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Nexus 5 rumour roundup: All the details on Google’s KitKat flagship handset

Google announced the Nexus One in 2010, but it didn’t sell very well. In fact, Google’s first Nexus device was discontinued a few months after release and people were questioning if the company would ever make another phone. And here we are a few years later, and we expect a new Nexus every autumn. Not only that – we expect it to be inexpensive, even if that means sacrificing features.

This year, the rumours are pointing to a very competitive device which is likely to be called the Nexus 5. Let’s dig through the mountains of rumours and leaks to see what this Android phone is going to offer.

Nexus 5’s design

The Nexus 4’s glossy glass back was famous for being pretty, but incredibly slick and fragile. A Google video of the KitKat statue showed an employee holding the Nexus 5 up to take a picture, thus revealing the back. Subsequent leaked images of the Nexus 5 clearly showed a back much like the 2013 Nexus 7 – a smooth, soft-touch plastic. It also appears to have the same big landscape-oriented Nexus logo seen on the new Nexus 7.

Basically, the Nexus 5 should be much more stable in your hand, which is good considering the size of this device, and better able to live through being dropped than the Nexus 4.

From leaked bug reports and system info screens, we can safely say the Nexus 5 will sport a 5in screen. The name could well tie in with the display size, but this will be the fifth Nexus device, so we’re guessing that’s relevant as well. The screen will probably be the same LCD panel used in the LG G2, seeing as LG makes both. The manufacturer of the phone really isn’t in question anymore – there have been too many leaks that point to LG.

The overall shape, as ascertained from the leaked shots, is slim and roughly the same as the Nexus 4. It has the same “2001 monolith” vibe from the front that most Nexus phones have had, but the back has a fairly large metal ring around the camera lens.

Nexus 5 specs

Thanks to leaked log files, we have a good handle on what sort of hardware the Nexus 5 is going to be packing. At the heart of Google’s next phone will be a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 chip clocked at 2.3GHz per core. There will also be 2GB of RAM, and if the leaked files are to be believed, both 16 and 32GB storage options. The Nexus 5 will essentially be an LG G2 in a different shell.

There has been speculation that Google could bring the hands-free voice actions from the US-only Moto X to the Nexus line by way of the Snapdragon 800. Like the Motorola X8 platform, Qualcomm’s chip has a snappy low power digital signal processor (DSP) core that could handle much of the same functionality.

One of the more interesting rumours is that the 32GB version of this phone will also have a larger battery. The device that landed in the FCC had a 2300mAh Li-ion cell, which was disappointing to some potential buyers who have become accustomed to seeing larger batteries in phones like the LG G2 and Galaxy Note 3. Anonymous sources have floated the idea that a 3000mAh battery could be included with the more expensive version.

One notable difference between the G2 and the Nexus 5 is the camera. The G2 has a good 13-megapixel image sensor on back and a 2-megapixel camera up front. The Nexus 5 is probably going to ship with an 8-megapixel rear camera and 1.2-megapixel front-facing module. Google has taken a lot of heat for sticking mediocre cameras in Nexus phones, so everyone was hoping Mountain View would step it up this time.

A leaked service manual for the device confirms several of the rumoured specs, but it also points out that the 8-megapixel camera has optical image stabilization (OIS). A camera with OIS can reduce motion blur for a clearer image, and it is becoming common on high-end smartphones. The HTC One and LG G2 both have OIS, for example. This might make the more inexpensive sensor easier to bear.

This time around, the Nexus is expected to have much better cellular connectivity. The big addition here is 4G LTE support, which is a huge step forward considering that the Nexus 4 was stuck on HSPA+.

Software: What about KitKat?

Google surprised everyone – including most Google employees – when it announced that the next version of Android would be called KitKat. The original Key Lime Pie moniker was kept around as a ruse ensuring the secrecy of the KitKat tie-in. Additionally, all that talk about Android 5.0 was wrong – KitKat is version 4.4. What Google hasn’t talked about is the feature set of its new platform.

A handful of leaked images indicate that Google is taking some of the Holo-blue shades out of the status bar. The clock and signal icons appear to be white, and the shapes have been tweaked a bit. In general, the theme is expected to be lighter in some of the built-in apps. These more recent leaks almost certainly prove that the colourful dialler and messaging screens from a few weeks back were fakes.

While it’s probably not going to be exclusive to KitKat, a new version of Hangouts is expected to launch with Android 4.4 that finally integrates SMS into Google’s chat application.

Google has done a good job of keeping KitKat under wraps. The software is definitely the most unpredictable part of the Nexus 5 announcement.

Availability and price

The Nexus 4 was announced last year at the end of October, but Google had to cancel its event in New York as Hurricane Sandy barrelled towards the city. The news was simply posted online and that was that. This year Google is expected to hold an event to demo the new device.

Dates around 31 October have been floated, with Google finalising the software by mid-month (though the 15 October has been mentioned as a possible release date as well). Past leaked build numbers showed creation dates in the month of August. If Google has been sending devices out with employees to test for weeks, it must be getting close to a final product by now.

Nexus devices are usually available for sale a week or so after they are announced, at least in the US, but last year there was a snafu. Due to unprecedented demand for the unlocked phone, Google sold out in mere minutes and its servers were throwing up errors left and right. Presumably Google learned its lesson and will make the phone easier to buy this time around – fingers crossed.

How much you’ll pay isn’t clear, but all Nexus devices are expected to be a bargain. The pricing for the 2013 Nexus 7 could be a clue to how much the phone will go for. The low-end Nexus 7 launched last year at £159, but the new version starts at £199. Perhaps a small price bump is to be expected for the Nexus 5 as well. Whenever it does go on sale, Google will likely move a ton of the handsets if the price is anywhere close to reasonable.