Nexus 5

Google: The LG manufactured Nexus 5 sports a 445-ppi 4.95-inch 1920×1080 IPS LCD display and is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3. The Nexus 5 is the first Android smartphone to run KitKat. Thankfully, like the LG G2 which the Nexus 5 is based on, there is LTE (AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint are onboard). Unlike the LG G2, the volume and power buttons are on the side. Priced at a very affordable US$349, unlocked.

Update 2013.11.04: The Verge reviews the Nexus 5. First let’s see what Joshua Topolsky says about the display, and then we’ll check out the camera.

Being flashy or ostentatious was never Google’s goal with the Nexus phones. The point is to let the hardware get out of the way so the software can do its thing. Android is the statement here, not the Nexus 5. That’s why its 4.95-inch, 1080p screen is such a key tenet of the phone’s appeal, and it more than gets the job done. It’s not oversaturated like the Moto X’s AMOLED display, though it can look a bit washed out and desaturated next to a device like the HTC One or the iPhone 5S. But those are relatively minor nitpicks. The screen overall is bright, beautiful, crisp, and accurate. At 445 pixels per inch, it’s a fantastic device for reading, working, browsing the web, or watching movies — a perfect window into Android.

Desaturated. It might be the result of reflectance. Even if the LCD itself is color accurate, a lot of reflectance between the cover glass, touch layer, LCD, etc. will result in washed out colors. FYI, Nokia has done a lot of work to eliminate reflections. Next up, the Nexus 5 camera:

The 8-megapixel camera on the back of the Nexus 5 is certainly capable of taking rather beautiful photos in the perfect setting. Unfortunately for us, life is not filled with perfect settings — and when you’re faced with real-world picture taking, the camera underperforms constantly and consistently. The Nexus 5 takes photos and video with too little contrast, too little saturation, and too little color (or inconsistent color) — when you can get the camera to focus at all. Low light performance isn’t exactly poor, but getting it to snap the picture you want at the moment you want will drive you absolutely nuts.

That’s too bad. I, along with many others, was hoping the Nexus 5 camera would be at least on par with the iPhone 5s or Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Google says the problem is software not hardware so maybe there’s still hope. Perhaps the weak showing of the LG G2 in a six-way smartphone camera shootout was also due to poor software. Overall, the Nexus 5 seems like a great bargain for the price, but what I want and need is a great display, long battery life, fantastic apps, and a great camera. Unfortunately, the Nexus 5 fails on that last one.

Update 2013.12.06

Google has made improvements to the camera. David Pierce, The Verge:

The changes break down in five categories, Burke says, autofocus first among them. Mixing speed and image quality requires a fragile balance, particularly in low light, and Android 4.4 skewed too far toward image quality. “There’s a tendency to say, ‘oh, we have this cool thing that stabilizes, so lets make the shutter time longer, reduce the gain even longer, and get better shots.'” But while the Nexus 5’s optical image stabilization allowed it to get better-than-average shots in low light, in good lighting it just made for frustratingly slow shooting speeds. By speeding up the framerate and increasing how quickly the camera can read its surroundings and fire a picture, Burke and his team improved the autofocus, the exposure, and the white balance. “You fix the motion blur,” he says, “and make everything faster.”

Colors can be exaggerated, low-light focus still takes longer than it should, but the Nexus 5’s camera is now better with Android 4.4.1 according to Pierce. To me accurate colors are more important than popping colors and tweaking the algorithm to make colors pop is making photos worse in my book. It should be left to the user to adjust the accurately colored photo as necessary; it shouldn’t come out popping. So the Nexus 5 now autofocuses faster, has better exposure and white balance, but produces photos with less accurate colors? Is that really an improvement?