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iPhone 5S vs Nexus 5

Andrew Williams


iPhone 5S vs Nexus 5

The Nexus 5 is possibly the best-value Android phone of 2013. But does it really offer enough to compete with the iPhone 5S, or is it just a mid-range phone playing with the big boys?

We’ve compare the two to find out.

Note: This comparison will be updated periodically as we spend more time using and comparing each phone

iPhone 5S vs Nexus 5: Design

iPhone 5S – Aluminium rear, 7.6mm thick, non-removable back, 112g

Nexus 5 – Matt black plastic rear, 8.6mm, non-removable back, 130g

The construction of the Google Nexus 5 is one way the phone is able to sell for £300, instead of £500. It’s a matt plastic phone that doesn’t give you any access to the battery, and is formed of two parts rather than being a unibody device.

The iPhone 5S is made of more expensive stuff. It’s mostly a single piece of aluminium, apart from some glass inlays that help with wireless reception.

Both are phones that feel well-made and dense, but the iPhone 5S has the edge. The cool feel of aluminium, that iconic iPhone design and the slimmer body give it the victory here.

The iPhone 5S is almost unnervingly thin and light at 112g and 7.6mm. On its own, we’d also remark on the Nexus 5’s slim and light body – it’s 130g and 8.6mm thick – but side-by-side the iPhone is more impressive.

It’s also slightly easier to handle thanks to its significantly narrower body. There’s a clear reason why – the iPhone 5S’s screen is a whole inch smaller. The Nexus 5 is 69.2mm wide, the iPhone 5S 58.6mm. With almost a centimetre difference, the iPhone is much friendlier for small hands.

That said, LG (maker of the Nexus 5) has put a lot of effort into making the phone as narrow as possible by reducing the screen bezel.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 5S vs Galaxy S4

iPhone 5S

iPhone 5S vs Nexus 5 – ScreenColours 5

iPhone 5S – 4-inch 1,136 x 640 pixel IPS screen

Nexus 5 – 5-inch 1,920 x 1,080 pixel IPS screen

With a full inch difference between the screens of the Nexus 5 and iPhone 5S, there are clear benefits to going Android here. For movies, the Nexus 5 is clearly superior. The extra screen space makes for much more comfortable and rewarding viewing.

Discounting that the iPhone 5S has a much better games library, the screen is also better for gaming. A big, bright 5-inch display is much more immersive than the iPhone 5S’s 4-inch one.

Looking in a more abstract sense, the Nexus 5 and iPhone 5S screens are fairly even. They both have pixels tightly packed enough to make images and text appear super-sharp, and hide that the screen is made up of pixels at all.

They both also use the same screen type – IPS. This is a kind of LCD screen designed for solid angled viewing – and both displays provide good colour and contrast, and black depth.

SEE ALSO: Nexus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S4

Nexus 5

iPhone 5S vs Nexus 5 – SoftwareColours 3

iPhone 5S – iOS 7. 1

Nexus 5 – Android 4.4

A much more important question than which hardware to go for is the ecosystem to pick – Android or iOS. Both phones run the very latest version of their respective systems – iOS 7 and Android 4.4 KitKat.

These days, both are very fast and look good – before iOS 7 the Apple mobile OS was starting to look a little musty.

The main benefit of iOS is that it offers the best apps and games selection. You just can’t beat the App Store.

With Android, you get much more control. You can change keyboards, tweak the look of the system a whole lot more and can generally connect to other devices much more easily – whether a TV or just your computer.

We could go on, but the debate around iOS vs Android is long enough, complicated enough and emotive enough to fill several volumes.

iPhone 5S vs Nexus 5 – CPU, RAM, GPUColours 4

iPhone 5S – Apple A7 64-bit CPU dual-core 1.3GHz, 1GB RAM, PowerVR G6430 GPU

Nexus 5 – Snapdragon 800 quad-core 2.3GHz, Adreno 330 GPU

Look at the numbers and the Nexus 5 sounds much more powerful than the iPhone 5S. It has a quad-core 2.3GHz processor with 2GB of RAM, the iPhone 5S a dual-core 1.3GHz chip with 1GB of RAM.

Many will assume the iPhone 5S is weaker, but it is actually the more powerful of the two.

