I just finished the first billing cycle of my new Nexus 5X phone that’s on Google’s new carrier service, Project Fi. Thought it might make sense for me to write a review of the product(s). Also, I just switched back to Android from iOS after being on it for 2 years, so it really does make sense for me to do this now rather than … never?
So, the way I’m going to go about this review is by writing a little bit about what I think are the most interesting or influential features of the Nexus 5X and Google Fi in relation to my recent switch. I definitely will talk about some of the differences between Android and iOS that, although aren’t particular to the Nexus 5X, have been on my mind. I’ll write them up for anyone that reads this as a ‘considering-switching’ iOS user.
And just as a little preamble before I start – I’m a Mac user (2012 MBP Retina) and a new iPad Pro user. Also, in this post I’m going to assume that you know what Project Fi is and what the Nexus 5X is as well. If not, look them up now. :-)
TL;DR: 5X gets the job done, lame camera, good fingerprint scanner, Google Fi ROX MY SOX, Android has come a long way since my Galaxy Nexus, but is a little less smooth than iOS still. Android integrates better with Macs than iPhone does (sue me). Overall, definitely happy I switched.
Nexus 5X on the Project Fi network
Screen & Size 😀
I’ll get the basic stuff out of the way. I recently switched because I got an invite to Project Fi and was pretty curious. I bought the Nexus 5X because it’s cheaper and smaller than the 6P (those are currently the only phones with Google Fi support). The Nexus 6P is a phablet, and I wasn’t trying to fit a shoebox in my pocket every day. The Nexus 5X is slightly bigger than the iPhone 6S and way bigger than my previous iPhone 5S. Took about 5 minutes to get used to. Doesn’t matter to me anymore really. It does allow for a larger screen, which I guess is nice. I’ve watched Netflix on it so far … like twice? I guess it’s nice to see more of an article’s content, but honestly, it doesn’t make too big a difference. I tried using my friend’s iPhone 5S the other day and it was hard to type on because the screen is thinner. Probably would only be another 5 minutes to get used to that again.
Finger Print Scanner 😀
LG has done a really good job with this. I’m pretty impressed. The iPhone 6S boasts an even faster fingerprint scanner than the pretty quick iPhone 5S/6. People have actually complained that the 6S has too fast of a scanner because the way you activate it is generally how people wake up the phone screen to check the time. Users of the 6S are finding now that they accidentally unlock their phone when they’re just trying to check the time or notifications. The 5X fingerprint scanner is in the back, convenient to reach with a pointer finger, it’s (for all effective purposes) just as fast as the iPhone 6S. And it’s actually easier to set up. The iPhone fingerprint calibrator was always something that just pissed me off. So, good work LG & Nexus 5X.
Better than my iPhone 5S on its last legs, probably a little worse than the iPhone 6S. It lasts the day, which is good enough for me. Low power mode has helped me a couple times when I’ve been out late. Phone batteries still definitely need to improve, but I’m satisfied with the 5X and really can’t complain.
The Nexus 5X uses the new USB-C charger, which is cool (reversible). So now Apple’s lightning cable doesn’t really have anything unique. The Nexus 5X does fast charging for the first some (40?) percent of its charge, which is really nice when I have a couple minutes and I’m beating down my battery. I’ve found this to be pretty useful when I’m low on power and I know I’m about to go out in ~10 minutes. The one complaint I have with USB-C (because it’s really just this only complaint) is that the stupid cable LG provides is a wall-wart and a male-male USB-C charger. Makes sense for the new USB to be on both ends, but that means I can’t directly connect it to my laptop, which is really damn stupid. Come on guys. For daily use, this is really fine because I don’t need to connect it to my computer for almost anything. Except when I wanted to do Android dev on it a few weeks ago and I was SOL.
Decent shots, great video, sub-par UI, really slow (compared to iPhone). The iPhone 6S camera runs circles around this guy. It’s good enough for my uses – since I own a DSLR and rarely take meaningful photos with my phone. The camera is good enough to capture moments (that don’t happen too quickly). The flash is good, the editing tools are good, the alternate modes (panorama, sphere, etc.) are good. Not too much else to say here, except, it really just is a good-shot-unresponsive-pretty-typical Android camera. I make deal fine. Don’t get this phone if you want a great camera.
The speaker on the Nexus 5X is nothing fantastic. Again, gets the job done. If you’re trying to listen to music out of your phone speakers, buy an iPhone or question why you’re trying to do so.
