Nexus 5 vs. Samsung Galaxy S4: What to Expect

In the next few weeks, Google will announce at least one brand new Nexus smartphone, a device from LG that is currently being called the Nexus 5. The device will replace the Nexus 4 and it will come to compete against the best-of-the-best, a list that includes the HTC One, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and iPhone 5s. It will also be taking on the Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung’s current flagship, and a device that remains one of the top Android options on the market.

In April, after months and months of rumor and speculation, Samsung released the Galaxy S4, the truth successor to the Galaxy S3, and a device that joined the Galaxy Note 2 as the company’s go-to smartphone option. As expected, the Galaxy S4 arrived with powerful hardware to match its powerful software and the device, thanks to a widespread launch, instantly became one of the best Android options on the market.

Months later, the Samsung Galaxy S4 remains one of the best Android smartphone options thanks to software that will be getting improved, hardware that has stayed relevant, and a declining price tag. In the next few weeks, the Samsung Galaxy S4 will see another serious rival touch down, this one straight from Google itself.

For much of 2013, the Samsung Galaxy S4 was competing against the Nexus 4, Google’s now discontinued Nexus smartphone that beckoned consumers with an inexpensive unlocked price tag, fantastic software and high-powered hardware. In just a few weeks, consumers across the world, including the United States, will come face-to-face with the Nexus 4′s successor, a device that is currently called the Nexus 5.

For weeks now, Nexus 5 rumors have swirled. And while Google hasn’t yet announced the Nexus 5, we know a great deal about the device and what to expect from its hardware, software and even its release date. Armed with that information, here is a look at what to expect from the match up between Google’s new Nexus 5 from LG and the Samsung Galaxy S4.

Release Date

The Samsung Galaxy S4 has been out on shelves since April. While it’s getting older, the device remains a solid choice for smartphone shoppers all over the globe as it not only features hardware that will stand up to the tests of time, but it also will be getting software updates for the foreseeable future. Samsung does a good job of keeping its flagship devices updated throughout a contract so even though the Galaxy S4 is old and a Galaxy S5 is rumored for March, the Galaxy S4 is still a good buy.

Android 4.4 KitKat will apparently be coming in October.

Android 4.4 KitKat will apparently be coming in October.

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Soon, it will be challenged by a new Nexus, a device that is currently called Nexus 5 and could ultimately wind up being called Nexus 4 (2013) just like the Nexus 7 from Asus. Rumors point to an arrival at some point during the month of October with leaks pointing to a possible launch in late October. There are whispers that suggest that the device could potentially start shipping in late October as well which could mean a release date in just a few weeks.

With the Nexus 7, we saw Google moved swiftly to a release date. In fact, the Nexus 7′s release date this year actually landed a few days earlier than the announced date in the United States. Perhaps Google is trying to move fast with the Nexus 5 as well. We do know that the device is ready to go, thanks to FCC filings and thanks to a user manual that leaked out over the weekend so this is not out of the question.

While a specific release date isn’t know just yet, it’s clear that it will be coming sometime in the next few weeks which means that those interested in the Galaxy S4 would be wise to wait a few weeks for Google to show off what it has up its sleeve. Remember, there are also rumors of a Motorola Nexus that isn’t like the Moto X.

Design

For years, Samsung has been inundated with pleas for a design change with its Galaxy S series. While competitors like Apple and HTC have launched premium designs for their flagship smartphones, Samsung has continued to release devices made of polycarbonate plastic material. The Galaxy S4 was the latest device to receive this kind of treatment. And while plastic may not be as nice as metal, the Galaxy S4 design is still sleek and durable.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 design may be plastic but the material is much nicer than the material found on the Galaxy S3. Samsung also managed to slim the Galaxy S4 down as it’s both thinner, and lighter, than the Galaxy S3. Samsung’s plastic design also means that buyers have access to a removable back, something that allows for wireless charging and the use of an extended battery, and a microSD card slot for expanded storage. Users who own the 32GB Galaxy S4 can expand up to 96GB of space.

