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Moto X or Nexus 5?

moto x vs nexus 5

The question of the holiday season, wouldn’t you say? Or for many, the question that needs an answer by tomorrow morning. With Motorola hosting a $150-off deal on Cyber Monday (December 2) for MotoMaker and Developer Edition orders of the Moto X (our review), a number of you have asked us to put together some sort of comparison between it and the Nexus 5 (our review). This might be hard to believe, but for a limited time tomorrow, these two phones will be the same price.

We’re looking at somewhat similar, yet also very different approaches to an Android phone, even though they are technically made by the same company. One focuses on convenience, the other on power and cleanliness. One wants you to design it and make it your own, the other remains subtle even in two color schemes, with the focus on the operating system. One is trying to be as developer friendly as it can, the other is the ultimate device for a tinkerer. Both offer incredible values. Both are updated faster than any other Android phone.

So, which is it – Moto X or Nexus 5? 


On paper, it’s tough to argue against the impressive set of specs found on the Nexus 5, especially when compared to the Moto X. As you may recall during the launch of the Moto X, Motorola had to do some pretty serious damage control over the idea that “specs aren’t everything,” since their 2013 flagship isn’t exactly topping anyone’s charts with its 720p display, 10MP camera, and dual-core processor. Of course, after using it for months we now know that they were right, and that all of the optimizations they made through their X8 Mobile Computing platform have made the Moto X far from inferior to other phones.

moto x vs nexus 5 specs

But if you strictly want to look at how these two phones compare side-by-side with their respective set of specs, the Nexus 5 is the clear winner. Thanks to its 5-inch full HD 1080p display, top-of-the-line Snapdragon 800 processor, 8MP camera with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), wireless charging, and easily unlockable bootloader, it’s tough for any phone to compete, especially with its asking price of $349.

Design and Feel

If you are looking for the best feeling device on the planet for 2013, it is without a doubt the Moto X. From it’s pillowy backside to the way it perfectly rests in your hand, or its ease of use when using a single hand, the design (even though it is plastic) of the Moto X should be award winning. Motorola carefully crafted a phone that still has a big enough display (4.7-inch), yet feels like the size of a phone made years ago. There are minimal bezels, a bit of added thickness to fit all of its hardware and add comfort, and subtle details like its back dimple that make you never want to put it down.

Oh, and did I mention MotoMaker? At no extra cost, Motorola will let you customize a Moto X from its front or back colors to the accent around the camera lens. You can also tweak some internals, but the winner here is the hand-crafting of the exterior appearance, something no other smartphone OEM has been able to do to date.

moto x vs nexus 5

That’s not to say that the Nexus 5 feels terrible. In fact, the Nexus 5 comes close to feeling as good as the Moto X, even with its added size. Google kept the finishes extra soft, gave you two color options, and threw in design details like high-end ceramic buttons that stand out while using. It also feels somewhat pillowy when held, however, the ultimately flat back isn’t quite as comfortable as what Motorola has produced with the Moto X. There are also fairly noticeable seams and edges on the Nexus 5 where the the display reaches edges and where the backplate meets the side panels. We aren’t talking uncomfortably sharp, just something you’ll notice when comparing it to a Moto X.

In the end, in terms of design, you’ll have to choose whether or not a custom phone outweighs an extra bit of screen real estate. Both phones feel great in hand, my personal preference in this category is the Moto X though, if that wasn’t already obvious.

Software Experience

Now that we have former Google execs running Motorola, it’s with no surprise that their vision of Android runs parallel with Google’s. Stock Android is indeed king on either the Moto X or Nexus 5. With the Nexus 5 though, you are getting the latest version of Android, updates before anyone else (for the most part, right Nexus 4 owners?), and a true vision of what the Android team thinks of its mobile operating system. To add some extra spice to the Nexus 5, Google tossed in a new Google Experience Launcher (GEL) that is an exclusive. GEL is like a 2013’d stock Android launcher that brings Google Now to the front of the line with an always-listening “OK, Google” command. It also feels so much more polished and new school with transparent items and animations, a new (and old) way to add widgets, and a bigger overall appearance. The Phone app is much smarter than that of the Moto X, as well.

The rest is pretty much just stock Android 4.4. That’s not a bad thing, it’s just that with the Moto X now running Android 4.4 as well, there is little that the Nexus 5 can do from a software perspective to stand out.

moto x vs nexus 5

With the Moto X, you are also getting stock Android, but Motorola has thrown in a handful of add-ons that some would argue (“some” meaning us) have made this the best phone of 2013. Every time I pick up my phone or take it out of my pocket, the screen partially turns on with a clock and notifications (also called “Active Display“). No buttons need to be pressed for this to happen. Active Display might be the single greatest smartphone software feature to be introduced in the last three years. But that’s not all that Motorola tossed in.

