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Hands-On: Google Nexus 5

Article Comments  43  

Nov 4, 2013, 2:23 PM   by Eric M. Zeman

Phone Scoop takes a first look at the Nexus 5 from Google and LG. Here are our initial impressions.

Google recently announced the Nexus 5, a new Android smartphone made by LG that runs the "stock" or native version of Android. Like last year's Nexus 4, the Nexus 5 is a variation of a handset from LG. The Nexus 5 is based on many of the same components as the LG G2, though there are still plenty of differences between the two.

The Nexus 5 is a plain-looking handset. It is almost devoid of any design elements, beyond the basic shape. It has the general look that has come to be associated with Nexus handsets, but is even more spartan in its appearance than last year's minimalist Nexus 4. The Nexus 5 is as simple and boring as it gets, folks.

The Nexus 5 is a big phone. It's significantly taller than the Nexus 4, and even out-sizes the HTC One. Thankfully, it falls well short of Galaxy Note 3 dimensions. It measures 5.41 inches tall, 2.72 inches wide, and 0.34 inches thick (8.59mm). The width is right on the border of being too wide, but manages to keep shy of breaking that barrier. It is delightfully thinner and lighter than the Nexus 4. In fact, that's the first thing I noticed when picked it up: it has a really nice feel to it. It will easily slip into pockets, though the length and width remind you that it is there.

The front of the N5 a clear black panel of glass. There are no buttons, physical or capacitive. The N5 uses Android's on-screen buttons that come and go when needed. The bezels along the sides of the display are fairly thin, though not as impressive as the one's on LG's G2. There's an odd, circular earpiece speaker grill that is plainly visible, as is the small lens for the user-facing camera. Those are the only physical markings on the black glass surface, though.

The back panel is gently curved in an arch to more comfortably fit into the hand. The Nexus 5 replaces the glass back panel of the Nexus 4 with a plain polycarbonate panel instead. It is overly simplistic, but matches the Nexus 7 tablet's design thanks to the large, etched "NEXUS" branding. The camera module is larger than I expected it to be, and it has a pronounced ring that sticks up and circles the lens.

N5 Body  

There's something to be said for simplistic designs - the design doesn't get in the way of usability. The Nexus 5 avoids the one critical flaw LG made with the G2: The volume toggle is on the left edge of the phone rather than on the back. According to Google, the buttons themselves are made from ceramic. Both the volume toggle and the screen lock button (on the right side) have sharp profiles. The buttons have edges that make themselves felt and you're thumb is seeking them out. The travel and feedback of both buttons is quite good. I am so glad they are on the side edges and not the back.

The N5's back cover is not removable, which means neither is the 2,300mAh battery. There's a tray for the SIM card placed adjacent to the screen lock button. There's no slot for microSD memory cards, though. The N5 supports wireless charging, NFC, and LTE.

Perhaps my favorite feature of the Nexus 5 is the display. It measures 5 inches across the diagonal and jumps to 1920 x 1080 full HD resolution. It is an in-plane switching LCD, of which LG is fond, and is clear, bright, and crisp. Details look sharp, and the high pixel density means there are no rough edges to text, icons, or graphics. It did tend to get a bit washed out when viewed under a sunny sky, though.

The Nexus 5 is the first device to ship with Android 4.4 KitKat. After spending just a little while with the phone, here are some initial thoughts.

First, the lock screen feels less cluttered than in Android 4.3 and offers more-easily-discerned shortcuts to Google Now and the camera. The home screen panels aren't too cluttered out of the box. The central screen has a handful of apps. New icons for some of Google's core apps, such as the phone dialer, abound. The Hangouts App is now the SMS/messaging application.

Second, Google Now is baked into the home screen set-up. Sort of like HTC's BlinkFeed, the left-most home screen panel is reserved for Google Now. You can customize it to include numerous cards, and it automatically carried over my Google Now settings from the Nexus 4. Further, the search bar is almost always visible when on home screens. Voice search is just a spoken "Ok Google" away.

The main app menu behaves just as in earlier versions of Android, as does the settings menu.


At first blush, before installing too many apps, the Nexus 5 ran smoothly and didn't exhibit any trouble with scrolling, app launches, or screen transitions. A couple of quick test calls were OK, but not great in quality. We need more time to asses that feature, though.

Phone Scoop plans to publish an in-depth review of both Android 4.4 KitKat and the Nexus 5 in the days ahead. Stay tuned for more Nexus 5 coverage!

