REVIEW: Google's Nexus 5

Despite its unremarkable exterior Google's Nexus 5 provides exceptional value for money and lots of raw speed.

Graph for REVIEW: Google's Nexus 5

Google’s new Nexus 5 Android phone loves to tout its reputation of delivering high-end smartphone capabilities without the high-end price tag. But does Google's latest hardware handiwork live up to the hype?

Simply put, yes. No other phone comes close to offering the same value for money.

Historically, the Nexus line has always been very sharply priced, offering  the latest Android OS and most importantly, allowing easy full “root” (administrator/developer) access to modify the operating system. The Nexus 5 packs Android 4.4 Kitkat and all the bells and whistles for tinkering with the software under the hood.

Starting at $399 for a 16GB model, the Nexus 5 totes a stunning 5 inch full HD 1920x1080 resolution screen, protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3, and blazing speed enabled by the high end Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU and Adreno 330 GPU inside.

Though, buyer beware, prices can vary. Telstra, for instance, charges $696 outright for the same 16GB device.

In terms of size the Nexus 5 is almost the same as a Samsung Galaxy S4 and weighs in at 130g. The battery life is surprisingly good considering the Nexus 5 is a fast 4G phone and the battery capacity is only mid-range at 2300 Milliamps Hour (mAh). Low to medium intensity users will find the Nexus 5 has enough charge to last a day but heavy users, who read and download a lot of data on their phone, or use a lot of GPS location apps will need to charge their phone by mid-afternoon.

Unlike its predecessor, the Nexus 5 functions on all three major Australian telco networks. However, there's one little hitch, the Nexus 5 lacks support for Optus’ 2300Mhz 4G Plus network. Other connectivity features include support for 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4G/5G), NFC and Bluetooth 4.0.

Caller ID by Google is a helpful new Android 4.4 feature (for Nexus 4 and 5 only) that can identify some of your inbound and outbound numbers by using business data in Google Places map listings, even if they aren't stored in your People contacts list.

Good for business

Business users are also well catered for on the Nexus 5, as Kitkat 4.4 comes with Google’s Quickoffice software preinstalled. The Google Now digital assistant is also a welcome addition. It functions at its best if you regularly use Google’s Gmail, Maps, Calender apps.

The Android device manager can be enabled for your Nexus 5 by opening the Google Settings app. This will let you remotely locate your phone online as well as remote lock, remote wipe or cause it to ring. Obviously this requires the lost/stolen phone to be on and connected to a mobile phone tower or the internet.

Another nice productivity feature is the new full screen edge to edge reading experience, for example if you’re reading a long website article all you need to do is swipe up slightly to reveal the status and navigation bars.

The Nexus 5 user experience could have been even better, if not for a few software functionality and software design issues by Google.

In an annoying move the Google Hangouts app has been merged with the Android SMS Messaging app which creates a poor user experience. Thankfully the default Messaging app can be changed. The 8SMS by Thinkleft app - which is free on the Google Play Store - is a good alternative.

Similarly the 8MP camera hardware with optical image stabilisation is let down because Google needs to drastically improve the Kitkat 4.4 default Android camera app by improving it’s slow shutter speed, using a better menu system and allowing ISO to be set. For an in-depth look at the Nexus 5 camera and app see DPreview.

Here are a few helpful modifications that can be made to improve the overall Nexus 5 experience.

  • Readers who have a lot of Facebook contacts can use UberSync Facebook Contact Sync to import HD contact photos, phone numbers etc into the People contacts app.
  • By enabling hidden Developer options (Settings, About phone, tap Build number seven times, Return to the previous screen) you can set the 3 animation/transition settings to Off.
  • Instead of the battery indicator at top left of screen just being solid white you can enable capacity percentage remaining to be displayed as well.

Overall don’t be fooled by the unremarkable exterior of Google's new Nexus 5 phone.  It combines the latest Android 4.4 Kitkat with high end hardware specifications, to give buyers exceptional value for money and raw speed.

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