Two of the hottest smartphones on the market right now come from two companies that were once close allies, but have been divided by Google's decision to enter into the smartphone market with a very similar product. While their current respective flagship smartphones offer similar functionality, the Apple iPhone 5s and the Google Nexus 5 are both symbolic of how the two companies differ fundamentally in their approach to winning customers.
If you take price out of the equation, there is little doubt that the combination of the iPhone 5s design, choice of materials, fit and finish along with cutting edge 64-bit technology and a completely revamped operating system is the standout piece of kit. This not to say, however, that the Nexus 5 is not a highly desirable device in its own right; it is, although for quite different reasons. It is combination of leading 32-bit technology, stock Android, large display and slender design also make it the object of desire for Android aficionados. While it does not have the design and finish of the iPhone 5s, its starting price of $349 off-contract evens out its shortcomings considerably.
The iPhone 5s has a 4-inch IPS LCD display with 326ppi, which a two to three years ago, would have been quite acceptable even in the Android world. Tens of millions of expected sales will also stand testimony that to the fact that for many people it remains more than acceptable, even preferable, when compared with Android devices reaching and exceeding 5-inches in size. The Nexus 5 has a 4.95-inch 1080p IPS LCD display with 445ppi, which has become the default screen size for most flagship Android devices in the past 12 to 18 months. In terms of display quality, my preference is for the iPhone 5s display, which to my eyes has better contrast and better color reproduction. Although the Nexus 5 has a higher pixel density, there is no telling the two displays apart with the naked eye when it comes to sharpness.
When you find the right grip, one-handed operation of 4.7-inch to 5-inch smartphones becomes quite normal. This is perhaps why Apple is rumored to be at least considering bringing a 4.7-inch or 5-inch iPhone to market next year, including the possibility of a 5.5-inch ‘phablet’ variant. There are suggestions that it has been working on a ways to keep at least the 4.7- to 5-inch variant suitable for one-handed operation by even those with smaller hands. Overall, preference is for the larger Nexus 5 display.
Apple stunned the competition when it revealed its custom-designed 64-bit A7 chip with M7 Motion Coprocessor. According to ARM's official schedule, 64-bit mobile chips are due to go into mass production in late 2013 for devices starting to ship in Q1 2014 at the earliest. This remains true, but only for every other vendor except Apple. Although not official, it appears that Apple has struck a deal with ARM, a company it originally co-founded, to get early access to its 64-bit designs and bring the technology to market before its competition. This has left Qualcomm and Samsung for that matter, even though it fabricates the A7 chip for Apple forced to continue with 32-bit designs and forced to rely on higher clock speeds and more cores to deliver better performance. To some extent, it is this lack of optimization that led to the every increasing size of Android devices, although these soon proved to be popular with users.
We have seen that the iPhone 5s comes out well on top of the Android competition when it comes to single-core performance. As we have previously outlined, this is a far better measure of real-world device performance than multi-core tests as most apps use only one core. The additional cores are more for marketing purposes than offering any real benefit to users, at least at this stage in the evolution of mobile devices. So while the Snapdragon 800 chipset in the Nexus 5 is an excellent performer, it is now superseded technology. Added to this, the iPhone 5s' PowerVR 'Rogue' based GPU also outperforms the Adreno 330 in the Nexus 5, although this is by a narrower margin. The iPhone 5s delivers 2014 technology, with a 64-bit OS and 64-bit built-in apps, so from this perspective it is the clear winner. Touch ID is also a great piece of authentication technology, brilliantly executed.
The iPhone 5s and the Google Nexus 5 both combine software with hardware to achieve some interesting capabilities that will keep users happy. On the surface, both devices have very similar optical specifications with both possessing 8-megapixel sensors combined with optical image stabilization for less blurry shots, although that is as much as Google specifies. Apple's specifications also show that its 8-megapixel sensor has large 1.5µ pixels and increased the aperture to a large f/2.2 ensuring that it captures more light than ever before and continues with a five-element lens. It also added the True Tone flash that pairs a white LED with an amber LED for producing more natural looking flash photography.
