Each time a new smartphone is presented, I’m usually on the edge of my seat. Ever since the Galaxy Nexus appeared on the scene, I’ve been a zealous Nexus user, however the Nexus 6, upon its announcement along side the Nexus 9, was welcomed by my raised eyebrow rather than joy. My skepticism was even bigger than the Nexus 6 itself, and I started my review with a bout of mixed feelings. Find out in my Nexus 6 review whether my worries were justified or unfounded.
- ✓Very well crafted
- ✓Stereo speakers
- ✕Problems with the wireless Nexus charging dock
- ✕Comparatively dark display, with a slight pink hue at the lowest brightness
Design & Build Quality
First, I must be honest, I was let down when the Nexus 6 was presented. Why? Because it simply looks like an oversized Moto X (2014) and I was hoping to see it come out blazing with its own Nexus design. But the disappointment soon dissipated, because the truth is I like the Moto X design. My first Android smartphone was a Motorola Milestone and I’ve been waiting for years for Motorola to finally make a Nexus phone. My wishes have finally been granted in 2014 and the wait was worth it. The Nexus 6 is a well crafted phone, it feels great to hold, and has an elegant yet sporty design thanks to the slightly rounded back and the width decreases from top to bottom.
That being said, we musn’t forget that the Nexus 6 is extremely large. Even the Galaxy Note 4 could easily be hidden behind it. The phone is definitely not great for people with small hands, and even I had to get used to it with my larger hands and longer digits. Easy tasks like reading my news feeds and emails could be done with one hand, but everything required two. This should be clear to all those who are considering buying the Nexus 6, but I was actually quite surprised at how quickly I became accustomed to its large size. Compared to the new arrival, the Nexus 5 appeared almost measly.
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My second point of criticism: the raised stereo speakers unfortunately provide enough spaces for dust particles and dirt, and I felt that my fingers didn’t really slide that ergonomically over the display, as was the case with the Nexus 5. There was always a bit of resistance. To be more precise about this problem is difficult, but when using both devices simultaneously, the difference was definitely there. This issue, though small, couldn’t be left untold, though I wouldn’t go as far as to say that swiping on the Nexus 6 keyboard didn’t work problem free either. On the plus side, the Nexus 6 is more resistant to fingerprints, unlike the Nexus 5 where this was a real pesky problem.
Also, the Nexus letters on the back side didn’t peel off. I’ve encountered a few pictures on the internet of peeled off letters, which was also rumored of the Nexus 5. When reviewing the Nexus 6, I wasn’t even able to force this, as I tried rubbing them off myself to no avail.
Google and Motorola planted a 6-inch AMOLED display with QHD resolution on the Nexus 6, which results in 2,560 x 1,440 pixels and 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, but not oversaturated. I was able to observe two things in my review of the display: first off, the maximum brightness is 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 being said, I don’t have an issue reading the screen outdoors. I also usually use the automatic mode for brightness. The Nexus 6 is therefore not something that really bothered me or had a negative impact in any way. The same goes for the lower brightness: any whites on the screen had a slight pink hue, though quite minimal. Even this didn’t bother me too much. But putting it into perspective is important: other manufacturers don’t have this problem which is why I need to deduct a point from the overall tally for fairness sake.
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I also couldn’t reproduce the burn in problem some were reporting. While testing the Nexus 6, none of the symbols were burnt in, which leads me to conclude that the user or users in question were individual cases.
Among the many Nexus 6 features, the Google phone supports Qi standard. This means that you can charge your phone wirelessly using a Qi charging dock. I actually own the official Qi Charger for the Nexus 5. Thanks to the built-in magnets, the Nexus 5 remains safe and sound on the charging dock and doesn’t budge when the phone vibrates when receiving notifications or calls. Unfortunately the same could not be said about the Nexus 6. Because of its convex backside, the Nexus 6 has issues laying on flat surfaces, and when it was placed in my loading dock and I received a message, it would slowly but surely turn to the left. This is also due to the fact that the magnetic docking function of the Nexus 5 is missing with the Nexus 6. It’s really a shame for me because I would need to buy a new docking station or charge my phone with a cable.
In regards to the cable, you get a Turbo Charger cable in the Nexus 6 box which Google promises will deliver 6 hours of battery life after a mere 15 minutes charge. I can confirm that this worked, though the Nexus 6 did get quite warm, but not hot enough to cause any alarm.
Another special feature of the Nexus 6 is the stereo speakers, which look great. They aren’t just loud, but also produce great sound quality, though of course only in the scope of smartphone speakers. Music should of course be listened to with headphones, even if the stereos are very powerful, just be considerate for those around you and to be able to fully appreciate the music, which is 100% better when plugged into your ears with headphones.
