Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. Nexus 4: What Buyers Need to Know

With the Samsung Galaxy S5 release date fast approaching, many consumers are starting to take a close look at Samsung’s new Galaxy S. Off-contract Nexus 4 owners are among those making the comparison and here, we take a look at the most important things prospective Nexus 4 upgraders need to know about the Samsung Galaxy S5.

Late in 2012, Google introduced its Galaxy Nexus successor, a device dubbed the Nexus 5. The LG-made Nexus 4 was a hit amongst consumers thanks to its solid hardware, its vanilla Android and an extremely cheap unlocked price tag that allowed users to take the device to a number of destinations including pre-paid carriers.

With the Nexus 4 approaching its second birthday and the first crop of 2014 smartphones now out in the open, current Nexus 4 owners are thinking about making a change to a new device in 2014. And one of the devices that some Nexus 4 owners have their eye on is the Samsung Galaxy S5, Samsung’s brand new Galaxy S smartphone.

Several current Nexus 4 owners have asked us how Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 stacks up with their current device and here, we want to articulate some answers to their questions.

We’ve spent a great deal of time with Nexus 4 and we’ve also been able to spend some time with the new Galaxy S5. While Galaxy S5 release is still a few weeks away, there is a lot we can share about how the Nexus 4 and Galaxy S5 compare.

There are many features that only exist on one of these devices, so buyers will need to make an informed decision about what they want, based on the features they need most in a smartphone. That said, let’s take a look at what upgraders, and prospective buyers, need to know about these two smartphones.

Release Date, Price & Carriers

In February, Samsung confirmed the Galaxy S5 release date for April 11th and its a date remains unchanged as we inch closer to its arrival. April 11th serves as the Galaxy S5’s release in the United States and we’ve seen a number of carriers confirm that date as their release day. As for the Nexus 4, due to its age, it’s a tricky device to find. Those who are buyers rather than upgraders can find it through third-party avenues but it’s no longer available through mainstream retailer locations like the Google Play Store.

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Nexus 4 upgraders who are at all interested in the Galaxy S5 would be smart to wait for it to show up on shelves in order to try it out before buying. Most carriers only allow one swap and a 14 day return window, so there is no reason to be hasty about a decision.

For a select few, there is a way to check out the Galaxy S5 right now. There are about 100 Best Buy stores in the U.S. that have the Galaxy S5 out on display. Those that can’t wait for April 11th can check this list to see if the local Best Buy has it available. The list is at the bottom of the page.

The Galaxy S5 goes on sale April 11th in the U.S.

The Galaxy S5 goes on sale April 11th in the U.S.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 release date in the U.S. is confirmed for April 11th, at least for some carriers. AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and U.S. Cellular are all taking pre-orders ahead of that date and several carriers say that they’ll start shipping orders a few days before April 11th. Carriers like to reward those who pre-order with an early delivery.

Multiple carriers have yet to announce specific Galaxy S5 release details. Verizon’s Galaxy S5 release date remains unknown. Verizon tells Gotta Be Mobile that it’s focused on the new HTC One launch at the moment though it has said that a pre-order will arrive soon. We’ve heard that the Verizon Galaxy S5 will arrive in April.

Release dates for MetroPCS, Ting, Boost Mobile, and Virgin Mobile also remain unclear though we’ve seen Best Buy put the MetroPCS Galaxy S5 up for pre-order ahead of its release. MetroPCS said that it would arrive in April but has not specified a date. Boost and Virgin both said they plan to release the phone in Q2.

Carriers are charging $199.99 for the Galaxy S5 16GB model and $650 and $660 for the Galaxy S5 off-contract. We still haven’t seen carriers confirm a 32GB Galaxy S5 but if one does arrive, it will likely be priced at $250. That’s far more expensive than the price attached to Google’s aging Nexus 4.

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The Nexus 4 remains an extremely cheap option though it’s a hard device to recommend at this point due to its age and due to it not having 4G LTE data speeds. The Nexus 4 costs around $375 unlocked on Amazon, hundreds of dollars cheaper than the Galaxy S5’s unlocked price tag. Retailers like eBay also sell it for cheap.

As far as carriers go, the Nexus 4 is far more limited than the Galaxy S5. While the Galaxy S5 is coming to all five major carriers in the U.S. (AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, and Verizon), the Nexus 4 is found on AT&T and T-Mobile only. The Galaxy S5 is also coming to a number of smaller carriers as well.

Design & Durability

Like the Samsung Galaxy S5, the Nexus 4 is made out of plastic. And while that might be the case, there are some major differences between LG’s design and Samsung’s.

Instead of a full-on plastic design, the Nexus 4 offers plastic with a back that is encased in glass. While it gives the smartphone a premium look, a case is almost required due to the fragile nature of the glass. Nexus 4 owners who are tired of using a case and want something more durable need only look to the Galaxy S5.

Samsung Galaxy S5 Release - Pre-Orders U.S.

The Galaxy S5 uses a perforated plastic back that comes in white, black, gold, and blue. The Galaxy S5′s back also utilizes a matte finish which means that it will not only bring a premium look, it will bring added durability as well. It gets better too.

