Google secretly makes amazing phones. I’m not talking “Android” — that’s an operating system: the software that runs the phone. I’m talking about hardware. Phones! Real phones! Made by Google! They’re called “Nexus” phones.
People loved the Nexus 5 back in 2013.
Google doesn’t make the phones, but rather outsources them to trusted manufacturers like LG or Samsung. There was the Nexus 5 phone (above, by LG), the Nexus 7 tablet (Asus), the Nexus 6 “phablet” (Motorola), etc. You get it. Google works with the manufacturer on design and specs and a bunch of other stuff, then the phone/tablet/phablet/whatever gets released as a “Nexus” device, from Google.
The only way to buy Nexus devices is online. There’s little-to-no marketing done from Google. You have to really want to get your hands on a Nexus device.
Lucky for me that I work at a technology publication; I’d have never heard of the Nexus 5x otherwise. It’s one of two new phones from Google (the Nexus 5X is made by LG while the Nexus 6P is made by Huawei), and it’s one of the best phones I’ve ever used.
That’s not hyperbole: The 5X feels like it was made specifically for me. OK, maybe that’s hyperbole, but I’m not joking with that sentiment.
- It fits perfectly into my (admittedly small) hands.
- It’s snappy.
- It’s ultra-customisable and runs an untainted version of Google’s mobile operating system Android.
- It’s got innovative, bleeding edge features (a fingerprint sensor mounted on the back instead of the front; it charges via the latest version of USB).
- It’s pretty and straightforward — it’s not fancy-looking like the iPhone 6S or Samsung’s Galaxy S6, which is fine by me.
The phone arrived last Friday afternoon and I’ve been using it as my main phone ever since. That’s just two and a half days, but it’s already assimilated into my life perfectly.
That it comes loaded with stock, untainted Android makes it really easy to jump into. I turned on the phone, signed into my main Google account, and it automatically asked if I wanted to download every app I was running on my previous phone (a Samsung Galaxy S6). Since my contacts are backed up to Google, those moved over seamlessly.
And since it’s Google’s untouched version of Android, it’s thankfully free of the mess of apps that various phone makers like to include (usually for no good reason) on their phones. When I first turned on Samsung’s Galaxy S6, I had to spend 20 minutes going through pre-installed apps from Samsung that needed deleting. Who needs two mail apps? Or two text messaging apps? Or two calendar apps?
“Literally no one” is the correct answer. Like so many other Android users, I love using Google’s own apps for various functions: Gmail for an email app, Messages for a text message app, etc. While I’m always open to better, alternative versions of these apps — Sunrise is a great calendar app, for instance — I’ll seek out a better option only if the standard Google version isn’t working for me.
Since the Nexus 5X is a Google phone, the only pre-loaded applications are the various Google applications that I actually use. There’s no Verizon-branded news app or game that I must delete because the game’s publisher struck a deal with the phone maker, just a blank slate pre-loaded with apps that the average user will actually use.
Outside of apps primarily used for work, I mainly use my phone for making phone calls, text messaging, and taking photos. The first two functions are served by basically any phone on the market, and the 5X accomplishes both perfectly well.
Where photography was a huge problem on the first Nexus 5 phone, the Nexus 5X is rock solid. I took a few dozen photos this past weekend in a variety of lighting scenarios, and never found myself having to re-frame and re-shoot because the picture didn’t come out right due to the phone. Sure, sometimes I took bad shots and needed to re-take them, but those instances were on me. With the previous Nexus 5, I’d take a photo with my phone at the same time as my wife would with her iPhone 5, and her photo would always look dramatically better. That issue is seemingly fixed with the Nexus 5X.
All of this to say one thing: the Nexus 5X is as good or better than any other phone on the market. My last two phones were flagship phones from Apple and Samsung — the iPhone 6 and the Galaxy S6 — and I like the Nexus 5X far better than either.
It’s only been a little over two days, so take these impressions with that caveat.
It’s possible that I’ll spend another week with the Nexus 5X and discover a secret flaw that fully changes my opinion. It’s possible that Samsung will update all their phones to run stock Android, instantly making them all much better than they currently are. I doubt both of these scenarios pretty seriously. What’s much more likely is my affection for the Nexus 5X will grow over time, and I’ll spend the next few years evangelizing it to anyone who will listen.
While Apple iterates another few iPhones over the next few years, and Samsung continues to push out a dozen different versions of its phones, I’ll be quietly enjoying Google’s amazing stealth Nexus phone. I can’t suggest enough that you do the same.
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