Reunion at the Nexus: A (Smartphone) Love Story

Image from Google.

It was both a rebound relationship, and a practical one. Cynical? No, but not heartfelt. I had abandoned my beloved iPhone back in 2013 in order to remove myself from my cellular carrier, and the only economically feasible alternative that the new carrier offered was the Nexus 5. Black, matte, fast, solid. It wasn’t love, but it would do.

I couldn’t commit, though. I was distracted, I thought too much about the other phones I might have had. The camera was poor. I couldn’t get used to the width of the screen with my tiny hands, and I felt the colors of the display were too washed out, too, well, real. I couldn’t handle it. I left the Nexus 5 relatively quickly, and went instead for a first-generation Moto X.


The Moto and I were happy for a little while. It matched me in so many ways: it was cute, spunky, and just the right size, without being overbearing with bloatware or unnecessary extras or demands. It was good for a while.

But I really wasn’t ready. I see that now. I was still too attached to iOS and Apple, still in the thrall of the spell that Steve Jobs cast on me years ago. The novelty of change having worn off, I longed to return to the comfort and familiarity of iPhone. So I came crawling back, like I always had before.

And things were fine. We got along, we worked more or less in sync. But though I’d never say so, I was getting bored again. The new iPhones 6 were announced, and they didn’t have the undeniable gravitational tug on me all previous models had. They were beautiful, powerful, that was all clear, but I couldn’t become interested.

Meanwhile, on the other side of things, Lollipop appeared. A new look and feel to Android, more unified, cleaner, more, well, delightful. I was intrigued.

At the same time, iPhone and I started fighting more and more often. Its new operating system, iOS 8, was lovely, but buggy. Things that it promised it could do, it wouldn’t. It would offer up new features, and then fail to make them work, or not well enough. The problems themselves weren’t insurmountable, but they exacerbated what was an existing ennui, a worsening indifference, a deepening chasm.

One day, I felt it. I had moved on. Whatever iPhone and I had once had was over. It wasn’t its fault, and it wasn’t mine. But we had grown apart, and it was time to admit it.

But I didn’t know where I’d go next. I knew I wanted to be using Android for my phone (not my tablet, that’s still an iPad mini 2), but not what device I should use, nor what I could afford to get, as it would certainly have to be used or refurbished.

Though, aren’t we all both used and refurbished?

Image by HTC.

I eventually connected with an HTC One M8, which was beautiful and well-regarded. It wasn’t easy to make that connection, though, as the first three (yes, three) units I ordered were all damaged in different ways. Finally, I found a refurb that was in like-new condition for the right price (I was sent the wrong color, but I had given up at that point). Surely this would work! But as I’ve recounted in a previous post, it was not to be. There were far too many incompatibilities.

While this latest relationship was deteriorating, I began to think back. Remember that phone that handled things so well? It was a different size, sure, but better than other devices. It was well built, certainly. It was fast, and reports from other users said that it remained so a year after its initial release, as it was still being sold and marketed as a current-generation flagship device. And it would also be certain to get the update to Android, Lollipop, sooner than almost anything else. And that OS update would have positive effects on things like the camera, the battery life, and how much overall effort it took to fiddle and futz.

Of course, I was thinking about the Nexus 5, the phone I had abandoned so long ago. I was older, I had matured. So had the phone. Perhaps now we were ready to try again.

I found one at the right price and in the right condition. It arrived, and we got to know each other again, and it was great. It was a revelation.

The phone wasn’t just fast, but faster than I remembered. The camera was workable, better than I gave it credit for (though still not great). The phone felt good to hold, the screen looked gorgeous, and the expanded display size was a relief to my eyes. The OS was now familiar and fun, not a slog through new territory. And then Lollipop came over the airwaves, and made it even better. It was a beautiful thing.

But one important thing was very different this time. This time, it was red.

Very red. Bright-orange-pink red. Obnoxiously red. It was perfect.

Now, I still live in the iOS world with my iPad, and it’s a good friendship, one that suits me for its particular purposes. But it’s fun to also be in the Android world, to be experiencing both development arcs of these dominant platforms. Particularly for the purposes of this blog, but also my own enthusiasms and curiosities, I can be part of both ecosystems’ conversations.

How long will the Nexus 5 stick around? I can’t say, of course. Undeniably fascinating devices, current and future, await. The Nexus 5 is the right device right now, even though it’s a little older, catching up with the times, and trying its best. Just like me.

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