The Nexus 5 is one of the most powerful phones on the market, and is vastly more affordable than its competition. Here’s a look at how it stacks up against some of the more popular high-end phones on the market, and why it just might dominate the market.

nexus5 Nexus 5 competes on specifications and dominates on price

The Nexus 5 has done what the Moto X was expected to do: bring a powerful, LTE-enabled Android phone to the market at an affordable off-contract price. The Moto X proved to be the opposite of what was expected; it was a phone with middling specifications priced to compete at the high end of the phone market.

Thankfully, the Nexus 5 has turned the potential to turn the phone market in the United States on its head. It’s one of the most powerful phones on the market and it starts at a very reasonable $350 and is available for every U.S. carrier other than Verizon.

The LG manufactured Nexus 5 has the following specifications:

  • OS – Android™ 4.4 (KitKat®)
  • Screen – 4.95 inch 1920×1080 display (445 ppi), Full HD IPS, Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3
  • Camera – 1.3MP front facing, 8MP rear facing with Optical Image Stabilization
  • Size – 69.17 x 137.84 x 8.59 mm
  • Weight – 4.59 oz (130 g)
  • Battery – 2,300 mAH, Wireless Charging built-in
  • Audio Output – Built-in speaker, 3.5mm stereo audio connector
  • CPU – Qualcomm MSM8974 Snapdragon 800, 2.3GHz Krait 400
  • GPU – Adreno 330, 450MHz
  • Wireless – Dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4G/5G) 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, NFC (Android Beam), Bluetooth 4.0 LE
  • Memory – 16/32 GB internal storage, 2 GB RAM
  • Ports – Micro USB, SlimPort enabled, 3.5mm stereo audio jack, Dual microphones, Ceramic power and volume buttons
  • Sensors – Accelerometer, GPS, Compass, Proximity/Ambient Light, Gyroscope, Pressure, Hall Effect
  • Network – 2G/3G/4G LTE, GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, CDMA: Band Class: 0/1/10, WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19, LTE: Bands: 1/2/4/5/17/19/25/26/41

The reason the Nexus 5 is so much more disruptive to the market than the Nexus 4 was is because the Nexus 4 was a mid-range phone at a reasonable price ($300-350 at launch in November 2012, $200-250 starting August 2013) and in contrast the Nexus 5 is a high-end phone at a reasonable price. While not as cheap as the Nexus 4 was after the price reduction a few months ago, the Nexus 5 is dramatically cheaper than any other high-end phone on the market.

For a better point of reference, it helps to compare it to some of the top phones currently on the market. The easiest place to start is with the Google Play editions of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and HTC One.

Taking on the established Android giants

The S4 and One have similar specifications to each other: a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU running at 1.9 GHz and 1.7 GHz respectively, 2 GB of RAM, and an Adreno 320 GPU. The Google Play editions are currently selling at $650 and $600 respectively. The S4 costs nearly twice (1.85x) as much as the Nexus 5, with both having 16 GB storage. The Google Play edition HTC One comes standard with 32 GB storage, so to be fair, let’s compare it to the 32 GB Nexus 5. The 32 GB Nexus 5 costs $400, so the One still costs 1.5x as much as the Nexus 5.

One might expect that since these phones are more expensive than the Nexus 5, they should be better: more powerful, better battery life, more memory, more storage, etc. However, that’s not the case. The Nexus 5 has a much more powerful CPU and GPU, the same amount of RAM and storage space, the same sized battery as the HTC One (which is slightly smaller than the Galaxy S4’s [2600 mAH]), and still packs in the latest in wireless connectivity as well as a full HD 1080p screen.

Let’s move on to a more powerful phone to compare to: the new Samsung Galaxy Note 3. Of course the comparison is not quite as fair since the Note 3 is almost in a different class of phone considering it has a screen size of 5.7-inches, but for the sake of argument, we’ll treat the phones’ size and aesthetics as equal in the eyes of the consumer.