If I want to take a picture in an instant, I can do so using a wrist-twisting gesture that once again, does not require the press of a button. And last, I can talk to my Moto X even with its screen off and have it perform all sorts of actions (called “Touchless Control“). The Nexus 5 has to be unlocked and sitting on your home screen in order to be able to perform something similar. The Nexus 5 also requires you to tap the wake/unlock button on your phone, then swipe a camera icon or edge of the display to get into the camera for photo taking. You tell me which is quicker.

Our review discusses these three Moto X features in detail, but for me, these might be the ultimate separators between the two phones, especially now that Motorola has shown it can update this phone as quickly as Google can with some of its own Nexus devices. If I had written this post two weeks ago, before Motorola shocked the world with its Kit Kat update, this section may have come off much different.


Neither the Moto X or Nexus 5 are going to win any photo competitions any time soon. I think it’s safe to say that the quality of photos taken with either are below that of the Galaxy S4, LG G2, Note 3, and new iPhone. I’d imagine you already know that though, and are fine with a decent camera if you are deciding between these two. That’s not to say that either is a terrible camera (well, the Nexus 5 tries to be at times), it just means that they take decent pictures.  To see sample photos taken with each, be sure to hit up this Moto X post and our Nexus 5 review. You tell me which you think wins that battle.

Instead of focusing on quality of photos, I’ve got some other reasons why I would pick one camera over the other. Generally speaking, I like smartphone cameras that are simple to operate and stay out of my way, that are updated often to improve picture quality, and can be launched in a matter of seconds. For those reasons alone, the Moto X camera is my choice between these two flagship phones.

moto x  vs nexus 5

The Nexus 5 – with its 8MP sensor and Optical Image stabilization – sounds like it should be a top tier smartphone camera, however, with its inability to focus, slow loading times, and dead-looking photos, Google has an immense amount of work to do to get this camera right. Again, my review tells you what I think of the Nexus 5’s camera. Spoiler alert – I hate it (in its current state).

The Moto X on the other hand, isn’t perfect yet manages to be good enough in a lot of ways. As was previously mentioned in the software section, the flick of a wrist launches the phone for instant picture taking. The UI has been minimized on it so dramatically, that you are left with only a few settings and really only one focus: to take pictures in a hurry. It’s shutter speed is fairly fast, has no trouble focusing, takes decent low-light shots, and works good enough out of the box without having to adjust a thing. Well, there aren’t any options to adjust, so it better work.

Motorola has started to prove that they want to take smartphone cameras seriously by pulling the camera app out of the Moto X and making it available for updates on Google Play. With this move, they can fine-tune the experience as regularly as is needed. With the first update to the camera, they made such major improvements that the outlook for Motorola and cameras can only be a positive one. Google has kept its camera app as a part of stock Android, so updates to it can currently only come through over-the-air operating system updates. They are apparently working on one that will fix the camera on the Nexus 5, we just have no idea when that’ll be. By the time they get around to it, Motorola may have issued another enhancer or two for the Moto X.

The Nexus 5 camera certainly has potential, a timeline for fulfilling that potential is currently MIA. And that has been the story of Nexus cameras for years.


Are you are a Verizon customer? If yes, you have two choices. Buy the Moto X, since it’s available on every major carrier in the country, or leave Verizon, find yourself a plan on T-Mobile, AT&T, or Sprint, and then think about the Nexus 5. The Nexus 5 does not work on Verizon’s network whatsoever, for reasons we can only guess.

If you are on AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint already, then the good news is that get to try and weigh all that we have just walked through and decide which is the phone for you. The Nexus 5 is sold unlocked, so it can much more easily be moved from one carrier to another, while the Moto X if purchased directly from carriers is essentially SIM-locked to those carriers. If you are in good standing with AT&T, they should unlock your Moto X to work with T-Mobile’s network, but that takes a bit of work. There is also a GSM Developer Edition of the Moto X that should be SIM-unlocked giving you a bit more flexibility.

nexus 5 vs moto x

For the most part, you are looking at trade-offs with either phone here. No Verizon for the Nexus 5, but the Nexus 5 is also much more flexible should you be interested in changing carriers often. The Moto X is available everywhere, it just isn’t as flexible when it comes to carrier jumping.


