On October 15th, Google finally revealed a massive new Nexus 6. The device was rumored for months on end, and finally arrived along with a new Nexus 9 tablet and a completely overhauled Android 5.0 Lollipop software update. This is one of the biggest Nexus launches in history, for many reasons. It’s a huge smartphone, has the latest hardware, and will be available from all major carriers in the United States.
The Android 5.0 Lollipop update and Nexus 6 release hasn’t been as smooth as we originally predicted, and stock is still hard to find for Google’s latest smartphone. That said, it’s available from AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and a few online retailers as of today.
I’ve been enjoying the Nexus 6 for over a month, as well as the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system, and it’s time to take another close look at how it compares to the rest of the Android devices available. Specifically what’s changed now we’re on Android 4.4.2 KitKat, and how it is holding up one month later. Before we start check out our initial Nexus 6 Review, then read on for our thoughts after one month of using it.
With the Nexus 6 Google took a completely different approach to the Nexus brand. No longer is it a middle of the pack safe move with decent specs and a low price for developers and potential buyers. The Nexus 6 is a whale of a phone, in every single aspect. They didn’t hold back, checked off every checkbox in the specs column, and delivered a huge premium Android experience.
The large 5.96-inch “phablet” display and huge $649 price tag instantly threw a few buyers off, like myself, but now more than a month later this is still my daily device. I never thought I’d enjoy a device this big, as they’re hard to hold or use with one hand, but the Nexus 6 won me over. My old Galaxy S5 just feels small now, in comparison.
Before we breakdown everything below there is some good news. While the Nexus 6 does have a few problems, and its share of bugs, last night Google revealed an Android 5.0.1 update for Nexus devices, one which should be coming soon. This will address a number of bugs, problems, and issues that have been plaguing owners of the Nexus 6, or any device that’s received the update to Android 5.0 Lollipop. I have a few issues I’ll mention below, and hopefully those will be addressed with the 5.0.1 update.
At first I was worried about the hardware. Not the specs, which are impressive and top-tier, but the overall size and build quality. Thankfully I can say that after a month of usage none of those are problems. Sure the 5.96-inch screen took some getting used to, and the back is somewhat slippery, but I’ve come to love it. That big screen and dual front facing speakers make this phone wonderful for content, and anything for that matter.
I did buy a cheap TPU case for added protection, and to keep me from dropping the phone due to the slippery back and big size. I dropped it twice in the first two weeks of owning it, but now that cases are available, I’m using one. Without talking too much about the obvious, here’s the specs again for those curious.
Nexus 6 Specs
- 5.96-inch 2560 x 1440 Quad-HD Display
- 2.7 GHz Quad-Core Snapdragon 805 processor with 3GB of RAM
- 32GB/64GB internal storage
- Android 5.0 Lollipop
- 13 Megapixel camera with OIS, 2 MP front camera (4k video capture)
- Dual Ring Flash similar to Moto X
- Dual Front-facing speakers
- Aluminum frame around device like the new Moto X 2014
- 3,220 mAh battery
The Nexus 6 is extremely impressive, as you can see above. It compares to the new Galaxy Note 4, and beats most other smartphones released in 2014 in multiple categories.
Over the past month I’ve had no issues with the hardware, and there’s really nothing bad to say either. The screen is big and gorgeous, the camera works quite well, and overall it feels like an excellent smartphone. There does seem to be a lot of built-up and dust in the speaker grills already, as they’re not closed, but that’s just nitpicking.
Software & Performance
So here’s where things are both good and bad. The Nexus 6 comes with the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop, a completely revamped and improved version of Android. And while it looks gorgeous, has tons of animations and effects, and offers tons of added functionality, it has a few bugs.
Android 5.0 Lollipop is excellent. It’s fun, lively, smooth, interactive, and a joy to use. Everything from the new lockscreen notifications, advanced notification controls, improved quick settings, and everything else. Android 5.0 Lollipop is the best Android experience to date, but needs a few bugs ironed out. This is the initial release, and as we said above, a fix is already on the way and could start hitting Nexus devices by the end of the week.
After a month of usage I’ve noticed apps freeze more often than they should, games occasionally crash or simply won’t load, and other small little bugs here and there. Things like the fullscreen mode getting stuck and the on-screen keys stating when it should go full-screen, and Google’s new Ambient Display mode is awesome, but something I disabled.
Ambient Display lets the screen pulse on and off in a low power state showing incoming notifications, and one tap will turn on the display and let you interact with them. It’s similar to Moto Display, and works great. However, I was constantly accidentally turning on the screen, pocket dialing, and more, so I’ve disabled that. Hopefully Android 5.0.1 has changed how it works a little bit, and maybe even bring the “double tap to wake” feature from the Nexus 9 to the Nexus 6. The code is there, Google’s just disabled it for now.
Most of the problems with the Android 5.0 update have been on other older Nexus devices, but there’s some bugs affecting the Nexus 6 that will need to be addressed too. I’ve not experiencing this many crashes for simple app starts and games on any device, so Google needs to act, and act fast. The Android 5.0.1 update can’t come soon enough.