About the author, Eric M. Zeman:

Eric has been covering the mobile telecommunications industry for 17 years at various print and online publications. He studied at Rutgers Newark and University of Kentucky, and has a degree in writing. He likes playing guitar, attending concerts, listening to music, and driving sports cars.

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Nov 9, 2013, 2:55 PM

Design is actually pretty nice

Mine just arrived, I'd say the design of this phone is leagues better than anything Samsung made (especially the craptastic Note 3 with its nasty fake leatherette complete with crappy fake stitching) - the front end is a lot cleaner than the Moto X, the plastics feel nice (remember the HTC One X Similar feel?) , and there's none of the ergonomic screw-ups of the HTC One (power button) , it's very very solid.
We all know you don't like the Note 3. Big whoop.

Nov 4, 2013, 2:44 PM

Why no MicroSD?!

😲 This keeps happening with Nexus phones and other flagships, and I DO NOT UNDERSTAND why a premium device would leave off expandable storage. Who wouldn't want storage for MORE photos/videos/music and be able to swap that over to a different device down the line easily?
Probably the same reason the iCrap does it, to force you to buy a higher capacity device. That is the number one deal breaker for me too.
The Nexus phones are not premium devices and they never have been. They are developer phones targeted at developers. They run pure vanilla android and represent the upper end of the middle of the road as far as the hardware is concerned. They are inte...
Probably because SD cards are unreliable and break easily. I was rooting a guys phone the other day and his SD card became unreadable. Then if you look up Galaxy and SD cards you'll see tons break down. No SD cards for me thanks. They suck.

Nov 7, 2013, 1:00 PM

The point everyone seems to be missing

Is that all OS's have fragmentation and that Android isn't really any worse than the rest of them. iOS has a similar level of fragmentation. Apple people just like to hide it in the charts. Windows is majorly fragmented with a significant number of users on Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and various versions of Windows Server, not to mention the various patches, security updates, and Service Packs that exist for all of those. But you never hear anyone talking about it.

And then there's Linux(yes I realize Android is Linux), possibly the most fragmented OS - ever. And no one is complaining about it . In fact, fragmentation is the very thing that has made Linux both awesome and successful.

Heck the only significant OS I know of wit...
Well, let's look at some facts.

1) Linux (traditional builds such as Ubuntu, etc.) has practically no consumer desktop adoption. (Rightly so, desktop Linux has not kept pace with OSX and Windows.) Its penetration is limited to server applications. ...

Nov 4, 2013, 3:03 PM


in nothing about this phone, if i didnt pick up the iphone 5s and had planned on sticking with android this would be the only phone android to consider, touchwiz and htcsence are ok but they bog down the processor so much, the N5 is finally a android that can compete with Iphone in terms of fragmention and speed of OS, i am a big believer in manufacturer overlay on the OS is what causes %90 of the fragmention in andriod, my experiance with the pure google phones is that they dont seem to have that problem, look at the moto x even with a slower processor its benchmarks beat the S4, Note 3, and HTC one, because its pure google
I like what you did with the title there, and I agree. Pure Android is the way to go, and the only type of Android phone I'd consider buying. Happy with my Lumia, though. That's really a huge plus to WP8 phones: all of them are pure Windows, with no c...
I posted something several months ago showing why Android fragmentation is really no worse than iOS fragmentation, and also why it's stupid to talk about fragmentation on Smartphones in the first place.
The word "Fragmentation" is being abused lately. It has essentially been coined as an anti-android scheme by the same folks that brought the phrase "It just works." Much of this has been sheeple marketed into the brain cells of people.

The common m...

Nov 8, 2013, 3:05 PM

Also, why I don't think this phone is premium.

I just looked at the specs on the LG G2 for Sprint and it is equal to or superior to the Nexus 5 across the board, with the one exception that the Nexus 5 supports LTE-Advanced and the G2 does not. If LG has a premium flagship device right now, it's the G2, not the Nexus 5. But that's not to say the Nexus 5 isn't a capable and high-end device itself.

Nov 6, 2013, 5:54 AM

Speaker DOES NOT work

Phone arrived with a defective speaker. It plays no sound (no ring, no speaker phone, no music, etc.). Many people seem to be experiencing the same issue. Google is estimating that it could take 5 weeks to receive a replacement. I don't recommend buying LG phones (actually bought this to replace an LG phone) nor buying phones from Google Play.
I don't recommend buying any popular product the first day it is released. Sometimes they have major defects, and warranty replacement is slow because inventory is sold out. This is not unique to Google Play purchases.

I don't recommend LG either...

Nov 5, 2013, 8:10 PM


just checked with my newly activated sprint phone
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