What Is Special About the Nexus 5: Five Features Other Phones Don’t Have

Skye Hudson 15-11-2013

Google’s Nexus 5 was unveiled on Halloween It's Official: Nexus 5 And Android 4.4 KitKat Are Here The Nexus 5 is now on sale in the Google Play Store and it's running the brand new Android 4.4 KitKat, which will also be rolling out to other devices "in the coming weeks." Read More , and you may be wondering what all the fuss is about. What exactly makes the Nexus 5 so special to the average user?


For techies, it’s a hacker’s dream with a multitude of options for rooting and modding. But it’s great for other people, too: The Nexus program has evolved into something far beyond its nerdy beginnings. It’s now a popular consumer line with many advantages over other major smartphones.

The Competition

The Nexus 4 is no longer for sale from the Play Store, but there remains some stiff competition for the Nexus 5. The Galaxy S4 is consistently popular among consumers, and there’s also the HTC One, Galaxy Note 3, LG G2, Moto X, and Xperia Z1 to consider. All of these phones cost much more than the Nexus 5 — the cheapest being the $500 Moto X and most expensive being the $725 Note 3 — but, at least in terms of specs, don’t outclass it.


Google’s Nexus 5 has a 1080p screen, just like the rest of these phones (besides the Moto X’s 720p screen), and a Snapdragon 800 processor, which is the same as you’ll find in the Note 3, G2, and Z1. The Nexus 5’s processor is even a generation newer than the Galaxy S4 and HTC One’s Snapdragon 600.

And while all of these phones have NFC, only the Nexus 5 can use the tap-and-pay function of Google Wallet, since buying on on-contract phone means having your carrier block it (unless you’re on Sprint).


Let’s break down a few of these advantages.

Off-Contract Price

The Nexus 5’s biggest advantage is its incredible price. Whereas a 16GB iPhone 5S from AT&T costs $650 off-contract, an unlocked 16GB Nexus 5 from the Play Store is only $350. The Moto X, which is arguably a lower-end phone, comes in at $530 for an off-contract 16GB model from AT&T. The Nexus 5 is simply in a league of its own when it comes to price. It has the specs and design of a high-end phone, with the price of a low-end one.

Of course, the Nexus 5 will also be coming to Sprint under contract (for a subsidized $149 with a two-year contract) as well as to T-Mobile with their monthly payment plans. The unlocked version is also compatible with AT&T, although they won’t be directly selling it, but you simply will not be able to use one with Verizon. The best option for a Nexus 5 right now is to order one from the Google Play Store, although they seem to be backordered about 2-4 weeks right now depending on what storage option you choose.

But if you’re currently under contract and looking to renew your contract, why would you spend $350 on an off-contract device when you could sign another two-year agreement and get a different high-end device for $200? Because you could save a lot of money going the prepaid route How To Save Hundreds On Your Mobile Phone Bill In 3 Easy Steps Cutting your mobile phone bill in half takes only three simple steps - first, find a carrier that offers discounted plans, such as an MVNO. Second, get an unlocked phone. Third, and optionally, you can... Read More .



When the Nexus 4 arrived, we covered seven of the best American SIM cards The Seven Best Nexus 4 SIM Cards in the United States Want to get the absolute best cellular plan for your Nexus 4? As all American cellular users know, carriers charge budget-breaking prices for smartphone plans. The only way to save money is through cellular wholesalers... Read More you could get, and that list remains largely relevant with the Nexus 5 today. My only addition would be AIO Wireless, a subsidy of AT&T which uses their network at a much lower monthly cost. If you like AT&T’s extensive coverage, but would rather pay $55 a month using an off-contract phone than pay $100+ a month with an on-contract phone, AIO will be perfect for you.

In a nutshell, major carriers (AT&T, Verizon, Sprint) inflate the price of your talk, text, and data by subsidizing the cost of your phone; that’s why you can get a $650 iPhone for $200 on a two-year contract. They know they’ll make up the difference in those two years. But with an off-contract Nexus 5 and a cheaper prepaid monthly plan, you’ll save loads in the long run.

And for such a high-quality device, there’s really no competition in terms of price here.



Without getting technical, let me just assure you that this thing is fast. Early reviews have shown it to zip by some of today’s high-end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 (which we quite liked Samsung Galaxy S4 Review and Giveaway Samsung's current flagship device, the Galaxy S4 marries no-compromises hardware with Google's mobile operating system, slathered with a thick layer of Samsung's own software overlays and customizations. That doesn't mean the outcome is perfect. How... Read More ) and HTC One. This device isn’t the laggy Android of yesteryear; it’s a brand new phone ready for some gaming and multitasking.

You may have experienced older Android phones that over time just became slow, buggy, and awful. Those days are behind us with the Nexus 5. This device won’t be slowing down anytime soon, and since it’s Google flagship, it will get the attention it deserves. Two years from now, will there be better phones than the Nexus 5? Of course, but this phone will still be no slouch.


Plus, all Nexus devices get automatic updates to the newest operating system without having to wait around for wireless carriers or hardware manufacturers to approve it. That means that you’ll always have the newest version of Android and all of the goodies that come along with that.


Wireless Charging

Wireless charging still seems like a futuristic marvel to me, but it’s actually been available for a while. For some reason, phone manufacturers have been slow to adopt it. It’s been in many Nokia Lumia smartphones, the Nexus 4 had it, and the Galaxy S4 has an optional (and expensive) wireless charging-compatible backplate. But many major devices, like the iPhone 5S, Xperia Z1, HTC One, and Moto X, simply don’t support it.


