I have always liked Nexus smartphones. My last smartphone was Google’s Samsung built Galaxy Nexus, which I had planned to replace with Nexus 4, but after using Nexus 4 for almost a week, I decided against it. So, Galaxy Nexus replacement was long due and I was eagerly waiting for Nexus 5.
When Google revealed that it was bringing Nexus 5 to India soon after release, well as you can guess I was quite happy as getting a phone from US, when you don’t have any relatives or close friends there, can be a pain.
Google finally launched Nexus 5 in India on November 20 and having ordered it the same day from Google Play, I got it in my hands by November 22. For over a week, I have been using Nexus 5 as my primary phone and I am finally ready to share my views about the smartphone.
Before we go ahead with the review, here is some basic backgrounder about the Nexus smartphones. Nexus 5 is the fifth Nexus smartphone (also indicated by 5 in the name, which is also the screen-size (approx.)), other four being Nexus One, Nexus S, Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4. It is the second Nexus smartphone to be built by LG, first one was Nexus 4. Two of the rest Nexus smartphones have been built by Samsung – Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus. Nexus One was the first Nexus smartphone and was made by HTC.
Here we go.
Nexus 5 comes with 4.95-inch of full HD goodness, which uses IPS display technology and is a treat to watch. Even when I have switched from Galaxy Nexus, which uses a 4.65-inch 720p AMOLED HD display, the difference is clearly visible. Your eyes might or might not see the pixels but the full HD display on Nexus 5 clearly stands out.
It isn’t almost perfect like HTC One display but is still awesome. It is quite bright and on full brightness, the under-sun visibility is great. Being an IPS display, the viewing angles are also good.
Looks and Design
I must agree that Nexus 5 is not the prettiest phone around and in fact most of the design is quite boring or at least I thought of it that way for the first few days. In reality, as much as you use the phone, the seemingly average design of Nexus 5 grows on you, you start liking it more and more.
The smartphone is quite handy and doesn’t seem like a phone with huge 4.95-inch display, which borders on the phablet segment.
In terms of the specifics, the front of the smartphone is largely dominated by the display, apart from that there is front camera and the circular ear-piece (not the usual sight). As the phone uses on-screen buttons, there aren’t any buttons on the front of the phone. The back cover is not removable, so LG has included a micro-SIM card slot on the right side of the phone, which can be ejected using the bundled SIM-card removal tool. The ceramic volume rocker and power button are quite pleasing to use but I found the placing of power button an inconvenience unless you have giant hands. It is very hard to reach it during one hand usage of the phone and if only it was placed slightly lower than its current position.
Moving on to the performance of the smartphone; thanks to the included Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM, the performance of the Nexus 5 is great. The phone feels snappy and I am yet to encounter any lag during any normal usage of the phone. Be it playing Asphalt 8 or browsing the web, the phone just goes on like a breeze.
The new Android 4.4 KitKat also plays an important part in the performance of the smartphone as Google has cut down on all the unnecessary parts of the operating system to make it workable on just 512MB of RAM and as the Nexus 5 includes four times of that minimum-requirement, the OS is a delight to use.
Coming to the loud-speaker performance, the phone is not very loud and falls behind many of the other Android devices. Thankfully, Nexus 5 is a big improvement on the speaker front than my last Nexus phone, which was awfully quiet. Despite what it might look in the images, Nexus does not come with two speakers and there is just one speaker and the right grill on the bottom of the device hides the primary microphone, not a speaker.
LG has included a 2300 mAh battery on the phone, which isn’t really huge as the phone includes a 1080p display. That display eats a lot of battery and coupled with 3G usage (no LTE in India), you are left with around 15-17 hours of usage with above-average usage. If you are a moderate user, you might get through the day, more likely when you use more data via Wi-Fi than 3G.
Overall on the performance front, apart from the battery, Nexus 5 rules and there is no disagreement there.
Software: True Google Phone?
