Google (NASDAQ:GOOGL) finally took the wraps off its worst-kept secret. The Nexus 5 Android phone is here, and it's bound to be a hit. Not because it's a performance beast, but because it's a lot of smartphone for the money.
For those who care about hardcore tech specs, the Nexus 5 sports a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 800 processor from Qualcomm. It's a high-speed quad-core chip paired with the latest Adreno 330 graphics core, as well as two gigabytes of operating memory.
This is the same Snapdragon chip you'd find in the latest smartphones and tablets from Samsung and Sony, like Samsung's Galaxy S4, or the Sony Xperia Z1. Not a quantum leap over the competition, but fully competitive stuff.
Likewise, the Nexus 5 features wireless charging and the latest Gorilla Glass 3 screen cover from Corning. Neither feature is unique to this phone, but they're still up to par with the best you'll find in other flagship devices.
Built by Korean technology giant LG, the handset mirrors the existing LG G2 in many ways -- but not shot for shot. The G2 features a slightly larger screen (but with the same 1920 x 1080 full HD resolution), 62% more pixels in the main camera, and a 30% larger battery. The Nexus 5 is also crammed into a, shall we say, not-so-premium plastic body while some of its high-end Android peers sport machined metal and whatnot. So the Nexus 5 is not built to crush every other smartphone under the sheer weight of its technical and design prowess.
The real selling point
But the value equation does impress. The Nexus 5 starts at $349, full price for an unlocked phone you can take to pretty much any network you like without a contract-bound discount. The LG G2 may be slightly more upscale, but it sells for $600. The Galaxy S4? Another nearly $600 handset with slightly better specs. Sony's Xperia Z1 goes for $529, and the full price for a no-contract Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone 5C is $549.
So, in the grand old Nexus tradition, the Nexus 5 is comparable (but not soul-crushingly dominant) to recent high-end devices, but undercuts them all on the bottom line. The phone is cheaper than the aging iPhone 4 ($408), or even the Galaxy S2 ($336). Those are handsets with more than two years of history, and nearly three in the case of the Galaxy S2.
Google is betting that consumers might be willing to trade a slight performance-and-features edge for a nearly 50% discount. It worked before with the Nexus 7 tablet line, and I don't see why it wouldn't work again here.
Where can I get one?
At the time of writing, the Nexus 5 is available straight from Google at $349 or $399, depending on your storage capacity needs (sorry, no slot for external memory cards). Google also lists T-Mobile (NASDAQ:TMUS) as a launch-day retailer, but I don't think T-Mobile got the memo -- that link leads to a "page not found" error page.
Sprint joins the party "just in time for the holidays," alongside a variety of non-network retail stores. AT&T is currently not planning to sell the handset directly, but the Nexus 5 will work on AT&T's network. The only major American carrier whose 4G bands are not supported by the Nexus 5 is Verizon. Guess you can't catch them all.
We don't know how much the Nexus 5 will cost at T-Mobile, or whether any of the other major networks will apply discounts or special deals. But chances are, they'll all toe the official price line, and November 8 shipping date; assuming, of course, that LG can make enough handsets to meet the demand.
And that might be a challenge. Nice problem to have, though.