The Nexus 6 runs on stock Android 5.0 Lollipop, which is Google’s vision of how Andorid should look and function, free of any manufacturer or other types of changes. Lollipop is the biggest update in the history of Android and brings many changes and improvement, though does present a few growing pains that we hope will be treated with future patches. For example, Chrome, the camera and other apps crashed here and there, which proves to be very annoying. Google will surely get this problem under control, either by updating its apps or sending out bug fixes for Android. And the good thing about the Nexus 6 is that it’s right at the front of the line, as it’s one of the first devices to get updates.
A new software feature which is for now exclusive to the Nexus 6, is called the Ambient Display, which shows notifications in a black and white mode as soon as they come in or the Nexus 6 is lifted up. In principle, this works like Moto Infos (previously called Active Display), on the Moto X. Google chose to include its own app and the feature is extremely practical (though it works better on the Moto X), since all you need to do is reach your hand towards the devices for the notification to appear on the screen. The Nexus 6 really needs to be lifted up and it’s almost faster to turn the screen on by pressing on the power button located on the right side. This, however, uses more battery.
The Nexus 6 ran smoothly as is the case with all Nexus devices. Apps started quickly, animations were smooth and silky, and games could be played in most cases without any jitters (which is a lot of fun on a 6-inch screen). Having said that, the QHD display takes a large toll on the hardware and this was noticeable now and again, especially with very demanding games, which didn’t run as smoothly on Full HD screens for example. Don’t get me wrong, the Nexus 6 performs very well and every QHD device in this first generation, like the LG G3 and the Galaxy Note 4, suffer from the same symptoms.
Regarding force encryption on the Nexus 6, which can’t be deactivated without a complicated procedure: while testing the device, the encryption didn’t have a negative impact on the performance, nor did it slow down the phone.
We can finally breath a sigh of relief here since the camera on the Nexus 6 makes great pictures, being the same as the one that is built on the OnePlus One. Pictures taken in low light situations have very little noise and the amount of detail is satisfactory. Sometimes the camera needed a little longer to focus, and when making a snapshot, you might need to be prepared for fuzzy results. Otherwise, there is very little to complain about, though the advantages of the ring shaped Dual LED were not noticeable. Pictures taken with flash were no better or worse than other smartphones.
Take a look at our image gallery to see what type of results the Nexus 6 delivers.
Here’s another worry I had which was eradicated on further testing: the 3,220 mAh battery on the Nexus 6 is big and ensures that users have more than enough juice to get through the day. During my testing, I took countless pictures, watched videos, listened to music, checked my emails Twitter and Facebook accounts, and surfed the internet. After about 27 hours of use, the battery was down to 17% with a display on time of about 3 hours. The Nexus 6 isn’t as long lasting as the Sony Xperia Z3 however future owners won’t have to worry that the battery will be drained after just a half day of usage.
Next to impressive Nexus 6 specs, its reception and voice quality get straight A’s as well. With my cell phone plan, I usually only get 2G or 3G when I’m down in the supermarket, but with the Nexus 6 I was able to get LTE. Reception was also a lot better at home too. Sometimes I would only get 1 bar on my Nexus 5, while I always had between two and three on the Nexus 6. Phone calls were crystal clear.
Price and availability
The Nexus 6 can be bought from the Google Play Store as well various online retailers. Looking now at Nexus 6 price, the 32 GB variant costs 649 USD, while the 64 GB version costs 699 USD. It's available in both Cloud White and Midnight Blue. In terms of Nexus 6 release date and availability, the Nexus 6 can be ordered now, but could take a few days or even weeks to arrive. You can also purchase the Nexus 6 from Motorola.com, though presently it is out of stock. Amazon USA also has it on for sale, though it might not have the lowest price.
Google and Motorola pushed the bar way up for future Nexus phones. The biggest points of critique for this series, namely the battery and camera, now belong in the past. It was a real pleasure to be able to use the Nexus 6. For those who love stock Android and don’t have a problem with the size of the device, will not be disappointed by Google’s newest smartphone. I got used to the size surprisingly fast, even though this was one of my worries before getting underway with the review. If you are looking for a smaller phone with similar hardware, check out the OnePlus One, which is very close to the stock Android user experience thanks to its CyanogenMod user interface, though it does officially still run Android 4.4.
What do you think of the Nexus 6? Could this be your next phone?
Translated from AndroidPIT Germany's Nico Heister.