LG’s second Nexus is the best phone you can buy for $350, and an excellent platform on which to experience the new Android 4.4 KitKat — but that experience isn’t entirely free from compromises
Just what is a Nexus? The definition of Google’s homegrown gadget lineup has evolved — if not changed beyond all recognition — in the almost four years since the arrival of the Nexus One. Originally expensive, exclusive and developer-centric, Nexus is now solidly a consumer-focused brand. With wallet-friendly price tags, a Nestle-promoted launch, numerous carrier and retailer partners and new, prettier software, the LG-built Nexus 5 is more a phone for normal people than any previous Google-branded handset.
But despite the face of “vanilla” Android becoming more friendly and the Nexus line growing more accessible, these products have always garnered attention from tech-savvy enthusiasts more than average smartphone buyers. Nerds, if you will. People who value the specs, performance and the latest version of Android over shiny features and space-age build quality.
That was clearly the case with last year’s Nexus 4, which demanded users sacrifice LTE connectivity to be part of the elite Nexus club. Similarly, Nexus 4 buyers got only an average camera and unspectacular battery life for their $299. Though it was a fantastic phone for the time — and for the money, particularly in countries where LTE had yet to take off — Nexus 4 ownership was also a lesson in compromises. And so for $50 more, this year’s Nexus promises high-end internals, 4G LTE support wherever you live, and an improved camera experience with “HDR+” mode — in essence, more of what made the Nexus 4 great, with fewer bugbears.
However, hardware is only part of the equation — arguably more important is the new Android 4.4 KitKat software, the biggest step forward for the OS since 2011’s Ice Cream Sandwich release. Aside from the clear visual refresh, KitKat aims to revamp Android’s basic phone and SMS experiences, while making it easier to get to use Google Now, one of the platform’s greatest assets.
All of this for $349 (£299) sounds like impossibly good value. So can the Nexus 5 really be a slam-dunk of high-end hardware, slick, beautiful software and an unbeatable price point? And for those willing to spend more, is a Nexus still the best way to experience “vanilla” Android in a world of Moto Xs and Google Play editions? Let’s find out in the full Android Central review of the Nexus 5.