Google Nexus 5 Review

The Google Nexus 5 is a top-notch Android handset at a budget price point as long as you’re buying outright.

Google Nexus 5: On the plus side

Before anyone complains that I’m meant to be a one-smartphone monogamous kind of guy right now due to Budget Phone Week, I’ll state that the Nexus 5 has been being tested for a while, and in any case I’m not using it right now when mobile for tasks. Now, on with the show.
When I reviewed the LG G2 a little while ago, I commented that for the most part the hardware was fine — very fine, in fact — but it was hampered by the fact that Google had just announced the Nexus 5, an LG-produced smartphone with more or less the same internals as the G2 for less than half the asking price. I’ve had a couple of weeks to test out the Nexus 5, and that statement still holds true.

Party in the front, business logos in the back. The Nexus 5 is a reverse mullet.
Party in the front, business logos in the back. The Nexus 5 is a reverse mullet.

Actually, it’s slightly better than that, because there’s a lot in the Nexus 5’s design that outshines the G2. There’s none of that silly business with volume and power buttons out the back, and while the plastic construction isn’t absolutely premium, it does have a very nice feel in the hand for regular use. I’m not personally a fan of white phones — and I’m thankful that my review sample was the black model — but it’s a style choice if you want it.
The Nexus 5 is also the first Nexus device with integrated 4G. That’s a nice step; while you can get cheaper smartphones with 4G onboard, they’re often quite limited devices. The Nexus 5’s G2 origins means that it’s basically a premium phone at a mid-budget price with 4G. There’s a lot to like there.
Android 4.4 — the rather ludicrously named Android KitKat — is standard on the Nexus 5, and it’s a smooth and responsive operating system with a much stronger integration with Google services. More on that later, but at least at a basic level, KitKat works very well indeed.
The whole issue of benchmarking on Android is rather murky right now, so I’ll just offer up the score without comment; The Google Nexus 5 scored 2760 on Geekbench 3.

Google Nexus 5: On the minus side

There are some weak points within the Nexus 5. The inbuilt speakers are pretty ordinary critters — although I’d prefer it if everyone just used headphones, it’s undeniably a thing that people do, so you may as well have good audio if you’re going to annoy me.
KitKat is strongly Google-centric. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone, but it does further shift Google into the kind of walled garden that Apple rather comfortably sits in. There’s no standalone SMS app, for example, because it’s now integrated into Google Hangouts. Google Now is now more persistent, with its own dedicated space to the left of the home screen. You do have to opt into Google Now before it starts working, but you can’t actually reclaim that space if you’re not a fan of Now’s sometimes disturbing grasp on your personal information.

Google Now knows I like Tech AND Doctor Who? That's practically witchcraft, I tells ye!
Google Now knows I like Tech AND Doctor Who?
That’s practically witchcraft, I tells ye!

The Nexus 5 also brings with it some of the features of Google Glass in terms of voice search. Like Google Glass, I found it rather hard to get on with. As an example, I should be able to get it to search for this website by saying “OK Google” (that’s the trigger for voice searches when unlocked) and then “Search for Fat Duck Tech”.
It got the search bit right, but from a number of attempts, it interpreted me as saying:

  • Foot Doc Texas

  • Set stuff at doc tech

  • Fat doc tech

Now you do get some interesting search results from those terms, but it wasn’t what I was after.

It got there eventually.  Almost like Google... is... listening to me. I think I might have to go "silent" for now.
It got there eventually.
Almost like Google… is… listening to me. I think I might have to go “silent” for now.

Like Nexus phones before it, the Nexus 5 uses a sealed battery and a set storage allotment of either 16 or 32GB. I very much get why you wouldn’t offer higher memory capacities to keep the price low, but the lack of a microSD card slot is still a drawback.

Google Nexus 5: Pricing

Google sells the Nexus 5 outright itself for $399 for the 16GB version or $449 for the 32GB model. That’s definitely the way I’d suggest you buy the Nexus 5 at this time.
Telstra also offer it on contract, but I’m struggling to see the value proposition it’s putting forward. If you want it outright from Telstra, they’ll charge you $696 for the 16GB model
Who exactly came up with that pricing model? You’d have to be certifiable to pay that.
There are contract options for the Nexus 5 with Telstra, and again the value proposition is iffy, although I’m aware that many business users will write off phone contract pricing against tax, so there is perhaps an argument there. The lowest Nexus 5 plan starts at $69/month with $600 “worth” of calls, unlimited texts and 1GB of data for a minimum 24 month plan cost of $1656.
You’d have to be on some kind of very serious tax bracket to make those figures make sense. Whistleout did a price comparison, but I don’t agree with those figures, simply because while there is convenience in regular monthly billing, the difference if you went on a Telstra pre-paid plan at $30/month or so is much higher — and you could spend that $30/month on data packs to get close to that data usage value. Your own phone modelling/usage may vary, of course, but I cant’ see the the sense in a contract Nexus 5 right now.

Google Nexus 5: Fat Duck verdict

Google positions the Nexus devices as premium offerings at a budget price. You can buy many cheaper Android phones, but none with the overall power of the Nexus 5. It’s a strong play into the Google camp, and arguably a sign of where Google’s going, but as long as you’re happy with that it’s a great option for outright purchase.

2 thoughts on “Google Nexus 5 Review”

  1. I got my Nexus 5 last week and I must say I’m impressed. $399 for a phone like that is a steal. However, the camera hasn’t quite lived up to my expectations…..the quality of the images is average at best. But, with a price tag like that, you can hardly complain.

  2. I got it from the Best-Buy@Boston for 450+28 tax=$478 on 3rd Dec2013.
    There are several downsides w.r.t to my previous Android Phone (Sony Xperia X10i).
    (1) No separate Messaging folder
    (2) No touch (anywhere to take) Photo-You have to touch only on the given button, sometimes you miss to take self portraits.
    (3) Sound quality is not great
    (4) Batter life is not that great
    (5) It doesn’t ask for our acknowledgement before making a call from the contact list (when you swipe up/down to search for a person, it mistakes your finger action and calls (instantly !!) the contact where your finger had touched (intended to scroll up/down).
    (6) No parallel video/media playing. In my earlier phone I can play a song in youtube (listening to the audio from it) and simultaneously browse/read in another browsing window. But nexus-5 plays only from the active window no multi-tasking (!!!)
    (7) No head/ear phone was added as an accessory (but other Andorid/i- phones do supply one along with the handset)
    (8) Wifi-antenna reception is not that good as compared to MAC’s “Airport”
    (9) All the recently opened windows are staying behind even when you press “back” arrow. you need to press the Multi-windows icon to close one by one (sort of consuming battery and two times action to close one window permanently)
    (10) No separate (Difficult to access) Contact list. You need to pass through several clicks to find all contacts and to chose one from it (you should be careful to point#5 above). No alphabet-index to search list.
    (11) Once you need to end a call (the screen turns off when it is close to your body/ear) difficult to wake up and find the end button.
    (12) It doesn’t update your google/google+/gmail profile’s photo if you do it from this device.
    (13) Being new & least available (compared to Samsung & Sony android phones), getting accessories is difficult or costly.
    (14) Protruding camera is not good and I don’t know why the diameter is SOOOO BIG when the aperture is small.
    (15) No external memory card slot & in-built battery (unable to- use a spare/-custom replaceable)

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