist.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            That's my point and what I'm after. Someday, it will.

          • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

            Hopefully.. I'll wait with you for said day.

          • Matt

            No, because by the time they create it, your expectations will be raised and the phone will no longer meet them.

        • Elliot Kotis

          Said phone doesn't exist. And personally, NO ONE IS INNOVATING, improving or making things better.
          iPhone 5S: 64 bit arc is slowing phone down (50% more glitches/crashes compared to iPhone 5 and 5C), sh** battery life, camera is still 8MP (like N5), screen is tiny, with only 326PPI (about 160 below N5).
          HTC ONE: Battery life is the same as the N5 (maybe not as good), camera is.....an attempt at innovation, it isn't there. The UI, and Sense is clunky. It is smooth, but it feel very gingerbread.
          Samsung S4: No innovation, laggy, plastic cheap feel, gimmicks that only run the battery down. Still uses amoled, but not using amoled to its advantage (unlike Moto X)
          Note 3: Too big, screen is weak compared to others, another attempt at gimmicky battery wastes, still laggy even with the S800, and touchwiz is still crap.
          LG G2: See Samsung (little lg copying samsung joke there)
          Sony Z1: huge bezel, lack of support, old clunky android skin, shatterable back.
          Nexus 5: I am slightly bias (I hate all the skins), but the only problem this ACTUALLY has is the camera, and the speakers.
          Moto X: If you want the "perfect phone", this is basically the closest you can get (if you are in USA, I will never forget this Moto), but even this has problems, like the bad screen or the still slow updates of android.
          If you think that you are going to get SDCard and removable battery, in 1 - 3 years time you wont use a phone. Only Samsung and LG have the removable battery and including Sony in the sdcard.

          So you are clearly thinking to much of everyone. Best phones out there are most likely:
          1. Nexus 5/ Motorola X
          2. HTC ONE
          3. Samsung Galaxy S4
          4. Samsung Note 3
          5. iPhone 5S

        • NWSD

          There is no perfect device.

    • Robert Elizivich

      If you don't care about price and wince at every compromise then this phone isn't intended for you. Honda makes good cars, but when they roll out a new accord it is not being targeted at people who would otherwise shop for a Rolls Royce.

      As a fellow Note III owner, I concur that the note does a better job of just about everything; however, that is because it is a premium phone with a price tag more than double that of the nexus.

      In short; you may not care about the price, but price is always a factor. If they thought they could make money with a special edition, I think they would produce it. Why wouldn't they?

      • cheese

        not to mention, some people just cannot handle a bigger phone/phablet due to the size of their hands. the note 3 is more of a 2 handed device.

        so even with note 3 having it's advantages, there are disadvantages for some folks as well. it all comes down to choice, and Google delivered. If people are comparing a $750 phone to a $350 phone, it just shows how competitive the Nexus 5 is.

      • Idon’t Know

        The Note feels cheap and junky and Touchwiz is horrible.

    • Reader

      thanks for posting this. takes balls to write something honest when most of your readers don't want to accept that this device is not perfect.

      • Simon Belmont

        No device is perfect. Nor will any ever be perfect.

        I'm a Nexus 5 owner, myself, and I'm completely happy with it. It fits my needs and I use it heavily, and it hasn't let me down yet. Will that same scenario play out for everyone that uses one? Of course not, and I totally accept that. What people need to understand is that everyone's take on a device is different. One man's trash is another man's treasure, and so forth.

      • sweenish

        News flash, smartphone hardware imperfect from only Google. More at eleven.

    • syntaxxerror

      Do you use a custom ROM on your Note 3? I personally cannot stand Samsung's or LG's UI and that alone makes the Nexus worth it at any price.

      Custom roms are the only way I find my Note 8 usable.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        I don't because I don't want to lose the Camera UI, among other things, but I'd consider it if there were a stable good one (probably CM, Omni, AOKP, or the like) for the AT&T variant.

        • syntaxxerror

          Aren't you bothered by the low aesthetic sense in a UI that you look at probably hundreds of times a day? I'm surprised that you manage to deal with the notification bar, quick toggles, and other hideous features of touchwiz.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            The notification area is what bothers me the most, but I power through it. I like the toggles just fine actually - no extra clicks to get to them, which I prefer to the Quick Toggles. A custom launcher takes care of a lot.

          • Karan O

            isn't there a Xposed framework and some apps to change status bar ?! i use wanam xposed on my S4!

            and experts SHOULD start reviewing phone with Some apps installed cause after apps the battery - speed changes and we also use phones with apps ! every phone is blazing fast without any apps installed!

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Absolutely. That's why my Nexus 5 has around 200 apps on it.

          • Gabernasher

            How does having 200 apps that are not open affect the speed of my phone? Unless you're maxing the storage it should run just fine.

          • Alan Shearer

            Background processes and how they are managed by the app itself/ programming optimization from the developer, ie, how well optimized the app is that runs in the background.

          • Gabernasher

            Most don't start on boot though. So unless you go through opening them all, it shouldn't be too big an issue.

          • Justin W

            The quick toggles are nice, but I share your hatred of the look in the notification shade (I also dislike the settings menu and a few other TouchWiz features). A smaller toggle with less crowding in the notification shade would be ideal. Some of the ROMs got this dead on - 4-5 toggles directly available in the notification shade, with the option to switch to the quick settings for further options. It would be nice if OEMs would get this right.

          • akshay7394

            Root+Xposed framework helps a LOT with this.

    • X

      > the Note does a better job right now in areas that matter most, outside of UI, and that really sucks

      The software is more important than anything else. The hardware means absolutely nothing if the user interface is such a gigantic heap of shit that it's unusable (G2 being the prime example). With the exception of the One and whatever Sony's latest flagship is the more expensive options are actually worse than the Nexus.

      And don't give me that ROM nonsense, I'm tired of running unstable shit that's ridden with issues.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Well, software features and UI are completely different issues. Visual layouts vs advanced software like the camera do cross over, but for the most part are totally separate.

        • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

          I agree that Touchwiz (and even LG's skin, whatever its called) has some rather nice and usable features but just the way it looks and lags pisses me off to no end. You pay $700 for a premium device with absolute top-notch hardware and it all goes well till the point you unlock the device - heap of dung! I'm flabbergasted at how incompetent Samsung and LG's UI designers are and how little thought they give to optimisation.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            Well, to be fair, on a Note 3 TouchWiz lag is not really that noticeable. Until you use the Nexus 5, that is. But even then, it's still really fast. You comments apply more to previous gen devices.

          • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

            I have a Octa GS4 and I really avoid picking it up. I used it as my sole phone for about 3 weeks before going back to my N4. I still use my Nexus 4 for 90% of the time. Only time I take the S4 out is when I know I might be taking a few casual pictures. And that's pretty damning for a flagship phone that costs over twice as much as the Nexus 4.
            I have played with a Note 3 for some time and while its not as terrible as the S4, it still stutters and jitters at places, esp when pressing Home from within an app or switching between apps. I won't talk about scrolling as it was a lottery on the Note 3 - totally smooth at times and almost crapping itself at times. A device with those specs really has no excuse for that. Also, the way the UI looks, just eugh...

          • Justin W

            I disagree - I had an HTC One prior to my Note 3, and even with the better processor, TouchWiz noticeably slows down the device, whereas Sense doesn't (in my experience, anyway). I agree that software and hardware are two separate arguments, but they both are sold in one package so they both have fair play here, and, I can sure say I won't buy another TouchWiz device. I feel the same about ROMing as @6d1db9ff40d653b409cda4c3ec45e5d7:disqus above, however, I prefer to have a device that the manufacturer actually is able to create an quick, smooth, and enjoyable UI (Moto X or HTC One, for example - my two current favorites) than a device that was made just to push the limits of specs instead of optimizing the software to run smoothly on a given device.

          • Joshua Hill

            The LG Optimus G is quicker than the Nexus 4 because of LG's better optimisations but don't let facts get in the way of an emotional viewpoint. Look up some comparison benchmarks.

            EDIT: and the LG had better battery life than the Nexus 4

          • Gabernasher

            Benchmarks are bullshit. Plain and simple.
            Actual noticeable lag is the problem, when it stutters it's bad, when it scores high it doesn't mean shit other than the phone is optimized and rigged for benchmarks.

          • Joshua Hill

            I like to move the goal posts when I'm found out to be wrong too!

          • Gabernasher

            Samsung scores higher because they artificially inflate their scores, Nexus runs smoother. Thank you for your cooperation.

          • Joshua Hill

            I specifically mentioned the LG Optimus G which was before all this max clock locking for benchmarks. Thanks for misinforming people.

          • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

            Benchmarks? Like seriously? What is this, 2010? I wasn't talking about "faster". I was talking about the experience as a whole. And in that regard, the year old Nexus 4 puts the S4, Note 3 and the Optimus G or even the G2 to shame. Its just real-life experience talking here, no emotional bullshit. I don't get emotional about electronic gadgets.

    • http://them3blog.wordpress.com/ Abel

      Would a google edition LG2 make you happy?

    • Maxime Henrion

      Just for the sake of expressing a slightly different opinion on this one, allow me to say that I also wouldn't mind paying twice as more for a phone if it met my standards better. However, there isn't any other smartphone currently available on the market that fits the bill for me.

      Really, the only thing that slightly annoys me in the Nexus 5 is the comparatively small battery. I couldn't care less about the speaker's quality; I'm only using it to hear notifications and ringing, and it does an excellent job at that IMO, especially given the orientation of the speaker that doesn't cause the sound to get all muffled when laying horizontally. Really, who would use a smartphone to actually listen to music without headphones?

      I do find that the camera takes too long to focus indeed, but I am hopeful future updates will fix this as I don't think there is any technical reason for it to work that way - I may be wrong on that. In any case, I don't make a whole lot of pictures with my phones, and while the quality could be better, I was pleasantly surprised with the low light performance of this one when compare to the Nexus 4 (which is admittedly terrible).

      • Lars Jeppesen

        Well, some of us also use the phone for watching movies, videos, live tv streaming, youtube, netflix and many other things.

        Speakers are not only for music, you know?

        Granted often you'll be using headphones, but I find myself watching a lot of video content without the headphones. I'm sure many others as well.

        So yes, loudspeakers on a phone is a big deal. And not only for music.. not at all for music, actually.

        • Alan Shearer

          Believe it or not the best speakers I have ever seen on a phone were the xperia play speakers. The htc ones are too big, even though they do sound good. the play speakers were small, but solid sound and nicely placed.

    • cheese

      Then keep your Note 3 and move on with it.

      This phone is $350 for cryin out loud. If they wanted to make a $700 Nexus phone it would be an entry barrier for people to use Google Services.

      It would also be costlier to make two different Nexus phones simultaneously.

      Google is not really a hardware company! They just want you to use Google Services! Which is the whole point of the Nexus line, to force competitors to lower their prices for premium phones, and guess what, it's working!

      The Moto X and LG G2, as well as a slew of other phones have already dropped prices to compete with a phone that's half the cost of it's competitors.

    • http://daveysmind.tumblr.com David M.D.

      It would seem like you have a specific case need and Google isn't really trying to hit that.

      With the Nexus line, it's seem they're going the "every man's" route. they're not trying to make a tech geek's dream. They're trying to make a device that is affordable, attractive, and simply "just works" (for lack of better words). A lot of consumers don't care that the camera doesn't have ISO settings up front or it doesn't compare to the phone down the street. If it can take the picture, that's what they're looking for.

      Nor do they care if their phone can carry 96GB of things. It would seem, based on the best selling phones in the world, that 16 and 32GB are what people go for.

      Of course, this is all subjective to my area, so it may be different where others live. But I still feel this is what Google is aiming for. They've found great success aiming for that market with their Nexus 7 and they're trying to replicate that with their Nexus phones now.

      It simply seems that the Nexus line will never be a good fit for you. You're not in that market they're aiming for. And you have needs that they won't compromise their vision to hit.

    • Alter

      For me software is a big part of the decision whether to buy or not. Even if I liked Note 3's hardware, I don't want to be using Touchwiz, and same for Sense and whatever that LG's abomination is called. I know I can put a custom ROM on any popular phone, but the experience is still not as good as on a device that ships with stock Android. Sure, the hardware has some flaws, but sometimes you just have to compromise in order to get the experience you want.

      • Lars Jeppesen

        It saddens me that you even compare Sense to Samsung/LG skins. In my opinion they are not even in the same world.

        Have you ever used Sense 5 - or 5.5? It's minimalistic, cool, without lag whatsoever, and really well designed.

        • Gabernasher

          Too bad HTC has those stupid fucking buttons.

          • Gator352

            I find them useful.

          • Lars Jeppesen

            That's true...

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      1.) Building two different phones costs. more. money. Development. Logistics. Certification. It also takes more time.

      2.) "bunch of compromises." You mean 3? Battery, camera, speaker. Even the battery life isn't that bad. It's actually pretty comparable to the HTC One and Galaxy S4, both of which I have used very extensively, maybe even a little better if you manually control your screen brightness. Are you saying those $600 phones are "full of compromises," too?

      Camera, yeah. Google sucks at cameras, but let's not pretend that there is some earth-shattering difference between this and the very best Android phone cameras out there right now - you're comparing fairly mediocre photos to slightly less mediocre photos. The camera app /software is the bigger letdown, and that's just Google building a bad camera app, which they should rightfully be taken to task on.

      As for the speaker, if you're watching tons of video and using the external speaker, then yes, it isn't very good. But it isn't very good on the LG G2, yet another $600+ phone. And the phone with the best speakers - the HTC One - isn't flying off the shelves for it. Safe to say not that many people are super concerned about having a kinda-bad external speaker. Call me crazy, but headphones do seem to be a thing.

      All phones have compromises. You can't type one-handed for a shit on the Note 3, OS updates lag months behind Google, TouchWiz is super-duper ugly and cluttered, and deargodfakeleathertexture.jpeg.

      Every phone has its ups and downs, and as compromises go, I'd say the Nexus 5's are much less noticeable than those of the Nexus 4, and that the advantages (speed, quick OS updates, great design, no bloat) can very justifiably put it over phones like the Galaxy S4, HTC One, or Moto X.

      To each their own, but the Nexus 5 is far from the crippled compromise-ridden days of Nexuses past.

      • spovat

        You make a point about the camera that not many people take seriously. Even accepting that the camera isn't amazing, can anyone really claim that other high end smartphones are miles better? No. Like you said, they are simply marginally better. Hopefully google eventually comes out with a better camera app but, as it stands, it's usable and better than previous iterations.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        People rarely research or take speakers into accounts, even though that's something they would end up regretting later. Not many phones have shitty speakers too. The Nexus 5 does, and there's no arguing about that. I don't use it a lot, but when I do, it sucks. I own multiple BT and headphone accessories, but sometimes I use a speaker. I'm not sure you're arguing. It's bad, worse than most devices, and there's no two ways about it.

        Like many others and unlike you, I actually enjoy the faux leather back of the Note 3. I know it's plastic, but it sure as hell feels a lot better than the glossy plastic of the Note 2 that gets easily scratched.

        There are more than 3 compromises on the Nexus 4. I listed some, but that's not all. Wi-Fi and LTE radios aren't very good, for example, and 5GHz is straight up broken. There aren't many more, but the ones that are there are important.

        People upgrading from older hardware who haven't tried the modern flagships may not understand where I'm coming from. People who aren't used to Note-sized devices may not either. And that's OK - they will enjoy the shit out of the Nexus 5. It's a great thing that everyone has their own opinion, isn't it? And this is mine.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

          "Wi-Fi and LTE radios aren't very good, for example, and 5GHz is straight up broken. There aren't many more, but the ones that are there are important."

          Based on your really anecdotal evidence. I have no issues with either on mine, nor did anyone else reviewing it.

          • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

            :popcorn:

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            I've seen the reception strength mentioned by many. I can't speak for them, but I can speak for my own observation. Here's a screenshot of Wi-Fi on in my bedroom but no connectivity: http://i.imgur.com/u25CcGX.png. The Note 3, on the other hand, has no such interruptions.

            And 5GHz being broken. Orly? Anecdotal? Here's a bug report, complete with numerous videos and logs (sent to the Android team privately): https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=59502.

          • Ryan Yakus

            I'm confused. that bug report is for the nexus 7?

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            The bug report starts with the N7 but I later update it with the Nexus 5 comment. It does seem like a stock Android problem, since no other devices I have are exhibiting it with the same router (ASUS RT-AC66U). Regardless, that's what the Nexus 5 is running right now, and that's what doesn't work for me.

          • Ryan Yakus

            well now that's really odd. I have that same router, I have a n4, n5, n10, and my gf has a n7 and none of them have this problem. you've got the most current firmware for the router, I assume?

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            I do, the one with the repeater support added. In fact, I'm running the Merlin build.

