Google's Nexus 5 smartphone arrives with Android 4.4 KitKat

Google has officially unveiled its latest Nexus handset. The Nexus 5 combines updated hardware with a new version of Android, and it's already available on the Google Play store. The 16GB version is priced at $349, while the 32GB model rings in at $399. Those are off-contract prices, by the way. For reference, the iPhone 5C 16GB is priced at $599 without a contract, and the 5S rings in at a whopping $720.

Despite its affordable price tag, the Nexus 5 looks very well equipped. As expected, it features a 5" screen—4.95" to be exact. The display resolution is 1920x1080, which works out to a sharp 445 PPI. IPS panel technology should ensure rich colors and wide viewing angles. Google says the screen has less glare, too.

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 SoC provides the horsepower. This quad-core chip has a peak frequency of 2.3GHz, and it includes Adreno 330 integrated graphics clocked at 450MHz. We don't have the chip's exact model number, but according to Wikipedia, similar silicon can be found in the Kindle Fire HDX and the LTE version of the Galaxy Note 3.

Speaking of LTE, the Nexus 5 supports 4G connectivity. It's also equipped with 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, and NFC. The eight-megapixel rear camera has been upgraded with optical image stabilization and a new lens with better low-light performance. HDR mode? Check. There's a front-facing shooter, too, plus an accelerometer, gyroscope, and all the other little sensors one might expect in a modern handset.

Unlike most smartphones, the Nexus 5 has wireless charging built right in. The 2300-mAh battery is rated for 17 hours of talk time and seven hours of LTE web browsing. There's a standard Micro USB port for wired charging, of course. Sadly, though, a microSD slot is nowhere to be found. That's par for the course for Nexus devices, but it's a disappointing omission nonetheless.

Google squeezes everything into a slim plastic body that's only a millimeter thicker than the iPhone 5S. At 130 grams, the Nexus 5 is marginally heavier than the 5S but slightly lighter than the 5C.

On the OS front, the Nexus 5 is loaded with Android 4.4, otherwise known as KitKat. Despite the handset's beefier hardware, KitKat is optimized for older devices. Google has trimmed Android's memory footprint by "removing unnecessary background services and reducing the memory consumption of features that you use all the time." Those optimization efforts have extended "across Google services like Chrome and YouTube," too. As a result, Android 4.4 apparently runs well on devices with as little as 512MB of RAM.

The leaner, meaner KitKat build brings updates to Android's phone app, which has expanded search functionality, and its Hangouts app, which now handles SMS messaging. There's a new "immersive mode" that appears to block out non-essential notifications and UI elements. It sounds like Google Now is more deeply integrated into the OS, too.

Android 4.4 will be released for the Nexus 4, 7, and 10 "in the coming weeks." The OS update is also coming to Google Play editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One. However, it's unclear how long it will take KitKat to trickle down to older Nexus devices. My Galaxy Nexus awaits, and I'm curious to see if it feels any faster with KitKat onboard.

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