Google Nexus 5

Nexus 5 retail package

Google officially announced the Nexus 5 last week and a white 32GB model arrived on Friday. While the hardware is solid, it’s the Android 4.4 OS that I find more compelling.

Initial hardware thoughts

The HTC One sets the bar for smartphone hardware, but I am happy to say the Nexus 5 is also pretty competitive and worth considering. The Nexus 5 is light at 130 grams, yet it is also solidly built and feels great in the hand.

When the Nexus 5 was announced, I first ordered a black 32Gb model before then ordering a white 32GB model I planned to give to my wife. The evaluation unit that arrived came in white and I now plan to keep the white one for myself. I really do not like phones with a white front, but thankfully Google and LG kept the front of the white Nexus 5 black. The only white part on the front is the small speaker grille circle above the display.

The display looks fantastic and with 445 ppi text doesn’t get any crisper on a smartphone display. I like that three software keys appear at the bottom with back, home, and task switcher buttons that rotate when you rotate into landscape orientation. There is also a notification light at the bottom of the display that only appears when a notification comes in.

The power button on the right and volume button on the left are ceramic material. Like the HTC One, the microUSB port is upside down when compared to most all other devices with microUSB.

The back has a matte finish with Nexus in large letters centered on the back. A small LG logo is centered near the bottom. The camera is positioned over to the left side of the back with the flash positioned just below the camera lens.

The internal specs are top notch and the Snapdragon 800 with 2GB RAM seems to fly.

I am a huge fan of wireless charging since it is convenient to just drop a device down on a Qi wireless charging plate.

The Nexus 5 seems to have it all in terms of hardware. It is not quite at the level of the HTC One, but I do like it and when you consider it is priced nearly half of what the HTC One or Galaxy S4 costs then it is a super deal.

Initial software thoughts

The Nexus 5 is a pure Android device, which is great for Google purists. However, there is also plenty missing when you look at devices like the LG G2, HTC One, Moto X, and Samsung Galaxy S4. All of those devices offer advanced utilities and consumer user experiences beyond what is offered in Android KitKat.

I am pleased with the overall look and feel of Android 4.4 on the Nexus 5. I like the lower transition/dark area, the swipe from left to right to access Google Now, new “OK Google” voice activation, and QuickOffice integration.

The new immersive mode is what I have wanted to see for a long time and has already made reading better than ever. For example, in Play Books all the buttons and status bars disappear so the only thing you see on the entire display is text. I look forward to more apps supporting this functionality.

As a person who uses daily activity trackers, I am also very interested in the integrated pedometer capability. Samsung has this in the Galaxy S4, but it is used just for their S Health app. Developers can use the hardware capability in the Nexus 5 for this capability. I am testing out the Moves app at the moment and since my phone is nearly always with me it may just serve as a replacement for my Fitbit One.

The phone app is improved with contact prioritization and Google Maps integration. However, I would still like to see some advanced features like social networking service integration. I’m used to having Facebook photos appear as my contact photos and am disappointed to now see several contacts without contact photos.

Hangouts has been updated to be your central messaging app with SMS integration. I was doing the same thing with Facebook Messenger, but prefer having my text messaging integrated with Hangouts.