The Nexus 5 by LG arrived yesterday for evaluation and I'm pretty excited about taking a few bites out of KitKat (aka Android 4.4). In the following weeks I will post here about my experiences using the latest generation of Google's Nexus line-up. Let's unwrap it and take a bite.
For those not familiar with Nexus devices, here are some key points to keep in mind:
Google Nexus devices are smartphones that are co-developed by Google and OEM manufacturers. Nexus devices are based on Google's Android mobile OS and come with no additional OEM or carrier branding, and no additional user interface (UI) enhancements. They are a "Pure Google" experience. Over the years, Google has worked with a few different OEMs to make their Nexus devices; HTC, Samsung, and now LG, maker of the Nexus 5.
For most Android devices, OEM device makers put a lot of effort and code into their UIs. The UI enhancements are designed to integrate, enhance, beautify and differentiate the owner experience. HTC uses Sense; LG used LG Optimus UI; Samsung uses TouchWiz.
Nexus devices have no OEM UI added. If you've been a long time Android user, but never owned a Nexus device, one of the first surprises you are likely to encounter is how "stripped down" or bare the UI may seem. The upshot is the OS is extremely efficient and fast. The downside is...well, in the case of the Nexus 5 and Android KitKat, almost nil.
The Pure KitKat Experience:
I've used previous Nexus devices (Galaxy Nexus, Nexus S) so I was prepared for a "stripped down" experience. I was NOT prepared for the polish and panache of KitKat. Having used the Nexus 5 for 24 hours (and counting) I see how Google has taken some ques from other OEM UI enhancements and baked them into Android 4.4.
Taking a hint from HTC and BlinkFeed, KitKat baked Google Now directly into the UI. You access Google Now with just a swipe to the left from your main home screen. If you're unfamiliar with Google Now, Now is a plethora of information about your life. Now knows what you want to know, before you want to know it. You can tailor Now to your liking, adding (WebOS like) cards for almost anything. To dismiss a card, swipe it away with a flick of your finger and get on with your day.
Menu Quick Settings
When you draw one finger down from the top of the screen, you get access to notifications. You can touch the square panel in the top-right corner to access quick menu settings; WiFi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode, etc.
This reminds me a lot of what Samsung does with TouchWiz.
I like it.
If you draw down from the top of the screen with two or more fingers, you go right into quick-setting menu mode.
Email and Contacts; Look & Feel
The native KitKat email client now looks and "feels" like the recently-updated Gmail client.
Because Nexus devices are "Pure Google" it syncs contacts with Google services by default. i.e. Google+. Notice how my friend and fellow Product Ambassador Matt V. shows up in my email. My colleague Michelle, on the other hand, is not connected with me on Google+, so no contact pic.
You can play out a 'day in the life' of Vanna White from Wheel of Fortune when touch the "card" (first letter or image) to select multiple messages before to take action; move, delete, forward, etc. When you touch the card, it spins around in a pleasing animation as if to reveal something. Queue the Wheel of Fortune 4-bell chimes.
UI, Widgets and Home Screens
Out of the box, KitKat starts with one home screen and no widgets (other than the ever-present Google search bar). You can add as many home screens as you like simply by opening up the app drawer and do the familiar tap-hold-n-drag of any app onto any screen. Keep dragging to the right to make new home screens.
To access and add widgets just tap-n-hold on any home screen. From this menu you can also change wall paper and access Google settings (Google Now settings). Click on Widgets to browse through the installed widgets. Do the 'T-H-n-D' dance to place the widget where you wish.
I really like how KitKat shows you a graphical display of how much home-screen real estate each widget will displace. Notice above how the Facebook widget will take a "4 x 2" space and the Endomondo widget will suck up 4 x 4 blocks of screen space.
Below the widgets is a familiar page count guide. You can scroll through it, like home screens, or use as a visual guide to know how many more pages of widgets you have to choose from.
That's enough candy for today. I need to digest and do some more exploring. Next week I will have more thoughts about the Nexus 5 and Android KitKat so hurry back.
Disclaimer: Disclaimer: The Product Ambassadors are Sprint employees from many different parts of the company that love technology. They volunteer to test out all sorts of Sprint devices and offer opinions freely to the Community. Each Product Ambassador shares their own opinions of these devices, therefore the information in this post does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sprint. The PAs are not corporate communications, CARE, technical support, product management or product marketing and should not be expected to respond to Community members in the capacity of any of these roles.