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November 4, 2013

Nexus 5 Quick Review, Four Days On

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After months of rumours and leaks, Google officially released the Nexus 5 last Thursday, the latest model of Google smart phones. The phone offers the same Google-quality specs and hardware, but combined with the new Android KitKat 4.4 operating system and availability on more carriers than ever before, the search-engine giant’s smartphone could make a splash.

On the hardware side,(full specs here) the Nexus 5 builds on the solid foundation Google’s phones have set before. Built by LG, the Nexus 5 has a 4.95-inch, 1080p HD screen, a 2.3 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, all encased in a matte plastic back in black or white. The Google smartphone has an  8-megapixel rear camera and a 1.3-megapixel front camera., along with nifty features that correct small hand movements to make a less blurry photo, and better picture quality in low-light situations with fast-moving subjects. These camera updates could work well with Google’s recent additions to Google+ that focus on making, creating, and editing photo projects easier for its social networkers.The smartphone weighs 136 grams (about 4.8 ounces) and is 8.59 millimeters (0.3 inches) thick. Other features include 2GB of RAM, a micro-USB port. It supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi wireless networking.

This new model of the Nexus is available from Google Play. Carphone Warehouse,  Clove Technology sim free, the first to be offered in UK. Another key feature is the price. Without contract (sim free), the Nexus 5 16GB is £295 and the 32GB is £339, which is far cheaper than other top off-contract smart phones on the market, like the iPhone.

KitKat, which uses far less memory, could be the key to bringing Android even into entry-level phones, and combined with the cheap unlocked price, this could be a key seller in rising economies.

Audio is very good but you have to remember the speakers are on the bottom. Placing the Nexus 5 with the bottom facing you really does give to a easy listening experience. Using ear phones in town listening to radio was very good. Listening to music is a pleasant experience. Let down by the omission of a beats feature.

Camera one of my favourite apps

Camera on the Nexus 5 is good, yes good, some might say adequate but, that would be hard to justify. really. This is like someone saying superb camera on xxx smartphone , it’s just one persons view.

But what do most people use their camera for? They’re not looking to  take professional shots they just take funny, party, occasions even embarrassing shots and load them on facebook, instagram and twitter etc. Look at the pictures below and you make your mind up as to if they are acceptable to you. I like taking pictures of flowers as they show off more texture.

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One of the coolest things about owning a Nexus device is Photospheres. It’s the camera mode that allows you to take 360 degrees panoramas just like Street View does which are really cool are incredibly fun to show to your friends.

It’s all Google’s code and only Nexus and Google Play edition devices carry this mode which means it’s limited to the Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, 5, and 10, Samsung Galaxy S4 GPe and HTC One GPe.

We’ve seen Google make adjustments to the way the rendering is done and it has improved a lot since it was first introduced with Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. The render is faster and the stitching is much, much better, you’ll get less broken lines and better color balance between shots, in most cases you can’t tell the original pictures used for the Photosphere.

Android 4.4 KitKat brings even more improvements according to Evan Rapoport, product manager for Google Maps, Street View, Photospheres and other products.

For starters, the rendering is much faster because now it’s using multi-threading. Until now even if it improved, it was still a little slow to render if you did a full 360. Another big improvement is “optimal seam finding” which is a new technique that tries to find the best spot to stitch pictures so you won’t have any strange artifacts like when people move and you get just a pair of legs in the middle of the scene. Rapoport said “In our testing, we’ve seen a big reduction in stitching errors on people in the scene”. This should also avoid having warped or curved objects in the scene since it will try to locate the object and use it from just one picture.

Finally, they improved some new techniques for stitching difficult scenes like indoors, Photospheres always had a bit of trouble when objects are too close to the camera.

With the release of the updated G+ in Android 4.4 Google have done a great job on the Photo Editor update

As an extra, here’s a video with a few tips on creating Photospheres from the Google Maps team:

The camera app received a slight update for those using Android 4.3 but it’s still missing a lot of features to make it the complete app Nexus phones deserve, things like burst mode or ISO control would be a great addition. Maybe Google will release the camera into the Play Store and we’ll begin to see updates more often.

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Dave Thornton

Senior Editor

Senior Editor
Been involved in technology for many years, more than I care to remember. Live in Dundee, Scotland. I like Android, Windows Phone OS, BlackBerry OS and iOS, and love writing about all things techie. Currently have a Honor 6+, Elephone P6000, Nexus 5, Chrombook C720, HTC One M7, Nokia Lumina 625, Microsoft Lumia 435, Blackberry Q10, HTC Hero and iPad mini