An iPhone user’s thoughts on Google’s Nexus 5

I've been a happy iPhone user since the 3G was released in 2008, and since then no alternative handsets have been able to lure me away. However, when the forces of logic and lust collide, they compel me to take action. That was the case last month when Google released the Nexus 5. In the past, any non-Apple smartphone launch generated little fanfare in my mind. However, this time around, there were definitely some factors that made me pay attention to – and eventually buy – Google's latest flagship phone.

The Nexus 5's price was the first thing that caught my eye. For $350 (£299 in the UK) I could get an unlocked premiere phone with no contract – whereas an unlocked iPhone costs $700 plus (it’s £549 for the sim-free iPhone 5S in the UK). The most common alternative is signing a two-year contract, which comes with a heavily subsidised phone, but I was already in that hole.

I was enticed by the dream of finally being in control of my phone plan. I spend at least $100 (£60) a month, with nearly half of that amount wasted on a talk plan I rarely use. I was also planning on getting the hell out of Dodge with my contract, even if that meant terminating it a year early.

For several days I hunted for a no-contract plan that would focus on data over talk and finally found a $30 (£18) per month T-Mobile plan with unlimited LTE data and only 100 talk minutes, of which I was sure I'd only use a fraction. With that, the wheels were in motion.

Given the demand, it would take at least three weeks for my Nexus 5 to arrive. That gave me plenty of time to read every single review and investigate the features of my future phone. A friend who is equally devoted to Apple and Android told me "stock Android" makes all the difference.

Despite my excitement, I knew I was making a couple of concessions. The Nexus 5's hardware design isn't anything to write home about. I’d also become quite enamoured with iOS 7's aesthetic and user experience, so I felt I'd probably be facing something of a downgrade in that department. However, screen size was the one feature Apple was falling behind with. While I’m certainly not a "phablet" fan, a 4in screen doesn't satisfy my reading habits. The Nexus 5's nearly 5in screen seemed more suitable. Or so I thought.

When the box finally came, I tore it open like a 10-year-old unwrapping G.I. Joe figurines on Christmas morning. I held the device in my hand, marvelled at its wonderful screen, and dug in. "OK, Google, make me a sandwich," was the first thing I said. That didn't happen, but I didn't expect it to. Google Now has become by far my favourite software feature, if for no other reason than you don't really need to press any buttons to operate it. It is always listening like a good companion should. Siri needs to be more like this.

But just a few hours later, after tinkering with settings and downloading Flipboard, Twitter, and my other favourite apps, my excitement waned and I transitioned back to my good old contrarian self. Soon after that, the doubts started to creep in.

I'm sure you've heard the saying: "You don't know what you've got till it's gone." For me, that applies to the iPhone's home button. And while some Android phones like the Galaxy S4 have a tactile button, the Nexus 5 doesn't. My thumb likes to press down every minute or so, switch apps, and feel special. Now it just felt lonely.

I also wanted a bigger screen, and I got one. Unfortunately, I was not able to get a bigger hand. I realised that sad truth when I tried to stretch my thumb across the phone to reach touch controls in the upper-left corner of the screen. Now I understand why Apple made the iPhone 5 longer but not wider. I can't blame the design of the phone for this; it's just a big phone like hundreds of others out there. Still, I felt like an awkward teenager trying to handle it. This was perhaps the most surprising revelation of all: I actually prefer a smaller screen.

When you change wallpaper in iOS 7, the entire colour scheme of the OS changes with it, and that's the best way to explain why I love the latest version of iOS. Sorry Android, but it's not even close.

While I concede that 24 hours is not enough time to get completely comfortable with software you've never used before, I've been around software long enough to know what types of user experiences make me happy. iOS still has my heart.

This is not the way I wanted it to go, but sometimes the truth is painful. The good news is I'm still taking my iPhone 5 and heading to “The Land of No Contract” to bask in prepaid bliss. Even with the prorated termination fee I'll still save nearly $700 (£425) in the first year. With savings like that I'll be much more comfortable ponying up next year for an iPhone 6 at the unsubsidised price, unless Apple takes a cue from Google and lowers the price, embracing the burgeoning unlocked phone movement. But that’s wishful thinking, probably.

But let me leave you Android lovers with a glimmer of hope. Even with my trivial gripes, I still think the Nexus 5 is a great phone – it just isn't the phone for me. And as the economics of mobile devices and plans continue to evolve, I won't close the door on trying an Android device again. But for now, I shall be sticking with the iPhone…

For more on the Nexus 5, we have a full review of Google's phone, and also a Nexus 5 versus Apple iPhone 5S spec comparison.