The Nexus 5 has seen its share of coverage this week – not just at Pocketnow, but all across the internet. It’s not just the newest major Android smartphone to see release; it’s the once-a-year Nexus phone straight from Google. As such, it commands a degree of exclusive excitement, a hipsteresque appeal that merits a whole lot of media coverage – despite bolder devices hitting the market elsewhere.
Much of the excitement for the Nexus 5 comes from owners of the current-generation Nexus 4, last winter’s Googlephone Of The Moment that warranted almost the same level of feverish fanboyism. This year, though, the excitement is perhaps better justified: where the Nexus 4 cut some pretty significant corners in order to reach its then-shockingly low price point of $349, its sequel manages to match that price without as many sacrifices. It’s not just a better phone because it’s a year younger; it’s better because Google has made a clear effort to place as much emphasis on features as on cost.
Thanks to that re-dedication to quality, current Nexus 4 owners upgrading to the 5 can look forward to several major areas of improvement. We covered some of these in the latest episode of the Pocketnow Weekly, and in our launch-day Editorial Roundtable discussion (embedded below), but for those of you who take a pass on such things in favor of the good old-fashioned written word, we’ve included our favorites below in written form. Here’s what you’ll get when upgrading from the Nexus 4 to the Nexus 5:
A phone that (hopefully) doesn’t shatter as easily
Like the Optimus G it’s based upon, the Nexus 4’s casing is almost entirely glass. That was a popular design choice in 2011 and 2012, and it led to very pretty –if slippery– smartphones (Apple’s iPhone 4 and 4s sit in this category as well, along with the Sony Xperia Z). But we don’t think we’ll be seeing as many all-glass devices going forward, because this:
Our own Joe Levi isn’t the only one to have busted his Nexus 4 and then written about it; The Verge‘s Joshua Topolsky cracked his review unit after dropping it, and software engineer Gregory Schier smashed his when he overestimated the strength of his jaw. Oh, and the same tragedy also befell another Nexus 4 in Joe Levi’s household, ostensibly due to someone else – but we kind of think it was Joe again. Just saying.
The world has seen so many smashed-up Nexus 4s that the Android enthusiast site Ausdroid ran a feature on the various means of getting one repaired, and the Google search “I broke my Nexus 4″ returns a massive load of forum posts. Again, the 4 isn’t the only fragile smartphone in the world, but it sure seems to enjoy breaking a lot. (First person to post a comment advocating protective cases gets a first-class ticket to this editorial.)
The Nexus 5 is still almost half-glass, of course, but that can’t really be helped on a modern device – not until we start seeing sapphire smartphones, anyway. We expect the Nexus 5 to come out on top in durability tests, though, due to two important factors: first, the display protection is Gorilla Glass 3, ostensibly 50% stronger than the Nexus 4’s Gorilla Glass 2; and second, the Nexus 5’s back cover eschews more glass for a rigid polycarbonate. That plastic is finished with a soft-touch coating that’ll almost certainly do a much better job of resisting impacts – even if it doesn’t look quite as flashy as the Nexus 4’s party dress paint job.
A camera that might not suck
That’s a crude sub-head, I know, but there’s really no other way to put it. While the very first Nexus device brought a solid camera to the experience (thanks, HTC), it’s been pretty much downhill since then. The Nexus S and Galaxy Nexus featured lackluster shooters, and the Nexus 4 certainly didn’t improve on the situation. For years, a middling camera experience has been par for the course for those who would adopt a “pure Google” phone.
We won’t know for sure until we get a Nexus 5 in our hands and start snapping shots, but the unfortunate reality of underwhelming Nexus optics may finally be fading with this unit. The Nexus 5’s sensor takes a step down in resolution compared to its LG G2 sibling, but the 8MP shooter does feature the all-important optical image stabilization, the well-earned buzzword of 2013. The stability enhancements paired with what looks to be a Sony-sourced sensor mean we’re probably looking at the best camera ever fitted to a Nexus device. And that would be a nice change of pace.
Here’s where we’d normally have wrapped up the rundown with some awesome software features, like Android KitKat’s new local-search integration in the Contacts app, or the improvements made to the Google Now experience. But if you already have a Nexus 4, you’re going to be seeing a lot of that anyway when Google pushes Android 4.4 to your device. And while we’re not normally inclined to gush about specs, the Snapdragon 800 is one system-on-a-chip for which we’ll make an exception.
That’s because Qualcomm’s beefiest mobile processor to hit the mainstream is, as Lois Griffin might say, “just tops, Meg. It’s the bee’s knees.” Joe Levi (yes, incredibly, he’s earning yet another name drop in this article) told us exactly why that is back in January, and reminded us of the key reasons for the Snap 800’s total ownership in a piece published just yesterday. Not all of his points apply to the Nexus 5, but two very important ones do: speed and future-proofing.
With Android’s ever-more optimized software design and initiatives like “Project Butter” having grabbed headlines over the past few years, you might think that Android doesn’t need a lot of power (indeed, Version 4.4 KitKat is designed to run on much lesser hardware than previous versions). But as Joe explains in the linked piece, some of the apps running atop that operating system do indeed need a lot of horsepower – especially considering all the pixels they’re driving on the Nexus 5’s 1080p display. And as we’ve seen in our testing with the Xperia Z Ultra and Galaxy Note 3, among others, the Snapdragon 800 brings that horsepower like whoa. It’s more enough juice to run the majority of the software in the Play Store, and it’s even enough to ensure your Nexus 5 won’t automatically become extinct come late 2014, just a year after some article on the internet told you to go buy one because it’s so awesome.
Itching for more on the Nexus 5? Check out how the phone compares to other flagships on the market, then see what readers just like you think about the device in our most-recent episode of the Pocketnow Live. And be sure to enter for the chance to win your own Nexus 5 in our latest giveaway, happening through November 6!