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Google's next generation: Nexus 5, Android 4.4 KitKat, and more

Google chose October 31st, Halloween, to take the wraps off its new Nexus 5 smartphone and Android 4.4 KitKat, the latest version of its mobile operating system. Google's latest Android flagship phone starts at $349 off contract, and KitKat comes bundled with a litany of new features designed to appeal to high-end users, while furthering Android's growing reach in developing markets. But with so many powerful Android phones to choose from now, the extent of Nexus 5's success remains an open question.

  • Jun 13, 2014

    Vlad Savov

    Dear Google: don't screw up Android

    The history of Android has always been about more. From its inception with the T-Mobile G1 in 2008, Google’s mobile operating system has sought to compete by having more features, higher specs, and bigger devices than everyone else. Improving relentlessly with each new release, Android’s rise has produced excellent new phones but also many disappointed users who were either left on an old version of the software or bought a device that was never good enough in the first place. Late last year, Google sought to correct that by putting the brakes on and introducing Android 4.4 KitKat, an OS update that was about less.

    KitKat simplified the interface, reduced the minimum specs for a good user experience, and made it easier for Google’s partners to update their devices more rapidly. As a result, Android is now more inclusive and consistent than it’s ever been. But to rectify the fragmenting effects of Android’s constant evolution, Google had to pause that essential process. What happens when the L successor to KitKat debuts, most likely at Google I/O later this month?

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  • May 22, 2014

    Vlad Savov

    Moto E review: the people's smartphone

    The first cellphone I ever owned was the cute and compact Nokia 6510. My heart was actually set on the more expensive and slider-protected 8850, but a teenager’s budget could only stretch so far. The funny thing is that over the course of its lifetime, the handset I got served me exactly as well as my dream phone might have done. I made calls, sent and received texts, and played Snake II a lot. Those were the uncomplicated days of feature parity (mostly because phones just didn’t have all that many features to begin with). The premium handsets distinguished themselves with design, materials, and style, not with specs and performance.

    I've waited a long time to be able to say the same thing about smartphones. A cascade of technological evolutions at the start of this century set phone makers off on a breathless chase for the latest and greatest hardware spec and feature list. Bigger screens, more storage, faster processors, 3G and then 4G — the list of must-haves for a satisfying smartphone experience was growing every few months. It was all coming so quickly that by the time a desirable feature trickled down to an affordable level, it was already superseded and no longer so desirable. The bros with 5-megapixel cameras on their phones would mock the straggler with his 3-megapixel device.

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  • Chris Welch

    Nov 8, 2013

    Chris Welch

    Nexus 5 coming to T-Mobile November 14th for $449

    Nexus 5 1024px
    Nexus 5 1024px

    T-Mobile will launch sales of Google's Nexus 5 starting November 14th for $449.99. That's for web orders only, as in-store availability won't come until November 20th — almost a week later. For reference, Sprint began offering the Nexus 5 today both in store and online at the same price. Both carriers are selling the 16GB model, which lists for $349 on Google Play.

    Clearly Google's carrier partners aren't willing to sell the Android 4.4 handset quite that low. More than likely that's because their profit margin would be too low, or even nonexistent. It's widely believed that Google sells the Nexus 5 at or below cost, a strategy retailers obviously aren't keen on. Thankfully the $349 Nexus 5 from Google Play works perfectly on T-Mobile's network, assuming you're patient enough to endure current shipping times.

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  • Dieter Bohn

    Nov 5, 2013

    Dieter Bohn

    The Nexus 5 isn't pure Android, it's pure Google

    Nexus 5 1024px
    Nexus 5 1024px

    In this, the fifth year of Android's existence, we also have seen the release of the fifth Nexus phone — appropriately enough called the Nexus 5. Meanwhile, it's been two years since we saw the release of Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich — and since then we've only seen "point" updates, up to and including the latest, Android 4.4 KitKat.

    So for a long time now, we've found ourselves asking the two questions again and again: what exactly is Google trying to accomplish with the Nexus program and what's the strategy with these Android updates? We sat down with three of the four main leaders of the Android team to ask those questions yet again. "Nexus stands for high specs at a really fair price," says Hiroshi Lockheimer, vice president of engineering for Android. "The other thing is the updates come directly from Google. Those are the attributes of Nexus that I think people have really enjoyed and we're not changing that strategy."

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  • Google highlights the Nexus 5's camera in first commercial

    nexus 5 commercial
    nexus 5 commercial

    Google has released its first ad for the Nexus 5, and like many of its recent commercials, the spot is heavy on emotion and light on product. The ad begins with a woman activating Google Now by saying "Ok, Google," and then requesting it display her wedding photos. The minute-long spot spends the majority of its remaining time flipping through boisterous parties across the globe, every so often cutting in to show a Nexus 5 being used take photos or look through albums. The story may not be the strongest, but it's clear that Google is confident in the Nexus 5's camera — a sore spot for previous Nexus devices. Google has been trying to show a strong focus on photography as it adds more and more features to Google+, and this latest ad appears to be another step in strengthening that message.

