Ever since the Galaxy Nexus appeared on the scene, Nexus phones have been associated with exceptional value for money, and flagship quality. The Nexus 6 bucked that trend a bit, with a lofty price tag and a six-inch screen that was beautiful, but too big for many peoples' hands. Our initial skeptical feelings towards the Nexus 6 were eventually quite positive, as we gave it a four-star review when it was released. But several months on, and with fierce competition in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9, does it still stand strong among flagship smartphones? Read our updated Google Nexus 6 review to find out.
- ✓Huge screen (for big hands)
- ✓Stereo speakers
- ✓Quality camera
- ✓Great battery life
- ✕Huge screen (for small hands)
- ✕Problems with wireless Nexus charging dock
- ✕Relatively dark display, with slight pink hue at lowest brightness
Google Nexus 6 release date and price
The Nexus 6 price is higher than previous Nexus phones when they first came out. It is available to buy now in the US and UK at Amazon, the Play Store and Motorola, and other outlets. The 32 GB variant costs 649 USD, while the 64 GB version costs 699 USD (£499 and £549 in the UK, respectively). It's available in Cloud White and Midnight Blue colors.
Google Nexus 6 design and build quality
The Nexus 6 looks like an oversized Moto X (2014), which may leave some thinking that Motorola took a bit of a shortcut on the design. But let's not nitpick - the Moto X is a wonderfully-designed phone, and the Nexus 6 is well-crafted and feels great to hold. It has an elegant yet practical design thanks to the slightly rounded back.
Then there is the matter of the size. The Nexus 6 is so big that you could even hide a Galaxy Note 4 behind it. The phone is definitely not great for people with small hands, and even a relatively big-handed person like me had to get used to it. Top-of-the-phone tasks like pulling down the notifications bar and tapping the Google search bar will most likely require the use of a second hand. This should be clear to all those who are considering buying the Nexus 6, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I acclimatized to its large size, which also has obvious usability advantages - typing, greater precision with navigation, bigger text etc.
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The raised stereo speakers unfortunately attract dust particles and dirt, and the display suffered from the same slight stickiness as the Nexus 5. On the plus side, the Nexus 6 is more resistant to fingerprints than its predecessor, so at least the screen stays looking fresh even if it could feel a bit better.
Also, worrying rumors about the letters on the back of the Nexus 6 peeling off proved unfounded in our review. We gave them a good scratching and rubbing (no scalpels were involved), and the letters stayed visible and in place. So there's another malicious Nexus 6 rumor quashed.
Google Nexus 6 display
Google and Motorola planted a 6-inch AMOLED display with QHD (2,560 x 1,440) resolution on the Nexus 6, with a pixel density of 493 PPI. Individual pixels could only be distinguished with a magnifying glass and even then they are hard to make out. The text is razor sharp, colors vibrant yet not oversaturated.
The maximum brightness is slightly darker on the Nexus 6 than other smartphones. When placing the Nexus 5 next to the Nexus 6, with both displays at 100% brightness, the predecessor was clearly brighter. That said, I had no issues reading the screen in the bright outdoors nor in any other scenarios thanks to the well-functioning auto-brightness.
Pure whites on the screen have the slightest pink hue, though not enough to be a distraction to the casual observer. For a pricey flagship phone however, you don't expect such niggles - however minor - and in this regard the Nexus 6 falls just short of the flagship competition.
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There was some talk of screen burn-in among certain users, but we didn't manage to reproduce this, so as far as we know these were just isolated incidents.
Google Nexus 6 special features
The Nexus 6 supports Qi wireless charging, if you buy a Qi charging dock seperately. This feature worked well with the Nexus 5, which was magnetically attached to its official charging dock and didn’t budge when the phone vibrated. Unfortunately, the curved back on the Nexus 6 means it has issues laying on flat surfaces, so when it received messages while lying on the dock, it would steadily rotate as it vibrated. This is also due to the fact that the magnetic docking function of the Nexus 5 is missing with the Nexus 6.
The Nexus 6 comes with a Turbo Charger cable, which delivers on its promise to deliver a six-hour charge in just 15 minutes.
Google Nexus 6 software
The Nexus 6 comes with stock Android 5.0 Lollipop, and is first in line to receive the latest OS updates. Lollipop is the biggest update in the history of Android and brings with it many functional and visual changes.
A new software feature which is for now exclusive to the Nexus 6, is called the Ambient Display, which displays important notifications in black-and-white as soon as you receive them or pick up your phone (similarly to Moto Display on the Moto X). The feature is extremely practical, because all you need to do is reach your hand towards the devices for the notifications to appear. It does, however, replace the trusty LED light on the front of your phone, which is a bit disappointing. The Nexus 6 does actually have an RGB LED light, but it's disabled unless you do a bit of software tweaking to the phone.
Google Nexus 6 performance
The Nexus 6 runs buttery smooth, which is to be expected with its powerful specs. Apps start quickly, animations are silky, and most games can be played without any jitters (which is exceptionally fun on a 6-inch screen). Having said that, the QHD resolution is much more demanding than 1080p and this was noticeable now and again, especially with very demanding games, which inevitably run less smoothly than on Full HD screens. This problem isn't unique to the Nexus 6 though, as other QHD devices like the LG G3, Galaxy Note 4, and even the Galaxy S6 suffer from the same symptoms.
Google Nexus 6 Audio
The stereo speakers on the Nexus 6 look and sound great. They're loud and crisp (as smartphone speakers go), but please don't get carried away using them on trains and buses - unless you're surrounded by audio enthusiasts, no one will appreciate their sound in the way that you do. When you start hitting parks in the summer with your friends though, then the Nexus 6 speakers will serve you well.
Reception and voice quality on the Nexus 6 get straight full marks. On the same network as the Nexus 5, the Nexus 6 would sometimes get three bars of signal where its predecessor would only get one. Phone calls sounded crystal clear, with no background noise or other nasty interference getting in the way. With the incoming Android 5.1 update, Google has also promised to include HD audio calls, which should further boost phone call quality.
Google Nexus 6 camera
The 13MP camera in the Nexus 6 takes great pictures. Pictures taken in low light conditions have very little noise and the amount of detail is satisfactory. Sometimes the camera needed a little longer to focus, but otherwise there is very little to complain about. We didn't notice any advantages to the ring-shaped Dual LED flash on the phone, with flashed pictures not looking any better or worse than on other phones.
Take a look at our image gallery to see the results of our camera test.
Google Nexus 6 battery
Blasting away all worries that a massive 6-inch display would be a battery drain, the 3220 mAh battery on the Nexus 6 ensures that you'll have more than enough juice to get through the day. During my testing, I took countless pictures, watched videos, listened to music, and surfed the internet. After about 27 hours of use, the battery was down to 17% with the display having bee active for three hours. The Nexus 6 isn’t as long-lasting as the Sony Xperia Z3, but at least you won’t have to worry that the battery will be drained after just half a day's use.
Google Nexus 6 technical specifications
Google and Motorola pushed the bar way up for future Nexus phones, with the Nexus 6 addressing past problems with the camera and battery. If you can deal with its formidable size and want to stay on the front-line of Android updates then the Nexus 6 is for you.
In terms of processing power, it's no longer a match for the likes of the HTC One M9 and Samsung Galaxy S6, but it can also be found for quite a bit cheaper now, and its phablet screen is unmatched for its combination of size and quality. The Nexus 6 is a unique and bold phone, and is still worth considering even in light of recent competition.
What do you think of our Nexus 6 review? Has it persuaded you to get a Nexus 6, or are you waiting to see what flagship phone Google has in store for us in 2015?