However, it’s lack of broad adoption means that it’s a rather standout feature for the Nexus 5 and differentiates it among a crowded market. Google has said that it will be selling an official Nexus 5 wireless charger soon, although it has yet to pop up on the Play Store, but the Nexus 5 should work with any Qi-compatible wireless charger.

To learn a bit more about wireless charging, read up on Matt Smith’s excellent article on what exactly wireless charging is and how it works What Is Wireless Charging & How Exactly Does It Work? [MakeUseOf Explains] We live in a wireless world. Except we don’t. Sure, we can send huge amounts of information across the airwaves, but the devices capable of sending and receiving it are tied down to power cords.... Read More .

Photo Sphere

While actually introduced last year with the Nexus 4, Photo Sphere is still a relevant and awesome feature; it is Google’s super-panorama. It allows you to take 360 degree pictures, capturing the entire room around you or the entire view from the top of a mountain. It’s an insanely cool feature that, unfortunately, hasn’t made it to other high-end Android phones like the Galaxy S4 or HTC One. (Unless you buy the Google Play Editions, but those are $650 and $600 respectively and only available off-contract at the Play Store.)


If you want to wow your friends with astounding 360 degree photos, the Nexus 5 is the way to go. Google even has a community site for uploading your cool Photo Sphere shots. Plus, the Nexus 5’s camera is much improved from the Nexus 4, including Optical Image Stabilization that steadies the camera even if your hands are shaking slightly, producing much less blurry photos.

Wireless Payments

With the Google Wallet app, wireless payments should be mainstream by now. Ever seen those tap-to-pay terminals at grocery stores or fast food locations where you swipe your credit card? Well, there’s a chip in most modern phones called an NFC chip that can be used to make payments just by tapping your phones against it, if you have your credit card information stored in Google Wallet.

Unfortunately, Google Wallet’s usefulness has been severely limited by carriers who have flat-out blocked it and by its US-only availability. But since the Nexus 5 has NFC and isn’t limited by carriers, Google Wallet will work to its full glory and you can use it to pay wherever the tap-to-pay terminals are located.


Currently, there are only a handful of devices on select carriers (No AT&T, Verizon, or T-Mobile) that support this tap and pay functionality, and out of all of them, the Nexus 5 gives the most bang for your buck. Without carrier support, Google Wallet won’t be hitting carrier-branded devices any time soon. NFC itself isn’t that much of a stand-out feature, but being able to use Google Wallet to its full extent is.

Besides, there are some other cool uses for your NFC-enabled device Feel Like a Billionaire With the Latest Uses for Android NFC Technology Did you know Near Field Communication technology powers Bill Gates's techno-utopian Xanadu 2.0 mansion? Visitors to the Gates' estate receive a wearable NFC tag, which comes programmed with the visitors' climatic and aural preferences. Upon... Read More as well.


If there’s one point I could reiterate here, it’s that this phone is ridiculously inexpensive for being of such high-quality. The phones that it gets compared to are nearly double its price or more, and it has all of these features that the others don’t.

What do you think of the Nexus 5? Will you be ordering one from the Play Store anytime soon? Let us know in the comments.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock, NFC – Near field communication / mobile payment

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  1. Jayant Singh
    February 29, 2016 at 12:36 pm


  2. Innocent
    January 29, 2015 at 9:14 am

    I think the phone N5 is absolutely incredible. Can't wait to buy it in the next 3 months.

  3. sanjeev
    April 2, 2014 at 3:00 pm

    Yes its amzng...moble

  4. Charles
    November 19, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    I'm going to get a 32g NEXUS 5 next month. .can't wait!! Sent from IPHONE 5s

  5. Jerrod Smith
    November 18, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I will definitely be getting a nexus 5. I was so mad when the carriers decided to block the Google wallet feature. The only choice was to go with Sprint, (Ugh). And on top of all that, It has a stronger engine under the hood, so to speak, than these other high class phones for half the price! Why be a follower and pay for these so called high class phones which are weaker, and end up paying more, when you can get a stronger and more reliable phone for less?

  6. Tinkicker
    November 16, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    The instant current updates are one of the biggest iPhone argument killers. Love that, love the pure Android experience, love the price...I'll get one.

  7. CJTO
    November 16, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Had my N5 for almost 2 weeks now. Absolutely love it. For this price is is no better Android!

  8. James M
    November 16, 2013 at 12:51 am

    I think you're a little mistaken about Photo Sphere. That feature is available on my Sprint Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The standard camera has a mode called Surround Shot which can do the same thing -- take 360-degree photos. I have no idea how Samsung's Surround Shot compares to the Nexus 5's Photo Sphere, but my point is that this feature is on at least one non-Nexus phone.

  9. Bogart
    November 15, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I'm currently in contract, and I'll still buy this phone and change my ailing Galaxy Note just because it's inexpensive enough.

  10. Bumferry H
    November 15, 2013 at 8:32 pm

    I really am 50/50 about the Nexus 5. I'm going to wait to see what wonders the 4.4 update will bring to my nexus 4 first.
    I have had my Nexus 4 for 9 months now and have no issues with it what so ever. I'll probably sit tight and wait out my contract and grab the next one along.... maybe. :O)

  11. Kelly
    November 15, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Nothing special. I rather get a Nokia Lumia.