Nexus 5 Review: Is This The Best Android Phone Out Right Now?

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The Nexus has always represented to me the cutting edge on what Google has been doing with Android. If you wanted a device that was supposed to set the benchmark for an Android phone, you wanted a Nexus device. One of the obvious advantages there is, as a Nexus device you always get access to the latest versions of Android while others had to wait for the manufacturers to create their skinned versions with the newest version. But with the Nexus 5, is it really the best Android phone right now?

Style

In terms of looks the Nexus 5 is a decent looking phone. It isn’t an outright stunner in the looks department, but it is far from unattractive. The device we received was the White model. While I’m not a fan of white devices the Nexus 5 looks nice in that color. Made by LG, the Nexus 5 is your typical candy bar style slab which is all too common in today’s phones. Its white on back, black up front, and the slab has some rounder corners on all four sides. The Nexus 5 also has two speaker grills at the bottom of the device (though it only has one speaker), with also a microUSB input. Rounding out the looks of this phone, the power button is located on the right side of the phone, with the volume keys on the left. Headphones input is at the top of the device. Now while the Nexus 5 comes off as plain, sometimes plain isn’t always a bad thing, sometimes simplicity can be quite elegant!

Under The Hood

Now if the hardware itself didn’t catch your eyes, what’s underneath that just might do it for you. While this is G Style and we tend to focus on the outward visual flair of any given device, sometimes what’s under the hood is what really shines, showcasing that inner beauty. This definitely holds true with the Nexus 5. Android Kit Kat or Android 4.4 is front and center with this device. While only a point change from Android 4.3, Kit Kat definitely adds a few elements that I especially liked.

Nexus5FSArtwork One of these elements involves something I use on the daily basis which is music. I use Google Music All Access and now from the lock screen it has full screen cover art which looks amazing when I unlock the phone, as it will immerse you in the music. Also cool is bringing Google Now more front and center. While you can still launch it by pulling up from the bottom of the screen, it is now one of your home screen panels to the left. You can now always swipe to the left to access your Google Now cards for transit, weather, stocks, and more. Also with Google Now like the Moto X it is always listening for you to say “Ok Google”. Though unlike the Moto X you must first be on a home screen already and it can’t do it from a display off state like the Moto X. Still this is a nice touch and prompts more use of the voice commands for the phone.

There are quite a few changes under the hood with Kit Kat, some others worth a mention would include the redesign of the phone dialer. This now lets you use search from within the app. If you are dialing a contact that may not be in you contacts, it will search for it and draw in that information kind of like how Google Maps does when you search for a business or venue. It will present you with a number you can dial from within the phone dialer. And then there is how it handles SMS messages now. Google Hangouts has stepped up to the main stage and now can handle your SMS and MMS message as the default app for this. Google seems to have taken Hangouts and created their own version of Apple’s iMessage. I’ve been definitely giving this a go instead of the 3rd party apps I’ve use before. Definitely now the original Android app for SMS is gone and Hangouts is the replacement. This may have ended my need for a 3rd party app which I’ve been using for a long time since the default app before sucked!

Experience

This is honestly the second Nexus phone I’ve ever used. I can’t say it is the second Nexus device as I own the Nexus 7 2013 edition (and the original Nexus 7 before that). I really like getting behind a Nexus device that is a phone because I can use it as a more primary function and on a daily basis. First thing out the gate that I really enjoy about using the Nexus 5 is simply the fact that there is no manufacturer or carrier bloatware! Oh the joy of no extra software that I need to go through and remove! Then there were minor things that for me gave me pleasure. Let’s talk about how when I wanted to load up a custom wallpaper I didn’t have to worry about weird cropping issues, I just selected it and I was good to go. Also as mentioned earlier, full screen music cover art when using Google Music All Access. This was a very nice touch!

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When it came down to it, the two biggest items (well one now it seems) that instantly got me excited was Google Wallet and Fitbit. I’ve used Google Wallet before on my Nexus 7 just to toy around with it and I love the idea of tap and paying with no need to pull out my credit/debit card. It is just unfortunate that any of today’s current phones with NFC gets Google Wallet blocked by the carrier. With the Nexus 5 though, no carrier block and I’ve really been able to use this often. Damn the carriers for blocking it! Another was Fibit which though seems to only have support for Apple and Samsung devices, seemed to at least for a little bit worked with the Nexus 5. Most recently though it seems to have stopped working and I’m hoping for official support soon.

The Nexus 5 has great performance and apps launch quickly and smoothly. I’ve experienced no hiccups along the way. The refinements Google has done with Kit Kat are front and center in the performance department, which has definitely added to my experience with it.

Wrap Up

All in all the previous device I was using was the HTC One and while there are some things I miss (mainly the live preview tiles in the gallery, HTC Zoe, and the front facing speakers), I really enjoy using the Nexus 5 and think it is a very great device. Would I call it the best Android phone out right now? Don’t think I would. Battery life is about on par with anything else out right now, it will get through a full day with moderate use, but it could be better like most phones. It doesn’t have the premium look and feel of the HTC One or the lasting power of maybe the Samsung Galaxy Note 3. But it does have the pure stock Android experience which will always get the latest version first, no carrier bloatware or blocking, all in a nice package that can be had off contract for $349.00 starting. So while it isn’t the completely BEST Android phone out right now, would I purchase one? Definitely!

If you have the option to, pick up the Nexus 5 which again starts at $349.00 for the 16GB and $399.00 for 32GB in either Black or White.