From a software perspective, Google adds a new HDR+ mode that automatically snaps a rapid burst of photos and merges them to create an optimal shot, while it also includes Photo Sphere for some amazing looking 360 degree panoramic shots. Both smartphones also include some handy on board editing tools and integrated social network sharing. The iPhone 5s is not without its optical tricks either and has perhaps the coolest feature of the two devices in that it can also shoot slow-motion video at 720p/120fps producing outstanding results. Although Google says it is working on a patch to further optimize its photo shooting quality, the iPhone 5s is a clear winner in the camera stakes producing sharp, low noise images in a wider range of contexts.
iOS 7 is a much bigger upgrade to the iPhone operating system than is Android 4.4 'KitKat,' which is much more incremental. While Android users will be quick to point out that Apple has been relatively slow to add headlining features to its operating system, iOS 7 changes things considerably. Conversely, Apple users will be quick to point out that while Android eventually caught up with iOS and then overtook it from a feature perspective, it came at the expense of stability and system performance Android 4.4 changes things considerably in this regard too, by becoming the most stable and lag free version of Android yet.
From an end-user perspective, iOS 7 is still the easiest and most intuitive to use on a daily basis, but it getting the most out of it is starting to get more complicated as Apple adds more features and settings controls. Android 4.4 is Google's best effort yet in simplifying and de-cluttering the interface but does offer users more flexibility and customizability. However, Apple has laid a stronger foundation for the future in re-architecting iOS into a fully-fledged 64-bit operating system, laying the groundwork for some very exciting possibilities moving forward. Technically, Apple has pushed the mobile operating system further forward this generation and has taken a substantial lead in the process. The icing on the cake is that it has also redesigned all of its built-in apps, and outstanding iLife apps and iWork apps, while also making these free as well.
Starting from $349, the Nexus 5 is the best value smartphone on the market by a long way. The iPhone 5s is the best premium smartphone on the market, but it comes at a premium price, starting from $649. In practice, the difference in performance and function between the two devices is nowhere near as wide as the pricing might suggest. In fact the Nexus 5 delivers a near equivalent end user experience in just about every regard, although there is plenty of cost cutting if you scratch beneath the surface. Its camera performance, call quality and speaker quality is a rung below the iPhone 5s. However, if you like buying your devices off-contract, the Nexus 5 is the easy choice. On-contract, the iPhone 5s bests the Nexus 5 in every key way and is the most future-proof of the two devices.
Apple would argue that its premium pricing is justified on several grounds, and the astronomical sales of the iPhone 5s suggest that millions of users agree. However, Google and its partner LG have done a fine job of delivering a high-quality smartphone experience to a wider audience. While a lot of Apple users are happy with the 4-inch display. The iPhone 5s offers the best overall end-to-end customer experience, but you cannot really go wrong with the Nexus 5, which punches well above its weight. Apple iPhone 5s is the best smartphone that money can buy, while the Nexus 5 is the best smartphone you can buy for your money.
Apple iphone 5s
In our review of battery of the phone, we actually found the iPhone 5s to be the longest-lasting iPhone to-date, lasting almost 11 hours in our standard video rundown test. It can run for up to 250 hours on standby; can be used for up to 10 hours of 3G talk; And can do 10 and 40 hours of video and audio playback respectively.
Google Nexus 5
Over longer-term use, we noted that this simply was not a battery that can handle really strong use, which is really disappointing.
Processor, RAM & Storage
Nexus 5 ships with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 series quad-core processor, backed by the 450MHz Adreno 330 graphics engine, sumptuous 2GB RAM and 16GB/32GB storage.
Apple iPhone 5S boasts a 64-bit architecture based A7 chipset, making it the most advanced smartphone in the market (current high-end smartphones have 32-bit based chipset). To further enhance the battery efficiency, the company has taken a leaf out of Motorola Moto X. Apple has planted a separate M7 co-processor to take care of motion related tasks of accelerometer and gyroscope, taking away a load from the main CPU. It packs 1GB RAM and is available in three storage variants 16GB/32GB/64GB in the market.