The battle between iOS (iPhone and iPad) and Android users is a bitter one and if there are two devices that symbolise supremacy for each side, it is the iPhone for the iOS and the Nexus series of phones for the Android. So you can imagine the levels to which the debate has risen (or descended, depending on how you look at it) when the latest flagships on both platforms - the iPhone 5s and the Nexus 5 were released in the Indian market within weeks of each other.
And seldom have there been such contrary devices. One costs in excess of Rs 50,000, while the other has surprised many by staying in the sub-Rs 30,000 category. One exudes class, the other prides itself on being a performer. Both claim to be the flagships of their respective platforms. But which actually works better? We decided to pit the Nexus 5 against the iPhone 5s and find out which flagship sailed better, notwithstanding the massive price gap between the two devices, which we are keeping aside for the most part.
Beauty and the Beast: Who’s got the look?
In terms of appearance, the iPhone 5s literally larrups the Nexus 5. Apple’s phones have always been strong on design and the 5s continues the tradition, even while sticking to the design of the iPhone 5. The iPhone 5s is like its predecessor a mix of metal and glass and is just 7.6 mm thick and weighs a mere 112 grammes. The Nexus 5 is not an eyesore, but unlike the nexus 4, which came with a classy (if scratch-prone) glass back, seems more run of the mill with its plastic back. It is definitely on the thin side at 8.5mm and is not heavy at 130 grammes. It does not look bad at all, but unlike the iPhone 5s, there is little chance of its turning heads when you plonk it on the table. Both devices, incidentally, are very solidly built.
The winner: iPhone 5s by a mile.
Between the covers: The hardware question
Beauty, however prized, is skin-deep, and this is true of handsets as well as humans. Fortunately, both the Nexus 5 and the iPhone 5s come packed with some very good hardware. While the Nexus 5 comes with a full HD 4.95 inch display with a 2.26 GhZ Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad core processor, the iPhone 5s comes with an A7 chip with 64-bit processing architecture and a 4.0-inch retina display that is nowhere near HD territory, and yet looks brilliant. Both phones come packed with connectivity options and sensors - the Nexus 5 edges out the iPhone 5s by having NFC, the iPhone 5s however compensates by actually having a chip that handles motion-based activities and a fingerprint scanner for security. When it comes to the camera, however, the iPhone 5s pulls away - its 8.0-megapixel shooter is far superior to the one on the Nexus 5, which comes in the good rather than the great category. Neither device has expandable memory.
The winner: We would call this a tie. Both devices come with very powerful hardware - geeks will love the quad core muscle and full HD display of the Nexus 5 while more mainstream users will love the camera of the 5s and the smooth operation powered by the 64-bit chip.
Soft touch: The interface
Be it the iPhone or the iPad, Apple’s iOS devices have always come with a reputation of being intuitive and easy to use, with just one home button below the display, and very few menus. The iPhone 5s continues this trend, even though with iOS 7, the OS has got a bit more complicated than in the past. We in particular love the way in which the fingerprint scanner has been implemented, ensuring security with minimum fuss. There are no themes to worry about and all apps are a scroll or button press away. Multi-tasking too has improved significantly. The Nexus 5 on the other hand, remains a device better suited for geeks. Yes, it runs Android Kit-Kat, which is a huge improvement over the previous version and comes with icons that are very easy on the eye, and offers far more flexibility in terms of customisation and appearance - you can change themes, fiddle with icons, have live wallpapers that change according to the time of the day, and so on - but is a bit more complicated to handle than iOS. However, if you have small hands, you will love the compact frame of the iPhone 5s more than the longer Nexus 5, which is not always easy to operate with one hand.
Winner: Another tie in our book. The iPhone 5s is indeed easier to handle, but the Nexus 5 provides far more flexibility to those willing to invest time in it.
Pursuit of Appiness: Who wins?
The best interface and the greatest hardware in the world is of little use if not backed up with a good app treasury, as the likes of Microsoft and BlackBerry are discovering. This is because apps allow you to do more with a device -be it editing MS Office documents, editing video or just identifying a song playing in a cafe. While iOS and Android might seem to be running each other close in this regard when it comes to the sheer quantity of apps in their app stores, we think the iPhone 5s has a clear edge in this regard when it comes to quality and security. There are simply too many bookmarks disguised as apps and extremely risque apps floating around in Google Play (the Android app market). iPhone 5s users will also have the advantage of having more apps that try to make the most of the phone’s hardware as compared to those using the Nexus 5, who might feel that they are driving a Ferrari on a village road!
Winner: The iPhone 5s.
Get in the ring: A matter of performance
Which brings us to the matter of performance, which in our book is how the two devices work across different tasks. When it comes to stuff like browsing, social networks and gaming, the two devices are almost on an even keel, delivering excellent performance. However, when multimedia comes into the picture, the iPhone 5s pulls away, courtesy its better audio quality and camera. When it comes to battery life too, the 5s is markedly superior to the Nexus 5, which honestly struggles in this department - you will get through a day on a single charge easily on an iPhone 5s but with a Nexus 5, you will be hard pressed to get through a day without at least one recharge.
Winner: The iPhone 5s
Bottom line blues: When on a tight budget...
We finally bring price into the equation. And the Nexus 5 totally takes out the iPhone 5s in this regard. As the previous parameters show, the iPhone 5s delivers a good dollop for the dollar it charges, but at Rs 53,500, it is definitely one of the most expensive handsets in the country. In contrast, the Nexus 5 is available for Rs 28,999, which is a staggering proposition, when you consider that it more than matches most Android flagships in most departments (multimedia are battery life are Achilles Heels, we concede). It is not as if the iPhone 5s is not a great performer - I would go out on a limb and call it the best smartphone I have ever used - it is just that if one’s budget is on the tighter side (blame the recession and inflation!), the Nexus 5 is perhaps the best high-performing smartphone one can get today in terms of sheer value for money.
Winner: The Nexus 5. Easily.
In conclusion: Who’s the smartphone champ?
All of which brings us to the conclusion of this battle of smartphone flagships - which of the two phones actually is the better one. Put price aside, and the 5s seems a comfortable winner, scoring heavily over the Nexus 5 in terms of apps, ease of use and multimedia. But why on earth would one keep price aside, especially in a market that is as budget-conscious as India? And that is where the Nexus will score heavily - it is a very very good proposition for anyone looking for a phone that performs on par with some of the best devices in the world and still costs less than Rs 30, 000. Yes, we would have liked a better camera and much better battery life on the Nexus 5, but it matches all its Android counterparts on other parameters (gaming, browsing, mail, social networks, navigation, et al) and comes with the added advantage of getting updates to the OS on time - a facility most Android devices do not have. The geek crowd will also scream that Android is more flexible and open than iOS, but we think that that is a bit of a double-edged sword as it lets a lot of sub-standard apps into the Android market - iOS still remains more secure and reliable, if restrictive, in terms of app quality. Still, if you are the type that likes to keep changing the look and feel of your device or cannot do without the latest Android edition on your phone, the Nexus 5 is as good as it gets.
In the end, it is, as with so many things in life, all about the money, if one has no strong loyalties. If you are in the market for a high quality smartphone and money is not an issue, go buy the iPhone 5s. If you cannot go beyond Rs 30,000, grab the Nexus 5. You are unlikely to be disappointed in either case.