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Those hoping for a metal Nexus 5 should temper their expectations as leaks point to a device that uses build materials similar to the Nexus 7. From the look of things, the Nexus 5 will be using plastic in the front with a black matte backing that is reminiscent of devices like the Nexus 7 and the Droid DNA from HTC. It will certainly not have the glass back that the Nexus 4 had.

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Leaks suggest that it will not have a microSD card slot, which means that owners will be stuck with 16GB or 32GB and the cloud and it likely doesn’t have a removable back. It likely will have wireless charging on board however.

We’re still not sure about the exact dimensions of the Nexus 5 though given its size, it’s said to have a 5-inch display like the Galaxy S4, and the fact that Google worked to slim down the Nexus 7, it could be that its dimensions could rival the Galaxy S4′s 7.9mm frame.

Display

This year has been all about the 1080p display so it was no surprise when the Galaxy S4 emerged with a 5-inch 1080p display in April. The display offers some of the best looking content around and it’s a big reason why the Galaxy S4 remains one of the best devices on the market. Unfortunately, for those that are on the fence with these two devices, the Nexus 5 likely won’t offer any major differences.

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Leaks suggest that it too will carry a near 5-inch display with 1080p resolution and a high pixel-per-inch count that should put it on par with the display found on the Galaxy S4. There might be slight differences but overall, we expect the Nexus 5 5-inch display to match up well with the Galaxy S4′s 5-inch display.

Specs

As for the rest of the specifications, it’s looking like the Nexus 5 will be coming with powerful specs that should give the Galaxy S4 a run for its money. In particular, the Nexus 5 is likely going to be running a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor as opposed to the Snapdragon 600 found in the Galaxy S4. This should help it deliver more horsepower in places like gaming and battery life.

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Speaking of battery life, the Nexus 5 is expected to have a 2,300 mAh battery, up from the Nexus 4 battery, but smaller than the 2,600 mAh battery found in the Galaxy S4. Even with the difference, we don’t expect the Galaxy S4 to blow the Nexus 5 out of the water when it comes to overall battery life.

The Samsung Galaxy S4 comes with a 13MP camera that shoots solid photos and video and is even capable of taking great photos in low-light environments. The camera isn’t best-in-class, but it does get the job done. The Nexus 5 camera will be 8MP it seems but rumors suggest that it will feature OIS (optical image stabilization) which should minimize the shakiness with videos. The Galaxy S4 does not have this feature.

Software

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is currently using Android 4.2 Jelly Bean with Samsung’s TouchWiz UI over the top. The software is more Samsung than Google and the manufacturer’s fingerprints can be found everywhere. Samsung has introduced several new features including Smart Scroll, which allows users to scroll around using their eyes and a feature called Air View which uses sensors embedded inside the Galaxy S4 and allows users to hover their finger over content to get a preview.

Samsung will upgrading the Galaxy S4 with Android 4.3 Jelly Bean sometime this month which should not only bring Android 4.3 features but some TouchWiz tweaks as well. Updates for the Galaxy S4 will come reasonably fast but they simply won’t come as fast as Nexus 5 updates. In fact, the Nexus 5 software is going to be vastly different than the software found on the Galaxy S4.

The Nexus 5 is a Nexus smartphone which means it will come with pure Android software. That means that it will be untouched by LG and will feature Google’s version of Android. That means that it will have a stock camera application, not Samsung’s, and it means that it won’t have Air View or Smart Scroll either. What it will have on board is Android 4.4 KitKat, Google’s new Android update that it announced in early September.

Android 4.4 KitKat is expected to touchdown with a new Nexus 5.

Android 4.4 KitKat is expected to touchdown with a new Nexus 5.

It will have Android 4.4 KitKat before the Galaxy S4 and it will get future Android updates faster than the Galaxy S4 as well. The Nexus 5 will receive its updates straight from Google, one of the benefits of a Nexus smartphone.

