It’s become almost cliche to say that smartphones are boring now, but it’s true. The sleek pieces of hardware that once captured our imaginations have become more like traffic signals or televisions. Sure, they can still exhibit an abundance of technical sophistication, yet due to their pervasiveness and consistent iteration, you really only notice them when they break.
After spending a week with the Nexus 5, and getting to know it all over, it’s clear this isn’t just another boring smartphone. It may be the most boring phone of the year. It’s the vanilla soy milk latte of handsets.
Yet this bland anonymity is actually quite nice. The physical phone just goes away, and that seems to be the point of the design. It’s not about the handset itself. It’s about what’s inside it. For Google, the Nexus line is a chance to go deep and show off what’s possible. Slap the label on a smartphone, and suddenly it’s not just a flagship phone anymore; it’s true north. This is where Android is headed — deeper integration with Google’s location and behavior-based algorithms in an effort to serve you data without your having to ask for it.
Nexus 5 looks like a big old slab of glass. There are virtually no distinguishing characteristics. Viewed from the front, the speaker grill is its only visible cue. The power and volume buttons are ceramic, and so subtle that you can overlook them. It feels like it should be called the SLABFON. The backside is the same deal — a slick plastic that comes in black or white. It can be hard to hold onto. I dropped one of our test units pulling it out of my pocket, and it fell onto the sidewalk, cracking the glass. One of our other testers reported he had dropped it in similar fashion several times as well. So yeah, you may want to invest in a case.