When Nexus time comes around in the latter half of each year, it’s a special place for real lovers of Android; we get to see the vision that Google (and its partner manufacturers) have for Android in the coming months. In fact, it’s an exciting time of year for us, and 2015 was no different.
The rumours proved correct, and there were two devices from two different manufacturers; this only added to the excitement, especially as the two brands are well respected. Huawei has done great things over the last 12 to 18 months with their brand recognition and market penetration as well as delivering some really solid devices. LG, for their part, have built a great line of products over the last couple of years, including their Nexus 5 and own-branded G-range, capped off with last year’s G4 which was an absolute gem of a device and remains a powerful phone even today.
With this is mind, it’s easy to understand why we (and the industry generally) were pretty excited at the prospect of two killer Nexus devices, and the Nexus 5X and 6P certainly sounded like they’d fit this description.
However, while Huawei’s Nexus 6P has undoubtedly hit it out of the park, LG’s Nexus 5X isn’t receiving nearly as much love. In fact, some of those who’ve bought the Nexus 5X are experiencing a good amount of buyer’s remorse.
The Hardware Aspect
LG have built a reputation of making great hardware, and on paper, the Nexus 5X really shouldn’t be a slouch. It carries much of the same hardware as the G4 which is (as already mentioned) an absolute gem. Featuring a Hexa-core Snapdragon 808 Processor, Adreno 418 GPU, 2GB of RAM (wouldn’t have taken much to go to 3GB would it?) and your choice of 16 or 32 GB of storage, there’s nothing about the Nexus 5X on paper that looks exceptionally bad.
Quite the opposite. On paper, it looks amazing.
The experience, though, has been anything but, and there’s two areas that the hardware falls down.
Somehow, the Snapdragon 808 isn’t as fast and snappy in the Nexus 5X as it was on the LG G4; this
is surprising, because the Nexus 5X doesn’t have LG’s custom skin or bells and whistles. It’s stock Android, and it should be faster, but it isn’t.
The jankiness is not omnipresent, but it is easily spotted; switching apps is sometimes slow, multi-tasking can bring things to a grinding halt, loading the camera can be excruciating (more on that later).
It’s unclear whether its a software or hardware issue, or a combination of both, but the Bluetooth stack is ridiculous. Google Play Music works nicely with car stereos; where a Bluetooth Audio connection is present, it’s used consistently, delivering a good experience. Other apps, somehow, seem to completely ignore the existence of a Bluetooth Audio connection, and play music through the phone’s speaker even though Bluetooth is connected up. It’s not specific to any one app, leading me to believe that the phone is at fault; other phones — with the same apps — don’t have this issue.
On the topic of the camera …. just don’t even talk to us about it. It has some good points, but some really terrible ones.
The Camera hardware at least is pretty sweet and very capable of delivering some outstanding photo results. Only offering a 12MP sensor isn’t what you’d call “brilliant” but as we regularly state, megapixels aren’t everything! At the end of the day, the megapixels are a small influencing factor in the end result but of much higher importance is the optics on the camera. Where the 5X camera could shine above others is the 1.55um pixel size which lets in a lot of light: giving the camera the capability to perform extremely well in low light conditions and minimise motion blur or shakiness of photos by employing faster shutter speeds.
Then we get to the camera software. It’s a stinking pile of … well, you get the idea. Whoever designed the updated camera app did so while half asleep; it looks nice, but doesn’t perform.
There, we said it. It’s so slow that it makes Sony’s lacklustre camera software look fast. We’re talking many seconds delay in loading the camera, shutter lag that’d miss all but the slowest of children or action sequences, and lag even when changing the orientation of the phone. LG might have pretty good camera hardware in the Nexus 5X, but the camera software is awful. It utterly destroys the experience, and leaves a really foul taste in the mouth.
Chris says he’s really sorry, LG. He really loves you guys, and your G4 is still one of his favourite phones of all time. However, the Nexus 5X camera experience is a massive letdown.
