Smartphone For Mountain Biking: Nexus 5 vs. Moto G

Late last year as part of my (other) working life I’d be receiving a new smartphone, so after many years I'd be surrendering my mobile life from Apple and iOS and embracing Google and Android.

My previous encounters with Android powered smartphones had not gone well, I'd not thrown any across a car-parking building.. and yes, that's a thing I have been known to do in the past... but they caused me to swear. There's a Samsung Note tablet used at work for testing I refer to as "that accursed fucking demon spawned heap of shit"... and that's my short name for it. To say I had issues with Android was really glossing over the surface of the relationship. When I'm doing a round of device testing I have noticed the office became less occupied and colleagues could be found huddled together over cups of tea, one occasionally dispatched to see how much longer I'd be.

I knew that surrendering my iPhone 4S was going to have it's problems, I was deeply entrenched in iOS apps and I loved the form and fit of the handset. It's very well made and reliable... so I was worried about what I'd be getting and I was rather surprised when the box arrived and inside was a Nexus 5.

The Nexus line are the smartphones and tablets that run the purest form of the Android OS (Operating System), as Google have dictated they must. They are really Google devices, despite being manufactured by various companies. Nexus smartphones have been made by LG and Samsung and tablets by Asus and Samsung, but all the specifications and designs come from Google. As specified by Google, all Nexus devices get access to the latest versions of the OS as soon as they are released and they are designed to be a competitive with all the latest devices from Apple, Samsung, Sony etc with fast processor, graphics processor, lots of RAM memory and more acronyms than the previous smartphone that was released.

Out of the box I was impressed by four things:

  • It is a very well made device
  • It is supremely easy to set up and synch with a Google accounts
  • The screen is brilliantly bright
  • It is very, very large
I was less impressed by a couple of things:
  • Android still takes a lot of effort to learn
  • It is very, very large
  • The camera software was shit, really truly shit
However, within a few days Google released an update to fix the camera, as apparently everyone thought it was shit, including Google and this made a huge difference to my relationship with the device. I have always used the capabilities of my mobile devices in this order, camera/photos, email/messaging, phone, so the ability to take photos and managing them is important to me, so despite the improvements the Nexus is not much of a joy to use when it came to managing my photos. It has a menu system that is too complex, for instance why does it have an Images library and a Gallery library? Idiocy.

Practically though I was finding that I admired the quality of the screen, it is always legible, even in bright light, that nemesis of smartphones, but I still found myself confronted by the overall size of the device. It felt like a bit of a parody of a handset, a little too large as it would not quite fit anywhere, not in a back pocket, a jacket pocket, the various cubby-holes in the car and importantly my riding shorts pockets or my back-pack. I was concerned if I ever took a tumble that damn thing would snap...Then I did take a tumble, a big one and I broke my wrist out riding in the bush... and yes, having the Nexus 5 meant I could summon help, but once all that settled and I was in a cast, I could not use it properly any more, it was just too big to use in one hand. I was constantly juggling it and worrying about dropping it to the floor.

Life had become a ticking time-bomb… when was this lovely device going to meet it’s demise and how bad would I feel explaining it?

Before that happened however I was asked to surrender my Nexus 5, as i was to look at another Android device, the recently launched Motorola Moto G, which was not a cutting edge smartphone, but rather a different approach, using a high quality screen and a fast processor, but cutting out some acronyms and making it out of plastic. I had my concerns, but I was curious to try.

Out of the box this time, I was impressed by:

  • It is very well made
  • It fits my hand very well
  • It is supremely easy to set up and synch with a Google accounts
  • It came with a piece of Motorola software that enabled me to synch everything across the Nexus… this was too easy
  • It is not large enough for my cat to use as a surf board
I was less impressed
  • The 5MP camera is okay, not great, but not bad
  • The screen does not cope well in direct sunlight
My experience with the Moto G has been a lot more relaxed and happier than the Nexus. It fits into pockets with ease and importantly my backpack. Also as an added bonus the Moto G is water resistant and dust proof, so it’s not adverse to being used in the rain, the occasional water splash and being used on a dusty trail. Yes, it’s plastic and does not have the hewn properties of the Nexus or an iPhone, though right now I can forgive that, as I can use it with one hand. Also it has a wonderful long battery life, better than any smartphone I’ve ever had.

The camera is not as good as an iPhone, nor the Nexus 5, sometimes it seems to mis-focus, but overall I’m happy with the quality as most of the pictures captured are going to Instagram.

Personally I think the smartphone device war has gotten out of hand, the constant desire each year to make them larger and equip them with more acronyms… seriously it’s beyond a joke. So it’s nice to have someone doing something different, such as Motorola with the Moto G. It’s a seriously good phone… and yes, it’ll do 95% of what you’ll ever need a smartphone to do and with the assurance of some protection against water and dust, perfect for taking on a riding trip.

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