A hands-on review from a Windows Phone user: Google Nexus 5 and Android 4.4
Google’s latest smartphone, powered by the latest Android 4.4 KitKat operating system, is the Nexus 5. This device features a 5-inch screen and is sure to be a competitor to Microsoft’s current flagship Lumia 1020. Being a Microsoft oriented website, let’s explore the competition and see what we have here.
Google’s Android operating system continues to dominate with four out of every five smartphones now running Android, according to data from Strategy Analytics. However, Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform is currently the world’s fastest growing smartphone platform and is dominating in the low end market.
So what’s the deal with Android 4.4 and the new Nexus 5 and where does Google stand in competition with Microsoft? Who better to test drive the all new Nexus 5 than a current Windows Phone user? Lets dive into it and see what the hype is all about.
Hardware and design
With the plethora of smartphones available out in the world on various carriers, gadget lovers are grinning uncontrollably when new smartphones are released. Google’s latest flagship Android smartphone is called the Nexus 5 and it comes complete with the company’s latest Android mobile operating system – Android 4.4 KitKat. But the question that sits on everyone’s mind is how much horsepower does this device pack? Will it be enough to go head-to-head with Microsoft’s Windows Phone powered Nokia Lumia 1020 or the latest Apple iPhone 5?
Here are the specs of the Nexus 5 device:
- 4.95″ 1920×1080 display (445 ppi), Full HD IPS, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
- 4.8 oz. and 8.59mm
- 1.3MP front facing, 8MP rear facing with Optical Image Stabilization
- Snapdragon 800, 2.26GHz processor
- 4G/LTE and Dualband Wi-Fi
- 2GB RAM
- Internal Storage: 16GB/32GB
- Sensors: accelerometer, magnetometer, gyroscope, proximity, light, barometer, orientation
- Battery: 2300mAh with support for wireless charging
Google is touting the Nexus 5 as a smartphone that has a slimmer and lighter design compared to previous generations of Nexus smartphones. The device itself weighs 4.59oz and is 8.59mm thin. In fact, the design of the device features no logos, buttons, or anything that would distract you from the display. All you will see is a tiny circular receiver grill at the top of the smartphone, which also gives you an idea if you are holding the phone appropriately or holding it upside down.
The Nexus 5 features the power button on the top right of the device, with the SIM card slot right below the power button. The opposite side of the device features the volume rocker and no other physical buttons. Unfortunately, there is no camera button. At the bottom of the device, you will see the micro USB port. At the very top of the device, you will have a stereo audio jack.
The Nexus 5 is powered by the ultra-fast Snapdragon 800 CPU, running at 2.26GHz speed, making the device the fastest Nexus smartphone to date.
The Nexus 5 holds up pretty well in the spec department, but is no match to the Nokia Lumia 1020’s 41MP camera. The Nexus 5 is slightly bigger than the Lumia 1020, featuring a 4.95-inch display vs the 1020’s 4.5-inch display. The Nexus 5 also features a Snapdragon 2.26GHz CPU vs the Lumia 1020’s Snapdragon 1.6GHz CPU. When it comes to the display, the Lumia 1020 features a WXGA 1280 x 768 screen compared to the Nexus 5’s Full HD IPS 1920×1080 display.
Clearly the Nexus 5 wins in terms of performance specs, if you disregard the camera. While Microsoft and Nokia are working to bring 1080p support to Windows Phone 8, Google has already brought it with the Nexus 5 and it sure does look pretty damn good. Now, lets go over the operating system and the software.
Android 4.4 and software
Android 4.4 is Google’s latest Android iteration yet. This operating system features the ability to have unlimited home screens, the ability to go “immersive” within an app, integrated Quickoffice suite, Emojis in the keyboard, the ability to see your album art on your lock screen, faster multitasking that uses less memory and CPU, a caller ID that will search Google for matches on callers that are not in your contacts, integrated Hangouts app, and much much more.
Overall, the Android experience has been improved tremendously, especially when paired with a device like the Nexus 5 which features powerhouse specs. Jumping from app to app, listening to music, watching a video, surfing the internet via the Chrome app, taking snapshots with the camera are all a breeze and did not feel sluggish at all.
An interesting thing to note is the inclusion of QuickOffice in Android 4.4. You can now create or edit a document, spreadsheet, or presentation on your Nexus 5 – by default. This has to be a response to Microsoft’s inclusion of Office on Windows Phone. One can argue about how Android is plating catch-up in this area, but I believe this is a great addition. Competition is healthy and is always a welcome thing from us consumers, because in the end – we all win!
Another cool feature that comes with Android 4.4 is “Ok Google.” Here is how it works. “You don’t need to touch the screen to get things done. When on your home screen or in Google Now, just say “Ok Google” to launch voice search, send a text, get directions or even play a song,” Google explained.
This feature is very responsive and works as advertised. I played around with this feature and instantly fell in love. For example, I said “OK Google” and I was instantly asked to say something. I said “In-N-Out” and instantly a female voice said “Here’s In-N-Out burger” with a map to my nearest location along with a phone number. Pretty cool feature. Although we have read rumors about “Cortana” being in the works, Windows Phone needs this right now!
Google now offers a great experience with Android 4.4, for those who enjoy icons and folders as well as anything Google-related. On the other side of the fence, we have Windows Phone 8, which offers a simple interface with tiles. If you are a Gmail user, or Chrome user, Android 4.4 just feels right.
Looks like Windows Phone has a serious threat on its hands.
However, if you are someone who uses Outlook.com or any Microsoft oriented service, a Windows Phone device would feel a lot more natural to use. How about those who use both company’s services, which device should you go with?
