Apple iPhone 5s vs Google Nexus 5

Google's new Android standard bearer faces its arch iOS enemy in the Stuff smartphone arena. Who's your money on?

The Nexus 5 was this year's worst kept tech secret, but not even a torrent of photo and spec leaks could dampen our excitement at its Halloween launch

The iPhone 5s on the other hand has had more than a month’s head start on the shelves, waiting for its arch nemesis to roll up and face it in person.

Now that we've put both handsets through their paces in the Stuff reviews arena, it's time to throw them into the ring to see which one emerges victorious.

Metal vs Plastic

Apple iPhone 5s vs Google Nexus 5 - Metal vs Plastic 2Apple iPhone 5s vs Google Nexus 5 - Metal vs Plastic 3

LG has played it safe with the Nexus 5, ditching the glittery glass rear of last year’s Nexus 4 for a polycarbonate shell which is heavily based on the 2013 Google Nexus 7 model - right down to the over-sized rear camera disc and vertically stamped Nexus branding.

In sharp contrast to the slippery plastic of the Samsung Galaxy S4, the Nexus 5 has a matte, soft-touch finish which offers a decent amount of grip (although if you're choosing colours, be aware that the white N5 is a little smoother).

The Nexus 5’s volume and power buttons are made from ceramic too – a nice touch which adds to its overall feeling of solidity and we're fans of its unblemished, clean front which shows off nothing but screen. According to Stuff reviewer Sophie Charara, "Google has finally discovered cool".

Having said that, there's no getting around metal. The iPhone 5s will feel like a more premium device in your hands, thanks to its aluminium build, and its new crystal sapphire Touch ID Home button, encircled by stainless steel, oozes quality.

If you’re not tired of the iPhone 5s’ design, then its metal construction pips the Nexus 5 to the build quality post.

Winner: iPhone 5s

Screen

The Nexus 5 boasts a 4.95in full HD display, with a 1920 x 1080 resolution. And despite it being an inch bigger than the iPhone 5s' 1136 x 640 screen, its higher resolution means it's a little more pixel-packed, with 445ppi compared to the iPhone 5s' 326ppi. 

Its screen has a slightly cooler colour palette than the LG G2 and HTC One and viewing angles could be a bit better, but overall it's up there with the best full HD screens our eyes have ogled this year.

You can see the screen size difference between the Nexus 5 and iPhone 5s roughly demonstrated in the photo above, which shows off the 5.2in LG G2 (which the Nexus 5 is based on) next to the 4in iPhone 5s.

You won't really notice the difference between pixel density on both devices unless you go nose-to-screen, but for having a larger, higher-res display, we're giving this round to the Nexus 5.

Bump the screen size up Apple, and next year's round might swing the other way.

Winner: Nexus 5

Raw power

Apple makes huge claims for the iPhone 5s' new 64-bit A7, and its pride in the new silicon is entirely justified (even though the consensus that its 64-bit processor won't serve any truly useful benefits - besides Touch ID fingerprint encoding - for the time being).

Apple iPhone 5s vs Google Nexus 5

According to Anantech's in-depth benchmark tests, the iPhone 5s' A7 processor bests the Nexus 5's Snapdragon 800 processor across the board, demonstrating the raw power available for pushing pixels, gaming and running apps.

It's also worth remembering that the A7 processor is designed and optimised to work with Apple's own strictly controlled hardware, letting it squeeze out every last drop of efficiency and power available to it, and it shows. The iPhone 5s runs iOS 7 without a judder or hiccup in sight.

Numbers aren't everything however, and the Nexus 5 more than proves it by treating us to the fastest, smoothest, slickest Android experience we've ever seen, ploughing through the latest 3D games and multitasking apps like an eight-handed juggler.

Yes the Nexus 5 has 2GB of RAM in comparison to the iPhone 5s' 1GB. Yes the iPhone 5s' A7 processor has bigger, scarier looking numbers.

But and the end of the day, we've never seen iOS or Android run smoother than on these two smartphones.

Screw the numbers game. This one's a straight up draw.

Winner: Draw

More after the break...

Camera

While Android flagships like the LG G2 and Galaxy Note 3 are rocking 13MP cameras, the iPhone 5s sticks to its guns with an 8MP snapper. And it proves that megapixels are just a number.

Apple iPhone 5s vs Google Nexus 5

The iPhone 5s takes detailed, bright, punchy snaps with realistic colours, and its dual two-tone LED flash adjusts colour temperature in real time, producing more natural skin tones. The result is a smartphone camera which produces some of the best shots around.

The Nexus 5's 8MP camera boasts optical image stabilisation, which has proven itself in both the Nokia Lumia 1020 and LG G2 by producing clear shots with sharp details, even in low light conditions, and it's a feature that's lacking from its iPhone 5s rival.

But sadly, the Nexus 5's camera gets a "room for improvement" stamp on its report card. Shots have muted colours and we found that we had problems with exposing shots correctly. They're not terrible, but we were hoping for better, especially as the G2's camera built up our expectations

Google has stated that software tweaks are on the way to help improve the Nexus 5's camera performance, but for now the iPhone 5s easily wins this round.