Carriers

One of the most appealing things about the Samsung Galaxy S4 is that it’s available on a host of carriers in the United States. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular and Verizon all offer the Galaxy S4 and it’s also available on smaller carriers like Cricket Wireless for those that want to go the pre-paid route. This availability has been one of the reasons why the Galaxy S series has performed so well in the U.S.

The Galaxy Note 3 could feature an improved camera with a 13MP sensor like the Galaxy S4.

The Nexus 5 likely won’t have that type of carrier support though it’s expected to feature at least one improvement from the Nexus 4. GSM carriers AT&T and T-Mobile are all but confirmed thanks to an FCC filing and thanks to the fact that they’ve supported previous versions of Google’s Nexus smartphone. Surprisingly, the FCC filing also seemingly confirmed CDMA carrier Sprint. Sprint skipped the Nexus 4 but did carry the Galaxy Nexus and the Nexus S.

U.S. Cellular is likely out, as are smaller pre-paid carriers. Verizon bands did not show up in the FCC filing which isn’t good news for those that want to snag a new Nexus on the nation’s largest 4G LTE network. It’s possible that we could see a Verizon variant arrive later on but at this point, consumers should expect AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile meaning the Galaxy S4 will have a clear edge when it comes to carrier selection.

Price

Price is going to be one of the most intriguing aspects of both of these smartphones, but, for different reasons. While the Samsung Galaxy S4 remains $199.99 on-contract through carriers like Verizon, the device has seen its price tag steadily decrease over the last few months at places like Amazon. At Amazon, the Verizon Galaxy S4 is a mere $120 on-contract, a price that should dip even lower once we start getting closer to Black Friday in November.

Those who are looking for the AT&T Galaxy S4 model will find it for a mere $108 on-contract through Amazon. Again, we expect these prices to dip down in the next few weeks as retailers try and sell consumers during the holiday shopping season. In fact, we should see carriers themselves offer some tempting price cuts in the coming weeks.

This could show the back of the Nexus 5.

As for the Nexus 5, it’s rumored to be coming with a mid-range price tag. Unlike the Galaxy S4, which is still fairly expensive unlocked, the Nexus 5 should have an extremely cheap unlocked price tag. The Nexus 4, for example, started at $299 off-contract through the Google Play Store. T-Mobile also offered the phone for cheap as well.

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It’s not clear how much the Nexus 5 will cost but consumers should expect it to be in the $299-$399 range for a 16GB Nexus 5, a deep discount from the unlocked Galaxy S4. Whether it will be available on-contract or not is unclear.

Comments

  1. chazzmatt says

    The problem with buying on contract is you really pay for the full cost of the phone in higher service bills ($90 – $110 per month with AT&T for typical consumer). Whereas if you go with AT&T’s pre-paid division GoPhone, you can BYOD any LTE phones that match AT&T’s frequencies, even non-AT&T branded phones (like this Nexus 5 or the similar Sony Xperia ZL C6506).

    FLAT FEE $60 per month for unlimited talk, unlimited text, 2GB UNCAPPED speed LTE data from AT&T. That’s including all taxes and fees. You are immediately saving $30 – $50 per month on monthly service charge, by OWNING your phone.

    Sure, with the Nexus 5 @ $299 – $399 you are paying $100 – $200 more than the “contract price” initially, but within 3 or 4 months you have made it up, and are saving money every month after that. Think how much you save over a 2-year period by NOT signing a contract and still using AT&T (but with GoPhone BYOD LTE).

    • Ryan Cook (@Zwoss) says

      Or go with an AT&T sim from Net10/Straight Talk for $45 with 2.5GB of LTE and save $360 more over 2 years. There is always a chance the plan on Net10/Straight Talk will change but you don’t have a contract so you can just change to GoPhone if it becomes the better deal.

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