Make Quality 😀
Before buying the 5X, I read a lot of reviews about the make quality of the phone. Most of the reviews (actually I think every single one I read/watched) said you could tell that it was a ‘cheaper’ phone. Albeit the phone is made of plastic and it’s really light – I get why someone would say it feels less polished than the alu-minium iPhone. But actually, this phone is pretty polished. It’s nice to hold, especially with a case, and it’s pretty sturdy. I haven’t held a 6P yet, but for real, the make quality and finish are totally great with me.
God I missed widgets. Google Material Design looks great (IMHO way better than Apple’s/Ives’ pseudo flat pseudo bubbly iOS whatever), and widgets make a ton of sense on my phone. Here’s what my home screen looks like:
I can turn on my phone and instantly see my next couple of Calendar events and the most urgent tasks on my todo-list. THANK YOU ANDROID. I don’t love iOS UI/UX, especially for the home screen. You get zero customizability. Every app either lives on the home page or in a folder. Some of my iPhone user friends are so clearly bored with it that they begin to do stupid stuff like organize the home screen apps by color. Uh……… This brings us to the App Drawer.
App Drawer 😀
Good. Put all my use-once-every-month-or-never apps into a place where I don’t need to see them, pretty much ever. +1 Android.
Google Now 😀
When I switched to iOS, Google Now was just getting started. It was kind-of annoying back then (Feb. 2014?). Google Now has since gone an incredible way with organizing relevant information. A simple swipe left from my homescreen brings in Google Now. I’ll tell you what it’s showing me:
- The weather (today & the week) - Love it.
- My two pending amazon deliveries - Fantastic!
- My parking location - useful, just yesterday I forgot where I parked in Georgetown and would have lost 30 minutes looking for my car without this! Great feature.
- Caps vs. Bruins game tonight - yep!
- Some Caps team news (Been watching a lot of highlight reels from games lately) - sweet.
- Stocks (by Tickers I’m interested in) - pretty unfortunately lately :-(
- Some info about attractions in Peru (I’m planning a spring break trip) - Good eye Google.
- CNN/Huffpost/WashPost relevant to Obama’s gun stuff this morning, which I watched and have been reading around about.
As you see, there’s a lot of good meat on that list. For comparison, since I’m writing this on my new iPad, I’ll write out what Apple gives me when I swipe left for “Siri Suggestions.”
- Recent contacts (ok…..)
- App suggestions (I generally don’t need you to suggest I should open Facebook right now even though I generally use it around this time of day. Trust me. I won’t forget.)
- Nearby Bars, Restaurants, Desserts, Gas, etc. Decent.
- News (akin to what Google Now does) - Like!
So, really, Google Now crushes Siri Suggestions.
On Tapped 😀
New-ish feature. Hold down the “home” button in some/most apps to get suggested links. i.e. If I’m browsing my newsfeed on Facebook and someone wrote a post about Obama’s speech this morning, when I press the button, a link pops up that would send me to Obama’s wiki page as well as a link to the NRA. Works great in apps like Spotify to find out info about bands, works in Chrome with articles about people. I don’t use it too much, but it’s a really impressive and useful tool. It’s really hard to stay caught up with what’s going on in the world all the time and quick links to wiki/Google pages about key people/places/things/etc is way useful.
OK Google 😀
Siri was first, you got that Apple. I like OK Google way better now though. First, somehow, without being an incredible battery sink, you can say ‘OK Google’ from the home screen of Android to talk with Google and ask questions. Your iPhone needs to be plugged in for the ‘Hey Siri’ command to work on iPhone. That’s less convenient. For 90% of behavior OK Google works the same as Siri. But I like it better for a couple of things. 1) It pronounces names better. My roommate Peter Kang actually gets pronounced as “K-ahhhh-ng” not “Kaang” like bang, the way it should be. 2) It summons Google Maps not Apple Maps for navigation. THANK YOU. 3) It handles complex inquiries better than Siri. I recently tried to ask Siri for a conversion of $299 Peruvian Soles to USD and it failed. Google got it right away. 4) An extension of #2, but I actually like Android native apps as opposed to most of Apple’s native apps, so the integration with OK Google (reminders, calendar, etc.) is really nice. 5) OK Google overall seems to have slightly better language interpretation/correction. 6) OK Google isn’t as sassy as Siri.
