As you already know, yesterday was iPhone 5 day. The new iOS smartphone was launched in nine countries and will roll out in 100 markets by the end of the year. Naturally, the device will be compared to every existing and upcoming high-end smartphone. In fact, we have a few such comparisons ourselves featuring the iPhone 5 against some of the hottest Android handsets available (and yes, they include video).
In what follows we’re going to pit the new iPhone against the latest Nexus-branded smartphone, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus that was launched in late 2011.
One of the most obvious features of the new iPhone 5, even to Android fans that would never touch the device in their life, is the bigger 4-inch touchscreen display. The iPhone 5 is the first one to break the Apple pattern when it comes to displays, as it’s 0.5-inch bigger (diagonally) than all its predecessors. Apple increased the size of the handset by making it taller but keeping the same width of the iPhone 4S and iPhone 4. That translates into a 1136 x 640 resolution that’s still able to offer a reliable, Retina-quality display, at 326 pixel per inch (ppi) but also a 16:9 aspect ratio.
The Galaxy Nexus offers a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED curved display with a 1280 x 720 resolution. And in case you’re wondering, the third-gen Nexus handset will also offer you a Retina-like quality, registering 316 ppi, which is awfully close to the iPhone’s display performance.
While we can continue the Super AMOLED vs IPS LCD debate, and still not reach an objective conclusion, as each side will tell you their display version is the best, we can tell you that the iPhone 5 has a small advantage on the Galaxy Nexus when it comes to display type. The new iPhone’s display comes with integrated touch, which allows Apple to shave more millimeters off of the thinness of the device, not to mention making it brighter than its predecessors.
Build quality and design
The iPhone 5 is slimmer, lighter and smaller than the Galaxy Nexus, as Apple tried to reduce its dimensions as much as currently possible, while offering a larger display, and a battery capable to offer enough battery juice for LTE-related purposes and not only. Compared to its predecessors, other improvements and/or changes include an aluminum back that replaces the glass used in the previous two models, the relocation of the headset jack to the bottom of the handset and a smaller 9-pin dock that, while incompatible with any iOS device accessory without a $29 adaptor, is a feature needed to make the handset smaller.
The Galaxy Nexus is slightly thicker than the iPhone 5 (8.95mm vs 7.6mm) and slightly heavier (135g vs 112g) but features an original curved design dubbed as Contour Display. Unlike the iPhone, the Galaxy Nexus does not feature actual physical buttons, but instead comes with three on-screen buttons. As for build quality, we’re not looking at the same sturdiness on the Galaxy Nexus that the iPhone 5 seems to offer. See our Galaxy S3 vs iPhone 5 drop test to see how the latter performs against a device that’s newer than the Galaxy Nexus.
When it comes to hardware, it is somewhat strange to compare a late 2011 device with a late 2012 one, especially if the former is an Android handset. Every few months, new Android devices are released that trump the “older” models in the hardware and performance department – that’s all the more true when looking at high-end smartphones.
That said, when looking at the specs sheet above you’ll notice a few similarities. At first sight, the Galaxy Nexus’s 1.2GHz dual-core TI OMAP 4460 seems to beat Apple’s 1GHz dual-core custom A6 processor, but when it comes to benchmark tests, the new iPhone 5 surpasses in performance some (in many cases all) of the hottest Android handsets of 2012. And some of those devices already pack quad-core CPUs and offer an overall better performance than the Galaxy Nexus.
Moving forward, both devices feature 1GB of RAM and, as for storage, the Galaxy Nexus comes in 16/32GB flavors, while the iPhone 5 is available in the traditional 16/32/64GB versions. Worth noticing is that neither device comes with microSD support.
When it comes to battery life, the Galaxy Nexus packs the bigger battery, which is logical considering it’s bigger than the iPhone 5. The non-LTE Galaxy Nexus features a removable 1750mAh battery, while the LTE-enabled version has an extra 100mAh of juice. On its part, the iPhone 5 features a non-removable 1400mAh battery that’s still able to offer users 8h of 3G talk time, which is on par with the Galaxy Nexus’s battery efficiency, but also 8h of LTE efficiency, which is more than what the Galaxy Nexus can offer.
Looking at cameras, the iPhone 5 comes out a winner with its 8-megapixel shooter that features a back-illuminated sensor, sapphire crystal, f2.4 aperture, auto focus, LED flash and 1080p HD video recording. The Galaxy Nexus has a 5-megapixel rear shooter with single LED flash, auto focus and 1080p HD video. As for front-facing cameras, both of them offer a similar performance: 1.3-megapixel shooter with 720p video recording for the Galaxy Nexus compared to 1.2-megapixel shooter with 720p video recording for the iPhone 5.