Now coming to a very important part of Nexus 5 – Android 4.4 KitKat. As you all know Nexus 5 runs on Android 4.4. While KitKat might not seem a lot different from Jelly Bean on most of other devices including Nexus 4, it looks different on Nexus 5, thanks to the presence of new Google launcher.
The inclusion of the new Google launcher brings both under-the-hood and user-facing refresher to Android. Despite being a point update, KitKat seems to be big change on the smartphone, in part because of this new launcher. It also seems to be an attempt by the search giant to make the Nexus smartphone as close of a Google phone as they can, without actually pissing off other Android partners.
The Google launcher brings a more polished, lightened, and flatter user-interface, which is pleasing to the eyes. It also integrates Google Search deeply and “Ok Google” hot word is in play on your entire home-screen. While ‘OK Google’ only supports English (US) right now, it works quite nicely with Indian accent.
Borrowing a bit from HTC’s Blinkfeed experiment, Google has given Google Now a full-screen on Nexus 5. While, you can always get Google Now by swiping up from home button or tapping on the search widget, Google Now is now also accessible by going to last home-screen on the left.
Among other KitKat specific features, Nexus 5 includes the new and improved Dialler app, which not only can search through your Google contacts, but can also look in your Google Apps account contacts and Google Places listings. No need to go searching for the number of the nearest Domino’s Pizza, just type Domino’s in Dialler app and it brings a list of nearby outlets which can be contacted with just a simple tap.
Nexus 5 also includes Hangouts as the main messaging app, which I don’t really like much but it being an Android smartphone, you always have an option to get another SMS/ MMS app from Google Play and make it your default messaging app.
KitKat is really a decent improvement over Jelly Bean and if you want to read more about the features of this new Android version, you should go through these two articles (1, 2).
Coming to one of the problematic areas of Nexus 5, its camera. The 8MP rear camera on-board the smartphone is a disappointment. The camera’s auto-focus falters in low-light situations, and detail is missing from the photographs taken from it.
Obviously, you can take good photos with Nexus 5 under best conditions but more is expected from a high-end Android smartphone. We are hearing that Google is hard at work with Android camera software to make it better but until that arrives and fixes Nexus 5 camera woes, it will remain the single biggest issue with this, otherwise great, smartphone.
The front camera is decent and you won’t have problems in taking decent selfies or video chats.
As I have already detailed in this review, Nexus 5 is not a perfect smartphone. It has some issues, camera being the prominent one, but taking in account the affordable pricing of the device, it is the best Android smartphone that you can buy today (and for the foreseeable near future) at this price-tag.
Then, you also have the special benefits of getting a Nexus device, like fast Android updates, great integration with Google services and stock Android experience (almost stock in Nexus 5). If you are invested in Google ecosystem, there is no better phone than Nexus 5. It brings all the Google goodness and top of the line specs in a great price-tag.
Nexus 5 specifications
- SCREEN: 4.95” 1920×1080 display (445 ppi) (Full HD IPS) with Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- CAMERAS: 1.3MP front facing, 8MP rear facing with Optical Image Stabilization
- DIMENSIONS: 69.17 x 137.84 x 8.59 mm, 4.59 ounces (130g)
- BATTERY: 2300 mAh
- Wireless Charging built-in
- CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, 2.26GHz processor, Adreno 330 GPU (450MHz)
- Dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4G/5G) 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, NFC (Android Beam), Bluetooth 4.0
- GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8, LTE: Bands: 1/3/5/7/8/20
- 16GB/ 32GB internal storage
- 2GB RAM
- microUSB (SlimPort enabled), 3.5mm stereo audio jack
- Dual microphones
- Ceramic power and volume buttons
- SENSORS: GPS, Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Compass, Proximity/Ambient Light, Pressure, Hall
- Price: Starting INR 28,999 in India, $349 in US
Pros: Display, Performance, Price
PS: If you have any specific queries regarding Nexus 5, please note them in comments and I would try my best to answer them.