The look, form and feel of a mobile device is a big deal. It’s often the subject of huge criticism; a very polarizing subject. We’ve all seen Apple or even HTC campaigns attacking the use of “cheap plastic,” obviously aimed at Samsung. HTC has been applauded for their aluminum unibody design with their HTC One. Apple fans have always felt that they’ve had high-end, cutting edge equipment with their iPhones. I’m not here to criticize any of these fantastic mobile device designs. What I want to do here is spotlight the Nexus 4, what it brought to the table with its design for Android, and what we may or may not be getting with this new Nexus 5.
When the Nexus 4 came out, in my opinion, it was definitely an attempt to answer to what Android users wanted. It was an attempt to bring to Android, even pure Google Android, a device that felt high-end. As can be seen in the picture above, the Nexus 4 has a glass back. This wasn’t new to the mobile world. It was old news to iOS users. I wouldn’t argue that the Nexus 4 is anywhere near as beautifully engineered as the iPhone, but that’s not the point. We’re not really comparing Apples to apples. Please excuse the pun, but the Nexus 4 and the iPhone are in completely different leagues when we’re talking price point. But when you hold a Nexus 4, after holding a Samsung Galaxy S4 or any older devices from LG, it feels different. And different is better.
LG tried to create a different experience with the Nexus 4. It feels solid. It’s shiny. It sparkles at you when you hold it in the light just right. There hasn’t been another Android device like it.
This glass back does have its tradeoffs. For one, it’s glass front and back. That’s double the normal number of breakable surfaces on the phone. I was a huge critic of LG using a glass back on the Nexus 4. There have been many more since. Those that ended up with cracked phones after extremely minor incidents, maybe even major incidents, or even acts that shouldn’t have broken a decently built/designed device, I’m sure these Nexus 4 owners have formed some pretty strong opinions about the device. It took me a long time to pull the trigger on buying the Nexus 4, and the glass back was one of my biggest hangups. When I did get the Nexus 4, I was almost terrified every time I used it because of all the horror stories I heard about how fragile the device was. However, I fell in love with my Nexus 4. I loved the way it felt and looked in my hands. I often found myself appreciating its glimmer in the sun. I still think it’s a killer piece of kit.
Recently, if you’ve noticed, leaked shots of the Nexus 5 have been appearing around the Interwebs. I have a shot for you just to the right leaked by 9 to 5 Google. I couldn’t be more excited about the rumored hardware specs. I think it sounds like the perfect device for me. But when I look at it, it’s nowhere near as nice looking as the Nexus 4. I’m trying to decide how I feel about it.
Before I owned the Nexus 4, I never cared much about how my phone looked. I was all about function over form. A plastic phone back was obviously better because it was more durable and will always serve its function better than a back with a different material. This is fact. You can’t argue that plastic is durable, light, and easy to manufacture. I applaud Samsung for sticking to their guns and continuing to produce phones with plastic backs. I would much rather money be spent on my device’s rippin’ hardware than having a precision machined unibody. But the trade off is, your device isn’t going to feel the same. It’s not going to be as pretty.
So, I’m torn. I think the Nexus 5 will be a fantastic Nexus device. I think it even fits the bill for a Nexus device a little better than the Nexus 4 did. Nexus devices are meant to be developer devices, which, in my opinion, don’t need to be shiny and beautiful. Developer devices need to be functional and allow the developer to push the limits of mobile and Android. And I think the Nexus 5 fits the bill well. Especially with a phone back that looks a lot like the new Nexus 7. It’s a functional back. It feels solid. It’s grippy. It gets the job done and does it well. But it’s not pretty.
So what do you guys think? There are obviously devices out there that are well designed and great looking. But I’m a Nexus guy. I love Nexus devices. I really want the new Nexus 5. Am I ridiculous for feeling a little sad inside that it’s not a pretty as its older sibling, the Nexus 4? Am I ridiculous for even thinking the Nexus 4 is pretty? Or do you think the new Nexus 7 back is the bee’s knees and it’s the best news ever that the new Nexus 5 looks like it may have the same back? Let me know in the comments if I’m ridiculous or justified.