Google announces the Nexus 5 with Android 4.4, on sale today for $349 (hands-on video)

It's about time. The Google-backed and LG-manufactured Nexus 5 is now really a reality, after countless rumors and leaks (a few of them coming from Google itself). The new device, which predictably boasts the latest and greatest version of Android known as KitKat (or 4.4, if you're so inclined), takes its place in the spotlight in place of the Nexus 4. And, despite coming out at a slightly higher price point than last year's Nexus, it still takes the cake in terms of features, components and other specs. Now that it's ready for the public, let's take a deeper look at the Nexus 5, which will be available on the Play Store today, in both white and black, starting at $349 for AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint (sorry Verizon customers).

We'd like to say we have a few surprises in store for you, but we don't really. So many details about the Nexus 5 leaked ahead of time, and almost all of them have proven to be true. Under the hood is a 2.3Ghz quad-core Snapdragon 800 and 2GB of RAM, pushing pixels to a glorious 5-inch 1080p display. LG has also seen fit to include wireless charging again, so you won't have to wear out that micro-USB port keeping the 2,300 mAh battery juiced, you can use it to power a TV over Slimport instead. You'll also find LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, dual-band 802.11ac WiFi and NFC on board -- basically if there is a method of connecting to another device, the Nexus 5 has it.

The design moves away from its predecessor's primarily glass construction and embraces plastic. But not the cheap-feeling shiny kind, instead it boasts a "silky texture" according to Sundar Pichai. In fact, it's quite reminiscent of the redesigned Nexus 7 that debuted earlier this year. The front is still sheathed in Gorilla Glass, Gorilla Glass 3 to be specific, and otherwise it's pretty much unadorned. Sure, if you look you can spot the front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera and speaker grille, but it's mostly an uninterrupted expanse of black.

In our hands-on with the device, we were incredibly impressed with the clarity and sharpness of the 1080p display. The edge-to-edge glass gives the Nexus 5 an unquestionably premium feel, even with the slivers of bezel adorning the top and bottom. One of the benefits of Gorilla Glass 3 is its thinness, which results in a relatively slim phone overall. Though it's a pretty small detail, even the buttons on the sides of the phone are made of a technical ceramic material, which certainly feels better than regular plastic buttons. Additionally, the "silky texture" does indeed feel a lot like the soft touch matte finish we know and love from the Nexus 7. Both the white and black versions have the same silky textured backing, so all you have to worry about is color preference. There are very slight contours on the sides of the phone that contribute to a comfortable cradle in the hand, and the curved top and bottom means there's no fear of the handset digging into your palm. As far as performance goes, swiping through menus and launching apps felt snappy, and so did capturing shot after shot with the phone's 8-megapixel camera.

Google announces the Nexus 5 smartphone with Android 44, on sale today for $349 handson

Even though it was widely expected, and leaked, we're still pretty excited about the redesigned rear-facing camera. Sure, it's still an 8-megapixel sensor, but it now boasts optical image stabilization (OIS) for reducing blur. A small gyro and motor actuator in the lens housing move the lens on the X and Y planes to capture the clearest image possible, even if you've got the caffeine shakes. The shutter is also quick enough to capture what Google calls HDR+ or, for the photo savvy out there, true HDR. Instead of applying algorithms to boost brightness and contrast in areas of a single photo, the Nexus 5 captures multiple images at different exposures and combines them to produce the most detail possible. It can not only fix under or over exposed images, it can even compensate for motion when trying to capture a moving target.

Google will be releasing two models: one for North America and Europe, and a second for Asia. Both of which will come in 16GB and 32GB flavors, which will cost $349 and $399, respectively. While you'll obviously be able to pick one up straight from Google, you'll also find the latest Nexus phone at Best Buy and Radio Shack. You can even buy one direct from compatible carriers, like Sprint which will be bringing the handset to its retail stores on November 8th, starting at $150. T-Mobile promises to have the Nexus 5 in stores before the holidays, but wouldn't get any more specific about release date or price.

Nicole Lee contributed to this report.

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Android for all and the new Nexus 5

Just in time for Halloween, we have two new treats for Android fans. First, we're excited to unwrap our latest platform release, KitKat, which delivers a smarter, more immersive Android experience to even more people. And second, we're introducing Nexus 5-a new Nexus phone developed with LG.

The first thing you'll notice about KitKat is we've made the experience much more engaging: the book you're reading, the game you're playing, or the movie you're watching-now all of these take center stage with the new immersive mode, which automatically hides everything except what you really want to see.

Bringing more Google smarts to Android
Behind the polish on the screen is the power under the hood. Take the Phone app, which for most people hasn't really changed since the days of flip phones. Now, we're making calling easier than ever, by helping you search across your contacts, nearby places, or even Google Apps accounts (like your company's directory), directly from within the app. And with the new Hangouts app, all of your SMS and MMS messages are together in the same place, alongside your other conversations and video calls, so you'll never miss a message no matter how your friends send it. This is just a small taste of KitKat-learn more on our site.

Google has always focused on helping users get immediate access to the information they need, and we want to bring this same convenience and power to users on Android. With the new Nexus 5 launcher, Google smarts are deeply integrated into the phone you carry around with you, so getting to the information you need is simple, easy and fast. Swipe once from the home screen to get Google Now literally at your fingertips. Put Google to work for you by saying "OK, Google" to launch voice search, send a text, get directions or even play a song you want to hear. And in the coming weeks, we're enhancing Now with important new card types that bring you information about contextual topics that interest you such as updates from a favorite website or blog.

Reaching the next 1 billion users
Building a platform that makes mobile phones accessible for everyone has always been at the heart of Android. Until now, some lower-end Android phones couldn't benefit from more recent Android releases due to memory constraints. With KitKat, we've slimmed down Android's memory footprint by doing things like removing unnecessary background services and reducing the memory consumption of features that you use all the time. We did this not only within Android but across Google services like Chrome and YouTube. RAM (or memory) is one of the most expensive parts of a phone, and now Android can run comfortably on the 512MB of RAM devices that are popular in much of the world, bringing the latest goodies in Android 4.4 within reach for the next billion smartphone users.

Introducing Nexus 5
Along with our sweet naming tradition, we also introduce a new device with each platform release to showcase the latest Android innovations. For KitKat, we partnered with LG to develop Nexus 5 -- the slimmest and fastest Nexus phone ever made. Its design is simple and refined to showcase the 5" Full HD display. Nexus 5 also keeps you connected at blazing speeds with 4G/LTE and ultra fast wifi. The advanced new lens on Nexus 5 captures more light for brighter night and sharper action shots. And with optical image stabilization, you no longer have to worry about shaky hands and blurry pictures. A new HDR+ mode automatically snaps a rapid burst of photos and combines them to give you the best possible single shot. Learn more on our site.

Nexus 5 is available today, unlocked and without a contract, on Google Play in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan and Korea (and coming soon to India), starting at $349. Just in the time for the holidays, Nexus 5 will be available soon at the following retailers: Sprint, T-Mobile, Amazon, Best Buy and RadioShack.

Android 4.4, KitKat, which comes on Nexus 5, will also soon be available on Nexus 4, 7, 10, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One Google Play edition devices in the coming weeks.

How's that for a treat?

Posted by Sundar Pichai, SVP, Android, Chrome & Apps