The iPhone 5S is the first 64-bit phone in the world, and it’s a seriously powerful device that offers desktop-like functionality in some of the apps optimised for it. For example, in audio sequencer Garageband you can use 32 tracks instead of 16 in the non-64-bit phones (granted, full sequencers offer ‘unlimited’ tracks these days.)

In the Rightware Basemark test, which compiles scores from a number of gaming benchmarks, the iPhone 5S comes out with 15.54 points, against the Nexus 5’s 14.27 points. It’s an abstract score, but tells you that the iPhone has more 3D gaming power.

The Nexus 5 is on par with the very fastest Android phones of the moment, such as the Xperia Z1 and LG G2 (the Galaxy S4 is slower, if more popular).

In real world use they're both supremely fast phones, and the Nexus 5 is outstanding considering the price, but in totally unemotional, hard numbers the iPhone 5S comes out on top.

iPhone 5S vs Nexus 5 – CameraColours

iPhone 5S – 8-megapixel main 1/3 inch sensor, dual-LED flash, f/2.2 aperture

Nexus 5 – 8-megapixel main 1/3.2 inch sensor, single-LED flash, f/2.4 aperture, OIS

Both these phones have 8-megapixel cameras, a megapixel count that sounds a little low when the Samsung Galaxy S4 has a 13-megapixel camera and the Xperia Z1 a 20.7-megapixel camera. However, each has a few minor tricks up its sleeve.

The iPhone 5S has a slightly larger-than-average sensor. It is 1/3 of an inch rather than 1/3.2 inches – the standard size, and that of the Nexus 5. Larger sensors result in less noisy pictures, given the same level of processing.

The Nexus 5 also has a slower lens than the iPhone 5S – f/2.4 to the iPhone’s f/2.2. A faster lens again results in less noisy pictures, and better low-light performance.

However, the Nexus 5 has one thing the iPhone 5S does not – optical image stabilisation. This buffers the lens to compensate for any movement made while you’re taking photos, and will reduce the number of blurry photos you take.

We’ll update this comparison once we’ve had a chance to compare them properly.

VerdictColours 1

Given the Nexus 5 costs just over half the price of the iPhone 5S, it’s a real bargain. It offers comparable (although slightly less) power and a larger, similar-quality screen. There are benefits with an iPhone – the Touch ID sensor is great, the build quality is a bit more impressive and the app selection is better – but if you want the most phone for the least cash, the Nexus 5 is the way to go.

Next, read our Nexus 5 vs Nexus 4 comparison


November 4, 2013, 4:42 pm

Design: "Expensive" and "cool feel" of the 5s is a joke when considered a case will be on it for the rest of its life. Or it'll look like crap after a month of use. And it won't feel so cool when the defective battery blow up in your hand.

Screen: Both screens are made by LG with the same tech. Nexus 5 has 3x the pixels of the 5s. Take your pick!

Software: iOS 7, really? Ugly metro GUI has gotten some people dizzy. Not to mention it's pretty much locked down on customization.

CPU, RAM, GPU: 5s 64-bit what for, when it's built with only 1GB of RAM? One freaking app unnessessary utilizes 64-bit; big deal! And frankly I don't give a ratass about your benchmark because the Nexus has to drive 3x more pixels.

Camera: Same 8 megapixel. You mentioned the little differences in the lenses like they're gonna make any different. The only big different here is the Nexus has image stabilization. I don't think you know the important of that function since you're not a photographer.

Verdict: Clearly you're on Apple's payroll and you're an idiot.
IPhone 5s 32GB = $749
2x Nexus 5(s) 16GB + a nice dinner with a loved one = $749


November 4, 2013, 6:48 pm

you're an idiot if you don't know the difference that a faster lens makes to photography. The combination of a larger sensor and faster f stops makes a perceptible difference in quality. Apple's digital image stablisation technology is damn good too.


November 4, 2013, 8:52 pm

On Apple's payroll? Despite saying the iPhone is better built, more powerful, has a better camera and better apps, he still chose the nexus as the better value phone.


November 4, 2013, 10:58 pm

I'd be interested to know how battery-life compares on these phones ... a real bugbear on my current phone.


November 5, 2013, 4:31 am

The iPhone is in no way more power. 64bit is useless below 4gb of ram. The benchmarks are worthless as the nexus is rendering at 1080p rather than the iPhone 620p(with lower ppi). Let's see the benchmarks when the iPhone has a hd display...