          • Maxime Henrion

            Yes, that is indeed clearly anecdotal. There is an astounding total of two different persons saying they have been affected by this problem. The reporter originally had this on his Nexus 7, and the issue got fixed with an update later on. The second person said he's seen this on his SGS2 and has never been heard of since... Finally, the original reporter said he's run into this same problem with his Nexus 5. That's it. We are incredibly far from being able to state things such as "5GHz is straight up broken".

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

            I am the reporter.

            Also see https://plus.google.com/u/0/105213754392958332801/posts/5Vm3EgutQco
            https://plus.google.com/u/0/+ArtemRussakovskii/posts/XSgcEj6uz4b

            I have done my part by submitting multiple bug reports to the Android team. Now the ball is in their court to confirm or deny this and pin down the bug cause.

          • Neutral

            It looks like all of those posts besides one are for the Nexus 7.

          • Joseph

            David,
            Just out of curiosity, have you (or the other folks who are using the Nexus 5 regularly) seen signal bars stay at full strength? In all the screen prints that I've seen on G+ or xda or even in this article above, I see 2 out of 4 (or 1 out of 4). I have the same experience - never seen anything better than that.

            Normally, I'd not worry about the 1 or 2 bars, because it would be dependent on how the software displays the current signal strength and that could vary. Except that I actually dropped two calls in the past 24 hours, and had a delayed text message (by 15 minutes).

            Wondering if I should do a RMA and replace it

        • cheese

          Except for most people, they use their smartphones for basic tasks like email checking, web browsing, and apps. Speakers are lower in the list of priorities (and if you think speakers should be high on priorities list, then idk). People don't tend to regret purchasing phones due to the 'speakers.'

          I have had no issues with WiFi/LTE hand-offs, and the reception has been great. And 5GHz 'straight up broken.' ? I beg to differ. You're making some blanket statements. There have always been WiFi/smartphone connectivity issues since the iPhone 1st gen, they're just isolated cases, a minority that have this issue.

          When was the last time you saw someone with a smartphone in a public place blaring their speakers out? Not often. Certainly with a $350 price tag sacrifices need to be made.

          Also, people upgrading to a Nexus 5 are probably most likely Galaxy Nexus/Nexus 4 users. In that regard, the N5 is still a huge upgrade at a very competitive price point.

          If you're on a current premium flagship device, that's great! The premium flagship Android phones take marginally better photos than the N5. And the battery on the N5 won't last a day for power users that have screen on time for 7+ hours (N5 can do 5+ hours of screen on time with some mitigation via settings, LTE enabled all day)

          This phone is great for the MVNO industry. I'm very pleased that Google is pressuring other phone manufacturers to reduce their phone prices, and it seems to be working. (i've seen lots of price drops for phones already since the N5 came out)

          • Chapa

            Compromises are made, because Nexus 5 and all of the Nexus line devices are NOT intended to compete feature-by-feature with their own partners. They take important features and make them stellar (screensize, cpu) but everyone seems to forget that Google is avoiding competition against its OEMs partners.
            They have Moto, for Sergei Brin's sake, and they won't debut their own devices with the latest software!
            (Moto-G rumored to come with 4.3 is the living proof of Google trying not to upset their partners with conflicts of interests)

          • http://trapchan.blogspot.com trapchan

            Speaker is one of the most important feature to me. When I get a phone with crappy speaker everytime I received call or hear the alarm I feel sad.

      • soli

        here's the question! why would i buy a phone with the good quality screen feature and turn the brightness down because of the battery life?! :(

        • asimo

          here's the reply! because you're not stupid!

    • TY

      What if Google doesn't want to upset OEMs by releasing a no-compromise phone?

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        Well, they're already upsetting them enough by releasing a $350 phone, so I don't think they'd care about releasing something more expensive and high-end.

    • Testraindrop

      I don't have any problem with the battery, 50% left after a full working day and after that 2,5h screen on time.

      The biggest battery hog is Google Now and its constant location polling. As we don't have so much services in Now here in europe I greenified it and use it when I need to. Problem solved.

      The autobrightness is still to bright for me, so maybe I can even gain some more time if I reduce it further in the future, but as I charge every night anyway I don't see the need for whining about battery.

      And IR Blaster? I don't even know for what I would use such a useless feature. I can operate my TV via Wifi anyway.

      I agree with you however about the speaker, its crap.

    • Dianne Hackborn
      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

        They are but they're half a year old hardware and don't address all the problems. They are, however close, and I am hoping more GPE devices get released soon (especially closet to the Note size).

    • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

      I wish they would simply create options... I'd pay an extra hundred bucks for a phone with a bigger battery (or really, even a removable back and battery would be better).

    • cheeto0

      Google's hardware usually aims to fill a gap that other manufacturers are not. Their goal is not to compete with their partners. That's why the Nexus 5 and the chromebook pixel are unlike any other product. You won't see google make a special edition high end Nexus to compete directly with their partners and push them to leave android. We won't see that happen unless the companies that make high end devices fork or leave android first...They we would see Google fill that gap.

    • Joshua

      I'm quite curious about this. You have a Note 3, which is a popular phone. That means that a 4.4 ROM will be coming out for it soon enough, guaranteed (assuming one doesn't already exist; I haven't looked around, so I don't know for sure, but it just seems like it's too early for one to exist). Say you install such a ROM--could you then reinstall the stock Samsung camera in order to retain its features while using a stock 4.4 ROM for all other aspects of the device? Would the camera software "recognize" that it's on the phone it's supposed to be on and function properly? I've never tried this before, so I'm wondering if it would work properly. An excellent camera is something I really don't want to give up, which is why I'm hesitant to get rid of the Samsung software on my Note 2 in favor of CM or AOKP (or any other ROM, for that matter). Any information would be appreciated.

      • DaveTexan

        I wish it were that easy but one of the reason it takes so long for the vendors to upgrade to newer versions of Android is that they have to update their custom-developed add-ons to work with the new OS. (For example, Sense for HTC, TouchWiz for Samsung) You cannot just reinstall the stock camera apps or driver to work with base Android OS. I am an IT engineer myself but I often feel that the "Pure Android experience" requires way too much sacrifices on the functionality side. I'd rather have a phone with all the belts and whistles even if it lags a bit on the interface once in a while. As long as it is not lagging when I'm playing games, surfing the web, and taking pictures. It's really not such a big deal. I think it's very dependent on how you use your phone. The way I use it I really don't see the benefit of always getting the latest Android versions unless you are a developer---you need to develop your apps to work with it.

    • Akshay

      People need to realize that LG and Google could have made a flagship a la S4 and HTC One - but they didn't. They don't want a phone of that caliber, they want a good phone for a good price. The nexus line isn't top-of-the-line specs anymore - users who do want that bigger battery, that better camera, they should buy a Note 3. Users who want stock android or just a good phone at a great price - THAT's what the Nexus is for.

    • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

      > What if I don't care for the price?

      Then go out and spend a stupid amount of money on a phone that is only marginally better in a few specific areas.

      Oh you already did.

  • mark

    Prefer the nexus 5 camera to that in the iPhone 5s personally, aside from the better flash in the iPhone 5s, the nexus 5 is better in most situations. For a phone costing less than half that's incredible.

    • Stacey Liu

      Okay you can prefer what you want, but from any technical perspective, the Nexus 5 isn't as good.

      For one, the 5S has much better dynamic range. It also focuses much more consistently and much faster.

      I'll give the Nexus some credit for better macro shots though.

    • krazyfrog

      I know everyone has their opinion and all but yours is just wrong.

  • Pedro Segura Martín

    The best review on the web so far. Congrats!

  • nofearofimaginarymen

    Nice review guys. Battery was a little inconsistant for me and my wife too so I decided to try a different kernel. Loaded Faux kernel, Faux clock set to his recommended settings, and greenify. This is the second day with this set up, also using ART, and it is way beyond my expectations. Yesterday I was able to get 6hrs of screen on time with 20% remaining (connected to wifi the whole day though) with autobrightness. Here is what it looks like today (also autobrightness, and about 20minutes of pandora over speakerphone, connected to wifi).

  • Darrien Glasser

    Heads up AP, even though the Google Experience Launcher with Google Now isn't present in AOSP, there is an updated Launcher (launcher3) there. It's identical in every way to the Google Experience Launcher, except for the act that you can't swipe to Google Now.
    In other words, the design from the Google Experience Launcher is in AOSP and will be allowed on every device even if the GE Launcher itself is exclusive to the N5.

    • Darrien Glasser

      Here's a slightly compressed picture of the app default app chooser showing the two.

    • TheLastAngel

      Good, so you don't have to turn off Google Now to get rid of it on the home screen. I don't think anybody was longing for a Google Now home screen in the first place. Just another pushy move by Google to get people to use it.