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  • Nov 1, 2013

    Vlad Savov

    Nexus 5 vs. LG G2: see the difference

    Gallery Photo:
    Gallery Photo:

    As if weeks of extravagantly detailed leaks hadn't told you already, Google's new Nexus 5 handset is based on LG's excellent G2. A few of the specs have been trimmed down in the transition to a lower price point — most notably the smaller 2300mAh battery and lower-resolution 8-megapixel camera — but much of what makes the G2 such a compelling device has been retained. The display remains crisp, sharp, and wonderfully accurate, with awesomely deep blacks that are shown off by the Nexus bootup animation. The processor is still the top-notch Snapdragon 800, and you still get LTE connectivity as with LG's original.

    The biggest change, other than the Android KitKat heart beating within the new device, is in the aesthetics. Google's Nexus 5 opts for an austere matte cover and conventionally placed volume and power buttons on its shoulders. That's a marked departure from the glossy patterned back of the G2 and its centrally mounted physical keys. Many will consider the Nexus 5 look and feel an upgrade, though there's still enough about the G2 to attract power users to its more aggressively specced and designed chassis.

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  • Nov 1, 2013

    Vlad Savov

    Android 4.4 KitKat and Google's quest to take over the world

    Nexus 5 Google Now KitKat PRESS
    Nexus 5 Google Now KitKat PRESS

    "As we get on our journey to reach the next billion people, we want to do it on the latest version of Android." — Sundar Pichai

    At its root, Google’s Android platform has always been about growing the audience for the company’s services and thus expanding its core business of selling advertising space. Even if the Nexus 5 is a flagship, what matters more to Google in the long run is the size of the fleet behind it. You can see that motivation driving the development of Chrome OS and the Chrome browser itself, though nothing exemplifies it quite so well as the newly released Android 4.4 KitKat.

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  • Sean Hollister

    Oct 31, 2013

    Sean Hollister

    Every HTC One in North America will have Android KitKat within 90 days

    HTC One with Android 4.3
    HTC One with Android 4.3

    Google says that Android 4.4 will come to the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One Google Play Edition devices "in the coming weeks," but what if you bought your device from a cellular carrier instead? If you own an HTC One in North America, you should see an update within the next 90 days. In an interview with Engadget, HTC America president Jason Mackenzie committed to deliver the update to every HTC One device within that time period.

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  • Dan Seifert

    Oct 31, 2013

    Dan Seifert

    Google says the Galaxy Nexus will not be upgraded to Android 4.4 KitKat

    Galaxy Nexus Jelly Bean
    Galaxy Nexus Jelly Bean

    Google just announced Android 4.4 KitKat today, and along with a laundry list of new features, the new software is said to be more efficient than ever and able to run on a variety of older or lower end hardware. But that doesn't mean that Google will be bringing it to its older Nexus devices: the company confirmed today that the Galaxy Nexus will not be getting upgraded to Android 4.4.

    The Galaxy Nexus was released in the fall of 2011, making it just about two years old. Google's reasoning for not updating it is that it's just too old; the company is only committed to updating Nexus devices for 18 months after their release. Compare that to Apple, which offers the latest version of iOS on devices that may be up to three years old.

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  • Jacob Kastrenakes

    Oct 31, 2013

    Jacob Kastrenakes

    Family feud: is Google's Nexus 5 the best pure Android phone?

    NExus 5 lens
    NExus 5 lens

    When it was released last year, the Nexus 4 was one of the best Android smartphones around, aside from one glaring issue: it didn’t include LTE. Google has finally righted that wrong this year with the Nexus 5, and it’s overhauling the phone in a number of other big ways as well. But in a year where Google has already released stock versions of the most powerful Android phones around, and Google-owned Motorola has learned to stand out from the crowd, is a new Nexus able to hold its own in Google's all-star lineup?

    While the Nexus 5 is only $349 off contract, it’s far from being a "cheap" device. The first thing users will notice is that the Nexus 5 has the same 1920 x 1080 resolution that’s found on both the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One's Google Play editions. It display has also jumped up to a full five inches, which means it won’t be quite as sharp as the One, but will still be far sharper than 720p phones such as the Moto X.

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  • Nathan Ingraham

    Oct 31, 2013

    Nathan Ingraham

    Google releases pricy new 'bumper' cases and QuickCover for Nexus 5

    Gallery Photo: Nexus 5 hands-on photos
    Gallery Photo: Nexus 5 hands-on photos

    To go along with the just-introduced Nexus 5, Google and LG are offering up a few new cases for the flagship device. Rather than go with another bumper-style case like it did for the Nexus 4, Google is offering a full-protection case in black, red, grey, and yellow for $34.99. Confusingly, the company still calls it a bumper case, though it covers the back as well as the sides. Google says its made of a hard exterior and a soft rubber lining — we'll have to see how it works in practice, but there's no doubt its an expensive accessory.

