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Google launches new flagship smartphone: the £299 Nexus 5 with Android KitKat

Google's Nexus range of smartphones have always acted as showcases for the latest version of Android, and the Nexus 5 is no exception

Google has officially launched its latest flagship Android smartphone, the Nexus 5. The 5-inch handset will be the first device to run Android 4.4 KitKat, the latest version of Google’s mobile operating system.

(Click here to see what's new in version 4.4)

The Nexus 5 costs £295 for a 16GB SIM-free version (£339 for the 32GB) and features a fully HD 1920x1080 display, a 2.26GHz processor and 2GB of RAM. There’s Bluetooth 4.0 for connecting with various fitness gadgets and wireless charging (though you have to buy the charger separately).

As with previous handsets in the series the Nexus 5 is all about giving customers the ‘pure’ Android experience, so that means no additional UI tweaks (eg HTC’s Sense or Samsung’s TouchWiz) and hardware that’s more than capable of running everything smoothly.

To achieve this Google have continued their partnership with South Korean manufacturer LG for the actual hardware, and the Nexus 5 comes with essentially the same innards as the LG G2, and also has the capacity to shoot video at full 1080p resolution.

However, Google aren’t joining LG in placing their physical phone buttons on the back of the device and are instead keeping them on the side and top of the phone, as expected.

The Nexus 5 has a few obvious improvements over its predecessor, the Nexus 4, with the handset offering 4G functionality, something that was conspicuously missing before. However, as with the 4, the 5 again omits the opportunity to expand the onboard storage with a microSD card slot.

However, Google do say that they’ve improved the camera as compared to the 4. The Nexus 5 comes with an 8-megapixel lens on the back and 1.3-megapixels on the front, with Google chucking in extra OIS (optical image stabilization) to cut down on blurry photos. Finding out whether this is actually effective though will be a job for the reviewers.

The biggest feature of the Nexus 5 is undoubtedly Android 4.4 KitKat. This isn’t a total redesign in the mode of iOS 7, but the visual look has been sharpened and refreshed for a cleaner OS.

There’s also a far greater integration of Google services, with Google Now just a single swipe away from the home screen and Google Hangouts replacing the default texting app. Google also promises that there's a lot going on under the hood to improve performance on lower-specced phones with as little as 512MB of RAM.