Interface and Functionality

Featuring the newest version of the Android OS, 4.4 KitKat, the Nexus 5 offers a stock user experience, free from any manufacturer bloatware. There's no TouchWiz, no Sense, no nothing. It's just the new Google Experience launcher, which brings a fresher look to the Android UI. Default colors are slightly brighter, icons are bigger, fonts are different... On the whole, nothing has been radically altered from the Jelly Bean reality that we know and enjoy, but things just seem to look better and more mature, thanks to Google's touches here and there.

With Android 4.4 KitKat, Google is putting even more emphasis on its Google Now service, which has now expanded to the homescreen itself, by conquering its leftmost page. Thankfully, it can be removed from there, while the good old way of calling the voice assistant — by an upwards swipe — is still available. Finally, you can also invoke Google Now at any time from the homescreen by saying the magical words “OK, Google.”

Android 4.4 has also brought a new dialer app, which now allows you to search for contact information of local businesses, in addition to the contacts in your own phonebook, which we find quite convenient. Other tweaks of various sizes can be found all over the place. There's a new setting to let you manage your launchers more easily, the QuickOffice productivity suite is installed by default, and we'd be remiss if we don't mention the updated Hangouts app, which is the new one-stop shop for all of your messaging needs. The downside here is that it doesn't merge messaging threads with the same people that are carried through different services. For example, if you've messaged your wife using both SMS and Hangouts, those will be kept as to separate conversation threads.

Moving on to the iPhone 5s' iOS 7.0.3, we're immediately greeted by the almost suspiciously bright and cheerful colors of the user interface. Beneath the new, flat icons and fancy blur effects, though, one can find the same platform that has always defined the super-intuitive experience with an iPhone. Yes, there are still no homescreen widgets, and yes, it's still impossible to access the file system and upload or download files freely, but it's really easy to use, and can actually do most of the things one can think of. In that line of thought, iOS users aren't really sacrificing functionality for simplicity.

These observation are especially true with iOS 7, which has added much-needed features such as a more functional notification center, as well as the control center menu that let's you access frequently used settings in a quick and hassle-free manner. What's more, there are now true multitasking capabilities baked into the platform, as well as a smarter Siri personal assistant.

We also have to mention the still-unsurpassed response times with the iPhone 5s and iOS. Not that Android is laggy or anything on the Nexus 5, but so far, we haven't seen a phone that is so instantaneous with its response to our touches.

Processor and Memory

Equipped with the cutting-edge Snapdragon 800 chipset, the Nexus 5 doesn't have anything to fear in the performance department. This beast of an SoC boasts a quad-core Krait 400 CPU, clocked at 2.3 GHz, as well as the powerful Adreno 330 GPU. On the other hand, the iPhone 5s doesn't seem to be in the mood for losing this one, as it's powered by the state-of-the-art A7 chipset. Being the first to adopt a 64-bit architecture, there's a dual-core Cyclone CPU inside that's ticking at a clock-rate of 1.3 GHz. While this piece of silicon may seem considerably slower in comparison to the Snapdragon 800's Krait CPU on paper, it's worth noting that when we're doing a cross-platform performance comparison (such as this one), the internals aren't the only factor that has to be taken into account, as software optimizations are equally important. That said, the iPhone 5s is a true speed demon, and when you take into account its PowerVR G6430 graphics chip, the result is a phone that never lags or stutters.

There are the healthy 2 gigs of RAM in the Google Nexus 5. That's still a very good amount for an Android phone, so users aren't expected to experience any significant slow-downs related to system memory. Meanwhile, there's 1 GB RAM in the Apple iPhone 5s, which seems to be just enough to guarantee a smooth experience.

Internal storage configurations for the iPhone 5s are 16 GB, 32 GB or 64 GB, whereas the Nexus 5 comes with 16 GB or 32 GB memory. Sadly, microSD memory expansion isn't supported by these smartphones, so you have to make your choice carefully when deciding which variant to pick up.

Sunspider Lower is better
Google Nexus 5 723.9
Apple iPhone 5s 415.7
Basemark X on-screen Higher is better
Google Nexus 5 17.342
Apple iPhone 5s 27.685
GFXBench Fill Rate off-screen Higher is better
Google Nexus 5 1361
Apple iPhone 5s 3317.1
GFXBench T-Rex HD off-screen Higher is better
Google Nexus 5 21
Apple iPhone 5s 23
GFXBench T-Rex HD on-screen Higher is better
Google Nexus 5 23
Apple iPhone 5s 35
Mozilla Kraken Lower is better
Google Nexus 5 8871.7
Apple iPhone 5s 5931.8

Messaging and Organizer

The iPhone 5s features a great on-screen QWERTY keyboard that makes typing surprisingly easy on a 4” screen, and that's valid for both the portrait and landscape views. That said, it's true that the keyboard isn't customizable and lacks some additional goodies such as support for swipe-based typing.

Meanwhile on the Nexus 5, you can pretty much do whatever you want with the on-screen keyboard, including the ability to install numerous third-party ones – and those come in all shapes and sizes. The design of the stock keyboard is quite good, and thanks to the generous screen space, the keys are big enough to be comfortably pressed. Without a doubt, the Nexus 5 has the more versatile keyboard

As we already mentioned, Google has done something smart with the Hangouts app by integrating it with the SMS and MMS features of the phone, although the execution hasn't really been flawless, due to the app keeping your IM and SMS threads separate when chatting with the same contact. This is the place to point out that Apple already had this type of integrated messaging built-in since iOS 5 with its iMessage. Moreover, this issue that's now present with Google's Hangouts has never been present on Apple's platform.

We have no complaints about the stock calendar applications of both handsets – they are both quite robust and polished. If you happen to be a Google Calendar user, that wouldn't be a problem on the iPhone 5s, as it can easily sync with your Google account, which can include the following components: Mail, Contacts, Calendars and Notes.

The stock apps in iOS 7 are mostly simplistic, yet effective in helping you keep an organized lifestyle. In that respect, Android 4.4 proves to provide users with more flexibility — especially through the use of homescreen widgets — but it also complicates things a bit. In short, it's a matter of simplicity versus versatility, as far as the stock experience with these platforms is concerned. Of course, you can always get more advanced third-party organizer apps for stuff like note-taking, weather, or task management on iOS, but it's somewhat questionable if you can find iOS-simple apps on Android.

Internet and Connectivity

Both the Nexus 5 and iPhone 5s are lovely devices to browse the web on. Once again, the iPhone's Safari browser is the more streamlined of the two, and it offers the faster/smoother experience. Its new tabs view is very similar to that of Chrome, while the Reading List feature can prove to be quite useful if you happen to own multiple Apple devices. The Nexus 5's Chrome browser is also very capable and fast, and if you happen to be a Chrome user on other devices, the syncing functionality may be of great benefit. Of course, you can also get Chrome on the iPhone 5s in order to gain access to a more Google-style web browsing.

Being 4G LTE-enabled, browsing and any other type of activities involving data transfers can be blazing-fast with both phones, as long as your carrier has an LTE network in your area. In case it doesn't, well, there's always HSPA+ compatibility to enable 42.2 Mbit's download, and 5.76 Mbit/s upload speed.

The latest Wi-Fi protocols and Bluetooth 4.0 are supported by both handsets, but the Nexus 5 steps things up with NFC.

Neither handset comes with offline mapping or navigation capabilities. However, they both feature free turn-by-turn navigation, as long as you have a connection to the internet. There's still quite a lot of room for improvement for Apple's stock Maps app, but thankfully, you can install Google Maps on the iPhone 5s and have the same excellent mapping experience as on the Nexus 5.

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