  • jab416171

    I'm surprised none of you touched on the fact that with the white notification icons, you can't tell if your WiFi/cell radio is really working or not. It used to turn white if it couldn't connect to Google's servers. Now there's no visual indication of that.

    • cy_n_ic

      Orange is the new white.

      • MattH818

        I've seen the orange signal indicators only once so far on my N5. But it freaked me out until I realized what it was.

      • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

        You mean white is the new tron blue. And Orange is the new Grey.

    • http://daveysmind.tumblr.com David M.D.

      If you look at the signals from the Quick Access (or whatever they call it) menu, it will be orange with it's no longer connected.

      It's sucky they don't keep that visual cue in the status bar, but it is still ther.e

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      Its a baffling step backwards tbh. I think, sometimes, Google changes things, just for the heck of it. And the quick toggles are still pretty annoying. Why they can't see the sense in making them actual switches is beyond me.

    • Testraindrop

      Adding to that that they removed the up/down arrows to indicate data transfer from the notification icons, but put them into the QS. -.-

      Yeah if I want be see that I'll always open the QS menu, right Google.

      And those orange colors if you are not connected, whose idea was that? -.-

      Anyway, this gets surely fixed with custom roms, so not a problem :)

      • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

        Like I said, some one was having a laugh while making these "improvements".

  • cy_n_ic

    I also do not like the dialer ui. A black themed version would dull the pain some. I have to do a rediculous button dance to even get the dial keys to pop up. Dialer, back dialer....wtf

    • jab416171

      On the N5? Or just Kit Kat on the N4? I have the same problem with my N4, and the dialer is still black themed on there.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

    Btw, to make this beast feel even more snappy, do this.

    http://i.imgur.com/Lxe4my8.jpg

    • jab416171

      I just put them down to 0x

      • thas ★

        That's a bit excessive. 0.5 gives you the beauty of actually seeing the transition animations, but also does it pretty fast.

        • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

          Yeah, I tried 0x and it felt a bit too crude and broken. 0.5x is perfect for me.

          • Crispin Swickard

            Thanks for the tip. Just changed my options. :)

    • Oli72

      did that to my nexus 4.

  • Taco Monster

    I think leaving brightness at a lower level makes a huge difference. Auto brightness is waaaaay too bright and a massive battery killer. I've been at about 20% brightness all morning. It's exactly the level of brightness I need indoors, and after 3 hours SOT, I have 57% remaining.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      Yeah, the screen absolutely demolishes the battery on this phone. I was browsing with it all the way down this morning in the dark, and after 35 minutes, it only dropped 5%. Unfortunately, coming from the Note series where the same 5% would have been at auto-brightness, I'm a bit disappointed.

      • Taco Monster

        But it totally kicks the pants off my N4.

      • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

        Has anyone compared the Nexus 5 display colours to a Nexus 4 running PA's halfbreed colours or one of those kernels with "nice" gamma values?

  • Rob

    Thanks to David, Liam and Ryan for this article. Also thanks to Artem for his counter POV. I've ordered the Nexus 5 and while reading a number of reviews, I've started to second guess that decision. I'm still not 100% decided, but I think I'm more to the "let the order process and see if I like it when it gets here" camp. :-)

    • Ivan Myring

      Nice avatar

      • Rob

        It's from bitstrips. ;)

  • TY

    Several points I want to make:
    1. Screen should be 4.95" according to Google. 4.96" should be a slight measurement error from FCC
    2. The round earpiece make the front very symmetrical. Remember the notification LED? It's exactly the same shape, at exactly the opposite position.
    3. By landscape I suppose you mean "the bottom of the phone is on the right". And sometimes the speaker will be blocked. But what if you hold it reverse-landscape?
    4. #33B5E5. I don't think it's dead, just that it is no longer a system-wide color; instead, the system-wide color is now neutral and can be modified by apps if they want to (e.g. Play Music will have an orange accent). Google is still using #33B5E5 as the accent of system apps.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ Artem Russakovskii

      I've fixed 1. Indeed, LG and Google are using 4.95 whereas 4.96 came up in many places before. Minor but still. Fixed.

      3. I think we can agree that most people rotate the phone counter-clockwise when they go to landscape. I certainly do, it feels a lot more natural. Is that not the case? But yeah, rotating clockwise resolves the speaker problem, but I have to consciously do that every time, when it's too late.

      • TY

        Now I think about it, reverse-landscape blocks the light sensor and the camera. Next time, if the speaker is on the bottom again, Google should place it on the other side. Of course better yet, front facing.

  • Shadab

    A $350 phone should not be compared with a $700 phone.

  • Gordon Lutz

    I want one sooo bad!! What a phenomenal phone.
    Would be the only thing to replace my Nexus 4, that's for sure.

  • http://www.ronakg.com/ Ronak Gandhi

    How can you say Nexus 5 is $50 more than Nexus 4. You are not comparing it right. Nexus 4 16gb was $350 and Nexus 5 16gb is still $350. They just discontinued the 8gb model because of the user demand. There's no point simply comparing the starting prices when the specs are different.

    • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

      I completely agree, saying the phone is $50 more is a little misleading.

  • mavericksid

    The price of nexus 5 and Galaxy S4 in my country is same. I'll go for Galaxy s4 and flash a custom rom..Probably the best out there, Slimrom's SlimKat.

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      That's strange. Where are you?

      • mavericksid

        India. There's a difference of only $32 in Galaxy S4 and Nexus 5 32Gb variant.

        • Frekko

          still wont be as fluidic as N5.

        • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

          Excuse me, lower specs? In what way? The Nexus 5 blows the S4 out of the water and then some. I'm in India too. There's a INR 6000 difference between the 16 GB versions of each. That's NOT $32, more like $100.
          Add to that a much better CPU and the latest version of Android (that the S4 will probably get by April if things go well). Apart from the camera (which is still debatable), I see no way the S4 is superior. Lets not forget, despite having a 300 MAh larger battery, battery life is no better on the S4. Myriad issues with the hardware (that Octa is a POS), laggy, ugly software etc, make it a no-brainer to choose the Nexus 5 over the S4.
          And lets not even talk about ROMs. Samsung's support (or lack thereof) towards ROM developers is almost non-existent and as a result, no ROM will ever be fully functional or bug-free for the i9500. Sources for Samsung devices ever since the Exynos came out with the S2 have been a sad joke and the results of that are well known.

          Source: I own a i9500 and hate it. Use my Nexus 4 90% of the time while the S4 sits in my draw. One of my friends got a Nexus 5 2 days ago and the thing just pisses all over the S4. Its laughable really.

          • mavericksid

            If you can read, INR 33,000 for 32gb variant of nexus 5 and INR 35,000 for Galaxy S4, that's more like $32(inconsistency in memory comparison, because external memory).
            And if you can read again, I clearly stated I was going to use custom ROMs. I don't wait for samsung updates, neither do I use touchwiz, because DUAL BOOT.
            And not fully functional ROMs? Just wait for 1 rather 2 moths. People always give shit about Exynos, but eventually the support is same.
            About battery, try Slimrom on your S4, if you already own it, so you say!
            You say S2's a sad joke? lol..Guess what, I'm still using it with custom rom and is fully functional. Will update it to kitkat within a month, because Slimkat. Joke's no you.
            You can't compare S4's camera with Nexus 5, because everyone knows Nexus 5's camera sucks big time.
            You can hate everything about it, but the fact is, for same price, S4 is much better. If nexus 5 was available for the same price as in all other countries, then we could talk about the differences, because, premium device VS cheap device.

          • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

            Okay. Your logic (and comprehension) is all but it, so this is a pretty pointless discussion.

          • sabby

            i was not able to find 32 gb version in india! lol

          • sabby

            actually i found price @ flipkart and its almost 39 k..

          • mavericksid

            You can actually move few of your games/apps to external sd if you got root access. I think I've been using my device pretty well since the last 3 years. And it's not about making a statement, it is about preference and value. I think the price of a device should depend on what it is offering. The fact that both s4 and nexus 5 are available for the same price undoubtedly makes s4 my first preference.

            Do you really think few gig's of internal memory is worth $100 when other device at that price is offering support for external sd, better front/back camera, better camera software, more processors, better display, more sensors. If that was the case I would have just bought iPhone 5s :D

            No doubt, if nexus 5 was available for the same price as in other countries, it'd have been my first preference. But, seriously? lol. Consumers like you can make the market trends even worse.

        • sabby

          i am from india too
          galaxy s4 16gb (32 is it even available ? ) was around 35 k or maybe 34k ..2 weeks ago .
          while nexus 5 16 gb is around 28-29 k ..

