Christmas came early for me this year; November 4th to be precise. With nary an email (nor any other sign from Google), my day-one ordered Nexus 5 showed up at the office that Monday, much to my shock and joy. Like Ralphie with his Red Ryder BB gun rifle, I was shaking with anticipation and awe. I quickly tore open the UPS packaging with wild abandon just to get down to the hallowed Google box treasure chest inside.
The Google enclosure for the device paid direct homage to the Nexus 7 packaging style. I gingerly opened up the box like a greedy pirate about to inspect his most prized stolen booty, careful not to damage the precious contents within. Of course I did what any self-respecting journalist or enthusiast would do… I immediately snapped a picture of the contents of the box to share on the GoogleNexusForum.com. To get the perfect staged photo, I spent what seemed like twenty minutes rearranging the contents, just to strike that delicate balance between posed order and random chance.
The device itself is a wondrous sight to behold. For some, it might seem almost ordinary. After-all, it is basically just a flat black slab. For me it evoked childhood memories of the Monolith from the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. With a slick, glossy faceless front and a soft-rubberized logo encrusted back, its simplicity is its most defining characteristic. It looks and feels more like it was carved out of a block of obsidian and was somehow magically endowed with the capabilities of a smartphone.
The new Nexus also felt very good in my hand. The soft rubberized backing was warmer than I expected, almost as if it somehow mystically retains the tiniest bit of warmth as a friendly greeting to its user. The device is also lighter than I expected, but that didn't diminish its premium feel. It's initial appearance fools you into thinking it would be a much heavier device than it is, yet it felt instantly comfortable to me. It was almost as if it belonged in my hand, like a seasoned Samurai's blade begging its master to draw it from its sheath.
It beckoned me to activate it so I could unlock its secrets and bend it to my will. I removed the sticky front cover from the display, and then applied gentle pressure to the power button. The cool dark screen sprang to life! Its rich vibrant colors drew me in and welcomed me to a fascinating new world called Android 4.4 KitKat. I was happy to climb down the rabbit hole and enter this Wonderland of Android goodness. My Nexus 5 would be my Alice, guiding me through the wild ride of this exciting new land. I noticed immediately that she was full of grace and speed unparalleled by any device I had previously utilized. The UI was unbelievably fluid and instantly responded to my every whim.
I was surprised by how little software was to be found on her, but that is to be expected from a true Nexus device. At first, this was hard to get used to. It was eye opening to see how spoiled I was from the hand-holding that my previous devices had offered me. Yet, as I grew accustomed to her capabilities, I realized that the freedom she offered was a blessing that I had yet to truly experience. It would allow/force me to try out apps from the Google Play Store which could make my Nexus 5 much more personal and even more user-friendly than the devices I had tried in the past.
Unfortunately, sometimes adventures are fraught with peril, and this one was no exception. Despite Alice's profound capabilities, there were things which frustrated me about her as I began to get to know her better. At first, some of these issues seemed like severe limitations, and I felt a pang of regret at following her down this path. There was even a brief moment when I felt rage and heard myself utter the words, "I hate this phone!" However, being a man of reason, I cooled my temperament and used logic to bring myself out of my heightened emotional state.
When I looked at all the issues in combination, it created an exponential growth of vehemence which was ultimately irrational; however, as it turns out most of these issues were solvable. After evaluating these problems separately and objectively, I would come to realize that although there might be more effort involved in mastering the intricacies of Alice's power, the payoff of doing so could potentially be much higher. Here's what I experienced, and what I deduced after analyzing things properly.
The first issue I experienced with the Nexus 5 is a technological network limitation that is completely beyond her control, and only occurs on the Sprint network. Because this was a Google Play Store Nexus 5, it came from the factory without a SIM card. A Sprint SIM card is required to work on Sprint's network. Much to my chagrin, none of the Sprint stores in my area of Austin, TX had the SIM card to get my phone activated on Sprint's network. There is an oft paraphrased quote from Shakespeare which says, "The fault lies not in the stars, but within ourselves." While this is quite true philosophically, Shakespeare didn't have smartphones and wireless networks in his day and age. In this particular instance, the fault was most assuredly not that of my dear Alice. The blame must be placed squarely on the ley-lines of her energy transmission source, and that was beholden to my contract with Sprint.
I was anxious to get her up and running so I could truly test her mettle. Alas, I had to go on quite the quest in order to make that happen. The closest locale which had the SIM card for which I was searching was in Dallas, TX. This is a full three hour drive from my location in Austin. Luckily, as fickle fate would have it, I was already planning a jaunt to Dallas that weekend for some other business. Of course, this meant I would have to wait an entire week before I was able to use my Nexus 5 for anything more than fiddling. Let me share my friends, it was an agonizing 5 days. Sweet Alice called to me from her lofty perch atop the wet-bar in my apartment, like a mythological siren of which my resistance was futile. Yet… there was very little I could do during this time, so I resigned myself to wait.