As mentioned previously, the Moto X is going to be $349 or $399 on December 2 in a massive Cyber Monday sale through Motorola’s online shop – that includes both MotoMaker orders and the Developer Editions. After December 2, the phone will more than likely go back up to its $499 and $549 price points. The Nexus 5 is $349 and $399 every single day of the week should you buy it through Google Play. It won’t go up in price, unless you buy it directly from a carrier.

As much as I love the Moto X, the price of the Nexus 5 is simply too amazing to pass up, unless of course you are buying one of these two phones on December 2. At $349 for the Moto X, with the software enhancements that Motorola has done along with free customizations through MotoMaker, it may be the best Cyber Monday deal we have seen in years. You’ll be leaving behind a 1080p display and the potential that is an OIS camera, however, the rest of the package may outweigh those two highlights from the Nexus 5.

Final Thoughts


You guys probably know that I’m a Moto X fan, like, a really big Moto X fan. I’m also now a massive Nexus 5 fan outside of its camera. Both phones perform amazingly well, they run the newest version of Android (Kit Kat) before everyone else, and provide us with the preferred stock Android experience. Motorola has added some amazing features that make it stand out from all smartphones (Active Display, Touchless Control, etc.), while the Nexus 5 is pretty bare bones outside of the Google Experience Launcher (which can be sideloaded on your Moto X if you really need it). But the Nexus 5 has a far superior display, while the Moto X gives you one-handed operability, a better overall feel, and the option to customize it at no extra charge. The camera experience on the Moto X is also leading the way at this stage in their lives.

So what do you do on Cyber Monday? Talk about a tough decision. At $349 for the Moto X, it just seems like too good of a deal to pass up on. But then again, the Nexus 5 has everything you could ask for in a 2013 smartphone, yet manages to fall in at the same price every day of the week. If you had been holding out on a Moto X purchase, then I think you know what you need to do tomorrow. If you are still trying to decide between the Nexus 5 and Moto X after reading all of that, I’m not sure anything else I can say will help. At some point, you need to pull the trigger, not ask someone else to do the dirty work for you.

For those with credit card in hand, the Moto X Cyber Monday deal kicks off tomorrow (December 2) at 6AM Pacific, 9AM Eastern.

  • MotoXer

    I bought the Moto X right after they sent the update for the camera software. Overall I really like the phone..the perfect size won me over. It’s responsive,the unique features like active display are awesome and it has a decent camera. Can’t comment on the Nexus 5, as I haven’t really used it.

    On the Moto X, though I didn’t see a huge improvement to the picture quality after the update but its still decent enough for casual pics for me.

    Here’s some photos I took recently with the Moto X of some metal pieces I found metal detecting……I enhanced them in Photoshop to bring out a little more detail:

  • RoboCop

    That being said my House Stark Moto X will be shipping Christmas Eve

  • RoboCop

    Motomaker is an extremely frustrating experience since it took me hours to finally decide on a color combo…then after a day regretted the accent color choice, and now have to decide if it’s worth it to send it back to be changed (I loose the $150 cyber Monday code if I do). The idea that a phone comes in one of two colors is just nice.


      Then pick black or white. There, I gave you two color choices.

  • Leo Marvin

    Gnex was getting so so slow. Picked up HTC one a few days before motox launch. Read specs and meh. Couple months later switched my wife from iPhone to moto x. I love it. Comfiest phone ever. I like the speed and screen of my HTC one. I’m the edge plan so I pay switch in a few months.

  • John Garlits

    If you’re really concerned about price, don’t forget the $300 Moto X at Republic Wireless. Keep in mind, you can only get black or white and 16 GB at the moment, but I’ve found it’s more than workable. I decided to experiment with this option after 2 years with the GNex on Verizon. I started with a $10 plan (Plans start at $5 for wifi-only operation) but can switch on the fly up to $40 unlimited cellular data (through Sprint). Worth checking out if this option works for you. Calling ant texting over wifi really work, and handoff to cellular mid-call is seemless. There’s a 30 day money-back guarantee (phone and service, minus $10 in shipping), so there’s not much to lose. Tried it for a few days, and I love it. Very comfortable and easy to use, one handed operation anytime, quick photo access, and way more smooth than my old Gnex. Battery life is crazy better. Hardly uses any battery when at rest. The screen is the same resolution about the same size as the Gnex, but the bezels are mostly gone by comparison. I used to have to carry battery packs plus charge whenever possible. Travelling with it was not fun. No more. Was keeping the Gnex around as a backup during my trial, but I went ahead and called to break up with Verizon yesterday. Nothing against the N5, and I kind of really was waiting for that all year, but I’m more than happy with the Moto X.

