Google definitely said "go big or go home" with the Nexus 6. On this device, pure Android gets a large screen, a complete software overhaul and a premium price tag. Can Google win customers by dipping its toe in the high-end market? Let's put it this way: Android lovers won't find much wrong with this device.
Google pulled out all the stops with the Nexus 6, and it wants people to buy the phone. In the past, Nexus devices were only offered by one or two carriers. But the Nexus 6 will be available for purchase on all of the major carriers: Verizon, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular as well as on the Google Play Store and through Motorola.
The Nexus line is intended to showcase Google’s latest and greatest operating system. This time it's Android 5.0 Lollipop, which some might say they’ve been anticipating for years. Android 5.0 is one of Google’s most-advanced operating systems, but stays true to the pure and simple Android ethos. This is Google's vision for Android, which is generally customized and adapted by third-party device makers. Its primary feature, the Material Design user interface, is apparent from the lock screen, where notifications show up on thin panels. Users can clear notification from the lock screen as well as the from the notifications panel. One tricky action is pulling down the notification bar. One swipe allows you to view notifications, but it takes a second swipe to access your shortcut toggles.
Material Design mimics the look and feel of paper, so icons and actions seem to float and ripple. Tapping icons prompts an animation response. This is really good for retracing your steps if you end up in an app unintentionally. The call-accept function is very useful in apps like games. If you’re playing a game and receive a call, you can continue playing if you wish, and the notification will disappear in a few seconds. Or you can accept and decline the call.
With Google hoping to gain customers, we should note that pure Android is a completely different experience than the Android we see on phones by Samsung or HTC. A user who has become accustomed to the bloatware on their phones may feel like Android 5.0 is a little barebones. But it’s supposed to be that way; consider that you have a lot more internal storage for your own stuff. The large screen makes it so there are only two home screens and two pages in the app tray. Icons are also larger, which can be helpful to those who need it.
The Nexus 6 come in 32GB or 64GB internal storage options and also include 3GB of RAM, a 2.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chip and a 3220mAh battery. In other words, it’s powerful. With a 5.9-inch Quad HD (2560 x 1440) resolution display, the Nexus 6 not only has one of the largest screens on the market but it also has one of the most powerful screens.
Google’s collaboration with Motorola takes design cues from the Moto X (2014) and introduces a metal frame to give the device a high-end look; however, its curved back is still made of plastic. The curvature, which Google says is intended to help with handling the phone, also gives it the illusion of being thin in profile, which can almost lead you to believe that the phone isn't that big.
But the Nexus 6 is huge, which can be overwhelming if you’re not specifically looking for a supersized phone. From this device, we’ve learned there’s definitely a threshold for phablets; a comfortable size for most would likely be 5.5-to-5.7-inches, and that’s only people who really like large screen phones. The Nexus 6 can be a handful if you don’t have large hands. The device doesn’t have a one-handed mode or a stylus like other large phones to help its size. Because of its extreme size, we can’t recommend it as a primary phone.
However if you’re in the market for a backup device and don’t mind shelling out a few hundred dollars, the Nexus 6 would be the perfect camera phone. It features a 13-megapixel camera with optical image stabilization and HDR+, which produces some of the best photos we’ve ever seen in a camera.
The camera app software is also stellar. Swiping the top of the screen brings up options like video or Google’s Photosphere. Options including flash, HDR and front camera are on the bottom. Swiping the right side of the screen brings up the photo gallery, while swiping down deletes photos automatically, but there's an undo button. We really appreciated the fluidity of the delete action. The 2-megapixel front camera takes photos that are close in quality to the main camera so you don’t have to worry about your selfies.
We can also recommend the Nexus 6 for music lovers. SoundCloud got a real workout during our review. The Nexus 6 features two front-facing speakers, providing you with automatic surround sound. With headphones on, we didn’t even have to turn the volume up to maximum (our editor would be glad to hear that; he’s concerned about hearing loss).
If you do happen to do some voice calling on the Nexus 6, expect a clear conversation. We tested with two T-Mobile SIM cards, which could account for the sound quality.
The Nexus 6 is already available at the Google Play Store and on Motorola.com; the 32GB model sells for $649 and the 64GB model for $699. Carriers will offer subsidized pricing for the Nexus 6 starting Nov. 12. The Nexus 6 launches on T-Mobile on Wednesday, while AT&T will begin accepting preorders. The Sprint Nexus 6 will launch on Friday. Availability details for the Nexus 6 on Verizon and U.S. Cellular haven't yet been announced.
Correction: The T-Mobile Nexus 6 has been delayed until next Wednesday, with the carrier stating it wants to provide the "best possible experience" for customers