I first purchased my Galaxy Nexus in February of 2012 as a hardware upgrade from my HTC Desire Z. I was really tired of the small issues with the Z, and found myself not using the hardware keyboard all that often. It was a big toss up between the Nexus and the Galaxy S II, however the newer, stock software and the HD screen ultimately won me over. From that point on it was my constant daily companion. Pictures? Handled. Scheduling? No problem. Games? Sure! The list could go on in regards to what functionality that phone provided me, but let’s keep it short. The phone was hands down the best smartphone I’ve owned in my lifetime, though that doesn’t say much.
In late 2012, the Nexus 4 was released. Although I wanted one, I couldn’t justify it over my then speedy Galaxy Nexus. The glass back had durability issues, and the camera, battery, and screen weren’t really much of an upgrade over what I already had. In late 2013, the Nexus 5 was released. This was what I could consider an upgrade, but again, the Galaxy Nexus was functioning fine, and I couldn’t justify the additional cost, even though just about everything would be considered an upgrade over the Galaxy Nexus. Once again, my Galaxy Nexus was getting slower and less shiny, but was still a satisfying device.
Over the years many software upgrades were seen. The jump from 4.0 to 4.3 brought a slightly slower device, but more fun features. When 4.4 Kitkat hit, I was flashing the latest custom ROMs, as Google’s support stopped at Jellybean. But things were slower. There’s only so much that can be done with a now unsupported dual core processor from a now non-existent company and a gigabyte of RAM. In 2014, discovering Ingress, I found the phone was functional for the game, but overall the GPS performance wasn’t great, and the battery was definitely suffering. Day to day performance wasn’t spectacular for me either, with newer apps causing lag, and an overall poor multitasking experience.
In late 2014, the monster known as the Nexus 6 was released. Although Android 5.0 Lollipop was attractive, and the specs on the phone were amazing, a 6 inch device is a bit too big for me. So again, the Nexus 6 didn’t cause me to leave my Galaxy Nexus. What did cause me to abandon the phone is failing hardware. The power button appears to have suffered from some water ingress, causing it to intermittently work. I could only take this for so long before deciding an upgrade was finally necessary. But what to upgrade to with the Nexus 6 being too large, and none of the common flagships supporting stock Android? I’d love to have a Play Edition Galaxy S4 or HTC One M8, but they’re expensive and not easily available in Canada. Everything else felt like it had bloated software or silly features. Look at Sony’s Z3C – The phone is perfect hardware wise, but the dated manufacturer’s skin makes it less of a pleasure to use.
I quickly narrowed my choices down – I needed a phone that was affordable off contract (Forget a hardware upgrade through Bell… I’d be shafted by the pricing on the new plans), and one running stock, or close to stock Android. Ultimately, my choices came down to the OnePlus One, and the Nexus 5. The OnePlus One was a very new and very affordable phone, with flagship specs. Unfortunately, it’s hindered by most things a new company has trouble with – Supply, quality control, and poor/slow support. They work (Or did at the time I was considering buying one) off an invite system. You need an invite to buy the phone, which most are either giving away sparingly, or selling. This is a bit hard to get a hold of, so one needs to hunt a bit to be able to buy the phone. On top of this, if you receive a poor device (screen problems, camera issues, etc), chances are you’re going to be fighting with poor/slow support just to get a replacement. To top it off, the screen is 5.5″, and after handling a Galaxy Note III (Approximately the same size), I determined it’d be foolish for me to own a phone that couldn’t fit in my pocket.
So, process of elimination, the Nexus 5 was my choice. It’s an upgrade in every way to the Galaxy Nexus, and I can openly say I’m pleased with my purchase. It may be over a year old now, but I can easily say it’s one of the best performing budget smart phones on the market. A quick rundown of the specs:
- 2.3GHz quad core Snapdragon 800 CPU w/ Adreno 330 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16GB storage
- 4.95″ True HD IPS+ display (1920×1080)
- 8MP camera with OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and LED flash
- 2300mAh battery
- 130g weight
As soon as I received the phone I sideloaded the Lollipop update and was happily on my way. I feel I should have unlocked and rooted at the same time, but for now, stock is treating me well. Performance is better as expected with multitasking being very fluid – There’s no noticeable lag switching between apps or opening games, and all the animations run flawlessly at 60 frames per second. Reception is definitely improved as well – The radios are much better than the Galaxy Nexus. I get better reception in areas at work that I never did before, and I rarely lose signal in our basement apartment. The camera, although not as good as some other flagships, still performs well for me. Color balance is natural and low light performance is decent, but not great. This still puts it way ahead of the Galaxy Nexus when it comes to shooting photos. To top it all off, it’s thinner and lighter too, while maintaining the same approximate size. This means it still fits in my pocket great, and doesn’t add any more weight to my pockets.
My only issues with the phone are the same that most have had with it. The battery life is a bit mediocre, although this definitely should improve when developers start implementing the project Volta API into their apps. The phone still gets me through a whole day, and on WiFi I can probably expect about 5 hours of screen time. On mobile data, depending on signal quality, 3 hours seems to be the norm. Poor signal drives that number down of course, and even with the improved radios, signal quality isn’t great at work. It’s definitely enough to get things done though, and I’m never too far from a power outlet or my Anker. My other issue can’t be fixed, that being headphone port placement. It’s on the top of the phone, which makes placement in my pocket a bit odd. A minor nuisance, and I’ll get used to it over time. My final small problems are software related, but should easily be patch-able in the near future. One being the current issue with Lollipop memory leaks, and the other being the camera/LED flashlight going non-responsive if the light is left on for too long. Reboots resolve this issue, and they don’t come up too often, thankfully.
Overall I’m pleased with my decision. It’s an affordable device that should last me at least another year or two, until a better sized Nexus comes out. I like it so much however, that it might end up staying with me until I wear it out.