Google’s flagship product, the Nexus 5, hit the market recently. The smartphone is designed entirely by Google and manufactured by LG and it’s the first smartphone to feature Android KitKat. But all that recedes to the background in the face of an important question: how does it stack up with iPhone 5s?

Thankfully, neither Apple nor Google have been at each other’s throats in their marketing campaigns (unlike, say Nokia, Samsung or Microsoft) and both the smartphones – the Nexus 5 and iPhone 5s – have not been projected as competitors. But they are.

Nexus 5 is a slight upgrade to Nexus 4. It’s a wee bit bigger and has some core features tweaked to provide some performance upgrades that should go down well with Android KitKat. Against the iPhone 5s, Nexus 5 can sound both inferior and superior depending on the point of view and the feature in question.

iPhone 5s vs Nexus 5

We’re primarily focused on the experience so those are the features we’ll be taking a look at. Here’s what we compare:

  • Display, screen sizes
  • OS, apps
  • Camera and sensors
  • Hardware-related features
  • Memory, RAM, core processors and performance

The Nexus 5 comes with a True HD IPS capacitive touch screen. A resolution of 1080x1920p makes it far more powerful than iPhone 5s’s 640x1136p. And about that retina thing? Well, Nexus 5 blows it out. The iPhone 5s has a pixel density of 326ppi. Stacking that with Nexus 5’s 445ppi, we know where things stand in the game that Apple started with iPhone 4.

But talking about experience, the iPhone 5s should perform as good as the Nexus 5 (if not better). One of the reasons is that beyond the Retina level (about 300ppi), our eyes aren’t really that good at distinguishing individual pixels so stacking up more pixels will not be a vast difference at these screen sizes.

Talking about screen size, the Nexus 5 gets you a 4.95” display to work on. Despite being fans of the iPhone clan, we know how good it feels to have a larger screen. No matter how good Apple’s marketing material makes a 4” standard sound, the average seems to have grown to 4.5″. Nexus 5’s 4.95″ is a real treat to work on.

I try to avoid the iOS vs. Android debate for obvious reasons but software makes up a large part of the smartphone experience and so this is inevitable. The iPhone 5s runs iOS 7.x while the Nexus 5 runs Android 4.4 (dubbed KitKat). I’ll safely avoid speaking about the pros and cons of each mobile operating system but the thing is, both these devices run the most updated version of the firmware that the companies are working on. I think it’s safe to point out that iOS 7 is minimalistic not just in looks but also features while Android KitKat is, while being minimalist, brimming with a lot of features.

One thing to note is that the Nexus 5 comes with pure Android KitKat unlike mobile phones from HTC, Samsung and others that ship with a custom, modified version of the stock ROM.

It is generally accepted that app-quality in iOS 7 (and app performance) is better and stabler than on Android. Much of this can be attributed to the strict guidelines and quality testing at Apple – which is often called a walled garden for pretty much the same reason.

Here’s where the real thing shows up.

The Nexus 5 has a pretty good camera: 8 MP, optical image stabilization, photo sphere, full HD video recording at 30fps and a few other routine features. Against the iPhone 5s, though, it fails.

Amongst the many improvements that Apple did to the iPhone, camera and sensors were nothing short of spectacular. The camera is still 8 MP but the sensors have been tweaked which results in better-resolution of images. In fact, iPhone 5s takes the already-leading-in-smartphone-photography credo higher. The iPhone 5s also brings 120fps which helps in producing truly spectacular slow-motion videos. That’s something you won’t get in Nexus 5.

The iPhone 5s focuses more on the front-facing camera for the very reason that Apple runs FaceTime technology. The Nexus 5 has a 1.3MP front-camera but it’s the standard thing.

Well, TouchID. iPhone 5s has set some more wheels in motion by trying to make fingerprint security for smartphones mainstream. You won’t find that on Nexus 5. But coming from the Google garage, Nexus 5 features NFC which Apple has not yet mastered.

Commercially, iPhone 5s’s TouchID fingerprint security system is far more lucrative and attractive than Nexus 5’s NFC. That is a strategic thing because much more than the NFC, it’s the TouchID that you will be using everyday.

And everyone that has been using the iPhone 5s with TouchID has had a fantastic experience.

The Nexus 5 comes in a 16GB and a 32GB variant. Like the iPhone 5s, no external memory card option. But unlike the iPhone 5s which hosts only 1GB of RAM (DDR3, though), Nexus 5 features a 2GB RAM. Also impressive is the quad-core 2.3GHz processor which outperforms the dual-core A7 that powers iPhone 5s.

No matter all the fancy things said about A7 (and M7) and the 64-bit thing, the Nexus 5’s processors is good and even better in comparison. Only, how it integrates with the software and pushes the limits will define the overall user experience. iPhone 5s has, so far, been very successful in the integration.

The Nexus 5 16GB costs $349 and 32GB costs $399.
Compare that to iPhone 5s 16GB’s $649 and 32 GB’s $749.

Here’s a iPhone 5s vs. Nexus 5 comparison chart:


iPhone 5s

Nexus 5


LED-backlit IPS, LCD touch


326 ppi pixel density

Gorilla Glass

True HD IPS Capacitive Touch


445 ppi pixel density

Gorilla Glass 3


8 MP, 1.5 µm pixel size (enhanced resolution)
720p @ 120fps Slo-mo
1080p HD video 30fps

1.2 MP FaceTime camera

8 MP, optical image stabilization

1080p HD @ 30fps

1.3 MP front-camera


7.6mm thickness

8.6mm thickness


16/32/64 GB Internal

16/32GB Internal





Dual-core 1.3 GHz ARMv8
A7, 64-bit ARM

Quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400



PowerVR G6430

Adreno 330



10h talk-time / 250h standby


iOS 7

Android KitKat (v4.4)


TouchID fingerprint sensor
Slo-mo video

Google services integrated

Non-contract Price

$649 – $849

$349 – $399