Well, the answer isn’t simple. While both Android and Windows Phone both have their perks and drawbacks, both platforms offer a unique experience. In my opinion, both Android and Windows Phone are equally great and any reviewer who claims one is better than the other is being subjective in their review.
Let’s also not forget that Android 4.4 is designed to work on low-end devices too. “KitKat streamlines every major component to reduce memory use and introduces new APIs and tools to help you create innovative, responsive, memory-efficient application. OEMs building the next generation of Android devices can take advantage of targeted recommendations and options to run Android 4.4 efficiently, even on low-memory devices,” Google stated.
The Nexus 5 features an 8MP rear camera and a 1.3MP front-facing camera. The camera itself is pretty fast, allowing you to take snapshot easily. There is a slight pause when taking a shot, but is fast when comparing it to the Lumia 928 for example. The device also does not have a dedicated camera button, but you can hit the volume rocker to take a snapshot.
The volume rocker is positioned perfectly on the top right of the device if you rotate the smartphone clockwise. However, if you rotate the device counter-clockwise, you will be able to hit the volume rocker with your left-thumb while holding up the device to take a picture. I actually enjoyed and preferred this method.
My overall impression with the camera – its great. Its not perfect and its not horrible. Compared to the Lumia 928, which I also use on a day to day basis, the camera experience is subpar. The quality of shots from the Nexus 5 is nothing compared to what you can achieve with the Lumia 1020. The 8MP camera on the Nexus 5 supports optical image stabilization, allowing for the possibility of better video recording and low light image capturing. Unfortunately, the low light image capturing wasn’t as great, especially considering I am a Nokia Lumia user and I am facing this Nexus device against a Lumia.
But overall, a great camera, but could have been better. Take a look at two shots that were taken by the Nexus 5. The smartphone in the pictures below are of my Lumia 928, which ironically, I used to take shots of the Nexus 5!
The Android/Microsoft experience
After using the device for a few days, I have to say that the battery life on this device obviously varies on how much you use the device. After a full night’s charge, you can use the device occasionally to text or make a call and even listen to some music for about an hour at the gym, only to have half a battery left. With moderate levels of usage, you can get roughly seven to eight hours of life.
In a building with very limited 4G connectivity, I noticed that the battery on the Nexus 5 would drop drastically. On the other side of the fence, the Nokia Lumia 928 actually kept a steady battery level even when there was no 4G connectivity. The Nexus 5 can be changed to 3G connectivity manually to save battery life, which is a bit of an annoyance to always have to change it. Compared to the Lumia 928, this was a big issue. But enough about the battery, what about the Microsoft software?
Being a Windows Phone user, I searched Google Play for any Microsoft oriented apps. I was able to find and install an Outlook app, SkyDrive app, Remote Desktop app, and a bunch of tutorial apps. I felt like I was searching through an endless sea of apps that had no use to me. At least with the Windows Phone Store, for the most part, I could find apps quickly – albeit the quantity of apps in the Windows Phone store is subpar to that of Google Play.
With Microsoft riding the proverbial horse and having Nokia jump and ride right behind the devices/services giant, I can see why the Lumia line of devices are so popular. You have a simple operating system with Windows Phone and a fantastic camera and hardware with the Lumia devices. But when you take away the camera on a Lumia device, Windows Phone 8 is left with no chance against Android 4.4 – except to appeal to those who want a simplistic interface.
Pricing and Availability
The Nexus 5 comes in a 16GB and 32GB variant, along with a black color option or a white color option. The 16GB runs for $349 while the 32GB model runs for $399. The Nexus 5 is an unlocked smartphone and supports GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, CDMA: Band Class: 0/1/10, WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19, and LTE: Bands: 1/2/4/5/17/19/25/26/41. Check with your carrier to see if you can use the Nexus 5 on their network.
Pricing for the Nexus 5 isn’t too shabby at $349, but stands no chance against a Lumia device which is far cheaper in price. Considering I paid $45 for my Lumia 928 on the week of its launch, my wallet feels fantastic and doesn’t hate me for once. The Lumia 1020, which has a far better camera, can be purchased for around $149 to $199.
Overall, a fantastic device from Google. In my opinion, the Nexus 5 does give Microsoft and Nokia some decent competition. If you are an Android lover, then you will absolutely love the Nexus 5. If you are a Windows Phone user, you will be tempted by this device, but hang in there. Microsoft and Nokia are set to reveal newer Lumia devices with 1080p support soon, so just hang tight and don’t give into temptation.
With the plethora of apps available and the variety of Google-defined services such as Google Maps, Google Earth, Hangouts, Gmail, YouTube, and Chrome, it makes the Android platform look so attractive. Coupled with a fantastic device like the Nexus 5, Google has done a great job. To add icing to the cake, Google has fine tuned its Android operating system with 4.4 KitKat, making the operating system run faster, smoother, and better.
But the whole intention of Android 4.4 is to snag the lower end of the smartphone market, which Microsoft and Nokia have been quite dominate in as of late. Looks like Windows Phone has a serious threat on its hands. It’s time for Microsoft to rev things up and offer a better Windows Phone experience, or users like me will be tempted to jump ship.
The bottom line: As of right now, the Nexus 5 is a great phone and is better than the Lumia in terms of performance – considering the screen size and device specs. But the Nexus 5 will slowly fade away into oblivion as Nokia rolls out the upcoming Lumia 929 and Lumia 1320/1520 Windows Phone devices.
Editors note: The pictures above were taken using a Nokia Lumia 928, powered by Microsoft’s Windows Phone 8.Further reading: Google, Windows Phone