This lead to an ironic situation. Sprint actually released the Nexus 5 on their network on that following Friday before my weekend travel began. This means that if I had just waited and not ordered the Nexus 5 from Google, but from Sprint instead, I would have already had a working Nexus 5 before going to Dallas. I even tried convincing the local Sprint store to let me have one of the SIM cards which came with their Sprint Nexus 5 devices, but they refused this logical but flawed suggestion. This was because each SIM card that came with the Sprint Nexus 5 devices was keyed to that device and would thus leave them with a useless Nexus 5 in inventory without a SIM card. It was both infuriating and laughable at the same time, so again, I resigned myself to practice that most difficult of skills… patience.
Once the week had passed and my journey's end found me in Dallas with a fully empowered Nexus 5 activated on Sprint's network, the rest of my harrowing ordeal began. At some point during the process of getting Alice activated and trying out everything I could, it seemed as if the battery life was atrocious. I was aghast by how quickly the device drained in just one day! As it turns out, this particular issue had a different cause which ultimately turned out to be a false perception. We will fully understand this later in our tale.
The next issue which awakened my frustration was my attempt to use Google Hangouts as an SMS messaging system. I was appalled at how clunky and counter-intuitive it was. The app simply didn't make it easy enough for me to just find my contact and send them a text. It even seemed as if the app forced me to invite my friends to join Google+ just to be able to send them a text message. This was completely unacceptable to me, and my rage began to build. Again, my personal penchant for rational thought over rampant emotions reigned supreme and I was struck with the realization that this was actually an opportunity rather than a burden. I immediately downloaded and tried several different SMS messaging apps on the Google Play Store. Some of them were terrible and some of them were adequate. Ultimately I finally chose GoSMS because it seemed to offer the simplest way to do what I desired in an SMS app. The problem was solved and the disaster was averted.
This left me on the fence, wondering if I might just be able to divine the ultimate capabilities of the Nexus 5 and whether it was perfectly suited to me or not. This sadly was not the last flaw in the jewel which would cause me to doubt my choice. One final problem would come blustering along like Ralphie's bully on a snowy day and wreak havoc on my parade. When I returned to my home in Austin, TX, I found that Alice had defaulted to 3G instead of LTE. No amount of tinkering between myself and the technicians at the Sprint location near my home would change this. The odd thing is that the LTE worked just fine in Dallas, and it works just fine if I travel a couple of miles deeper into Austin in multiple directions. It was this fourth unravelling thread which truly made me question the device altogether. But, as we have noted earlier in this tale, I had to realize on my own that all of these issues combined might create an insanity inducing irritation, but separately, each one has its own cause and solution.
This particular issue too has a root cause. After doing some investigation it turns out that the Tri-Band radio in the Nexus 5 is just slightly more advanced than some of the current firmware technology on Sprint's network is capable of handling. Many of their areas have been upgraded in such a way as to allow this radio to properly communicate using LTE on the network. Unfortunately, the tower in my particular neighborhood happens to be one of the few across the country that has not been fully upgraded. The irony is that the 4G LTE is activated in my area, but, because of the the way the Nexus 5 must switch between the Triple bands, if the Sprint network node has not also had its 3G upgraded to the newest firmware, then the device must default to 3G in order to allow for voice calls. You can read more of the details regarding this issue here.
Despite this potentially deal-breaking problem, an epiphany explodes into my mind. It finally dawns on me that this is not at all Alice's fault, and many of the other issues weren't really either. She had been trying her best to lead me on a grand adventure through Wonderland. Only my own false perceptions and the limitations of Sprint's network have been hampering my abilities to utilize her full potential.
It was after this that I realized something else too. I finally was able to experience actual real-world use of the Nexus 5 in my day to day activities. It was during this that I came to understand the battery issue was simply because of the network activations and extra effort I was placing on Alice that weekend in Dallas. It was getting it activated and spending inordinate amounts of time using every facet of it for hours on end which drained it so quickly. As it turns out, based upon the way I use my phone normally, the Nexus 5 has very solid battery life. I only have to charge it every couple of days with just medium use!
After realizing this, I began to see her in a different light. I admitted to myself that I had some learning and growing to do, and that after this process, the Nexus 5 is far more than the sum of its parts (software and all). I also found the peace to accept that the LTE issue is something Sprint will eventually solve. Many of the complaints I originally had about Alice ended up either being false, or resulted in me finding something which I liked much better! Each day I grow more fond of my sweet Alice. She has become my ultimate tool for communication, but oh so much more as well. The Nexus 5 is like my own Excalibur, drawn from the stone and personally attuned to me.
My appreciation for the Nexus 5 has grown such that waiting for Sprint to fix the LTE issue will not phase me in the least. She is simply worth it! Besides, I can always just turn on WiFi at the office or at home until Sprint fixes the issue. In the mean-time, Alice has taught me something quite valuable: sometimes, the experiences which begin with the most difficulty end up becoming the most valuable.
The Nexus 5 is truly a remarkable device, and I am completely enamored.