One last thing that we have to mention when talking about hardware is connectivity. The iPhone 5 is the first to offer LTE connectivity, with Apple supporting a wide variety of global carriers that have adopted the 4G standard. Some Galaxy Nexus versions also come with LTE support, namely Verizon’s and Sprint’s. But the Galaxy Nexus trumps the iPhone 5 when it comes to NFC support, with the latter lacking a near field communication chip that would offer users NFC-based mobile payment solutions as well as other NFC-based features. The Galaxy Nexus also features microUSB and MHL support.
Software and ecosystem
Both the iPhone 5 and Galaxy Nexus run the latest mobile versions, iOS 6 and Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean, respectively.
iOS 6 is advertised to offer over 200 new features and improvements. Among those, worth mentioning are the improved Siri that’s available in more languages and offers support for movies, sports and restaurant reservations, the Apple Maps that replaces Google Maps, but which is not yet able to offer the same reliability and functionality, the new Passbook application that’s Apple’s limited wallet (for coupons, tickets and offers) version and FaceTime over cellular.
Depending on what carrier you ask, the Google Nexus runs Android 4.1.1 Jelly Bean or Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich – hopefully it’s the former. Despite being a Nexus device, the Samsung-made handset was not updated as fast as Verizon and Sprint subscribers would have initially believed. If running Jelly Bean, you’ll notice several performance improvements across the board, a buttery speedier overall experience, improved notifications, widgets, camera and other core features, not to mention the complete overhaul of Google’s new Search and addition of its smart Google Now feature that supports advanced voice commands, which are, according to several tests, superior to at least the Siri version found on iOS 5. [Here's an in depth Jelly Bean vs Ice Cream Sandwich video comparison, with both Android OS version running on the Galaxy Nexus.]
Each device has access to an impressive ecosystem with Apple having a slight edge on Google. The App Store has 700,000 apps compared to the 600,000 apps Google Play available for the Galaxy Nexus, and Apple’s iTunes will offer users access to more music, movies and TV shows in more markets than Google, at least for the time being.
Video comparison: iPhone 5 vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Pros and cons
iPhone 5 pros:
- Lighter than most competitors and predecessors
- Slimmer than almost all competitors and predecessors
- Latest iOS smartphone
- High build quality
- LTE battery efficiency
- Almost global LTE support
- Runs latest iOS version
- App Store content
- Worldwide availability by Christmas
- Siri voice assistant
iPhone 5 cons:
- High price, at least for higher capacity versions
- Display size, in case 4-inch is not enough
- Apple Maps functionality
- Siri voice assistant
- Lack of NFC support
- Limited customization (only available via jailbreaking)
Galaxy Nexus pros:
- Nexus-branded device – should run upcoming Android version almost immediately after launch
- Cheaper price – currently available for $349 unlocked in the U.S. due to its “age”
- Google Play content
- NFC mobile payments support with Google Wallet
- Google Now smart search
- MHL support
Galaxy Nexus cons:
- Age – newer Nexus devices are already rumored to be launched later this year
- Lack of microSD support
- Battery performance during LTE usage
- Delayed Jelly Bean updates with certain carriers
- No Google Wallet support with certain carriers
- Size – too big for certain users
What phone between the two devices should you buy? At this point it shouldn’t even be a contest anymore. The iPhone 5 is the choice if you’re a fan of the company and have the budget to afford it (whether you buy it full price or on-contract,) or if you want a new device right now no matter what mobile OS it’s running. The iPhone 5 is definitely the best iPhone made to date and a smartphone that will sell in the millions in the coming days, quarter and year, challenging the competition to come up with tougher and tougher rivals.
In case you’re an Android fan, or you aren’t necessarily tied to Google but don’t have the budget for a new iPhone either, then buying the Galaxy Nexus is something we would highly recommend, but not right now, especially since we’re very much aware of existing Nexus-related rumors. If you are going to go Android, then picking a Nexus-branded device is definitely a great choice, although there are plenty of hot alternatives out there: Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, LG Optimus G or HTC One X to name just a few. But that Nexus-branded device doesn’t have to be the Galaxy Nexus, if you haven’t already purchased it by now. Better wait for new Nexus smartphones to come out this fall/winter and forget about the Galaxy Nexus for the time being, no matter what hot Galaxy Nexus deals you’ll find around. Of course, if its price keeps dropping then you should definitely get yourself one in addition to that next-gen Nexus handset we just told you to wait for.