IRL: Choosing the Nexus 5 over the Moto X (and the Galaxy Note, too)

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IRL: Choosing the Nexus 5 over the Moto X (and the Galaxy Note, too)

I enjoyed using the Nexus 4 during my time with it last summer, but its short battery life, glass back and quirky camera behavior made it tough to truly love. The Nexus 5 is theoretically a different beast: it addresses all those flaws while introducing huge leaps in performance and display resolution. I was tempted enough by those upgrades to buy the new phone and give it a spin on Rogers' network here in Canada. Would it be the Nexus phone I'd always wanted, and make me forget about other Android flagships that launched at the same time, like the G2 and Galaxy Note 3?

For the most part, yes. I'd prefer something closer in size to the compact Moto X, but the Nexus 5 is easier to hold than the Nexus 4, let alone the Note 3 (which, as good as it may be, isn't exactly built for one-handed use). The battery isn't as long-lasting as the G2's, but it's better than the Nexus 4's -- enough to comfortably last through one of my nights out. That's impressive given both the eye-pleasing 1080p screen and the upgrade to LTE, both of which I abuse all too often through Instagram and Twitter. While its photography won't challenge that of a Lumia 1020 or iPhone 5s, this is the first Nexus whose camera seems truly usable in less-than-ideal conditions. It's undoubtedly a better camera phone than the Note 3, both of which struggles in low light; the Galaxy S5 is far better, but it also came out several months later.

The real delight has been Google's implementation of Android 4.4 KitKat. It's not a revolutionary OS upgrade, but I appreciate both hands-free voice search from the home screen as well as quicker access to Google Now. The very nearly stock interface is also extremely responsive on the phone's Snapdragon 800 processor. Frankly, it's hard to go back to a phone with a heavily customized take on Android. While a phone like the G2 is still very quick, lasts longer on battery and has features I'd like -- such as double-tapping to wake the screen -- there's something refreshing about Google's unintrusive interface.

No phone is perfect, of course, and the Nexus 5 still leaves plenty of room for improvement. I don't mind the lack of storage expansion or the non-removable battery, but I can see why that would irk some potential users. Although firmware updates and the Google Camera app have gone a long, long way toward improving the Nexus 5's photographic experience, it's still not the fastest or most feature-packed camera phone available. I miss the always-on voice search of the Moto X, for that matter. Still, the Nexus 5 makes it hard to go back to other Android phones. Although different devices may have larger batteries or useful software, the Nexus 5 is very well balanced overall -- especially for something that costs so little off-contract.

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