Winner: iPhone 5s

OS Showdown

In tech years, Android vs iOS is a tale as old as time.

Apple iPhone 5s vs Google Nexus 5

Google's recently revealed Android KitKat 4.4 has had a few welcome nips and tucks, in more ways than one.

Apart from looking cleaner thanks to transparent status and home button bars, KitKat brings deeper Google Now integration and more intelligent voice search to the table, along with NFC mobile payments.

Google Now is just one swipe on the home screen away from providing intelligent search and relevant location-based information (including website suggestions), which coupled with the improved voice search turns the Nexus 5 into a brainy pocketable butler.

And of course, you can customise Android's appearance any way you see fit. No Jailbreaking required.

iOS 7 on the other hand offers a better curated App Store, Apple's ecosystem (which many people have heavily invested in) and, of course, the iPhone 5s' home button which can scan up to five fingerprints to unlock the device as well as pay for apps without entering annoying passwords every 10 minutes.

Ultimately though, Android 4.4 KitKat is so clever it manages to slide ahead of iOS 7. So much so in fact, that we crowned it the best smartphone OS in the world, which is why the Nexus 5 comes out on top in this scrap.

Check out our iOS 7 and Android KitKat 4.4 reviews for much more detail on each OS.

Winner: Nexus 5

Verdict

Both the iPhone 5s and Nexus 5 are top-notch devices with plenty going for them. The iPhone 5s' faster benchmark performance, longer talk time and premium metal build make it a winner on paper, but it can't compete with the Nexus 5's larger, more pixel-packed screen and super-intelligent Android 4.4 KitKat smarts.

Factor in the iPhone 5s' £550 price tag in comparison to the Nexus 5's superb £300 asking price, and it's a no brainer. Unless of course you're a devoted Apple/iOS fan, in which case your decision has already been made.

The Nexus 5 is almost the perfect Android device and can be yours for a price that's too tempting to pass up.

A worthy winner then, and an important W on Google's scoresheet, which is why it slots in above the iPhone 5s in third place on Stuff's Top 10 smartphone list.

Comments

Good Review. The one point where the Nexus 5 underperformed was on the camera focussing, but this was fixed last week with Android 4.4.2. It now has very fast focussing and the image stabaliser combined with HDR+ gives some great low light photos.

There's some very fanatical Apple fanbois in the comments above. When the facts change I change my mind. What do you do sir?

Where's your wireless charging? And NFC for mobile payments? As for 'premium' build my friend's iPhones looked all chipped and battered and looking tired, after only a few months of use. Apple put glass on the back near the edge, which smashes easily too. It doesn't look premium at all!

And then Apple charges over double the price for something that's not as good!

Who buys this stuff?

Ruggafella

Thank you for your comment. Much appreciated. I will stay with my iP5S. If i would be the person  whos all about customization i would wait for a Jailbreak! After the Jailbreak (to be released shortly for iOS 7) iPhones offers much, much more customization option than Android! The other main reason i wouldnt buy anythin running Android is the fact (as Steve Jobs use to said - and its a prooven fact) that Android its a STOLEN PRODUCT! And i dont like to support thiefs! so thanks but no thanks!

danny, you're far too upset by this.

The Nexus offers something completely different to the iPhone experience, and whereas previously, the android phones didn't have the power to match the experience offered by the inhouse software and hardware refining that Apple can offer, now the modern mid-high range phones are all powerful enough to run everything that Android can throw at it. That's deserving of praise.

In other ways, the Nexus has matched the iPhone experience and offers additional services that exceed it. It's more than a fair competition for it, and I would say that they are very fairly tied in terms of being given one in each hand. When you factor in that you can get the Nexus for half the price, and the rest of services the Nexus will offer you (via accessories or software) will be cheaper and more flexible, then I would consider that the clinching factor.

I accept your argument that there will be malware on android, just as there will be a much, much lower amount on iOS. It's the nature of the beast. One is more open, and you'll take the pros with the cons; the other is very much a walled garden which restricts malware and also choice. There are a number of very basic computer tasks that iOS cannot fulfil, whereas in android you have probably dozens of competing apps for free which will offer these. So yes, that is where the malware will slip in, but if you've grown up with a Windows PC you'll be well used to this. You read reviews; you do a general sense check of the program and its description; you run anti-malware on the software - there are a myriad of options out there to protect yourself from this malware.

You shouldn't be afraid to try new things. You may be cutting yourself off from a range of experiences that you needn't be.

That’s bizarre….. few days ago this comparison was putting iPhone above crappy Nexus 5 and now Nexus is praised….. hehe…. make up your mind….. Quality, Apps, OS, Camera, Hardware/Software optimization, Innovation - these are the fields where iPhone blows this peace of (malware) crap away and the only thing Nexus is good at is (maybe) the price and (maybe) TV sized screen for some…. unless the whole "SO CALLED customization" and Widget thing is a WOW factor then Nexus is better……..(really?)!!! more than 70% of apps in android world is full of malware anyway so to be perfectly honest this system is a one BIG joke!!!!!. I really don’t know what you were thinking when comparing overally beautifully crafted and smartly engineered iPhone with this TV sized plastic peace of...... full of features for features sake……. JOKE

no conclusion and typos, what a bad article!

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