New Nexus! 5 things to know about the Nexus 5

Nexus 5

It's that time of year, my Android-watching compadres -- time for a new Nexus to make its way into our lives.

Google finally took the wraps off the Nexus 5 yesterday, giving us the long-awaited (okay, maybe not that long, but it sure felt like an eternity) sequel to last year's Nexus 4 device. The Nexus 5 is on sale now, if you can find it in stock, for $349 with 16GB of storage and $399 for a 32GB model. Both versions are available in your choice of black or white.

I'll be spending some time getting to know the LG-made Nexus 5 up close and personal over the next several days and will have some detailed hands-on impressions to share with you soon. For now, though, here are five interesting and noteworthy things to know about the new flagship Android 4.4 KitKat phone:

1. Despite having a bigger screen, the Nexus 5 is almost the same size as the Nexus 4 -- and a little bit lighter, too.

Nexus 5, Nexus 4

Its name probably tipped you off, but the Nexus 5 has -- you guessed it -- a nearly 5-in. display. It's actually 4.95 in., to be precise, and it's a beaut, with full 1080p resolution and 445 pixels per inch. That's a big step up both in quality and size from the 4.7-in. 720p 320ppi screen on last year's Nexus 4.

Even so, the Nexus 5 is more or less the same overall size as its predecessor. The two phones are essentially equal in width; the Nexus 5 is a touch longer and a hair thinner, but we're talking pretty small measurements in both domains.

The phone is also lighter than last year's flagship, weighing in at 4.6 oz. compared to the N4's 4.9-oz. frame.

2. The Nexus 5 has a soft-touch back, like the new Nexus 7.

Gone is the beautiful but oh-so-scratchable glass back of yore; instead, the Nexus 5 rocks a slightly rubberized soft-touch material reminiscent of this year's Nexus 7 tablet. The overall vibe may be a bit simpler and less flashy as a result, but it sticks with Google's ongoing move toward minimalism in its design; the phone has no logos or markings on its face and an understated horizontal "Nexus" lettering on its back.

And, you know, it shouldn't scratch, crack, and break nearly as easily as its glass-made sibling. That's a plus.

3. The Nexus 5 uses a micro-SIM card.

An important tidbit for anyone thinking about snagging a Nexus 5 and putting an existing SIM card into it: Though early reports suggested the Nexus 5 might use a nano-SIM, the Nexus 5 sticks with familiar territory and uses a micro-SIM instead. Micro. Not nano. Comprendo?

4. The Nexus 5 does not have the same "always listening" capability as the Moto X -- but it has something vaguely similar.

Nexus 5 Okay Google

Another bit of pre-release rumor vs. reality correction: Google's new Nexus 5 does let you say "Okay, Google" to activate Android Voice Search and control your phone by speaking. Unlike the Moto X, however, the command works only when the display is on and you're at your home screen. Or in the actual Google Search app.

In other words, the phone does not have the Moto X-like "always listening" functionality where you can issue a voice command anytime, even while the display is off, and cause the device to spring to life.

(And yes, there are third-party apps that promise to give you similar functionality -- but they tend to kill battery life, not work reliably well, and generally not give anywhere near the same level of experience as what the Moto X delivers with its hardware-level integration.)

5. The Nexus 5's camera has a new "true HDR" feature called HDR+.

Camera quality has traditionally been a sticking point with Nexus devices, and the Nexus 5 definitely aims to step things up in that department. Accompanying its 8-megapixel Optical Image Stabilization camera is a new software-oriented feature called HDR+.

In short, HDR+ silently and automatically snaps a handful of photos when you press the phone's shutter and then combines them all together to give you a single enhanced image. It's intended to improve photo quality particularly in low-light or high-contrast environments.

So there you have it: five noteworthy things about the new Nexus 5. Of course, the real question is how all the pieces come together in real-world use -- and that's what I'll be looking at closely over the next several days. Stick around for more detailed analysis of both the Nexus 5 and Google's new Android 4.4 KitKat release.

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In the meantime, for more on the software side of things, be sure to check out my complete Android 4.4 KitKat FAQ. And for the love of Goog, stop drooling already, would ya?

UPDATE: Nexus 5 deep-dive review: Does Google's new flagship phone deliver?

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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