Lacklustre battery life
Another disappointment on the Nexus 5X is the variable and sometimes unpredictable battery performance. While the end result is not wildly varied, it is surprising how different the battery use can be on a day to day basis with similar usage patterns to the day before. There are sometimes when the phone appears to get stuck on high CPU for no apparent reason during the day, getting warm and destroying the battery. Others when the phone ‘dozes’ and notifications don’t come through to the device or you get smashed with a heap of notifications when you next wake the device. This appears to be another software issue with the phone that detracts from what should be an outstanding user experience, but ends up delivering an inconsistent one that detracts from the phone’s experience.
As a phone the Nexus 5 is a decent device; the form factor is popular, the sound quality is good, it’s capable indoors and out, and the screen is good, whether it’s being used for texting, emailing or enjoying some multimedia playback. That all sounds like a really great start, but that is the extent of the experience positivity with the Nexus 5X.
It looks like it promises so much … but the delivery just misses the mark.
Inconsistent performance and touch accuracy
Android Marshmallow is solid and when it’s optimised for the hardware and for the most part the Nexus 5X delivers a predictable Android experience, at least initially…
We’ve already spoken about the ‘quality’ of the camera software and performance on the Nexus 5X, but the ‘joys of ownership’ don’t quite end there.
If you own a Nexus 5X and have tried to use the device while its on charge you’ll know exactly what we mean. The screen response is akin to old school resistive touchscreen monitors, the lag on the software is diabolic and only a fool would try to type while the device is on charge. You can either use your phone or charge it because while it’s charging, even some of the simplest functions are near-on unusable.
On top of that, the touch accuracy seems to be off pretty well most of the time; typing on the Nexus 5X is appreciably more difficult than on competing smartphones. I don’t know why it is, but the Nexus 5X makes me think I have dumb-fingers, where the same keyboard (SwiftKey) on other handsets manages to figure out exactly what I’m trying to say, and it says it.
I don’t know how, or why, the Nexus 5X is so bad in this respect, but as I say — it’s appreciably bad. It just shouldn’t be.
The lag can quite likely be attributed to the processor falling behind; when installing Play Store apps, the phone slows considerably, to the point that it’s basically unusable when apps are being installed.
Clearly there is a lot of room for improvement in this device and on paper at least, it can be done with software updates. But the volume of issues can’t all be attributed to the software can they? The Nexus 6P specs aren’t significantly higher than the 5X, yet it doesn’t have any of these experience destroying issues.
Sadly delivering a device of this quality is a massive failure on the part of LG and has likely done them a little reputational damage in the eyes of their potential customer base. This, after the stellar effort with the LG G4, and ahead of the fascinating rumours surrounding the LG G5, leave us just a little bit puzzled.
The mysterious Nexus 5P
During their reddit AMA, the team behind the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P told their fans that the P in 6P stood for premium, while the X in 5X, well to quote directly ‘X for the core of the Nexus brand (plus it sounds cool!)’ – so where’s the 5P?
There’s a lot of love out there for smaller form factor phones. Sony’s Xperia Z series Compact line receives a lot of attention every year for its almost uncompromised hardware on the smaller form factor. And generally every year, the Moto G with its smaller size and decent hardware gets a lot of love – and heck, we all LOVE the original Nexus 5 don’t we (let’s forget about the camera and battery life)?
So where’s the premium Nexus 5? Well, Google, or at least the Nexus team has apparently heard users concerns and there’s hope for the future, with Nexus team members at a ‘Nexus’ event in New York city in December telling users that they have heard feedback loud and clear. They haven’t outright promised a Nexus 5P next year, but well, the thoughts are definitely heading that direction.
Where to from here?
You might read this as us hating on LG, and really, nothing could be further from the truth. Chris remains a steadfast fan of LG’s work, and if anything, he’s disappointed for LG that the Nexus 5X wasn’t the pocket rocket that it could’ve been. We’ve seen such great things from LG, both recently and in years gone by, and we hope they can turn this around. We’re very excited by the rumours of a new G-series phone this year and the rumours already sound rather incredible.
If LG can pull off the LG G5, and have it be half as good as it sounds it might, a revamped, premium Nexus 5 variant in 2016 from LG could well turn the tide of public opinion around.