Those are all small issues, but still issues. They don’t prevent the phone from being a phone, and I’m still able to browse the web, make calls, text friends and family, and do everything else with ease. It’s irritating, but will be fixed, and hardly a deal breaker.
The video above is a great look at not only the Nexus 6, but Android 5.0 Lollipop and everything that’s new. There’s some useful tips, tricks, and features you may not be aware of, so it’s certainly worth a look.
Google’s also changed the keyboard a bit, updated all its apps to material design, and took away the gallery app for viewing images and video. I’ve installed SwiftKey as my keyboard of choice, and downloaded a new gallery app (CM Gallery) to view my photos and video easier. Google’s moving things to the cloud and Google+, but thankfully Android allows everything to be customized.
Overall the software experience and overall device performance is excellent. It runs like a well oiled machine 99% of the time, but those small crashes and occasional issues need to be fixed. Until then, I’ll keep restarting apps and working around it until Android 5.0.1 arrives.
The camera on the Nexus 6 is the best camera for any Nexus smartphone, but still not as good as premium devices like the Galaxy Note 4 or iPhone 6. The 13 megapixel camera has optical image stabilization, and the dual LED ringflash helps a little in low light. That said, the shutter speed still isn’t the best, and the default camera app is lacking in features.
We posted plenty of camera samples in our initial review, but here are a few more just for good measure. It’s more than capable for most users, but it could be a little better. I’m satisfied with the camera for the most part, and don’t have any major complaints that would turn users away from buying the Nexus 6.
The camera records 4K video, which is nice, and Google Camera has some timer options to get shots when needed, but there are other options that can deliver more function to the camera if you head to the Google Play Store.
The Nexus 6 offers the biggest battery in any Nexus smartphone, but it needed it to power that huge quad-hd display. Motorola added a large 3,220 mAh battery under the hood, but I feel something even bigger would have fit. Just look at the 3,900 mAh DROID Turbo.
That being said, battery life is no longer a problem, issue, or even a concern on the Nexus 6. No it won’t last for two days, but it doesn’t need to. Over the past month I’ve never been in a situation where I was out of battery and knew I’d need more juice to finish my day. That was never the case with previous Nexus devices.
I’m a hard user, and unplugging my phone at 10AM and using it extensively throughout the day for apps, games, browsing the web, getting tons of push notifications, emails, Twitter alerts, streaming Google Play Music and more it will still last 12 hours. That’s 10AM to 10PM. That’s more than enough for me, and if I need more power the Turbo Charger in the box gets you 6 hours of battery in just 30 minutes on the wall.
I charge up quickly while sitting at home, while driving around town, and whenever I’m not using the phone so I’ve never had to worry about battery life. Sure, it could be better, but I have zero complaints about battery life with the Nexus 6. This is the only Nexus where battery wasn’t a huge concern. So buy one with an at ease mind.
Final Thoughts a Month Later
In the end after a little over one month of using the Nexus 6 every day I can say without any hesitation that this is one of the best smartphones available today. Yes it’s rather expensive at $649, but can be found on contract from all five major US carriers. Verizon and US Cellular haven’t released it yet, but the three other big carriers have it right now. While the Galaxy Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus offer more in certain areas, you’ll be spending a lot more than $649 to get those off contract. It’s a hard choice, but for many the Nexus 6 is the right choice.
I use the Nexus 6 daily. Whether it be as a phone, to play Clash of Clans (because I’m addicted) or a camera. It’s always in my truck or my bag of tech gadgets. Sitting next to my Google Glass I’ll pull it out for a quick photo, take it with me for tethering the 4G LTE to my Nexus 9 at the park, or Panera Bread while working on the go. Not to mention using it almost exclusively for Google Now alone. Getting driving directions, weather alerts, and my Google Now reminders (which run my life) surely makes it come in handy as my main device, or even my second device always being just an arms length away. The Galaxy S5 is now my backup, and my aging Nexus 5 sits somewhere in a closet.
I have never used a Galaxy Note device or any other large phablets for more than a week or two, as the size just wasn’t for me. Or maybe I never gave them a fair shake. 5-inch phones seemed to be the perfect middle ground, but the Nexus 6 has me changing my mind. I never expected to use it more than a few weeks, but it’s officially my daily driver and smartphone of choice as 2014 comes to a close.
My Galaxy S5 is always close by, too, but the Nexus 6 is what gets the majority of usage. Yes there are concerns for many when it comes to the size, price, or even Android 5.0 Lollipop, but this is the best Nexus smartphone ever released, and possibly the best phone in 2014.
The screen is wonderful, as are the front facing speakers, the camera works well enough when I need it, and the battery gets me through the most heavy usage days. There isn’t much else I’d ask for from a smartphone, except maybe for it to make my coffee in the morning. I may no be the average user, but millions of buyers from all carriers in the United States and around the globe should give the Nexus 6 a try. Make sure you test it out in a carrier store though, as the size certainly isn’t for everyone.