I’m very happy I have OK Google over Siri right now.
I’ve long felt that Google developed better iOS apps than Android apps. Google Maps used to be way better on iOS, Google Music, etc. etc.. I don’t think this is true anymore. I enjoy the Android app experience and there’s never an app that I need that I can’t find a great product for (obviously wasn’t always the case – thinking of my Motorola Milestone 1 first Android phone).
Google Photos 😀 😀
Google Photos is actually really sweet. First, it backs up your photos at high (not full) resolution for free. iCloud, I hate you. You fill up with my photos always. You always give me notifications about how you’re full. Just stop it. Google Photos is a great app, it syncs well across devices, is easy to use, etc. It’s way better than anything else out there. AND ALSO THERE’S AN iOS APP THAT’S REALLY GOOD. I had my lunch interview at Google with a person on the Photos team that told me how much Google was now investing into photos. It’s showing. Great.
And of course Google lets you play with the System settings a lot more than iOS (w/o jailbreak), which means I can get Twilight (like Flux for Android) that makes my screen adjust yellow/blue during the day to be easier on my eyes. Not a big deal, but I like this feature. Only possible because Android isn’t as strict as iOS.
Now that I’ve said what I have to say about the phone and about the OS, I’ll weigh in on Google’s Project Fi.
Piggy back on T-Mobile and Sprint towers, which use some of AT&T and Verizon I guess. Not as great as Verizon was for signal strength, I’ll give you that, but it’s definitely good enough from what I’ve seen so far and some other features like VoIP help that. Also, I get international coverage at the same rate basically, which is fantastic. Really fantastic.
When WiFi is good and cell service is bad (AKA the back of my apartment at school), calls are made over WiFi. Seamlessly transitioned from cell tower. This features rocks, a lot. It’ll let me call when I’m in WiFi abroad too. It honestly makes sense too. How many years before we just have one data signal for everything (?). The one annoying thing is calls over IP still do sound a little different from cell tower calls, so there is an audible difference, especially when you transition. This is definitely the future. I think AT&T is doing stuff with it now as well.
My first billing cycle cost $45. $20 for unlimited talk and text and $25 for 2.5gigs of data. Reasonable, pay exactly for what I use, etc. No bullshit. I like. Also, I can manage all of that stuff from the Project Fi app right in my phone, online, wherever. It’s just so easy – everything should be this way.
Hangouts 😀 😀 😀 😀
One of the really great things about my new setup is how I use Google Hangouts. I do all of my texts, calls, and voicemails over Google Hangouts now, which lets me take calls and send SMS messages from my laptop, iPad, friends laptop, whatever. THIS IS SO CONVENIENT. I CANNOT HIGHLIGHT IT ENOUGH. The one complaint I have about this is all of my iOS friends hate that I don’t have iMessage anymore and can’t send me blue chat bubbles. This is Apple’s fault for pushing only iPhones and it’s really annoying. Stupid blue bubbles. I’m sure someone did some crazy psych/UI experiment where they figured out the most powerful way in which they could convince users that messaging another iPhone is the only comfortable way to send SMS messages at all.
Overall, I’m satisfied with my phone, impressed with the Google app space, and in love with Fi. The last thing I’m going to talk about is integration. I’m going to be bold with this section. Here goes: I would argue that Android phones integrate better with Macs/iPads than iOS phones integrate with Macs/iPads. (Or rather, just integrates better with everything. period.) All of my friends out there that would say “OMG U HAVE A MAC Y R U GETTING AN ANDROID PHONE?” can go away. Here’s why:
Google already dominates my internet usage. And it does so for most sane people: Google Maps, Google Search, Google News, Google Weather, Google Mail, Google Chrome, Google Drive/Docs, etc. And now newer apps like Hangouts, Photos, etc. that I mentioned above are starting to be really, really good cross-device. The truth is, I use WAY more Google tools on my Macbook than I do Apple tools. I rarely use any native Apple apps. So, in terms of data integration for me, Google is way, way ahead of Apple. Right now, as I’m writing this post, I’ve responded to texts via Google Hangouts, I’m drafting this review on Google Docs, and I’m sharing the photos I took for it via Google Photos. I’ve searched a few things on Google and browsed the news. I’m deeply tied to the workflow I use on my phone and the Google application network. And guess what? I’m on my iPad. 🙌 🙌 🙌
Google phone taking the place of an Apple ;-)