November 5, 2013, 5:34 am

He called him an idiot because he said the iphone is more powerful, when it simply hd less work to fo


November 5, 2013, 9:32 am

"Given the Nexus 5 costs just over half the price of the iPhone 5S"

Apples to Apples, please. The 32GB iPhone 5S seems to retail for £700, based on a Google shopping search. I paid £350 for my Nexus 5 32GB including shipping. On an equal basis it is precisely half the price :)


November 5, 2013, 9:35 am

Digital image stabilisation does nothing for low light photography. I agree that the sensor size and lens speed are important, but the optical IS of the Nexus is a fair exchange. Apple wins on the camera (that dual flash is nifty too) but not by a whole lot for your £350.

Nate Ebner

November 5, 2013, 9:50 am

Is the iPhone really more powerful? Or is it just driving a smaller screen (2.85 times less pixels), and so benches better? I'm pretty sure it is the latter, meaning using your numbers, the Nexus 5 is actually 2.6 times as powerful. Also 64-bit really means nothing at the moment, and parading it round like it somehow makes it twice as good as 32-bit is silly.

At the end of the day it sounds like the two will both run at basically the same level of performance, but the Nexus 5 does that with a bigger and more detailed screen. Most people seem to want bigger screens, but not everybody, and so both phones will suit some people well.


November 5, 2013, 9:35 pm

Most benchmarks are not affected by screen size. The A7 chip in the iPhone 5S is the fast mobile chip to date. Anand Lal Shimpi says he hasn't "come across anyone in the ARM camp that can compete with what Apple has built here" (http://www.anandtech.com/show/....

Side note: 64-bit is a big deal as its not just about the bits. On ARM chips it represents a transition to the ARM64 architecture that is more efficient and streamlined than the 32-bit variety.

Big Moose

November 5, 2013, 10:03 pm

64bit is useless below 4Gb of RAM? Where did you get that number? Please get a calculator and actually calculate how much info 32bit can contain.


November 6, 2013, 4:30 am

32bit can contain 2^32bits... But the main difference between 32 and 64 is in memory addressing. 32bit can only store enuff address for 4gb of ram. Until the iPhone has more than 4gb of ram the benefits of 64 bits is limited at best


November 6, 2013, 12:51 pm

"Most benchmarks are not affected by screen size"
Correct, screen size doesn't make any difference, but resolution certainly does.
If the Nexus had the bigger screen but the same resolution then we could expect a similar result, but in reality the Nexus5 has both a bigger screen AND a higher resolution (iPhone's 326ppi vs Nexus5's 445ppi). It's driving vastly more pixels and performance will take a hit. This is also why we run benchmarks at different resolutions on computer reviews (720p screens, vs 1080p, vs 4k soon).
Side note: 64-bit is a big deal, correct, but not really with just 1gb of RAM.


November 6, 2013, 8:03 pm

Not all mobile benchmarks are GPU benchmarks. Only GPU benchmarks should be affected by screen resolution and then only if its rendering things exclusively on screen. Well designed benchmarks tend to draw things offscreen at a fixed resolution to maintain consistency across devices.

64-bit by itself isn't a big deal. ARM64 is a big deal (read: archietecture change). See here for a more elaborate and in depth analysis: http://www.mikeash.com/pyblog/...


November 6, 2013, 8:07 pm

Optical image stabilisation does nothing for moving subjects. No technology is perfect ;)


November 8, 2013, 12:35 pm

No, the best designed benchmarks measure the phone as a whole. Users don’t care how well components perform at some artificial, fixed resolution - they want real measurables for the specific device. It's completely pointless if a benchmark were to say: "the Nexus5 would clearly be the fastest device IF it was pushing the same number of pixels as the iPhone".
That’s why all of the most common and most relevant benchmarks are be affected by resolution - and why we use a number of these benchmarks in combination, as they task the cpu and gpu to different extents, in different ways.

64-bit isn't a big deal... yet. But ARM64 also isn't a big deal yet. And with only 1gb of RAM, 64-bit on this particular phone looks like it might never be a big deal, as inferred by your pasted article. The Iphone5sx or whatever will come with a proper amount of RAM for 64-bit processing.

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