Thursday, 28 August 2014

"Should I get the Nexus 5, or wait for the next Nexus?"

I've been on Google+ for quite a while now, and it's common to see people asking for advice before they purchase a new smartphone. When the question is asking about choosing between two or more smartphones that are already on the market, it makes the task of answering that question much easier. But when people ask about choosing between a phone currently on the market, and a phone that's coming soon, that's a bit more of a challenge. Not knowing for a fact what that unannounced smartphone will bring to the market makes comparing the devices pretty much pointless. Sure we have rumours, but nothing is confirmed until it's confirmed. Remember how the Nexus 5 was rumoured to have a 3000 mAh battery? Or how everyone was convinced that the next version of android after JB was going to be Key Lime Pie? Rumours no matter the source are just that, rumours. So what do you do when someone asks "Should I get the Nexus 5, or wait for the next Nexus?", which has started happening a lot recently on Google+? Here's my answer.

I for one think that it would be easier to answer that question if we change it. Instead of comparing the Nexus 5 to the unreleased Nexus X (or Nexus 6, see we really don't know anything), a better question to ask would be "Is the Nexus 5 still a good phone to buy at this time?". This is the question I'll be answering in this post, since any comparisons I make between the Nexus 5 and its successor could end up being completely irrelevant when it is finally announced.

So lets start with the hardware. Compared to current OEM flagships, the specs of the Nexus 5 aren't that different. Many OEM flagships from this year all have 1080p displays. A 1080p display is still amazing on a 5" phone, even with the existence of 1440p displays on phones like the G3 which aren't significantly better anyway. The SD800 is still a powerful and highly capable SoC for a smartphone by today's standards, and 2GB of RAM is still the standard among flagships. Paired with stock Android, the SD800 and 2GB of RAM in the Nexus 5 are still sufficient for an excellent user experience. As for the camera well, it's not the best sure, but it's far from the worst too. Comments that say the camera is rubbish are plain wrong. You can see thousands of shots from the Nexus 5 on Google+ to see how good the camera is, and with the Google Camera app now in the Play Store, we can expect many more updates in the future to improve the experience of using the Nexus 5 camera. That leaves the battery, which many will agree is the weakest link of the Nexus 5. But to address that, lets move on to software.

The Nexus 5 will be the first of the currently available flagships to receive Android L when it is launched in a few months time, and it will be the biggest Android update since ICS back in 2011, both functionally and aesthetically. Why this is important when talking about the battery life of the Nexus 5 is this - Project Volta. I tried out the dev preview of Android L when it was made available for a few days, and I shared some thoughts about Project Volta. Since the physical capacity of a battery deteriorates over time, the only way to improve battery life of an existing smartphone is by tweaking the software, and Project Volta will do exactly that. The battery in the Nexus 5 is "small" compared to other flagships, but once Android L and Project Volta are added to the mix, that small capacity will be able to last a significantly longer period of time.

Project Volta will improve battery life by implementing better management of hardware components in mobile devices. Image: TechnoBuffalo
Sticking with the software, Android L will breath new life into all existing Android devices, and that includes the Nexus 5. Material Design will bring a whole new appearance to the Nexus 5 which has been on KitKat for a year. New system animations and colours, new quick settings and notification frameworks, restructured lock screen which now includes notifications by default, new power saving and "Do not disturb" options, it will literally be a brand new experience once the Nexus 5 gets Android L, so even if you buy it now instead of waiting for the next Nexus, you will still be getting that brand new experience. You won't be left out.

So where does that leave us? Is the Nexus 5 still a good phone to buy after almost one year? In a word, heck yeah. The hardware of the Nexus 5 is still on par with many current flagships, and the software will be ahead of current flagships for a few months (or weeks if you look at Motorola) once Android L is finished. And with Android L, the Nexus 5 will be even better than it is now, with probably Project Volta contributing the biggest improvement to the phone. The next Nexus phone will probably have some benefits over the Nexus 5, like a newer processor and a larger battery, but it won't make the Nexus 5 obsolete. The Nexus 5 will still be a highly capable and relevant smartphone for a long time.