  • Severo Rivera

    Nexus 5 FTW!

  • Picked up the moto x in cyber monday deal and i love it. Only concern is the power button. It seems really sensitive. With a tap it turns on the display. Is this normal?

  • michael anzalone

    I dont know why anyone is putting down the camera of the nexus 5. i have spent at least two hours testing it against a galaxy s4, iphone 5s, moto x ,and also lg g2. The only one that is better in any way is the iphone 5s. The lg colors were off, the galaxy wasent as clear and the moto x wasent as clear also. But in no way were any of these phones better than the other by an large margin. The nexus 5 has a great camera. Get a life people test it your self

  • Brandon h

    Thinking of breaking my contract early and getting a Moto X on Republic Wireless. They only want 299 everyday price, only drawback is they piggyback on sprint. I can live with spotty Sprint coverage when I’m on the road though so long as I can make wifi calls at home and work, which Republic supports. I’m just debating whether I want to pay that damn verizon ETF or wait till next September and see if Republic offers anything better like a Moto X 2 or something.

  • I up and left Verizon just a few days ago, after having given them a shot for over two years. AT&T welcomed me back with open arms, after taking over some unlimited data plans on craigslist. I can honestly say I do not miss the horrible battery life of CDMA devices. I don’t miss the excessive amount of branding, bloatware, EVDO>LTE lag, claw your eyes out data speeds, communist upgrade policies, unfinished software, and everything else you have read people complaining about on our blessed DL.
    I gave them a chance, sacrificed choice for “coverage” and submitted to their childish mind games.

    So I sold the moto x ebay. Then the Gnex. Then the OG Droid Razr, and finally the unlimited plan altogether.

    Now sliding my Nexus 5(which AT&T actually insured!) out of my pocket to check my company gmail account…

    My pocket is a very happy camper!

  • mrrickyg

    Don’t forget about the round-the-clock available $299 (no-contract) Moto X on Republic Wireless

    • Pumpkins

      Is there anything different about theirs? That’s a deal that looks too good to be true.

      • mrrickyg

        They are a Sprint MVNO and encourage you to use WiFi as much as possible. Tech support is online and by forum and tickets. Its a great way for tech savvy users to save money. I used them with the Defy XT and the service was great, the device just didn’t meet my needs. Now I am weighing their Moto X vs the Nexus 5 on T-mo (or MVNO).

        • MG

          T-Mobile will work with either MotoX or Nexus 5. You can just as LIVE Plan pricing may be even more aggressive @ 35orless.com

      • MK17

        If you don’t have Sprint service it’s not worth it (they use the same towers). Also, you cannot take the phone to any other provider, even sprint.

  • Bigmatt503

    Moto x. Only because I have Verizon and a pretty good employer discount..

  • Alex

    Deals are live. Just got the developer edition for $399

  • Phil Hyde

    Update on G+ : “Hi all – Our website is down due to traffic & we’re working quickly to restore it. Watch here for updates & for when our Cyber Monday deal starts.”

    • Larizard

      so it hasnt started… lol. But i have to be at work in an hours.. freakingahdwhndoksnc

      thanks for the heads up.

    • Larizard

      Update: MotoMaker now says “Coming Soon”, and the “Save” and “Checkout” buttons are replaced with “Email Design”…

  • Phil Hyde

    Website is working now but there is no sale link.

    • droidrazredge

      I was wondering about that. Where is the link I wonder ? I was able to get the Developer and Customer Motomaker into the shopping cart despite the server crashes but the price totals to $1,099.98 instead of $799.98. I thought I was going to go crazy when I could not find the sale link.

      • Phil Hyde

        I was thinking, maybe the Moto X sale will come later?

      • Larizard

        ive never seen a link for a discount anywhere on the site… after several crashes and errors, now the price is showing back to $549..

  • droidrazredge

    I’m starting to wonder if Samsung got jealous and started hacking Motorola’s site with buffer overflows which is causing a massive server crash. They are basically saying “these are not the droids you are looking for”.

  • Fuzz427

    no joy-no joy-no joy- oh well – will keep trying- anybody else have luck getting on?

  • arthuruscg

    I guess the marketing department didn’t tell the IT department that the servers were going to get hit up big time at 9am est.

    • Fuzz427

      rotf lmao- i had a chat last nite with motorola and the person i spoke with said it was going to be crazy today!

  • droidrazredge

    Motorola’s site is behaving the same way as the registration site was for Google I/O 2013 with the internal server error. I just hope I able to get a Moto X before they sell out. How many people are getting internal server error ?

