Google just delivered a Halloween treat in the form of Android 4.4 KitKat and the new Nexus 5. Perhaps one of the most leaked phones in recent memory, the Nexus 5 nevertheless manages to impress. But how does it compare to the other top Android phones on the market – namely the HTC One, the Moto X and the Samsung Galaxy S 4? Let’s compare the specs to find out.
Here’s what’s similar. Physically, the display of all four phones measure between 4.7 to 5 inches, which places them in the same average size category. Interestingly, the Nexus 5, Moto X and the Galaxy S 4 even weigh the same exact 4.59 ounces, while the HTC One tips the scales at 5.04 ounces. Still, all four phones should be relatively comfortable to handle for most hand sizes.
Battery size is relatively comparable as well. The Galaxy S 4 features the biggest 2,600mAh battery of the bunch, but it also has the largest 5-inch screen to power. The Nexus 5 and HTC One meanwhile, use 2,300mAh cells, while the Moto X has a 2,200mAh battery. Overall you can expect similar battery life across the board, although the Moto X uses lower-powered hardware for some tasks and generally last more than a day on a charge.
When it comes to storage, Samsung has a considerable advantage over the competition, as the Galaxy S 4 is the only phone to offer a microSD card slot. That allows you to add up to 64GB of memory in addition to your internal phone storage. The HTC One comes in next, with either 32 or 64GB models, while the Nexus 5 and Moto X are available in 16 or 32GB variants. You can always use cloud storage, but if you need to carry tons of data most of the time, you should really get a phone with a microSD slot.
Things start to get a little more complicated when you compare screen resolutions. Right off the bat, the Moto X misses the mark here, as it’s the only phone that doesn’t feature a 1080p display. Its 4.7-inch, 720p screen is still packed with a dense 316 pixels per inch (ppi), but it simply can’t compete against the HTC One, which, at 4.7 inches and 1080p resolution, has one of the densest mobile screens available (it works out to an incredible 468ppi). The Nexus 5 and Galaxy S 4 come close, however, with 445 and 443ppi respectively. I’d give an advantage to the HTC One, but the Nexus 5 and Galaxy S 4 are comparable if you want a slightly bigger screen.
In terms of processing power, no phone on this list can compete with the Nexus 5, which uses Qualcomm’s latest 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 chip and 450 MHz Adreno 330 GPU. The HTC One and Galaxy S 4 are a generation behind, with their Snapdragon 600 chips, while the Moto X uses Motorola’s X8 processing system, which is based on last year’s Snapdragon S4 Pro. Don’t get me wrong – all of these devices will deliver smooth, fast performance. But if you want the phone that doubles as a top-notch gaming machine, the Nexus 5 is your best bet.
Cameras are harder to compare on specs alone. It looks like HTC One should be the outright loser, when you look at its 4-megapixel sensor compared to the 13-megapixels in the Galaxy S 4. But HTC’s camera uses “ultrapixels,” which essentially means it uses larger individual pixels to reduce noise and for better low-light performance. Anecdotally, I’ve used the HTC One, Moto X and the Galaxy S 4, and I’d say the Galaxy is the sharpest shooter of the bunch. It also has the highest megapixel-rating, so perhaps megapixels do count for something. But my colleague Kevin Tofel has already tested the Nexus 5’s camera, and the results are pretty good. I’ll have to spend some time with it before I can make a decision here.
But while all four phones are somewhat comparable in terms of performance and physical design, there’s one key feature that distinctly separates the Nexus 5 from the pack: Software.
The Nexus 5 is the only phone in this comparison, as well as the only phone in general, to ship running Android 4.4, also known as KitKat. You can barely get an official version of Android 4.3 (Jelly Bean) running on any of the other phones listed here yet, and that’s been out since July. And KitKat has a ton of great new features, like new voice control, faster multitasking, a new and improved phone app, printing capabilities, native keyboard emoji and more.
On top of that, with a Nexus phone, you’re pretty much guaranteed to receive future software updates from Google before any other phone does, since you’re running a stock version of Android. You don’t need to wait for it to pass through a network operator before it makes its way to you months later.
Now, the other three phones here each bring their own unique software additions to the table. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the heavy skins used by HTC and Samsung, though the Moto X has some great hands-free voice control abilities the Nexus 5 lacks. But overall, one of the best things about mobile phones is that they’re constantly evolving, and with the Nexus 5, you’ll have a phone that evolves much more quickly than the competition.
Then there’s carrier support and price to consider. The Nexus 5 is the only phone here that doesn’t support all four major U.S. carriers, which is a bummer. While you can get the phone on AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, it isn’t available on Verizon. But you can’t beat the price: The phone costs $349 or $399 off-contract, which is pretty fantastic. And Sprint has announced that it will be carrying the 16GB model of the phone for $149.99, with monthly payments after that. You’ll certainly be getting your money’s worth, considering it has some of the best specs of the bunch.
The Moto X is your least expensive option, starting at a newly-reduced $99.99, while the Galaxy S 4 remains pricey as ever, at the same $199.99 it launched at.
Also worth mentioning is that there are other great Android phones out there that are also worth a look – the LG G2 comes to mind. It features comparable specs to the Nexus 5, but I didn’t include it here because I think the phone’s software and rear button design dampen its overall appeal.
All that said, if you’d rather treat yourself to a new Android phone today instead of candy, which one should you get? I think the Nexus 5 offers the best overall value. You’re getting a killer combination of the fastest hardware and the latest software for a great price. As long as you’re not on Verizon or don’t mind carrying a relatively large phone, consider it a happy Halloween indeed.