Google’s value-packed Nexus 5 reviewed

Mobile performance is one area where the handset totally flies, with the Cat4-capable device pulling down speeds over the 100 mark.

Most people will see between 30 and 60Mbps, but for the first time, we’ve seen a smartphone pull just over 100Mbps in Sydney, which is mind-blowing. Well done.

Software is another plus, because unlike any other phone released in Australia this year, the Nexus 5 truly is the way Google wants Android to be, and that’s a good thing.

There are no special interfaces that mimic the way other handsets look, there are menu options that make everything more frustrating to use, and there isn’t even a wait for the proper updates like how you get on every other phone.

Rather, this is the very latest edition of Android right now: version 4.4 also known as “KitKat” — because of the partnership with Nestle’s chocolate bar — working on a device immediately, while Android 4.3 “Jelly Bean” is just beginning to be rolled out to handsets from other manufacturers, if you’re lucky.

So what does 4.4 bring?

Smoother, cleaner icons that make the operating system feel a little more modern is one thing, and a more integrated Google Now interface is another.

That last one is particularly important, as similar to HTC’s BlinkFeed, a swipe across to the left-most homescreen will now being this up, and Google’s location sensing software will now provide you important information, such as bus schedules to and from work, recent news from websites you like the sound of, weather updates, calendar notifications, and so much more.

Working with the US language is “OK Google,” a new voice activated search mechanism that works similarly to Siri.

Just like Apple’s virtual assistant, you merely say “OK Google” out loud, and then ask a question, ditching the need to press a button, though you can press the Google microphone button if you so choose. From here, you can ask “what’s the weather like tomorrow” or “who is the prime minister of Australia,” or even totally useless questions like “what is the answer to life the universe and everything” or “what is Benedict Cumberbatch’s Bacon number.”

Interestingly, this feature doesn’t work with the UK voice language input option that most Australians will likely select, so make sure to select the US language if you want to try this out. We suspect Google will roll this out to people who use UK English later down the track, but like all voice technologies for other devices, US English gets to see the cool stuff first.

Most of the other improvements to Android 4.4 that are noticeable include cleaning up how the apps look and feel, including the combination of your SMS app with Google’s Hangout app for chatting, with an SMS label appearing over the icon when it’s a phone message rather than a Google Chat, the phone app now working out who your favourites are based on common call frequency, a clearer dial-pad with transparency behind it, and a much better keyboard with hyper-fast gesture typing (it’s roughly 95% accurate, and if we used the Nexus 5 full-time, we’d probably switch to SwiftKey, but that’s us).

Over on the camera side of things, the 8 megapixel shooter takes decent and clear images, and the app even has support for PhotoSphere technology, in case you feel like adding to the vast virtual world that is Google Earth.

The camera app is now very minimalist, with only a smattering of controls available to you, such as HDR, flash, geotagging, and scene modes. Some of these options force you to dive through screens of barely described icons, and these make us think Google may have cleaned thing up in this area a bit too much, but there’s always a replacement camera app available on the Play Store if you need it.

At least the camera is quick and snappy, and the images are generally clear. The camera won’t likely win any awards for always being the sharpest or best at autofocus on the block, something we imagine Google will improve as time goes on, but you won’t likely be dissatisfied here.

Overall, the improvements really make Android stand out on this handset, and combined with the big screen, make the Android experience bright, colourful, and insanely clear.

Another positive for this handset is the price, with Google’s Nexus 5 grabbing a 16GB model for $399, while the 32GB model costs $50 more at $449.

That’s something virtually no other company has been able to match, offering what is essentially high-end technology found in other flagship devices (like the LG G2 and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 3), but at a price close to half of what the other brands charge.

It’s an impressive price, and there’s really only one negative to the package: the battery life.

While the phone can pull a day of life, that’s about all you’ll get from the 4G phone, which is really the minimum life we expect from a 4G phone these days.

In fact, if you use your phone more than for the average thing of social networking, making the odd phone call, web surfing, listening to music, web browsing, and camera taking, the Nexus 5 won’t even last the full day.

The battery is one area where the Nexus 5 differs immensely from that of the G2, though, because while LG has managed to pack in 3000mAh in its very, very similar handset, the Nexus 5 has only 2300mAh, which no doubt is one of the reasons where the shortfall can be found.

Google can — and probably will — find a way to squeeze more life out of the handset with subsequent Android updates for the Nexus 5, but right now, a day max is all you’ll get.


For the latest Nexus handset, Google and LG have literally crafted a slightly smaller version of the G2 smartphone with buttons in the typical places that can be had for under $500.

That’s a price that makes it very hard to pass up, and while the battery could be better, the Nexus 5’s inclusion of an excellent screen, bloody fast processor, 4G speeds, and a comfortable build makes it a really top product. Highly recommended.


Value for money
Ease of Use
Reader Rating0 Votes
Best value smartphone on the market, period; Excellent screen; Android 4.4 looks very good and is easy to use; Rubberised finish isn't as solid as metal, but the phone still manages to feel amazing in the hands; Fantastic Cat4 mobile broadband speeds;
Only a day of battery life;