Google Nexus 5 (Sprint) review

Sprint's Google Nexus 5 remains a blazing-fast, pure Android smartphone with support for the company's budding Spark LTE network, but it's not as good a deal as its unlocked counterpart.
Photo of Google Nexus 5 (Sprint)

The Google Nexus 5 is hands down the best unlocked smartphone available, combining high-end specs and a pure Android experience with an unbelievably low price. In the U.S., though, the unlocked Nexus 5 only plays nice with T-Mobile and AT&T’s networks. If you want to take advantage of Sprint’s unlimited data plans and network, you’ll have to go through the carrier to get Google’s flagship phone. The Sprint Nexus 5 is still an incredible device that showcases everything that Android has to offer, but at $149.99 with a two-year contract or $449.99 without for the 16GB model, it’s not quite the home-run deal it is as an unlocked device.

We’ve already reviewed the unlocked Nexus 5, so head on over to that review for a full rundown on the design and features. The Sprint version is physically identical so we’ll focus on the carrier differences for this review.

Network and Call Quality
The Nexus 5 runs on Sprint’s CDMA (850/1900MHz) and LTE (800/1900/2500MHz) networks with support for the company’s new tri-band Spark LTE. In my tests in New York City I saw the Nexus 5 achieve up to 19Mbps down and around 2-6Mbps up when connected to LTE. That’s a pretty impressive result, especially considering network congestion is starting to drag down Verizon and AT&T LTE speeds in the same location. Sprint’s Spark LTE is only available in a few select locations, but where it is, we’ve seen speeds upwards of 30Mbps.

Note: The slideshow below is of the unlocked Nexus 5, which is physically identical to the Sprint Nexus 5.

Call quality is a mixed bag, as transmissions through the mic sound full and natural, but voices in the earpiece tend to sound muffled. Maximum volume is also a bit low for my tastes, though noise cancellation was pretty effective, blocking out a loud school bus engine rumbling in the background. In our tests, the Nexus 5 lasted 12 hours, 17 minutes of continuous talk time, which is less than the 14 hours, 43 minutes of the unlocked version, but still a respectable result.

Though it’s sold through Sprint, this is a Nexus device, so bloatware and modifications are non-existent. No Sprint Zone, no NASCAR tie-ins, no nothing. It’s a beautiful thing. You also get the same pure build of Android 4.4.2 “Kit Kat” and Nexus Experience launcher as the unlocked version.

Conclusions
When Google took the wraps off the unlocked Nexus 5, the $350 price tag made it a no-brainer for Android enthusiasts unencumbered by carrier contracts. On Sprint, though, it’s a bit more complicated. You have two options for buying the Nexus 5: $150 with a two-year contract or $450 outright for the 16GB model only. That’s a $100 markup over the unlocked version, but the subsidized price is even more puzzling. As of this writing, Sprint offers the Samsung Galaxy S4 or the Motorola Moto X for $100 and the LG G2 for free with two-year contracts. Granted, none of these are running stock Android, but there are very real arguments to be made for manufacturer skins these days. The Moto X, for instance, offers a close-to-stock build of Android with useful additions like Active Notifications and touchless controls from sleep. The G2 is, on a hardware level, nearly identical to the Nexus 5, but sports a bigger battery, sharper camera, and larger storage capacity. The Nexus 5 is still among the best Android smartphones on Sprint, but with the carrier’s pricing scheme leveling the playing field, it’s no longer the best bang for your buck.

Specifications
Phone Capability / Network GSM, CDMA, LTE
Screen Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels
NFC Yes
Dimensions 5.43 x 2.72 x 0.34 (HWD) inches
802.11x/Band(s) 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
Video Camera Resolution 1080p
Battery Life (As Tested) 12 hours, 17 minutes
Available Integrated Storage 12.55 GB
Processor Speed 2.26 GHz
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Quad-Core
GPS Yes
Service Provider Sprint
Total Integrated Storage 16 GB
High-Speed Data EDGE, LTE
Weight 4.59 oz
Screen Type IPS LCD
Operating System as Tested Android 4.4
Physical Keyboard No
Camera Resolution 8-Megapixel Rear
1.3-Megapixel Front
Screen Pixels Per Inch 445 ppi
Bands 800, 850, 1900, 2500
microSD Slot No
Form Factor Candy Bar
Screen Size 4.95 inches
Bluetooth Version 4.0

Verdict
Sprint's Google Nexus 5 remains a blazing-fast, pure Android smartphone with support for the company's budding Spark LTE network, but it's not as good a deal as its unlocked counterpart.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc