It's becoming debatable whether other Android device manufacturers, building unique user interfaces, and including their own apps and content hubs, can actually improve on what Google is offering.
In the early days of Android, HTC's Sense and Samsung's TouchWiz added important features. With Android 4.4 KitKat it's tough to find areas where the platform is lacking. Let's take a look at how the Nexus 5 compares.
The HTC One is getting on a bit in smartphone years, but no other Android device can match it on style. The gorgeous design includes a stunning display with an even higher 468ppi screen than the Nexus 5, and dual speakers with BoomSound cement its credentials as a party phone.
A far superior CPU, and the latest flavour of Android speak in favour of the Nexus 5, but the rest of the spec sheet looks remarkably similar. They've both got 2GB of RAM and 2,300mAh batteries, and neither of them packs a microSD card.
The HTC One shrugged off the megapixel arms race with an ultrapixel camera, but it is a great performer, and the software options add some value that's lacking in the Nexus 5. The One also boasts a 2.1MP front-facing camera compared to the 1.3MP effort in the Nexus 5 which might factor in for selfie addicts.
The real question is whether you're willing to lay down another £100 for it. Taking into account the speed boost that the Nexus 5 offers and its place at the top of the Android queue, that additional cost looks hard to justify.
- You can wrestle with the decision further by reading our HTC One review.
A close relation
The G2, a predecessor to the Nexus 5, signalled LG's renewed efforts to crack the premium end of the Android smartphone market. The South Korean manufacturer has been aligning its various technology wings and focussing on producing cutting edge mobile hardware, and the results so far have been good.
An unusual design, with power and volume buttons on the back under the camera module, stirred up some attention. When we look at the specs, we can see the G2 is similar to the Nexus 5 with the same processor, 2GB of RAM, and the same choice of 16GB or 32GB versions, with no microSD card expansion offered.
There's a slightly larger screen on the G2, at 5.2 inches, and both cameras offer higher megapixel counts at 2.1 and 13 respectively. Perhaps most important of all, the battery is much bigger at 3,000mAh compared to 2,300mAh for the Nexus 5.
I don't think too many people would argue that the LG G2 is better looking, the button placement is strange, and the LG UI does not compare favourably to stock Android on the Nexus 5.
However, if you're concerned about the camera and battery life of the Nexus 5, then the LG G2 is a perfect compromise and it doesn't cost a great deal more.
- Check out our LG G2 review for more details.
A Galaxy of Samsungs
A straight comparison between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Nexus 5 is muddied by the fact there are several different models of the S4 out there. Even just looking at the flagship S4 and discounting the Active, the Mini, the Zoom and the Google Edition, there are variants with Samsung's octa-core Exynos 5, the Snapdragon 600 processor, and the same Snapdragon 800 that's in the Nexus 5.
It's worth noting that for Geekbench 3 benchmarks the Nexus 5 beats them all with its multi-core score, even the S4 with the same processor.
Looking beyond the raw power, there are definitely things to recommend the Galaxy S4. It has a Super AMOLED display that's really bright and vibrant, plus it has a microSD card slot to expand the 16GB, 32GB or 64GB on-board storage.
It also has a solid 2MP front-facing camera, and a 13MP main shooter. The battery is also a touch bigger at 2,600mAh, but Samsung squeezes more out of it than the 300mAh difference might suggest.
The most obvious difference is actually the software. The S4 is packed with additional apps and Samsung's TouchWiz UI. The clean UI of the Nexus 5 feels sparse next to the S4, but it's easy to see why some people feel it's cluttered. Samsung's replacements for Google apps are simply not as good right now, but one man's bloatware is another man's favourite gimmick, and you might find value in air gestures and S Health.
At its original high price tag it would be very hard to recommend the S4 over the Nexus 5, and I prefer the feel of Google's flagship. Even with the price reduction, there's still a sizeable £120 gap between the two.
- Find out if you can see the extra value in our Samsung Galaxy S4 review.
Don't upset the Apple cart
You could definitely argue that the Nexus 5 is the ultimate Android answer to the iPhone 5S. It is the most coherent Android smartphone on the market. There are no conflicts. It is as close as you can get to Google's version of Apple's walled garden.
It also manages to feel more minimalist than the iPhone 5S, and there's very little between them when it comes to accessibility or ease of use. The mud traditionally slung at Android from the parapets of competing platforms like iOS 7 simply can't stick to the Nexus 5.
Considering that the 16GB model of the iPhone 5S is very nearly double the price of the 16GB Nexus 5 you're going to want some compelling reasons for that discrepancy.
The iPhone 5S is a lot more compact, but the screen is far smaller at 4 inches. Not only does the Nexus 5 have a bigger screen, but it's also full HD 1080p. On the flip side, that smaller display is one of the reasons that the iPhone 5S has superior battery life and weighs in at 18g less.
Speed-wise the Nexus 5 wins the raw power, multi-core race, but Apple always gets better performance out of the hardware than the naked specs would suggest. This is evident in the 8MP camera, which is easier to use and undeniably gets better results on the iPhone 5S. The Nexus 5 has OIS, but the iPhone 5S supports slow motion video.
Build quality on the iPhone 5S is high, and the fingerprint sensor is a really nifty inclusion that's hard not to like, as it marries security and convenience.
The Nexus 5 has support for NFC and wireless charging, which are both lacking in the iPhone 5S, but there are no missing features on either side that many people would call deal breakers.
If money is no object and you don't mind a smaller screen then the iPhone 5S might be for you, but the Nexus 5 is far better value.
- Check out our iPhone 5S review for more.