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How the Nexus 5 and Moto G defined phones in 2013

The Nexus 5 and Moto G are excellent, budget products, which between them can show Apple a thing or two about how to address lower prices while maintaining high quality.

Nik Rawlinson
Nik Rawlinson has been writing about tech since Windows 95 was looking distinctly futuristic. He is a former Editor of MacUser magazine and one-time scribe for Personal Computer World. Nik is a freelance writer and is not an employee of CNET.
Nik Rawlinson
3 min read
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How low can you go? That's what every tablet and mobile maker is asking these days. Even Apple's made some small concessions with the (slightly) more affordable iPhone 5C. Not much, mind you.

For a bone fide bargain, you'll have to look at Android, and particularly Google's own devices. By collaborating with HTC, Samsung and LG, Google has proved that driving down prices doesn't necessarily mean driving down quality. Case in point: the Nexus 5, which is yours for £299 SIM-free.

For that you get a 5-inch screen (a full inch more than the iPhone 5S and 5C) and a quad-core 2.3GHz processor powering Android 4.4 KitKat, which has since been retooled to also power its predecessor, the Nexus 4.

We weren't hugely impressed by the 8-megapixel camera, and the design is a little pedestrian when compared to its peers, but build quality is great, and the rubberised back and Gorilla Glass front can easily hold out against a pocket full of keys without picking up a face full of scratches.

Watch this: Google Nexus 5

Behind that glass, the screen itself is very impressive: razor sharp, bright and with well balanced colour. It also has enough pixels to play full HD content without scaling.

Not only is it cheaper than the iPhone, but it was also faster in our benchmark tests, beating both the iPhone 5S and Sony's Xperia Z1. Games were smoothly rendered and responsive too, even when the phone was performing background tasks. Impressive indeed.

Could the Nexus 5 turn out to be the elusive iPhone killer? Android fans would likely say so, but if you've heavily invested in iOS apps, then it's unlikely to make you jump ship.

Whatever you conclude, you can't deny that it's great value, nor that it shares the glory of being the phone that defined 2013 with... well, not exactly a rival, more a sibling -- the Motorola Moto G.

Google has been steadily rehabilitating the Motorola brand since snapping up its Mobility arm for a cool $12.5bn back in 2012, and that operation could well be complete with the arrival of this £130 wonder.

You might not expect much at that price, but it's got a 4.5-inch screen capable of displaying 720p video, a 1.2GHz quad-core processor and a 5-megapixel camera. It's still, as we said in our review,  "the best value phone around by miles", and even if you're not shopping on a budget there are plenty of reasons why you should add it to your shortlist.

For example, it uses the same toughened glass as the Nexus 5, you can swap the back, and it's even water resistant (not water proof, though, so calling a friend in the rain is one thing, watching movies in the shower is quite another).

The pixel density is the same as that on the iPhone 5S, so the screen is razor sharp, and again the colours are very satisfying without being over saturated. It is "without a doubt the best screen you can get your hands on" at this price.

Watch this: Motorola Moto G hands-on

Just about the only disappointment is the lack of 4G, but there are plenty who'll be attracted by the Moto G's low price, and for whom 4G won't even figure when they're weighing up pros and cons.

So, Apple may have had more than its fair share of coverage for the launch of the iPhone 5S and 5C this year, but as far as we're concerned, it's Google that defined the mobile phone market in 2013.

In the Nexus 5 and Moto G it's produced two excellent products for the mid-range and budget user respectively, which between them can show Apple a thing or two about how to address lower prices while maintaining the high quality it so values.