          • mavericksid

            Is it so hard to understand s4 has external sd support and I'm talking about 32gb verison of nexus 5 as 16gb is just too low.

          • sabby

            still does not makes it 32 gb variant ..come on you made a wrong statement accept it and move on..

            yes 16 gb is internal usage is too low for me who plays lots of games and has around 250 apps .

            and samsung does not even provide option of 32 gb! and external memory support is not same thing and you should know this if you have used any device from last 2 years

          • mavericksid

            You can move few of your games or apps to external sd if you've root access. I think I've been using my mobile pretty well since the past 3 years.
            Btw, it was not about a statement, it's about preference and the fact that s4 and nexus 5 being at the same price makes s4 a better choice, if you consider the worth of what is being offered of couse. Otherwise there's nothingwrong in getting iPhone 5s if the worth of things being offered is not considered.

            Do you seriously think few Giga's of internel memory is worth $100-$150?!

          • mavericksid

            You can actually move few of your games/apps to external sd if you got root access. I think I've been using my device pretty well since the last 3 years. And it's not about making a statement, it is about preference and value. I think the price of a device should depend on what it is offering. The fact that both s4 and nexus 5 are available for the same price undoubtedly makes s4 my first preference.

            Do you really think few gig's of internal memory is worth $100 when other device at that price is offering support for external sd, better front/back camera, better camera software, more processors, better display, more sensors. If that was the case I would have just bought iPhone 5s :D

            If nexus 5 was available for the same price as in other countries, it'd have been my first preference. But, seriously? lol. Consumers like you can make market trends even worse.

          • mavericksid

            You can actually move few of your games/apps to external sd if you got root access. I think I've been using my device pretty well since the last 3 years. And it's not about making a statement, it is about preference and value. I think the price of a device should depend on what it is offering. The fact that both s4 and nexus 5 are available for the same price undoubtedly makes s4 my first preference.

            Do you really think few gig's of internal memory is worth $100 when other device at that price is offering support for external sd, better front/back camera, better camera software, more processors, better display, more sensors. If that was the case I would have just bought iPhone 5s :D

            No doubt, if nexus 5 was available for the same price as in other countries, it'd have been my first preference. But, seriously? lol. Consumers like you can make the market trends even worse.

          • mavericksid

            You can actually move few of your games/apps to external sd if you got root access. I think I've been using my device pretty well since the last 3 years. And it's not about making a statement, it is about preference and value. I think the price of a device should depend on what it is offering. The fact that both s4 and nexus 5 are available for the same price undoubtedly makes s4 my first preference.

            Do you really think few gig's of internal memory is worth $100 when other device at that price is offering support for external sd, better front/back camera, better camera software, more processors, better display, more sensors. If that was the case I would have just bought iPhone 5s :D

            No doubt, if nexus 5 was available for the same price as in other countries, it'd have been my first preference. But, seriously? lol. Consumers like you can make the market trends even worse..

          • sabby

            nexus 5 has better processor ,better gpu and better software
            and more memory for lessor price

            and root is not for everyone and it even destroys ur warranty ..are u really going to put external sd as feature when in ur use case scenario it even forfiets warranty ?

          • mavericksid

            cpu and gpu of both device have same performance, if you believe in benchmarks. Better software you say? I can flash custom roms for that.

            You should know, root voids warranty and unrooting, reseting flash counter brings the warranty back, so basically rooting will not void your warranty. I got my mobile's screen replaced under warranty even after rooting it and you should know this if you have used any device from last 2 years.

          • sabby

            which custom roms for octa ?
            like i said you are either fooling us or fooling urself .
            its not even near 4.4 final buildso n cyanogen mod ,,forget other roms
            btw have u heard of knox flag ? since ur considering it you seem to be very very mis informed about rom development and current state of s4 device ...you lose ur warranty for ever and you cannot do anything about knox flag!

          • mavericksid

            Either ways I'm not fooling anyone, was just having a discussion.
            I was unaware of knox flag, thanks for the tip, i'll look for the one which does not have a knox enabled firmware.
            And there are custom roms available for Octa on xda upto Android 4.3.1. 4.4 will be available soon.

          • sabby

            but they do not compare to nexus roms

            sorry for harsh language before i was bit sleepy ;)
            please buy s4 its fantastic device and better in many ways like screen and camera which are very important components and can make or break the phone but there is misinformation about 32 gb pricess and i rightfully corrected it and sd card slot does not change that

            same with roms and software..nothing comes close to a nexus and i am not talking about just official roms i am talking about amount of dev support it gets and stuff you can do with it.

            you can even go on and put ubuntu touch on it..thisis one area where no ohne comes close specially not galaxy s4 octa which has had terrible rom support and one of the biggest reason i did not buy it as build quality was not an issue for me this octa chip and bad software (stock ) and development was and it is still currently not up to standard of even galaxy s3!

          • sabby

            if you can find sd 600,800 version and get warranty ..then get it without thinking ..

    • Lars Jeppesen

      The Octa doesn't have LTE, right?

      • mavericksid

        I don't need LTE :P

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      No they won't. There's a new thermal envelope that needs to be put into manufacturing to enable the "all 8-cores" operation. Existing Exynos Octa devices will NOT get it.

  • Trent Callahan

    Great review. Now hopefully we can move on! Still looking forward to the Oppo N1

  • Matt

    Ok all these reviews are complimenting the display and viewing angles so much. This is what mine looks like, and compared to my GPe One, its terrible. Is anyone else having this issue? Is it a defect? 1z2zh9y.jpg 98zpjc.jpg

    • Matt
      • http://seapip.com/ Thomas Gladdines

        looks like it doesn't has a filter :S

      • TheLastAngel

        Mine definitely looks like yours in the first shot. I couldn't reproduce your second shot though. It is fine when tilting it around the vertical or horizontal axis of the display. This might be why reviewers dont notice.

        The Nexus 4 was even worse and that didn't actually bother me in day to day usage.

        Htc, Sony and any Amoled displays (Samsung) are just complete no-gos for me. I take the best of the rest.

      • Elliot Kotis

        You realise the HTC is on a better angle right. Plus that is not a HTC ONE? That would be a HTC ONE x or ONE S

        • Matt

          Im aware this is not a One - they're not my photos. I just found them online as an example as others are experience this problem as well.

  • Daryn Sturridge

    Ryan is using some fantastic widgets in these screenshots, any idea what they are? Anyone?

    • RyanWhitwam

      The main screen is Elixir 2, Battery Widget Reborn, and Beautiful Widgets.

      • Daryn Sturridge

        Thank you!

  • Eddie V

    So what you are saying is that if you are on a limited budget this is a good phone. It seems that every review says that. You want an off contract phone for cheap, then subpar camera and mediocre battery are acceptable. So this would be a good middle of the road phone due to kit kit since there are shortcomings to owning this phone. So the new OS is one of two reasons for purchasing the phone.

    • Karl Ludwinski

      No, I think what he's saying is "I don't think there's another Android device out there I'd rather use," because that's what he actually said. No other device, period. Regardless of price. I don't see how you got "middle of the road" from this review, all I saw was a lot of praise and a few quibbles, which is no less than any other phone I've ever seen reviewed. There will be shortcomings to owning ANY phone: too big (I really don't get these giant phones), crappy laggy skins and bloatware (pretty much anything except a Nexus), cheap plastic (Samsung especially), delayed updates (every non-Nexus phone), friggin' physical buttons (seriously? They're still making them with those?), etc. This one just happens to have some of the fewest shortcomings and some of the best strengths for most of us. I'd rather have a slightly less than absolute top of the line camera and a "decent" battery a thousand times over than any of those other shortcomings I listed. But of course, that's just me. Bottom line, it's a phenomenal phone, period. You just have to decide if the few shortcomings it has are a bigger deal to you than the shortcomings that any other phone is going to have, on top of the $200-$300+ premium those phones will cost.

    • Gabernasher

      What he's saying is reading comprehension is hard.

  • http://www.burakcalik.com/ Burak Çalık

    Nexus 4's display was really bad. Could you guys please compare Nexus 4's display to Nexus 5's.

    • Gabernasher

      Nexus 5 is much nicer, I know this because I currently have in my possession 2 4's and a 5.

      • http://www.burakcalik.com/ Burak Çalık

        Thank you. Anyway I will wait for the display test of anandtech or somewhere else.

    • DirkBelig

      Coming from the Galaxy S2, the Nexus 4's screen was pretty depressing. Even my g/f noticed and she's not picky like I am. If I wasn't desperate to get off Trudge's dial-up speeds I may have stuck with the GS2. Even tweaking with faux123's display tweaker couldn't make things better than "rather OK-ish."