    • Fuzz427

      i am- got the main page a minute ago but trying to connect to design your own

      • droidrazredge

        I’m wondering if anyone has gotten their phone ordered yet ? They always have the occasional lucky few that probably have already ordered and the rest of us are just watching the loading circle of internal server error. I’m also wondering how many of these people are Unlimited Verizon Wireless people that have a GNEX or similar phone that are in need of an upgrade.

  • Razma

    moto site is down, i hope i can get one, deal starts in 10 mins, im worried bout the limited quantity, I have a feeling it will sell out in 5 mins

  • Fuzz427

    is it just me or is the motorola.com site getting hammered already? I can’t get on-get an internal server error- can anybody else get on-please chime in

    • Jeff C

      Same here, maybe they have it down to switch something over?

      • Fuzz427

        hope that’s the case- i could get on at 800am est this morning and it said you could design and save for after. said something about moto x comming(sp) soon. hope they are just ramping up.

  • Sporttster

    Is it just me or has this place turned into a major Motorola fanboy site?? Constantly Moto this, Moto that….

  • If you get the Verizon Moto X, could you later decide to use it with T-Mobile and get LTE?

  • I just got the iphone5c 2013 CYBER MONDAY ELECTRONICS deals upto 80% OFF iphone series http://www.egenxshop.com/buyapple-iPhone_Series.html

  • goku

    Oh man finally its so refreshing to hear something positive about the motel acts, I have had so many phones over the last year and I work at a cell phone carrier, so we go through phones all day and let me tell you mad the Moto X is literally revolutionary I’m so tired of hearing people trash talk it because of the simple is Tiny’s spec difference the freakin thing can talk back to me without it being on what out there is that cool,

    • Sporttster

      Can someone decipher this for me??

  • bd1212

    Can’t decide between the Moto X or the Droid MAXX. It’s the same as the Moto X except it has massive battery, while still only being thin. If I go for a Droid MAXX I can trade in my old iPhone 4 and get $100 towards the purchase of the MAXX bringing the price down to $399, which is the same as a 32GB Moto X. I can’t do the same with the Moto X and bring the price down to $299 since this Cyber Monday deal is through Moto and not Verizon. Anyone who owns the MAXX wanna chime in and help me out a bit with this decision? Have you used a Moto X and then switched to a MAXX? Is the battery life difference really THAT noticeable? Or is it negligible?

    • Hothfox

      I’d have to imagine it’s at least similar. The Moto X was all optimized so that it got great battery life with only a 2200 mAh battery, but the Droid Maxx didn’t have the same optimizations and has a huge battery. I’d think it would even out.

      • bd1212

        The Maxx did, in fact, receive the same optimizations and features (touchless control, active display, etc.), so I know it’d perform great… argh stupid decisions.

  • I was on Verizon with a galaxy nexus and obviously went with a moto x. I love it. Active notifications are amazing, it feels great in the hand and runs so smooth. The battery life is completely acceptable even without battery saver. I don’t ever want a phone without active notifications.

  • Mark P

    No mention of battery performance??? This is the most important thing for me. All of a phone’s features are worthless if it’s out of battery. I’m just so tired of worrying about my battery dying – so tired that I’ve considered getting an iPhone. My impression is that the moto x has better battery life than the nexus 5, but how much better??!

    • Hothfox

      There are literally hundreds of forum posts on XDA, RootzWiki, etc. about battery life comparisons.

      • etche

        Yeah, but there’s a reason people come here to read the reviews from someone you trust.. or at least you feel he is objective enough. I’m also waiting for an update to see what kellex has to say about battery life, since he’s been using both phones for quite some time now.

        • HarvesterX

          Anyone claiming the X to be superior to the G2 isn’t exactly the place I come for unbiased real reviews. I just like the people, even if they are a bit loony 🙂

  • iNomNomAwesome

    I love my Moto X but the 4.4 update messed up the Bluetooth music and I’ve seen no one else complain so I doubt it’s going to be fixed.

    • Suman Gandham

      The latest 4.4 update on my Nexus 7 messed up Bluetooth audio – lots of jumping and distortion, and the volume control has totally weirded out (is no longer linear up/down!). Oddly this also happened with my RAZR HD going from 4.0.4 to 4.1.2…?!

      • iNomNomAwesome

        Exactly, mine constantly has jumping and distortion, perfect way to put it.

  • Chris York

    Jesus. Another strange attack on the camera. Getting plenty of gold here…

  • Here’s to hoping that Motorola makes next years Nexus 😀

  • me would Mua product of this, this is one product where my current expecting

    • Lee McLaurin

      Me say, uhhhh, what?