When Apple unveiled the latest iteration of its iconic iPhone back in September, it heralded the start of a blockbuster autumn product launch season unlike any seen before. On 29 October, Google provided a dramatic bookend to the recent consumer electronics bonanza, releasing two new additions to its popular Nexus family. For mobile-hungry consumers looking to purchase a new device this holiday season, the Nexus 4 handset produced in partnership with LG provided a final bit of food for thought before heading out to the high street. Both the iPhone 5 and Google's new smartphone pack some top-notch specifications into their slender frames and are highly tempting propositions. So how do they compare?
Size and weight
Both the Nexus 4 and the iPhone 5 are appealingly slender devices. It's hard to get more svelte than Apple's latest handset, which measures just 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm and weighs a featherlight 112g. Google's new Nexus mobile is slightly chubbier but still diminutive in the right places, measuring 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1mm and weighing 139g.
The iPhone 5 boasts a resolution of 1,136 x 640 pixels at 326ppi on its well-considered 4in Retina screen. The Nexus 4 is a more expansive, Galaxy S3-esq proposition, featuring a 4.7in display with a 1,280 x 768 pixel resolution, but a slightly inferior density of 318ppi.
Storage and memory
The iPhone 5 looks to be a stronger option for content hoarders, as it is offered in 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB iterations. By contrast, the Nexus 4's on-board storage maxes out at 16GB, while the cheapest option only features 8GB of space to play with. Neither has a microSD card slot, so choose wisely, as you'll be stuck with whatever capacity you select for the duration of your relationship with the handset. With regards to memory, the Nexus 4 offers an impressive 2GB of RAM, while the iPhone 5 features a more conservative 1GB.
Apple's custom-designed A6 chipset is touted as its most powerful and efficient smartphone processor set-up to date. It features an ARM-inspired dual-core 'Swift' CPU clocked at 1.3GHz by Geekbench, complemented by PowerVR SGX 543MP3 graphics. The Nexus 4 boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon set-up, headlined by a quad-core Krait CPU clocked at 1.5GHz, and featuring an Adreno 320 GPU.
A comparison between the Nexus 4 and the iPhone 5 makes for a classic Android/iOS showdown, made all the more dramatic by the fact that both devices run the absolute latest version of their respective operating system. The new Google handset is driven by Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, with the new version of Google's mobile OS introducing some neat-sounding new features, like Photo Sphere and its Swype-style Gesture keyboard and offering the familiar Android experience many users love. That said, there have been some teething pains to say the least, including the People app 'December bug' and, more recently still, problems with camera autofocus stability.
But it's not like iOS 6 is a stranger to controversy. Many of its most appealing features, like Passbook, are largely redundant outside of the US for the time being, while the loss of Google Maps prompted widespead grievances that even the most die-hard fanboys had to admit were legitimate. The latest iOS platform was also plagued with its own camera issue, dubbed the 'purple flare' problem. The latter appears to have been more or less resolved, but cartographic issues are still part and parcel of iOS 6 and Apple Maps remains a miserable effort. Major problems aside, iOS 6 still offers a characteristically smooth and easy-to-use user experience, with Siri's responsiveness in particular being a noticeable improvement.
On paper, the cameras sported by the iPhone 5 and Nexus 4 are mirror images of one another, with both devices featuring 8-megapixel sensors with full HD video and f/2.4 lenses. The Nexus 4 potentially enjoys a marginal advantage with regards to front-facing camera quality, offering a 1.3-megapixel secondary shooter compared to the 1.2-megapixel auxillary iPhone 5 snapper.
If the Nexus 4 performs anywhere near as well as Google claims it will in the battery department, then it's one of the strongest offerings on the market from a longevity perspective. Google claims 15 hours of 3G talk time for its latest handset courtesy of a 2,100 mAh battery. Apple's new handset, by way of contrast, sports a more humble 1,440 mAh battery and claimed longevity of eight hours.
Connectivity and wireless
The iPhone 5 enjoys immediate access to the UK's new 4G LTE spectrum as furnished by EE, while the Nexus 4 will generally be stuck on now-inferior 3G networks, though it does support the HSPA+ 42 standard, which is becoming more widely available from UK carriers. However, the Nexus 4 offers a number of highly desirable if not absolutely essential wireless extras, most notably support for both NFC and wireless inductive charging - features the iPhone 5 lacks.
Price, availability, and opinion
Getting the latest Apple phone glued to your ear is always going to cost you. In the case of the iPhone 5, you'll have to shell out £529 for a 16GB model, and the best part of £700 if you want to opt for a more capacious 64GB variation. It's the highest of the high end, price wise, but there's some impressive specification to back up the cost. Then there are the intangible elements: Apple's design gusto remains nearly flawless, as ever – you'll certainly never risk embarrassment pulling an iPhone 5 out of your pocket.
The Nexus 4, of course, is a very different proposition: at £229 for an 8GB model and £269 for a 16GB iteration, it's priced very much in the mid-range segment despite sporting largely high-end specs. Indeed, it's only with regards to on-board storage and data speed that it potentially risks letting consumers down. Other features, like the 2GB of RAM, wireless charging capability, and quad-core Snapdragon processor, are up there with the crème de la crème of the market. It's the same kind of ethos - top-quality specification at a very low price - that made the Nexus 7 such a success. There's obviously some work to be done ironing out the creases of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, but that shouldn't stop you - it's arguably the best bargain in the smartphone sector at the moment, and it's not even discounted.
So what is the right-minded mallrat to do, faced with a choice between two quality devices? It depends on your priorities - there are minor quibbles with both, and each has its own strong-points. We'd probably be tempted to save £300-odd and snap up the Nexus 4 when it becomes available again, but equally wouldn't argue with those wanting to obtain the iPhone 5 on the basis of 4G LTE compatibility and its generally peerless design. You are the consumer and it's the Christmas shopping season - your time is now.
See how the Google Nexus 4 compares to the Samsung Galaxy S3 LTE.
Check out how the Google Nexus 4 stacks up to the Samsung Galaxy Note 2.
Google Nexus 4
1,136 x 640 pixels
1,280 x 768 pixels
Processor and battery
1.3GHz (via Geekbench)
PowerVR SGX 543MP3
Claimed 3G talk time
Storage and memory
16 / 32 / 64GB
8 / 16GB
3,264 x 2,448 pixels
3,264 x 2,448 pixels
802.11 a / b / g / n
802.11 a / b / g / n
v4.0 with A2DP
v4.0 with A2DP
123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm
133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1mm
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean
£529 (16GB) / £599 (32GB) / £699 (64GB)
£239 (8GB) / £279 (16GB)