      Comparing them side-by-side, the N5 smokes the N4. Some folks complain of the yellowish cast on white pages, but I find it to be more reddish as in a warmer color temperature. The N4 is bluer and more contrasty, but at the expense of crushing dark areas and blowing out highlights. Looking at Flickr shots on both shows the N5 to have more realistic skin tones and more depth in shadow areas.

      But what do I know?

      • http://www.burakcalik.com/ Burak Çalık

        Colors are not the problem, we can tweak it later. The main problem is contrast ratio, blacks etc. How bad it is?

        • DirkBelig

          You sound like someone itching for a reason to slate anything that doesn't deliver the pitch blacks of AMOLED. The N5 is a big improvement over the N4, but I can see there is a sizable contingent of haters looking to clobber every imperfection of the N5, so I'm out.

          • http://www.burakcalik.com/ Burak Çalık

            I used every single high-end device. I know that the AMOLED offers unmeasurable contrast ratio, and I know LCD can not deliver. But HTC One and LG G2 have really amazing screen and contrast ratio despite they are not AMOLED. And I also see that LG G2 and Nexus 5 do not have the same screen panel. So that's why I'm wondering the screen quality of Nexus 5.

  • Simon Belmont

    To be fair. The price point really hasn't jumped up, if we're talking prices dating all the way until Google cut the price couple months ago.

    Last year's 16GB model was the same price as this year's. It's just that there's a 32GB model instead of an 8GB model, so naturally it would cost more (that extra $50).

    • Gabernasher

      Naturally prices drop over time. Not stay the same.

  • jamaall

    When I downloaded the launcher for the Nexus 5, I felt like I was holding my old Razr M, except that the swipe left opened Google Now instead of the Quick Setting panel. The home screen is set up very similar in my opinion, it just looks much better

  • GryphKid44

    Is there a reason Google can't make a Nexus 5 that works on Verizon's network without having Verizon sell it? I know Verizon screws everything up once they get their hands on it but why couldn't it be similar to the Nexus 7 or even similar to a developer edition device? Google sells it and controls updates but it still is compatible.

    • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

      Yes. Verizon wouldn't approve it to actually get on its network. The "wonders" of CDMA.

      • TheLastAngel

        Since CDMA opens up so many user hostile possibilities for carriers, how did it not win?

        • http://riteshtripathy.wordpress.com/ Ritesh

          Because GSM is a global standard and it makes more sense to a majority of carriers in terms of devices available and the infrastructure maintenance. Also, it doesn't have the drawbacks of CDMA. CDMA was superior for a few years but then a whole slew of updates to GSM made it better and there was just no incentive in going CDMA post the early 2000s. Many CDMA carriers have moved their network back to GSM over the last few years but some like Verizon have stuck with it for obvious reasons. There are a lot of other things but that would be too long a topic for a comment.

    • DirkBelig

      Last I looked, Verizon was still blocking the LTE Nexus 7 from their airwaves, so how is this Google's fault? Verizon are a-holes. Period.

      • GryphKid44

        I wasn't blaming Google. Also I was under the impression that if you already had service with Verizon then you could transfer Sims for the N7 but they were not allowing new service. Either way dev edition phones work but aren't sold by Verizon.

      • TheLastAngel

        And criminals who brake their contracts with the FCC.

  • http://brgulker.wordpress.com/ brgulker

    I am having pretty good results with the HDR mode. I am not an expert photographer or anything close however.

    Has anyone found screen protectors that are actually shipping right now?

    • Gabernasher

      xtremeguard, quite cheap with a discount code too.

      • David Hart

        Yeah I got my SP on the 7th.

        On my nexus 4 it had sharp edges and would peel. this one is very round and works great!

  • Baleeted

    "The UI doesn't look bland after the removal of #33b5e5. In fact, the blue might have been a crutch."

    BLASPHEMY! DUARTE WILL NOT STAND FOR THIS #HOLOYOLO!

    nah, I'm kidding. I've been using white icons since 4.1.2 in a custom rom.

    • David Hart

      I've been skinning white since 2.3 :p

  • Laszlo Gaspar

    while android 4.4 does look very nice, I'm afraid I'm staying with 8.1 on my surface 2.

  • Blowntoaster

    Artrem Russakovskii and Dave Ruddock going at each other. So funny. Lmao

  • Wayne Randall

    Voltron has five parts.. Nexus 5.

    You guys missed a golden opportunity right there. Great read otherwise.

  • Andrew

    Artem, you don't seem to be a big fan of the Nexus 5. Would you mind shipping it to me? I will pay for the shipping, since money ain't a thing for you and you have a note 3. Think of it as a donation to a poor man... Cheers :)

  • Bakaouji

    Did any of the reviewers try using the Nexus 5 with ART enabled? It's already fast enough on Dalvik, but ART makes it scream! The multitasking window normally takes 0.5 seconds to load, with ART it's instant.

    All apps load instantly as well. ART is truly amazing. It's definitely the big feature of the next Android version.

    • Jadephyre

      My guess is they didn't use it in their reviews because ART still isn't ready for primetime and a number of programs don't work when it's enabled, like Titanium Backup (which is irrelevant for me) and Whatsapp (which is very relevant for me).

  • John

    DOA without a MicroSD. Google doesn't understand the value proposition with a MicroSD slot. I can buy a 64 GB card for around $30. Next year, I'll be able to buy a 128GB card. Why can't I have the memory I want, for the price I want?

    • Mado

      There sure are a lot of DOA phones without MicroSD cards I've seen lately.

    • Gabernasher

      Go buy a Galaxy. Nexus is not for you, Touchwiz is.

    • DirkBelig

      No, YOU don't understand what Google is doing with their devices. The iPhone never has nor ever will support MicroSD and somehow has managed to overcome both that and the lack of a removable battery to scratch and claw their way to a few sales. HTC hasn't had a slot in years, but woe to Google for not doing what Samsung does with their phones.

      Here's the solution, Bub: Buy a Samsung Galaxy S4 GPE and STFU. Problems solved!

  • BMG1001

    Soo....now that the Nexus 5 has been released, Nexus 10 2013 rumours anyone?

    • NexusKoolaid

      No thanks. I've had my fill of rumors.

  • bukowski

    All this talk of the battery and camera sucking... let's not forget this is a Nexus folks. There is already a thread on XDA with a flashable zip to improve the quality/usability of the camera. Two of the biggest names in Nexus kernels (franco and faux) are already hard at work perfecting their craft. This phone will only get better, and it'll get better a helluva lot faster than any other android phone on the market. I feel as though people are too quick to jump on the Nexus line for not being as good as it could/should be, but those people forget just how much of a boon the Nexus dev community is and always will be. Some will argue that the Nexus line should be "just that good" right out of the box, but c'mon... We all know the vast majority of users buying a Nexus phone are flash-a-holic tweak geeks.

  • DirkBelig

    Nice write-up, despite the comments which fuel the haters and fanboys, but one question: WHERE THE HECK IS THAT STORAGE LIST AT?!? The article says, "This shows up as a slide-out navigation menu on the left," but the left of WHAT?!? The screen shot looks like Google Now and even though I had Dropbox and Copy installed on my phone, Quick Office only saw Google Drive; only when I installed Box did that become an option. Just where does this feature come into play?

  • Elliot Kotis

    Nice review. Unbias. But a few things:
    1. You cant use benchmarks, Nexus 5 benched very high (Samsung bumps it up, Google doesn't).
    2. Batterylife is amazing. Turn the location settings on "battery saving", still works amazingly, and today I have been using it, 2 and a half hours screen on time, with 60% remaining, watching videos, browsing the web and texting.

  • mikeym0p

    It's the same exact speaker module as the Nexus 4, check out the Nexus 5 teardown on ifixit.

  • Al McDowall

    First of all, brilliant and fairly thorough review guys. I think the ménage-a-quatre (including the phone itself) was a fantastic idea. I was disappointed that AP were not quicker with a review, but obviously you took the time to actually live with the device for a while and the resulting critique was well worth the wait.

    Once again we are all in the position where the technology on offer is amazing and we are not all satisfied. I think that's OK but we should also be aware of how spoiled we are.

    I was full of excitement in the run up to the n5 release, really wanted one despite not having seen it or any review of it. Now it's out, the processor is a monster, it looks amazingly fast and smooth and it's currently the only phone with 4.4. I've previously lusted after the HTC One but been hesitant to buy due to the non-stock experience. Currently on a GNex and to be honest, it does what I need it to do (albeit a little slowly sometimes) so I really need to feel justified in buying a new phone. It's not a necessity, it's a luxury.

