Google's Nexus 5 – Raising the Bar, Lowering the Price

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Nexus5_LeftWhat Is It?  The Google Nexus 5 is the next step in Google’s effort to create industry reference design products that push the technology up while pushing the price down.  The Nexus 5 is the first to use the latest version of the Android Operating System, version 4.4, also known as Kit Kat.  Unlike the original version of its predecessor, the Nexus 5 does make use the high speed LTE networks.  It runs on most of the major carriers except Verizon.  The design is simple and straightforward with an almost 5″ diagonal screen and only two hardware buttons, power on/off and a volume rocker.  On the hardware side, the Nexus 5 runs the fastest Qualcomm processor and it has a crisp HD 1080p screen.  Color reproduction is good, though not quite vibrant.  And the screen may be slightly dimmer than some competitors, but unless you put them side by side you’ll never notice the difference.  Audio quality on the built-in speakers is respectable.  When running  our Netflix streaming media test, the quality was solid and there were no hiccups. Battery life is quite good, about 10 hours of solid video playback and close to 18 hours of talk time.   The 8mp  camera has some nice bells and whistles including the ability to do HDR+, which combines several images to create a composite with the best features of each.

This is the first smartphone to use the Kit Kat operating system, which brings some nice enhancements.  It better integrates Google Now, making it quicker to initiate voice searches with a single swipe.  It also has a more powerful dialer function that offers up your most used contacts before it offer the dial pad.  One feature I’m not thrilled about is that text messaging is now integrated with Google Hangouts.  Since I don’t really use hangouts much I just find that a distraction.

Is It Boomer Friendly?  The 5″ screen makes the device quite readable, though not quite as readable as the super-sized phones like the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.  Some of the new software enhancements, especially the smoother integration of voice search into Google Now can really reduce your search time and effort.  But as I say, I think that making Google Hangouts the default for SMS messaging (texting) is slightly annoying.

Frustration Factor?  The Nexus 5 is as easy to setup as just about any Android device.  Google has gotten much better about transferring over my Android apps installed on other devices.  The battery life is good enough so you shouldn’t run out of juice during the course of an average business day, even with heavy usage.  One thing I’m not happy about though is the lack of removable micro SD storage, something that’s been lacking in all the Nexus phones.

Is It Worth the Money?  Plain and simple, yes.  The Nexus 5 is available unlocked from Sprint, T-Mobile and others without a contract for about $349 for the 16GB version and $399 for the 32MB version.  If you’re willing to sign for the contract, you can find it for about 50 bucks.  The price is about $150 lower than other unlocked top tier phones, and about half, or even less, that of other contract phones.  Is it the best smartphone on the market?  Perhaps not quite but close.   Is it the best smartphone on the market for the money?  Hands down.

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Gary is an award-winning journalist who has been covering technology since IBM introduced its first personal computer in 1981. Beginning at NBC News, then at ABC News, Ziff Davis, CNN, and Fox Business Network. Kaye has a history of “firsts”. He was the first to bring a network television crew to the Comdex Computer Show, the first technology producer on ABC’s World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, the first to produce live coverage of the Solar Power International Conference, and the creator of the Fox Business Network signature series, “Three Days In The Valley”. Along the way he created the History Channel Multimedia Classroom. He has been a contributor to both AARP’s website and to AARP radio, as well as to a handful of other print and web-based publications where he specializes in issues involving boomers/seniors and technology. He has been a featured speaker and moderator at industry events such as the Silvers Summit and Lifelong Tech Conferences at CES, the M-Enabling Health Summit, and the What’s Next Baby Boomer Business Summit. His column, “Technology Through Our Eyes” appears in half a dozen newspapers and websites across the country.

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