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Nexus 5 First Impressions: A Great, Search-Centric Smartphone
Google shipped out demo versions of the Nexus 5 late last week. People are still receiving them today. I got one on Friday and have been using it on WiFi ever since. (I haven’t tried it on a wireless network and can’t speak to the LTE experience.)
The phone immediately sold out of its initial supply online. Both the 16GB and 32GB versions now require a wait time of at least 3 – 4 weeks (4 – 5 weeks in the case of the 16GB version).
This won’t be a comprehensive Nexus 5 handset review or a complete review of Android 4.4 “KitKat.” If you’re looking for complete rundowns on the handset or its specs and how it compares to other so-called flagship phones, below are a few representative reviews:
Basically I agree with the thrust of these reviews: the Nexus 5 is the best unlocked phone on the market for the price.
The 16GB version is $349. Its screen is larger and the device is lighter than its immediate predecessor the Nexus 4, also made by LG. It also runs on LTE networks; the Nexus 4 does not. That’s a meaningful difference and a reason to upgrade if you have a Nexus 4.
Overall the phone felt quite a bit snappier and faster than the Nexus 4 and the Galaxy Nexus, both of which I have.
Several reviews have complained about the camera. I haven’t tested the camera extensively but haven’t had any noticeable problems. In general I think the Android camera is more difficult to use and takes lower-quality pictures than the iPhone’s camera.
Having said that this is a helluva phone for $349. An unlocked 16GB iPhone 5s costs $649 — almost twice the price. Is the iPhone 5s twice as “good”? Probably not. If you want an unlocked phone and don’t have money to burn the Nexus 5 is clearly the way to go.
Google has pushed Google Now and search even more to the center of the Nexus experience with KitKat. Google Now can be accessed with the familiar up-swipe but also by swiping left-to-right on the home screen. The search bar is more persistent. And just as with the Moto X, users can initiate a hands free search by saying “OK Google.”
That’s a very useful, even addictive feature. Indeed, I found myself using “OK Google” a lot over the weekend. In fact I noticed how much more I was searching (and using Google Now) on the Nexus 5 vs. the Nexus 4 and my iPhone. Apps took something of a back seat for me on the device. This is clearly what Google wants: more mobile searching, less non-Google app using.
The bright, 1080p 5-inch screen makes conventional Google search results both more visible and practical to use. Often there are three mobile ads in response to commercial queries, leaving only one organic result above the fold.
When you first “unbox” the device it doesn’t necessarily feel like the “new Google flagship.” There’s a missing “wow” factor. Nonetheless it’s an excellent phone overall — especially for the price.