    So, ok, the N5 is out and reviewers are all over it and it's fast and smooth and blah blah blah, but it's not perfect. The speaker performance is poor, the camera is far from ideal and the battery is (by today's standards) average. It's still a lot of machine for the money and the Nexus line is not really supposed to be competing with the jocks. I understand that.

    What I don't understand is why these particular compromises had to be made in a device which (it seemed) the world was watching and waiting for. I don't watch movies on my phone, but I do rely on the speaker to let me know when there's a call or notification. I saw a video comparison of the HTC One and the N5 and the difference in audio quality was ridiculous. The speaker is arguably the second most-used part of the phone to interact with the user. As it stands, I'd have to say that the quality of the N5 speaker is unacceptable for a new phone (flagship or otherwise)

    And the battery? Guys, c'mon. Battery life is going to be high on pretty much everyone's list of features in a phone. We've become used to compromising because we like big, sharp displays and we want faster processors and we understand that this takes energy. But seriously, I think if Google could have shoe-horned in a 3000 mAh (or even bigger) battery in there, most people could forgive the other short-comings.

    It's clearly a great phone. It might even offer 'the best Android experience currently available' as I've seen around the net. Do I feel like I could buy it with full confidence at the moment? No. Obviously it would be a HUGE step up from my current Nexus, but I don't see why I should 'settle' for less than ideal when I buy a new phone - irrespective of the (admittedly excellent) price point.

    We all want certain things from a phone, and, as the adage goes, you can't please all the people all the time. However, I do feel that Google missed a trick with the N5 - they could easily have made it much closer to perfect. I know it's half the price of the flagships. Slap $50 on the price, give us a decent speaker (or even two?) and a bigger battery. I honestly think, that's all it needs (camera app can be improved!)

    As it stands, I'll be waiting for the next HTC flagship, GP edition - or maybe I'll even take a chance on Sense. It will have the beautiful form of the One, a processor to match the N5 and maybe even a decent battery.

    As a crowd, we might be hard to please, but I truly believe Google could have done better with this and I'm a little disappointed.

    • Akshay

      Here's how I approach the "Google should've added a better [battery, speaker, camera] for $50" argument: the entire purpose of this phone was to meet a low price point ($350 for the 16 GB model - identical to the nexus 4). Now, yes, Google/LG are perfectly capable of making a true flagship - they could replace those mediocre components with better ones with a higher cost as well. But at some point that puts the phone in the legue of the HTC One and the S4 - phones Google isn't even trying to compete with. If you're buying this phone, you're buying it for stock android or the price - not because it's the best phone in the world. That's not what Nexus means anymore, and people need to realize that.

      • Al McDowall

        "But at some point that puts the phone in the league of the HTC One and the S4"

        Do you mean in terms of pricing? That would only be true if we took a "But where do you stop with improvements?" view. I'm saying, better battery and better speaker would only add a little to the price (and admittedly the thickness) and the resulting improvements would, I believe, outweigh the price increase (and still keep it very affordable in phone terms)

        I hear you on the "Nexus!=Flagship", I really do. But it is still a phone. A phone which people will use. Those two improvements would really help to make it a phone that more people would CHOOSE.

        As I write this, something has occurred to me. Ok, Nexus isn't a flagship phone and shouldn't be considered as such. But the manufacturer has chosen to equip it with a large, high resolution screen and a top of the line processor. Both those components obviously point to power use, so shouldn't it be a matter of common sense in either system design or end-user satisfaction that they also include the largest battery they can reasonably add? A couple of extra mm thickness, a little heavier and it can see you through a day of heavy use. Wouldn't that be something you would take into consideration when building a phone, flagship or otherwise?

  • TylerChappell

    It's unfortunate that HTC seems to have made the best phone of the year by far with the One, and how about that butteryfly S? It's such a shame that not enough people are buying them. I would still choose the Nexus 5 over the One, but if you're going by overall quality and have a checklist of who hit the most marks on making the supreme phone this year, that would really probably be HTC. And you have to give them credit for saying FUUUU to the option of 16GB of storage on their flagship device. I look forward to what they announce in February at MWC.

  • 萨夫 侯赛因

    I do like the phone but am definitely feeling very let down by the camera..

  • Sahil Chaturvedi

    Best. Review. Ever. Hands down. <3 you guys.

  • Jack

    If Samsung had released this exact phone it would have been panned. Suddenly cheap plastic becomes premium... mid range becomes leading edge...

    • Thomas’

      In which parallel universe the N5 becomes "mid range"?

      • Jack

        Lets look at the facts, poor battery, poor camera, no sd card support, limited internal storage, plastic, ugly design. Upper mid range at best. Anyone else other than "google" putting this phone out and it gets panned.

        • Thomas’

          Ok, let's trim the "facts".
          SD card: Useless to most. And how does a SD card slot determine if a device is mid or top range? That's a design decision, not a premium feature.
          Plastic: Technically a great material for phones. It can also feel nice if done right. And from what I've read *this* plastic in particular is made properly.
          Design: Your opinion.

          Now a look at hard facts.
          Battery: Slightly lower than other flagship devices like S4, but the same as the HTC One.
          Internal storage: 32GB is less than the maximum of 64GB which other flagship devices offer. But why bother creating a 64GB version when it is bought by less than 5% of the consumers anyway?

          Now the stuff you purposely left out.
          Has LTE.
          Has one of the best displays made for phones.
          2GB RAM.
          Top end processor.

          The one point which is not "flagshippy" is the camera. While it is good, it is not as good as it should be.

          • Jack

            LTE, is standard for any new phone these days. 2GB Ram is not top range. The Note 2 had 2GB of RAM, that is 18 months old. My phone has 3GB. The processor yes is flagship worthy. SD card useless to most? Laughable statement, maybe usless to people who dont use phones. Another thing is Kitkats removal of Flash support meaning that phones many years old can provide a better Internet experience than this phone. Im not even going to get into the privacy issues of 4.4.

          • Thomas’

            So a phone has to top all specs of all phones on the market to be a flagship/top end device? HTC One, Samsung S4, iPhone 5S, Sony Xperia Z are all mid range to you, because there is ONE phone which has more RAM? Makes completely sense.

            And no, there're still enough new phones without LTE, with 1GB of RAM.

          • Jack

            It doesnt share top specs with all flagships bar the processor. This is why it is not a top end phone. Upper mid range at best. The price reflects this.

          • Jadephyre

            Bullshit. At this price Google barely breaks even on having it made since that is not their main concern. Educate yourself about what the Nexus Line stands for before you start railing away in favor of your frigggin' Note 3.
            The N5 is a top-end phone, wether you like it or not.

          • Jack

            If the N5 is top end then what is the Note 3? Ultra top end? Lets be fair, the N5 looks a decent budget phone but it is not a top end phone. More comparable to the 5C.

          • Alan Shearer

            Flash can be easily sideloaded and work great for me on my galaxy nexus, asus tf300t. Amazon streaming all the way che.

        • DirkBelig

          Let's look at the facts: You're an illiterate troll who is bashing the Nexus 5 to get your rocks off. No SD care? Tell it to the iPhone and HTC One! Ditto for limited storage. Ugly design? Dafuq? The fraking Galaxy S3/S4 is some cheap plastic garbage, but you want to slate the N5 for having plastic instead of what exacty? Adamantium or Unobtainium?

          Jeez, the Samsung shills are annoying twits...

  • Frankbel

    Nice review guys!
    I have read many reviews online, but yours is the most respectable and objective.

  • trendingto

    Motorola is ready for another phone code named as Falcon XT trendingto.blogspot.com

  • Cretino

    Nexus 5 or xiaomi mi3?

  • John Daniel

    Great article guys. Your impressions pretty much echo how I've found my N5 since it arrived last week. For the money, I'm absolutely thrilled, in fact I'm thrilled anyway, not just because of the price. The minor gripes are totally overshadowed by getting access to the latest Android as Google intended it after coming from an HTC one-s which although great, will now be stuck with an older version just because HTC decided not to bother updating it. The screen is fantastic (I'm partially sighted so this is a critical area) and I'm amazed that it's still pocket friendly. I was relieved to see the 32Gb version as I'm on Google music all access and like to keep plenty of music local to save data and battery over having to stream everything.

    I've found battery a bit up and down too. It's certainly one area I wish was better. I've actually noticed that Play Services seems to be using quite a bit but I'm wondering if that's my Google Music refreshing. It's a shame there isn't an option to set that to only happen when charging. I've also tried the new Art thing and it's been totally stable and doesn't seem to have affected my battery at all. I can certainly confirm that playing music uses much less battery than it did before.

