Google Debuts Nexus 5 With LTE And KitKat

Google's Nexus 5 smartphone runs Android 4.4 KitKat operating system and starts at $349.
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The Nexus 5 smartphone landed in the Google Play Store on Thursday equipped with Google's latest mobile operating system, Android 4.4 KitKat. The device is the first Nexus smartphone that can compete with the leading smartphones from Samsung, HTC and others. Here's what's new.

The hardware is, as expected, a variation of LG's G2. The Nexus 5 has a 5.0-inch in-plane switching LCD screen that features 1920 by 1080 pixels. That gives it a pixel density of about 445 pixels per inch. The screen is protected by Corning's third-generation Gorilla Glass. Fittingly, the buttons along the sides are made of ceramic. It has a standard set of jacks and ports.

The new smartphone comes with Qualcomm's venerable Snapdragon 800 chipset paired with an Adreno 330 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. The Nexus 5 is available with either 16 GB or 32 GB of storage.

Google appears to finally be taking the camera seriously. The Nexus 5 sports an 8-megapixel shooter that has a larger lens in order to collect more light. It has optical image stabilization to improve sharpness, and can fire off a handful of HDR shots in quick succession for the best possible exposure. The phone also has a 1.3-megapixel user-facing camera for video chats.

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Connectivity options run the gamut. The Nexus 5 brings LTE support to Google's smartphones for the first time. None of the previous Nexus smartphones offered it. It is compatible with the LTE networks run by AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile in the U.S., but not Verizon Wireless. The Nexus 5 also includes high-speed Wi-Fi, GPS, NFC and Bluetooth 4.0.

The Nexus 5 starts at an attractive $349 for the 16-GB model. The 32-GB model costs $399. It is available from the Google Play Store unlocked and without a contract beginning Thursday in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Japan and Korea. Feverish afternoon sales have depleted most of the Google Play Store's initial stock. The smartphone soon will be available at the following retailers: Sprint, T-Mobile, Amazon, Best Buy and RadioShack.

According to Google, it streamlined the Android 4.4 KitKat operating system so it can be used on a broader range of hardware. Devices with as little as 512 MB of RAM will be able to run Android 4.4 and include most features.

Most of the improvements to the operating system are under the hood and meant for developers. Developers will be able to add printing functions to their apps, as well as take advantage of new animations, transitions, graphics acceleration, accessibility APIs, screen recording and bezel-to-bezel apps. The Android 4.4 KitKat SDK is already available for download.

Some of the user-facing improvements in the OS include better notifications, a revised launcher, a new phone dialer app, improved device-wide search, and baked-in support for Google Now across the platform.

Android 4.4 also will be available on Nexus 4, 7, 10, the Samsung Galaxy S4, and HTC One Google Play edition mobile devices in the coming weeks. One of the main benefits of owning a Nexus-branded device is having first access to the latest system updates from Google.

With the new hardware, Google has elevated its Nexus smartphone to the same playing field as devices such as the iPhone 5s, Galaxy S4 and HTC One. Considering how quickly Google sold through its initial online supply, it is possible the Nexus 5 will be a bona fide hit.