FInally! This week, Google’s Nexus 5 moved from rumor status to the real deal. And with so many leaks of the device in prior months, there was little left to our imaginations. The Nexus 5 launched and I can’t think of a single surprise to be found in the phone. Of course, seeing pictures and specifications of a device are far different than actually using it to form an impression.
My early thoughts after using the Nexus 5 for a short time are very positive. The handset performs as fast as you’d expect with a Snapdragon 800 under the hood and the screen is fantastic to look at. The design may seem a bit bland but the phone appears well made and is very light for its size. There’s a hint of the Touchless Controls found in the newest Motorola phones, although it’s a bit limiting: You can only speak voice commands without touching the Nexus 5 from an active home screen.
Some early comments around the web are showing disappointment in the Nexus 5 camera. Does it take better pictures than some of the current flagship phones? I’d say no, at this early stage. Is it the best camera on a Nexus yet? Absolutely. Will it be acceptably to most buyers? Again, absolutely. I’ll have more to say in full review this coming week as I continue to use the Nexus 5 and compare it to my current favorite Android phone, the Moto X.
The bigger story for Google this week was the release of Android 4.4, or KitKat. Yes, it comes with the Nexus 5 but handset makers are already making public plans to bring it to other handsets. For Google, it will help give new life to older Android phones while at the same time bringing a common experience to Android, even with limited hardware.
How? Google reworked Android 4.4 so that it runs on phones with as little as 512 MB of memory. That means low-cost phones for emerging markets can offer the same user interface and experience as more capable devices. And that also helps developers who then have a larger audience to target without worrying which version of Android to code for.
Google Now is front and center of Android 4.4 for users that enable it. Once turned on, Google Now is actually available as a primary home screen. I saw this on the Nexus 5 and found it useful: Instead of swiping up from the home button, a quick swipe to the left-most home screen brings you right to Google Now. That should help Google get more users on the service.
Speaking of services, Samsung would rather you use its own rather than Google’s on Galaxy devices. The company held its first developer conference this week and more than 1,300 people attended. Samsung introduced five new SDKs for its Android devices with hundreds of new APIs.
How big a deal is this? It all depends on how many developers decide to back Samsung’s own services and apps in addition to supporting Google’s. Samsung is touting its huge reach as the largest Android device maker in order to entice developers.