    There is one flaw which I'm going to be watching with interest as more people begin to experience it. After just one week and with me handling the phone like a new born baby, the ceramic volume rocker has split in the middle. I've no idea how but I think it could be a week point. The phone hasn't been dropped or pushed up against anything in a pocket but I just suddenly noticed I could feel a sharp edge while using it the other day. I don't think it will affect it working long term, as it seems to have enough "push" still but obviously it's a disappointment. I don't want to be without the phone for such a minor thing so I'm not going to bother getting it replaced, especially as I suspect it will just happen again, so I'm going to live with it. I suspect a few months from now I'll be seeing this appear a lot on forums from other people. This also happened to me on my old HTC, though that was after several months and I actually knew I had damaged it while lifting some heavy boxes at work. I just wonder if these rocker switches is really such a great idea.

    • Andromedo

      I don't have any issues yet with mine, but I was concerned about the same thing. I thought the sleekly rounded buttons on the N4 were about as good as could be.

  • shojus

    MASSIVE Dev support! Nuff said really... ;)

  • sam

    I still hope stock Android will have:

    1. Numerical battery percentage in the status bar

    2. Unlimited number of apps in the app folders of the home screen & 5 rows of apps there

    3. Hugely improved camera app

    4. One app for photos (either Gallery OR Photos )

    5. Ability to open screen in some (like double tap) considering that the phone does not have a physical home button

  • Luca Comellini

    Am I the only one who's hearing a lot of noise coming from the earpiece? Like if something is vibrating inside...

    • Andromedo

      Nothing like that. You may have a bad unit. Google was pretty good about the one RMA I needed to do.

  • rap

    I liked having the viewpoints of 3 different people on this review. Makes it a little more unbiased.

  • James Briano

    "an unassuming device."
    That's exactly what I want.

  • i2cube

    Anyone knows what the name of the widget in one of the pictures is ( the one with flashlight toggle, storage, ram, WiFi and temperature)?

  • Dave

    "The Launcher Is Swoon-Worthy" title, pic underneath it.
    anyone know what the app that is that has the widget that shows temp, ram, wifi, flashlight ect....thanks for the hlep

  • LANCE

    on the camera app issue, i never use the stock camera i use Camera zoom FX or another 3rd party camera app that works better

  • Crispin Swickard

    The only thing that seems to be an issue so far for me like mentioned in the article is the focus time/ability on the camera. It just seems slower/less accurate than my GNex which seems insane. This must be a software issue, and hope they get it ironed out soon. Luckily I don't use my camera much, otherwise I would probably be pretty frustrated with it.

    I being a fan of darker interfaces don't care for the new launcher other than the transparent navigation bars, and like the new dialog for changing wallpapers/widgets. For now I have to sacrifice that for the more usability of added gestures, and customizability of Nova Launcher. Hopefully they will bring a happy medium to the new, and old launcher when they undoubtedly update.

  • Nihar

    Comparison between Nexus 5 vs Nexus 4: Read more; techfastlife.blogspot.com/2013/11/nexus-5-vs-nexus-4.html

  • David Anderton

    The one thing I was really hoping they would implement in 4.4 is landscape mode for the home screen and app drawer. Its so annoying having to switch between landscape and portrait for no apparent reason. The code is there they just chose to disable it. Why google Why??

    • Jadephyre

      Because it's a phone, not a tablet, simple as that.

      • David Anderton

        So you never use your phone in landscape?

        • Jadephyre

          Nope, only when i'm in a game or watching vids on Youtube.

          • David Anderton

            ok so lets say you are going from one program to another why should you have to go back to portrait? If some people don't want to to have landscape for home and apps draer then that is fine but Google should at least enable it as an option. If you use MHL to send your phone to a TV it changes to landscape so the code is obviously written for it.

  • blairh

    Terrific review. Really enjoyed reading 3 POV's in one article.

    Personally the external speaker is very important in the way I use my smartphone. That alone would make the N5 a non purchase. Sadly despite raving reviews for BoomSound I loathe the placement and feel of the power button on the One. Among other hardware issues I have with the device. I'm using an S4 Active currently and I'm really happy. Speaker gets very loud at max and does not distort. Just wish it was on the bottom and not the back. I hope OEM's start to follow HTC and focus on great external speakers in 2014. Personally it's a very important element of my smartphone.

  • Taufiq Rahman

    i am currently holding my galaxy nexus in my hand...was a top notch device that time with superb performance. the only cons when i bought it were 1) small battery, 2) average camera, 3) horrible speaker...and now when i am reading the nexus 5 review...i see the same stuff happening again

  • apguest

    OK, it IS just me. *Everyone* seems to be so enamoured with this device. I agree: The price for the specs is incomparable at this time. BUT, this IS also a cheap-looking/feeling device!

    If it didn't turn on at my local shop yesterday, I would have sworn I was fondling a demo device!

    Last year, I got myself the 1-year old Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Not my favourite design, but I wanted to experience the "pure Android" experience coming from iOS. This year, I might just get the 1-year old oh-so-beautiful HTC One.

    I am not a gamer and I don't have to have bleeding edge phones, but it has to be a decent, beautiful device.

    Finally, I may just go over to the third OS, Windows. After all, except for my phone, my entire ecosystem is some flavour of Windows.

  • DespondentPhoneSellerUK

    Still bothers me that they've reverse the micro USB port. I had a generic one that I used for my Nexus 4, for Galaxy phones of friends and so on, and it would have fit this fine as well, except they've flipped the port, so I'd have to have the screen facing away. I know, I know, QI charging, great, except much more expensive and it's nice to just have an upright dock sometimes. Can't even see why they reverse it, I loved that they stuck with keeping on the bottom and in the middle (I'm looking at you Sony and HTC) so that the Nexus 4 would fit with docks from the Galaxy Nexus and other phones, it was a good standard, why reverse it?

    • JT3

      While this doesn't really address your underlying point, the Nokia DT-910 wireless charger is an upright dock-like charger that may give you the best of both worlds.

  • http://www.modminecraft.com/ Nick Coad

    What's so hard about the dialer? Open it, start typing a name or phone number, press the contact and bam, you're done. Where's the confusion coming in?

  • Tony

    The "immersive mode" for videos has always been there. Plenty of apps (e.g. MX player) including the stock gallery video viewer have always hid the status and nav bars upon video playback.

    What's actually new is the mode where the bars *stay* hidden even after the user touches the screen. This new mode is mainly for games so the game can use the whole screen and also prevent users from accidentally hitting a nav key (think about kids playing games). This has been a BIG request from devs for a long time and many of the Android Engineers were quite against it for a while (some community suggested solutions were to use the power key as a lock to hide/unhide the nav bar). I guess they finally caved or found a solution they were comfortable with.

  • http://www.friv2friv3friv4.com/ friv 2 friv 3 friv 4

    Yeah, I was really hopeful after project butter...

  • Daniel

    Where I live, the Nexus 5 sells for 650USD, many countries in Europe sell it for the same or sligltly less (equivalent of 600USD). For 350USD I can see that the Nexus 5 is a steal for what it offers, but can you say the same in my situation? I'm eager to see some reviews of the Nexus 5 in countries where it's substantially more expensive and have to compete heads on with i.e. the LG G2 (which ironically, now can be found cheaper where I live).

  • Zulqarnain Nizamani

    reading like a lengthy novel and u can`t find a word known as GPS in whole article u surprised me Androidpolice :D have heard about LG devices having bad GPS, G2 , Nexus 4 , Nexus 5

  • Reshma

    very awsome phone i need this phone

  • Mark

    must have one...you cant beat this phone for the price off contract!

  • GrebGoneBad

    So far I have found nothing wrong with my N5 besides the battery life. Even my 2,100mAh S3 lasted longer. =( Hopefully a future update will sort this out. A group of modders have already created a kernal that improves battery life by up to 30% so hopefully Google will take heed. =)

  • Naman Sood

    Flame me all you want, but isn't the Nexus 5 launcher a bit like iOS 6 with a dedicated app drawer and widgets? Leftmost home screen for search, comes with minimum home screens, but you can move apps to right side of screen and form new ones, stuff like that, you know.

  • Shrihari Kulkarni

    I think, after Kit Kat upgrade - my camera works much better. I don't want to compare it with iPhone as I am very much satisfied with Nexus 5 wit upgraded Kit Kat. Rest of the features are working really well for me. No issues. I totally agree that before upgrade - yes - I was like ; 'man, I have purchased this but what next?' ... but after upgrade - this rocks.

Quantcast