The Verge's Nexus 5 review frustrates me

Look, I don't want to come across as yet another crazed fanboy screaming about The Verge's alleged "bias" against Android. For the record: I don't think that The Verge is biased! It seems to me that a lot of Verge writers (including, notably, Joshua Topolsky) are actually Android fans. But they're also discerning critics with high standards. They want the Nexus 5 to be the world's greatest phone, and they're upset that it doesn't have the world's greatest camera. Fair enough! I'm not impugning their motives.

But - I have a philosophical problem with their review. The Verge seems to have made a deliberate, explicitly-stated decision not to take the Nexus 5's price into account in its review. The logic is that the Nexus 5 "feels" like a high-end phone, and so therefore it must be reviewed as a high-end phone, compared only to other high-end phones, and attacked when it is found wanting relative to high-end phones, even if it isn't priced like a high-end phone. This paragraph sums up Joshua Topolsky's view:

I also don't agree (as some will argue) that a "good enough" camera is acceptable for Google's flagship smartphone, and I don't think the company feels that way either. Yes, the price point is low on this phone, but not low compared with on-contract phones (which the majority of consumers purchase), and nothing else about the Nexus 5 feels cheap. Google intends for this phone to be pitted against the best that Apple has to offer, and I doubt anyone at the company would tell you they’re pleased that the camera doesn’t stand out.


And I don't just mean a nice, okay, swell, good, decent, better-than-the-last-one phone. I mean a phone that stacks up against the iPhone 5S, Galaxy S4, HTC One, or Lumia 1020.

This mentality just seems crazy to me.

Compare this to the standards used in most car magazines. When reviewing a car, it is generally compared to other cars in the same price range. If you you're testing a Honda Civic, you compare it to something like a Toyota Corolla. If you're testing a Mercedes-Benz S-Class, you compare it to a BMW 7-Series. Etc. You don't compare the Civic to the S-Class, and then slam it for not being as good.

What other smartphones are comparable with the Nexus 5 in terms of price? Well, I searched the Best Buy website, and apparently you can buy a Galaxy S3 Mini for $369. Coincidentally, my father has an S3 Mini, and I have a Nexus 4. I can say without a shadow of a doubt that the the year-old Nexus 4 destroys the S3 Mini on every possible metric you could think of - and the Nexus 5 is surely even better. Alternatively, if you prefer to look at the iOS-running competition, then Apple sells the 8gb iPhone 4S for $450. While iOS vs Android is a matter of subjective preference, I think it's fair to say that the brand-new Nexus 5 is objectively superior to the two-year old iPhone 4S, while being $100 cheaper.

To return to my car analogy - imagine that Honda brought out a new version of the Civic that was 90% as good as the S-Class or the 7-Series, and was utterly superior to any other car in its price range, yet still cost the same as the old model Civic. Would people review it by saying "this car sucks, why can't it be 100% as good as the S-Class?" I think they would they be saying something more like: "Holy crap - this is the best value proposition we have EVER SEEN IN A CAR!"

That's the Nexus 5 in a nutshell. Any fair analysis would say that value proposition is off-the-charts amazing. It has a great software experience, ridiculously fast specs, great build quality, great industrial design, and a fantastic display. You could run a completely fair and accurate Nexus 5 review that says: "This is literally the greatest mid-range phone of all time. It kills all other mid-range phones and eats their babies. It's such a great mid-range phone that it obviates the need to buy a flagship phone, unless you absolutely must have the best camera."

Instead, The Verge ran a review that said, in effect: "We compared this $349 phone to a bunch of $700 phones and found the camera lacking." There's nothing inaccurate in this review. I'm just not sure it's the fairest way to spin the story.