The Note 3 comes packed with the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU running at 2.3 GHz and Adreno 330 GPU as the Nexus 5. (The international version of the phone comes with the Samsung Exynos 5 Octa 5420, but for now we’re sticking to the U.S. variants of phones). The Note 3 has 3 GB of RAM and a 3200 mAH battery, and while it has 16/32/64 GB variants, it tends to come standard with 32 GB of storage.

Of course, the Note 3 has more RAM, a larger battery, and the same amount of storage space, so one might think it’s clearly the better choice. That’s still not so clear cut of a decision; even after ignoring size and aesthetics, the Note 3 comes with Samsung Touchwiz skinned Android 4.3, whereas the Nexus 5 comes with stock Android 4.4. Since the Note 3 is tied to Samsung’s development cycles, there’s no telling when Android upgrades will be pushed to the Note 3.

The Nexus 5 on the other hand gets updates as soon as they release, including bugfixes, optimizations, and improvements. Even then, it might be a tossup, until one remembers that there is still the price to consider. The 32 GB variant of the Note 3 sells for $700, while the Nexus 5 at 32 GB sells for $400. The Note 3 costs 1.75x as much as the Nexus 5. From a value perspective, the phone definitely does not provide 1.75x the performance of the Nexus 5.

What about Apple?

The next, and last, comparison is with the iPhone 5s.

The iPhone 5s has an Apple A7 dual core CPU running at 1.3 GHz and a PowerVR G6430 GPU, both of which have gone head to head with the Snapdragon 800 and trade blows in terms of performance.

However, the iPhone 5s has inferior WiFi: 802.11 a/b/g/n, compared to the Nexus 5’s 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. It has inferior screen resolution and pixel density: 640 x 1136 pixels on a 4.0 inch screen totaling  approximately 326 ppi versus the Nexus 5’s 1080 x 1920 pixels on a 4.95 inch screen totaling approximately 445 ppi. The iPhone 5s also has half the RAM (1 GB) of the Nexus 5 (2 GB). The iPhone offers the same storage options as the Nexus 5: 16/32 GB, but a much smaller battery: 1560 mAH vs the Nexus 5’s 2300 mAH. It also does not have wireless charging, whereas the Nexus 5 does.

The iPhone 5s is clearly the weaker phone in terms of specifications (other than the CPU/GPU), but the 16 GB version sells for $650 and the 32 GB version sells for $750. Compare this to the Nexus 5 at $350 for 16 GB and $400 for 32 GB, the iPhone 5s costs 1.85x and 1.875x as much as the Nexus 5 at those respective storage capacities.

To justify a purchase of any of the phones listed above rather than a Nexus 5, one would have to make the case that one of those phones is worth 1.5-1.875x more than the Nexus 5, which is a difficult, if not impossible, task. Even if the Nexus 5 competed directly at the high end of the pricing scale, it would likely sell well given its performance and specifications. The fact that it sells for nearly half that makes it the most attractive phone on the market today.

Of course, those comparisons were all made using off-contract pricing. The game changes when considering new contract pricing. Here’s Sprint’s on-contract pricing to compare since it carries all of the phones we’ve mentioned so far. The on-contract pricing is below:

Samsung Galaxy S4 (16 GB) – $100

HTC One (32 GB) – $100

Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (32 GB) – $250

Apple iPhone 5s (16 GB) – $100

LG Nexus 5 (16 GB) – $50

The percentage difference between the phones’ pricing becomes dramatically different with the new-contract pricing. The cheapest competitor to the Nexus 5 costs two times as much, and the Note 3 actually costs five times as much.

The Nexus 5 supplies rapidly began selling out once it was launched, and while supplies are being refilled, the current wait time at the time of this writing is listed as two to three weeks to ship from the warehouse. Without a doubt the Nexus 5 is expected to sell like hotcakes this holiday season, and other handset makers should be concerned. Don’t be surprised if competing phones see drastic price cuts in order to compete. The only phones safe from the competitive juggernaut that is the Nexus 5, are the phones selling for Verizon, since the Nexus 5 isn’t compatible with Verizon’s network.

For anyone looking to purchase a new phone, the Nexus 5 seems like a clear winner.