The Samsung Galaxy S5 is designed to be water-resistant and dust-resistant. Its IP67 certification allows users to carry the phone around without worrying that bathtub, shower or puddle will break the phone. The design also includes a seal to prevent water getting in the USB port and a seal on the back to keep water out. The Nexus 4 does not come with this type of protection and can only acquire it with a case.

Samsung’s Galaxy S5 features a microSD card slot for expanded storage and a removable back for easy access to the battery. The Nexus 4 does not come with either of those perks which makes the Galaxy S5 extremely enticing to those that need extra space and extra battery life. Users can install an extended battery on the Galaxy S5.

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The Nexus 4 is thicker than the Galaxy S5 though it is lighter. The Nexus 4’s overall footprint is a little smaller than the Galaxy S5’s but we find both of them to be pocketable and manageable with one hand.

  • Galaxy S5 Dimensions – 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm
  • Nexus 4 Dimensions – 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm

Samsung also now includes a fingerprint reader in the Galaxy S5′s home button and that allows users to secure the phone with a fingerprint and lock files behind a fingerprint password. Google’s Nexus 4 does not come with any physical buttons which means that users rely on on-screen buttons for navigation.

Display

Nexus 4 users looking for a massive upgrade in the screen department will get one with the Samsung Galaxy S5. While the Nexus 4’s 4.7-inch display uses an aging 720p panel, the Samsung Galaxy S5 comes with a 5.1-inch 1080p full HD display that not only offers a little more real estate for gaming and content consumption but better looking games and content as well.

The Galaxy S5 display is bright, accurate and power efficient.

The Galaxy S5 display is bright, accurate and power efficient.

The Galaxy S5’s display is so good that DisplayMate says that it tops the Retina Display on the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5. The Retina Display is considered by many to be the best display on the market. The Samsung Galaxy S5’s display delivers incredibly accurate colors and new brightness levels.

It also comes with some additional features that simply are not found on the Nexus 4 and probably never will be.

  • Ultra Power Saver – Turn the screen black and white and limit running apps to make the battery last longer.
  • Super Bright Mode – The screen can enhance contrast and deliver a very bright display to make reading the phone outdoors easier.
  • Super Dim Mode – A mode that turns brightness down dramatically for a display that is easier on your eyes at night.

Camera

When it first came out, the Nexus 4 featured one of the best cameras in the business. Camera technology has been moving at an incredible pace though and the Nexus 4’s camera is now feeling outdated.

The Galaxy S5 comes with a 16MP camera sensor while the Nexus 4 comes with an older 8MP camera sensor. There are benefits to sensor sizes and megapixel counts but the Galaxy S5′s major advantage comes from other enhancements that Samsung has tacked on.

Samsung’s new camera comes with a faster auto-focus system. Samsung switched to a hybrid focus system that it says can focus as fast as 0.3 seconds. The Nexus 4′s camera can’t focus that fast and it’s really not even close. Not even the Galaxy S4′s camera sensor is able to keep up with the Galaxy S5’s.

Other features include the ability to pick a point of focus after taking the shot. This allows uses to blur a background or foreground right on the phone. The Samsung Galaxy S5 can also show HDR previews live on the phone, the Nexus 4 cannot. And the Galaxy S5 can also record 4K video while the Nexus 4 is stuck with 1080p video.

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Samsung’s Galaxy S5 also comes with Samsung’s fantastic camera app that has received several upgrades thanks to the company’s new version of TouchWiz. Google’s stock camera application is getting better but it’s still not on par with Samsung’s feature-rich camera software.

Software & Features

The Samsung Galaxy S5 and Nexus 4 both run Google’s Android 4.4.2 KitKat software. However, they feature vastly different software experiences thanks to Samsung’s TouchWiz UI.

While the Nexus 4 offers users pure vanilla Google Android, the Galaxy S5 comes with Samsung’s TouchWiz skin that not only changes the look of the software but also adds additional features.

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The Samsung Galaxy S5′s new software is focused on several key areas including health and fitness. The software includes new S Health 3.0 functionality which, when combined with the pulse reader on the back of the Galaxy S5, allows users to record their heart rate and track it in the app. It’s a nice feature but as we’ve pointed out, Nexus 4 owners can track their pulse using third-party apps and accessories.

We should also point out that, in addition to the new features, the Galaxy S5’s comes with a flatter design and a number of small tweaks to the overall look of the operating system. Those looking for more details can find them in the video below which highlights many of the changes that Samsung has made to its TouchWiz interface.

Nexus 4 owners will not only ditch vanilla Android when switching to the Galaxy S5, they’ll also be subjecting themselves to the mercy of carriers when it comes to software updates.

The Nexus 4 receives updates directly from Google which means that it will always get Android updates before the Galaxy S5. Samsung works with Google in addition to individual carriers, something that slows the process down.

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There is one perk though. The Galaxy S5 will likely get 24 months of software support. The Nexus 4 is now over a year old and Google only offers support for 18 months. That means that it will likely see its software support end this year.

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