I got a Nexus 5 from Google for Christmas; it replaces an old Nexus S used as a dumbphone. But in some ways I was happier with the S, even though the 5 is way more capable. I’m thinking (once again) that Size Matters.
Once again, you say? · I have a special claim to the Size-Matters tech-blog territory. Back in 2009, I fell in love with the first 7" device, the original Galaxy Tab, and wrote a mega-review, then really drilled into the device-size trade-offs with Ten Theses on Tablets , then hammered on the issue some more in my Nexus 7 review. Others in the Size-Matters camp might want to check one or two of those out.
Important · Let’s put the main conclusion first: For mobile Internet access, the Nexus 7 wins. It totally wipes the floor with any Android handset ever made by any manufacturer. This applies for reading mail, Web stuff, apps in general, Ingress in particular, maps, photos, games, and keying in text. Not. Remotely. Close.
I suspect that over on the Apple side, the iPad mini similarly stomps any and all iPhones for general-purpose Internet access.
Screen density · The Nexus S was 235 dpi, the 7 is 323 and the 5 445, but that doesn’t matter any more. All modern mobile devices have pixels that are sufficiently intimate with each other. True “Retina” densities (287 dpi per Bryan Jones) are perceptible and pleasant, but anything reasonably close is good enough. After all, Apple’s non-Retina first-gen iPad Mini (163dpi) was generally considered a great product.
This reminds me of the digital-camera megapixel race, which is now mostly over, thank goodness. As the capabilities of mobile Internet devices converge, screen density is something that marketers can trumpet, but doesn’t matter much.
What surprised me was · Compared to the Nexus 5, the old Nexus S is a happier handset: smaller, curved, comfy in the pocket and the hand. The 5 is dramatically better on every technical dimension: Screen, performance, networking, GPS. But maybe who cares? If I want those things I’ll grab the Nexus 7.
So what is a handset for? Holding up to the side of your head for that telephony stuff (and for that to work you need the Android contacts infrastructure).
Also, perfunctory email and messaging while you’re in too much of a hurry to stop walking and use both hands.
Also, high-quality small-form-factor cameras. By the way, when a handset is as small as the Nexus S, there’s no particular reason that it needs to be terribly thin; so there’s room to squeeze in a decent-ish lens.
Two-part device · I think I want a single “Android device” that comprises a tablet and a handset. I always want Internet within arm’s reach, and I always want something one-handed to take a phone call or a picture. But why do I need two operating systems and two Settings menus and two SIMs and so on?