NEW YORK – You don’t get a lot of frills with Google’s new Nexus 5 phone. There’s no fingerprint reader, no waterproof covering, no sensor to detect eye movement or hand gestures.
What you get is an Android phone that’s very good at the basics – for an excellent price.
The phone costs $349 and is sold unlocked, without any contract requirements. By contrast, contract-free prices for many top phones exceed $600. For significantly less, the Nexus 5 does a lot of the same things well.
The high-resolution screen on the Nexus is among the best, comparable to flagship phones from Samsung and HTC and sharper than the iPhone.
The display measures nearly 5 inches diagonally – on par with leading phones, yet not so big that it’s hard to hold and make calls. The camera isn’t superb, but takes decent shots. The Nexus also supports 4G LTE cellular networks.
And because it’s designed by Google, you are getting as close to a pure Android experience as you can get, without clutter or gimmicks that many phone makers add to distinguish their phones from rivals.
You’re also getting the latest: The Nexus is the first Android phone to offer version 4.4, known as Kit Kat. It could take weeks or months for other phones to get Kit Kat.
I only wish the Nexus was compatible with Verizon, but its network uses different technology. The Nexus works with just about every other U.S. carrier, as well as several in Europe.
The Google Now voice assistant takes center stage in the Nexus 5. The voice recognition technology seems better than before. I was surprised how well it picked up my commands in noisy environments.
Unlike the iPhone’s Siri voice assistant, Google Now tries to anticipate what you need and offer that before you even have to ask. It delivers information based on past search requests, Gmail traffic and other ways you use Google services. As for Kit Kat, the most useful improvement is its new phone dialer.
What you’ll probably notice first is the lack of a numeric keypad when you open it. Instead, you get boxes showing favorites, frequent contacts and recent or missed calls.
Meanwhile, I like the clean layout on the Nexus. Icons are larger, and extra home screens aren’t created unnecessarily by default. You create them as you need them by dragging an app to the right.
The price of the Nexus 5 makes it even more tempting to ditch phone contracts and the subsidies that typically lock you in.