GADGET WATCH: Google Nexus 5 smartphone with Android 4.4 KitKat

After a lot of hype and anticipation, Google has released the latest version of its smartphone and tablet operating system, Android 4.4 KitKat.

And, for those looking for new features, the update didn’t disappoint. Among the many changes, the Android Messaging app has been dumped with text messages now handled through Google Hangouts, while the phone app now includes Google’s business directory.

As with previous updates to Android, Google has also released a new device to show off all the new features – this time a new flagship smartphone called the Nexus 5.

So should you rush out and get one? Let’s find out:

Hardware and features

The Google Nexus 5 smartphone, like its predecessor the Nexus 4, is manufactured in partnership with South Korean electronics giant LG.

So it should come as little surprise that, aside from a lower camera resolution, the Nexus 5 is very similar to LG’s current flagship smartphone, the LG G2.

The device is built around a quad-core 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, and features a 4.95-inch 1920×1080 pixel full-HD IPS display (with a resolution of 445 pixels per inch).

The front-facing camera is 1.3-mexapixel while the rear camera is 8-megapixels.

It measures 69.17×137.84 mm, is 8.59 mm thick, and weighs 130g.

It’s available, unlocked and unsubsidised directly from Google, for $399 outright for the 16GB version or $449 for 32GB version.

What’s the consensus?

One of the main reasons for buying a Nexus device is that you get the plain, ‘vanilla’ Android experience. As Gizmodo explains, this still remains a key selling point in an increasingly crowded marketplace:

The most important feature of a Nexus phone is that it offers a vanilla Android experience. Hardware manufacturers can’t help but pollute their offerings with skins, which almost without exception degrade your overall experience. Some of them are ok, and some of them make you want to feed your hands to an alligator, but none of them are 100% pure Google.

It’s not just software though; Nexus hardware has — in theory, at least — been dialled in by Google to show off the full potential of its platform.

One of the strong points of the Nexus 5 is that it’s faster than almost all of its competitors:

The Nexus 5 is fast. We expected it to tear, and it is, indeed, the fastest Android phone we’ve ever used. Truth be told, it’s only slightly faster than the current top-ranked speedsters like the HTC One. But slightly faster than something that’s already fast as hell is still fast as hell. We’ll take it!

In terms of design, CNet notes Google’s new phone is more utilitarian and minimalist than flashy:

Once again, Google’s latest Nexus retains a familiar minimalistic aesthetic. However, with its straighter edges and sharper curves, it looks more stately and austere than its predecessor. For instance, instead of the display sloping downward at its sides (as if melting right off) like before, it cuts off sharply at the edges.

Of course, one of the big selling points of the Nexus 5 is that it’s the first device to run KitKat. Matt Warman at The Telegraph is impressed with many of the new features:

It adds a few key features: a translucent Google search bar and the top of every page, updated icons, swipe left for Google Now, the predictive search that suggests that since you’re, say, at a bus stop you might want to know when the buses are leaving. The phone dialler is now more sophisticated, adding in search features, and Google’s own Hangouts app now also incorporates SMS.

However, while KitKat boasts improvements in many areas, Gizmodo points out there is still some more fining tuning for Google to do on Android:

Other than it’s just a series of smaller gripes, most of which have more to do with KitKat than the phone itself. Google Voice integration with Hangouts is a must and feels very late at this point. Why is there a Gallery app and a Photos app? Who knows. Why does Google Now try to send me somewhere far away instead of down the street?

Who’s it for?

If you’re looking to get the latest Android smartphone, look no further than this. Likewise, if you want to buy a good phone outright at a reasonable price point, this is one you should certainly look at.

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