My New Device is a Nexus 5

Motorola’s Moto X is a great phone. That said, I took advantage of T-Mobile’s offer to buy out of my contract with Verizon.

Leaving Verizon for T-Mobile

With the switch, I picked up a Nexus 5 for Mrs. The Droid Lawyer and I. Nexus 5 was my original choice of phone, but because of Verizon’s buyout cost I decided to wait.

Moto X and Nexus 5 compared

Ultimately, Moto X and Nexus 5 are extremely similar, minus some of the obvious hardware differences. Both devices run Android 4.4 (Nexus 5 runs Android 4.4.2), both have pretty spectacular cameras, and each have fairly similar screens (5 inch versus 4.75 inches).

Screen size

Nexus 5 definitely wins the screen size shootout with its 5 inch, 1080p screen.

Nexus 5’s larger screen means that the phone also sports more bulk. I really like that Moto X fit right into my hands and I could reach my thumb across the screen without straining too heavily. Nexus 5 requires that I shift the device in my palm, holding the phone on the edge.

Holding Nexus 5

 The 5 inch screen is very similar to my HTC Droid DNA, so I’m quickly becoming reacquainted with the larger screen size. Samsung Galaxy Note users will also appreciate the larger screen. Of course, in the hands of an iPhone user, the Nexus 5 or Moto X will seem huge.

Big screen feel for iPhone users

Camera

Nexus 5 wins the camera category also, though not because “bigger is better.”

Moto X has a fine camera, but I couldn’t get Photospheres to work, and the low-light resolution on Moto X was something to be desired. Not so much of a problem with the Nexus 5, plus you can control things like exposure and contrast. Nexus 5’s camera is great for the serious phone camera shooter. Update: some Nexus 5 users are having problems with the quality of the camera. Expect an Android 4.4.3 update in the near future to fix the issue.

What I really miss from Moto X is the “twist to click” feature, which involves twisting your wrist to open the camera. I could quickly access the camera in about 5 seconds. Admittedly, that’s not such a big deal, since you can access the camera from the Nexus 5 lock screen by swiping the camera icon in the lower right.

Nexus 5 Quick Camera Access

Moto X also had this feature, but I found myself using the flick method more times than not because I could quickly capture my kids’ moments without missing too much. Additionally, the flick method doesn’t even require you to turn on your phone, which saves at least one extra step.

Where Moto X excels over Nexus 5

I loved Moto X for three reasons: Active Notifications, always listening, and Motorola Assist.

I’ve discussed active notifications, and yes, there’s an app for that, but Motorola body slammed other devices with this feature. I love being able to pick up my Moto X and knowing exactly what the chime, chirp, buzz, or beep is without having to turn on the phone. I also liked having quick access to the time and date by meagerly nudging the device.

Nexus 5 introduced the “Google Experience Launcher” and “active listening.” Except, as I’ve quickly discovered, Nexus 5 isn’t exactly an active listener; at least when compared to Moto X. Simply saying, “OK Google Now,” triggered voice commands, and prompted my Moto X to execute my wish. Active listening works regardless of whether the phone is locked.

Nexus 5 acts more like Droid Tot # 1, who sometimes requires 2 or 3 nudges before she’ll perform. Nexus 5’s active listening also doesn’t work unless the phone is unlocked. Sometimes, such as when you want to send a quick text, this is a hassle. And don’t even get me started on how the “OK Google” command only occasionally works, requiring me to press the microphone at the top of the screen or switch my search language back to English (US) — this looks like a limited issue for most folks.

Finally, I loved Motorola’s recently updated Active Assist program. This isn’t Moto X specific, but if you’ve used it, you’ll love it. Active Assist runs (for me) in the car, whenever Moto X detected accelerated speeds. The phone reads text messages, allows me to respond, and identifies callers without much additional effort, and only runs when triggered. Nothing similar exists for Nexus 5, at least to my knowledge.

The winner is . . .

Neither. I’m giving high marks to both devices, and not going to pick a winner. I like both phones, but for different reasons. Of course, I like the early updates aspect of Nexus 5, though Motorola showed it’s committed, at least in theory, to keeping Moto X updated. If you like the smaller screen size, Moto X definitely wins, both because of feel and because of size. Nexus 5 is a more powerful device, with its faster processor and RAM, though when I ran AnTuTu Benchmark on my phone, there was some lackluster performance.

AnTuTu Benchmark for Nexus 5

Granted, it’s still blazing fast when compared with older phones.

Nexus 5 has wireless charging, which is very handy for keeping you desk clean. Check out the TYLT Vu charger for a great option. I’m still waiting to try out the Nexus 5 charger from Google.

I also opted (got forced) to buy the 16GB model, rather than the 32GB model. Most folks will question why, especially considering the 32GB model is only $50 more. The primary reason is that in order to take advantage of T-Mobile’s “pay your ETF” offer, I needed to also buy a phone. Yes, I could have purchased a $75 dollar phone, then bought the 32GB Nexus 5 from Google, but I’m still out $25 (I know, it’s not a lot). But I know I won’t need more than 16GB — I store pictures and video on Google+ and don’t download a lot of excess apps, games, etc. — and if I do, I can still sell my 16GB model and buy the 32GB model.

If you want to see more about Nexus 5, check out this video from Marques Brownlee:

So, how’s T-Mobile?

Many people fear moving to T-Mobile because of coverage issues, especially in light of Verizon’s maps. And honestly, I’m not particularly excited about T-Mobile’s coverage (4G LTE and cellular) where I am. One of the biggest issues I discovered is the fact I can’t access T-Mobile’s LTE spectrum, even though I’m barely on the outskirts of the city. I’m not sure what the “H” stands for — it’s T-Mobile’s HSPA spectrum — but that’s what I get. Not particularly the same as Verizon’s 4G LTE coverage. In fact, I had to travel nearly 5 miles before I picked up the LTE signal. And even then, I’m only punching about 12.5 Mbps. That’s not particularly exciting, or brag worthy.

T-Mobile LTE speedtest

Am I disappointed? Well, maybe a little. but I’m more concerned with being able to access a cell signal than I am about LTE speed, and since T-Mobile seems set on boosting its newly-acquired 700 mHz spectrum, I’m excited to see where that adventure goes.

FYI, if Verizon wants me back, get Nexus 5.

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Jeff Taylor

I’m just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I’m also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.