The newest Androids from LG are similar, but there are still plenty of differences
Google releases one Nexus phone each year, and there is always plenty of competition from Android vendors to compare it to. We're going to have a look at how the new LG Nexus 5 stands up against the best of the competition, and the LG G2 seemed like the logical place to start.
A lot of folks are under the impression that the Nexus 5 is just the G2 with the buttons moved to the "normal" location. While they certainly share some of the same components, and have some of the same hardware features, they are two very different animals.
Hit the break and have a look.
There are plenty of differences on the outside of the phones. Where the G2 is soft and rounded, the Nexus 5 is hard and angular. The edges and corners look different, and give an entirely different feel to the hardware. The Nexus 5 has a soft-touch coating (which is more prominent on the black version), while the G2 has a glossy piano black finish. Another obvious difference is the earpiece, which follows the more traditional style on the G2 and is a tiny circle on the Nexus 5.
The buttons, of course, are very different. The Nexus 5 has ceramic (which has to be good even though nobody seems to know why) volume and power buttons, placed on the side of the phones where you would expect them to be. The G2 has its buttons boldly placed around the back. Some users love them there, while some just aren't feeling it. There's also a slight size difference, with the G2 being a hair wider, but you'll probably not notice it.
The screens are also different, though both are excellent. The size difference of 0.25-inches isn't very noticeable (it's measured diagonally and the G2 is a little bigger) and the resolution is the same at 1080p. The pixel density is slightly higher on the Nexus 5 at 445ppi compared to the G2's 424ppi, but nobody is going to notice the difference there. The one big difference is something you won't be able to see and that is that the Nexus 5 ships with Gorilla Glass 3 instead of Gorilla Glass 2 as used on the G2. As any Star Wars fan can tell you, three is not automatically better than two, so we'll hold any judgment here until we've some time under our belt. Both are pretty scratch resistant, but aren't magic — take care of these great screens if you want them to stay looking good.
We like the look and feel of both, to be honest, but if I were forced to pick I would give the nod to the Nexus 5. Matte, soft touch finishes just feel better than glossy hard finishes. The G2's button placement doesn't bother me very much now that I've gotten used to it, and any size differences are negligible. It all comes down to the finish of the materials.
Again, there's a lot of similarity. Chances are they share some of the same engineering and components, simply because they were developed in tandem by LG. This is a good thing, because in general these are both some kickin' smartphones.
The same quad-core Snapdragon S800 lurks in both, and delivers blazing performance on your home screen, in your favorite apps, and in any games. Paired with 2GB of RAM and the great memory management brought to Android with Jelly Bean (and refined in KitKat), both these phones will chew through anything you throw at them.
The basics are covered on both , with dual-band ac Wifi and Bluetooth 4.0 LE on both phones, as well as an array of useful sensors. A slight tip to the Nexus 5 here for the inclusion of a barometer, which should be more prominent in future location services.
On the hardware function side, you'll see little difference between these devices. But the similarity we see in the hardware soon disappears when we turn the phones on.
Both phones run on the Android platform, but things are very different between them. The G2 runs Android 4.2.2, while the Nexus 5 runs the latest version — Android 4.4 KitKat. This matters more to developers who are targeting specific APIs than it does to the end user, even though the general consensus is that 4.4 is better because the number is bigger. There are a few fixes and new features, but nothing very user facing that LG hasn't put in their version — Like BT Low Energy support.
Of course, LG — like other Android vendors — has completely changed the UI so the underlying platform is disguised. Both KitKat on the Nexus 5 and LG's UI on the G2 have some compelling features — Q-Slide and the Google Now launcher both come to mind as powerful and compelling features. Both have their fans, and rightfully so.
It's also worth mentioning that most of the software features we see in KitKat are really application specific features, and will be available to the G2. We've already had a taste with the new Google+ photo features, and if you haven't already side-loaded the Hangouts app from the Nexus 5 to your G2, we both salute your patience and wonder what's wrong with you. The biggest feature of the Nexus 5's software, and Nexus devices in general, is that they are bare, bloat-free, and designed for any and all Android applications to work out of the box.
The Nexus 5 has a decent camera. It's more than "good enough" for any picture you want to post to Facebook or Google+, and it's easily the best Nexus camera ever. Having said that, the G2 is easily the better of the two.
It's not the Mega-Pixel count — the G2 has 13 while the Nexus 5 has eight — and both have what appears to be excellent optical image stabilization. We're pretty satisfied that Google has hardware in place to make for an excellent camera on the nexus 5, but like everything else, the differences come down to the software.
We don't mean just the camera app UI. The KitKat camera is plain, boring, and as basic as we're used to from past versions. LG on the other hand, has put some time and money into the camera controls on the G2. Inclusions like Time-Catch or live view color effects are things that people seem to like, and many of them are in camera applications you can download and install right from Google Play. While you can't duplicate the G2 camera features on your Nexus 5, you can install apps with plenty of their own.
But we can't change the software that creates pictures from raw camera image data. Software used to build .jpg files from image data is complicated, and expensive to license. It's almost all patent-burdened as well, which makes it difficult to add to a phone you plan to release factory restore images for. First impressions say the Nexus 5 has more of this software included than past Nexus phones, but the really good stuff from players like Sony or Kodak is something we likely won't see in a Googlephone. This is good and bad, and we're glad that Google has to deal with the headache and we don't.
The bottom line is that the G2 camera is a much better shooter than the Nexus 5. If a good camera is important to you, keep this in mind.
The final opinion
You can't go wrong with either of these phones. In fact, having them both here side by side makes for a damn near impossible choice.
The Nexus 5 wins on price — that's a given. Also, if version numbers or new features matter to you, you're probably better off with a Nexus 5.
If you like a more complete experience, where all the apps and features share the same design language and you're not forced to visit Google Play to round things out, you'll appreciate the G2. Likewise, there's a good chance any "new" features that come to Android in the next version are already included on your phone, or will be available as a separate application from Google.
We just can't tell you which of these two phones to choose. But we can tell you that they're both pretty damn great.