    Even more expensive is LG's $49.99 QuickCover case — it's similar to the new bumper case but includes a front cover, as well. It's similar in design to Apple's full-protection iPad cases, and opening the front cover will automatically turn on and unlock the Nexus 5. Sadly, color options are limited to only black and white for this case. Perhaps the best feature of these two new cases is the fact that you don't need to remove them to work with Google's new, magnetic, wireless charging pad. While you will certainly be able to find cheaper cases, these are your official options, and they're on sale now in the Google Play store.

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  • Dieter Bohn

    Oct 31, 2013

    Dieter Bohn

    Google's Nexus 5 with KitKat available today, starting at $349: hands-on impressions

    Gallery Photo: Nexus 5 hands-on photos
    Gallery Photo: Nexus 5 hands-on photos

    Google's Nexus program has a simple goal: make the best, purest, most perfect Android phone. And, beginning with last year's Nexus 4, Google did all that at a remarkable price, charging with no strings attached what most carriers and manufacturers would charge with a two-year contract. The Nexus 4 had a few issues — its missing LTE support chief among them — but overall it was an excellent phone, a refined and usable example of Android's prowess and possibilities.

    That's why Google's new device, the Nexus 5, has been so remarkably hyped. It's been leaking for months, speculated about for much longer — and today Google's finally pulling the veil all the way back on the device that it hopes will show the world what Android can really do. The Nexus 5 is here.

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  • Dante D'Orazio

    Oct 31, 2013

    Dante D'Orazio

    Google Now and speech recognition get big updates in Android 4.4 KitKat

    Nexus 5 Google Now KitKat PRESS
    Nexus 5 Google Now KitKat PRESS

    Over the past year and a half Google's steadily added new features and cards to its predictive search assistant, Google Now. With Android 4.4 KitKat and the new Nexus 5, the company's taking the opportunity to upgrade Google Now and search on mobile with the goal of "bringing apps and the web together," as Android and Chrome OS chief Sundar Pichai said in a meeting with press today.

    Search has always been closely tied with Google Now, and it's receiving some much-appreciated attention today. Search results no longer ignore the apps on your phone. Google is now crawling through mobile apps to find their content and bring features directly to the fore, just like the company has done for years on the web. For example, a simple search for a restaurant will offer a link directly to that restaurant page in the OpenTable app if you have it installed, allowing you to set up a reservation. Or a recipe search will bring you to the result directly inside of the AllRecipes app — rather than the mediocre mobile website. Pichai says the new feature will be rolling out by mid-November with a select number of apps, and an API that will allow all developers to enable their apps will be available "in the coming months."

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  • Nathan Ingraham

    Oct 31, 2013

    Nathan Ingraham

    Google's Nexus 5 won't come to Verizon, but 'a set of projects for 2014' will

    Verizon 4G LTE (verge stock)
    Verizon 4G LTE (verge stock)

    Google and Verizon haven't had the closest relationship in recent years — the Verizon-specific Galaxy Nexus was held back by the carrier's long software review process, making it feel like a second-class citizen in the Nexus family. And, of course, the Nexus 4 didn't support LTE and only worked on GSM-based networks, leaving Verizon customers out in the cold. Unfortunately, that's still the case with Google's newest flagship: senior VP of Android Sundar Pichai told us that "the Nexus 5 will not be on Verizon." Somewhat surprisingly, the Nexus 5 will run on Sprint's network — the carrier is listed as one of Google's official retail partners, making the phone's lack of compatibility with Verizon a bit surprising.

    This comes after Google and Verizon locked horns earlier this year around the new Nexus 7 — Google showed off Verizon support for the tablet when it was announced at I/O 2013, but the carrier said it wasn't a supported device and refused to activate the tablet after it launched. Verizon then quickly said it would be supported "soon," but we haven't heard anything since.

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  • David Pierce

    Oct 31, 2013

    David Pierce

    Android 4.4 KitKat: Google's simpler, integrated operating system designed for every phone

    Gallery Photo: Nexus 5 hands-on photos
    Gallery Photo: Nexus 5 hands-on photos

    At its event in San Francisco, in the midst of flashing some new hardware, Google also unveiled version 4.4 of Android, the long-awaited KitKat. It's much more than a marketing gimmick, or an excuse to make limited-edition candy bars in Paris — it brings some real change to Android, and some much-awaited integration among Google services.

    Most immediately obvious are a handful of design tweaks to the OS, which make Android cleaner and simpler than ever before. The status and notification bar are now translucent, and they disappear completely when you're in a fullscreen app; there's less chrome across the entire OS, and more space on the Nexus 5's five-inch display for whatever you're doing. There's a new launcher, a new condensed version of Google's Roboto font, and a generally lighter and cleaner look to Android. It's not nearly as stark a change as iOS 7 was, and generally speaking KitKat still looks a lot like Jelly Bean, but the design directions feel very similar.

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