It’s hard to overestimate the impact the Nexus 4 had on the mobile world.
Previous Nexus devices were made to show off the latest version of Google’s Android operating system, and not much else.
But here was one that combined cutting-edge specs and solid build quality with the newest OS Google had to offer. And most importantly, it did so at half the price of most of its rivals.
We were big fans. Especially a few months back, when Google slashed the price to just £160 for the 8GB version.
So the Nexus 5 was eagerly awaited.
It’s not quite as cheap as its predecessor – though still very affordable – and packs a bigger screen, faster processor, and newer version of Android.
But is it worth upgrading? Read on and we’ll tell you.
First impressions and design
Just like the Nexus 4, this handset is pretty plain to look at.
Not that that’s a bad thing, it’s just nowhere near as flashy as the HTC One, or as colourful as the iPhone 5C or Nokia Lumia 1020.
But Google and LG have made some cosmetic changes this time around.
The back is plastic like the new Nexus 7, not slippery like the Nexus 4. The Nexus logo runs down the whole back in landscape orientation too, instead of sitting at the top like on the Nexus 4.
Despite the screen being 4.95 inches to the Nexus 4’s 4.7, the handset is only a fraction taller.
It’s no wider, and is actually slightly slimmer and lighter. That’s even more impressive when you consider what’s inside.
The Nexus 5 is the first handset to come packing Android 4.4 KitKat, which is the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system. The changes are subtle, but there are a few of them.
The clock face has been dropped from the home screen, leaving more room for apps.
The back, home and recent apps icons sit at the bottom of the screen now, instead of being segmented off in their own black background.
Unlike the LG G2, you can’t customise the layout of these three, but that’s no big deal.
So what else? The phone dialler now lets you search for nearby businesses without having to Google them – just start typing the name, and it’ll show up as if you already had their number stored.
Text messaging has been incorporated into Google Hangouts now too.
Tap the icon and you can message your contacts either through SMS or Google Hangouts, all through the one app.
KitKat has a new look as well and it’s a bit cleaner than Jelly Bean.
Novices will find it simple to get to grips with (though it might take a while to get their heads round the Hangouts/SMS app), while those of us who’ve been using Jelly Bean for a while will find the new additions welcome and unobtrusive.
A new feature of KitKat lets you launch the camera straight from the unlock screen, but it takes so long to load you may as well just unlock it and open the camera manually.
The 2.26GHz chip is the same as you’ll find in the LG G2 (which this handset shares a lot of heritage with), which makes the Nexus 5 just as fast.
The OS absolutely flies, with games and movies running without a hitch. It’s notably quicker than the Nexus 4, and can happily mix it up with the likes of the iPhone 5S, Nokia Lumia 1020, and Samsung Galaxy S4 in terms of performance.
The screen is a thing of beauty, too. Colours pop from it, and photos and videos look absolutely crystal. Its 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution gives it a pixel per inch rating of 445ppi, which is head and shoulders above the iPhone 5S’s 326.
The increase in size is a real boon, too. It makes the iPhone look titchy in comparison. Again, you’ll notice a definite improvement over the Nexus 4.
Now, the camera. The Nexus 5 has the same 8-megapixel snapper as the Nexus 4. It’s a shame it couldn’t use the 13-megapixel model LG slapped on the G2, but you’ve got to keep the price down somehow, we suppose.
Sadly, it’s not just megapixels the G2 has over the Nexus 5 – the camera outperforms the Nexus 5’s in pretty much every area. The Nexus 5’s lacks detail in low light, and shots came out overexposed in bright sun. It’s slow to focus, too.
That said, it can take very nice shots when the conditions are right.
You might forgive the Nexus 5 its shortcomings considering how cheap it is, but that’s missing the point.
Google is positioning this to compete with its high-end rivals, and at the moment, the camera pales in comparison.
Battery life, like on the Nexus 4, is uninspiring. If you’re using it a lot, and need it for the evening, you’ll want to charge it in the afternoon.
With moderate use you’ll get a full day out of it, which is about par for the course nowadays.
So, should you upgrade? With a bigger screen and much better camera, the LG G2 is the superior handset. But the all-important price swings it for the Nexus 5, in our opinion.
Starting at £295 SIM-free, or free on contracts from £21 a month (or £29 a month on Three, who we got our handset from), the Nexus 5 is unbelievable value.
Buy a SIM-only deal, and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank, with a super-powered mobile running the latest Android software.
Sure, KitKat will come to other Android blowers in the coming months.
But if you’re after a new smartphone, can put up with a less than perfect camera, and don’t want to break the bank, this is the best mobile you can buy right now.