The Nexus 6 is Google’s biggest and boldest smartphone yet. And when we say big and bold we mean it. Right down to the impressively huge 5.96-inch display and the brand new Android 5.0 Lollipop software it’s powered by. Our Nexus 6 review takes a look at everything Google has to offer with its new phone, what we like and dislike about it, how it compares to the competition, and what it offers over the Nexus 5.
For years Google has released excellent cheap products under the Nexus branding in hopes of showing off its latest version of Android, while also showing manufacturers the way to different designs, bigger screens or cheaper (yet quality) products. Like the original Nexus 7 for example. It showed the tablet world that an excellent 7-inch slate could perform great and cost under $200. The same approach carried over to smartphones, but not with the Nexus 6. This is a completely different beast. It’s a bold new approach, and a flagship smartphone aimed at fighting Samsung, LG, Apple and everyone else.
Google announced the Nexus 6 on October 15th after months of reports and rumors, and it debuted along with a new HTC-made Nexus 9 tablet, a Nexus Player for your TV and the latest Android 5.0 Lollipop. It has a lot to offer, so we have plenty to cover. For users who can accept the size and commitment of carrying a larger phone, the Nexus 6 is Google’s best smartphone yet. But you’ll want to know everything about it before spending your hard earned money on this expensive new handset.
The Nexus 6 retails for $649 and $699 without a contract, making it not only the biggest Nexus smartphone ever released, but the most expensive. Nearly double that of the $349 Nexus 5 from 2013. That being said, it offers massive upgrades in every single facet of a smartphone: more storage, a bigger display and it is finally coming to all major carriers in the United States with reasonable on-contract pricing.
Google’s brand new Nexus 6 is finally available this week from Sprint and AT&T, T-Mobile next week, and will hit other major carriers in the United States and many regions around the globe before the end of the month. If you’ve had this phone on your radar you’ll be happy to know it’s an amazing smartphone, but not without compromises like learning a new way to hold you device, and making a big jump if you’re coming from the Nexus 4 or Nexus 5.
Nexus 6 Video Review & Summary
Before diving into everything we love about the Nexus 6 and Android 5.0 Lollipop, or talking about the battery life or things this phone can do better, below is a quick hands-on video and our Nexus 6 summary. A TL;DR of sorts.
The Nexus 6 is a compelling smartphone that could sway buyers from the Samsung Galaxy Note series, the big new iPhone, or convince buyers to finally make the jump to a larger screen.
What We Like: Big & Beautiful Quad-HD Display, Good Battery Life, Excellent Front Facing Speakers & Durable Design
What We Don’t Like: It’s Big & Slippery, the Fact That it Requires Two-Handed Use, No Notification LED, & Button Placement
Bottom Line: The Nexus 6 is an impressive phone and the best Nexus to date. Android 5.0 Lollipop is a refreshing and smooth update to Android that users will love, but the big size may alienate many potential buyers.
Read the rest of this Nexus 6 review to find out what this big Nexus 6 is all about, how it compares to the competition, what could be improved and if it’s the right smartphone for you.
Nexus 6 Design
In terms of design this is the best Nexus smartphone ever released, but it’s really big. The past two Nexus phones were made by LG and aimed at being budget devices, but that’s no longer the case. This is a Motorola made Nexus 6, and build quality has finally stepped up to the big league. It’s large, and simply dwarfs the Nexus 4 and Nexus 5 before it, but Google promises that one week with the 5.96-inch display is all you’ll need, and you won’t want to go back to a smaller smartphone.
Everything about the Nexus 6 design has been improved over previous generations, all while keeping the signature Nexus styling. It has a soft plastic back in Midnight Blue or Cloud White, but this time around it feels extremely solid, and has a durable aluminum ring around the entire frame. It feels like a premium phone, and comes with a premium price tag to match it.
The design is centered around a few simple things, if you ask me. That is the big display with minimal bezels and front facing speakers, and improving durability to match that of the competition. They’ve achieved exactly that. The Nexus 6 is big, slightly larger than the Galaxy Note 4 or iPhone 6 Plus, but only by a millimeter or two. That said, the screen is bigger and it offers amazing dual front-facing speakers. This addition is probably one of my favorites, and something all users can appreciate.
The Nexus 6 has a soft touch plastic back, and the white model is noticeably more slippery than the Blue model, likely due to having a slightly different texture to keep the white color clean. Both are a little slippery to be honest, and I’ve dropped mine twice. You’ll be happy to know I caught it the first time, and the second was in the car; it suffered no damage.
Google took Motorola’s Moto X approach and curved the sides to make it feel smaller and thinner in the hand than the 10mm thickness actually is, and it feels great. The Nexus 6 is rather easy to hold and use, extremely comfortable, but I’ll probably be getting a case so I don’t drop it again.
The large 5.96-inch display may be too big for some, but with minimal bezels on the sides an even small bezels on the front with dual speakers, it still comes in rather small. If you’ve ever used the Galaxy Note 3, Note 4, or even the new LG G3 you know what to expect, and you’ll probably want to try one of those (or the Nexus 6) in a store before you buy. You’ll want to make sure the size is comfortable for you.
All said and done I love the design, but I have two complaints aside from it being slippery. These are the button placements and the lack of grills covering the front facing speakers. The power button is slightly above the middle of the right side, and in a perfect spot to not be in the way, yet easily accessible with your thumb. It’s even textured so you know you’re hitting it. However, the volume rocker is below it, which I constantly hit by mistake. They’re in the way, and should have been moved to the left side. I don’t like both being on the same side, and this is especially true with the Nexus 6.
I’ll be working and notice my Nexus 6 is on silent, and that’s because while picking it up a few times off the table I’ve accidentally lowered the volume to silent. It’s right where you’d grab the phone, and a placement I’m not a fan of.
The front speaker pieces protrude a little and keep the screen off the table or ground while face-first, which is nice, but there are no grills or covers. My Nexus 6 speakers have dust and oil build-up already, and I’ve only had it two weeks. I’m just nitpicking here, but it’s worth mentioning.
Nexus 6 Display
The Nexus 6 has the best screen of any Nexus smartphone I’ve ever used. It’s large coming in at 5.96-inches, but offers a stunning and crystal clear 2560 x 1440 Quad-HD resolution, or 2K. Pixels are crisp, colors are clear and vibrant, and blacks are inky black thanks to it being an AMOLED display. Some will argue against that, but it looks great. Another thing that was a major issue with the LG G3 quad-hd display or the Nexus 5 screen is viewing angles, and that isn’t a problem here. The Nexus 6 screen looks great from all angles, but can have some pretty bad glare while using it outdoors.
I’ll be honest, I’ve never liked “phablets” and never gave them a fair shake. Big phones are hard to hold and use, the fear of dropping them while trying to use with one hand is real. That said, I love the Nexus 6. The Nexus 5 and Galaxy S5 are my daily smartphones, and they replaced my Galaxy S4 and Galaxy Nexus, but over the past two weeks I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Nexus 6. I’m getting used to mostly using two hands, and Google has me convinced. I like it and probably won’t be going back to smaller devices. The Nexus 6 is here to stay.
The iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch 1080p screen, and the Galaxy Note 4 is 5.7-inches and the same 2560 x 1440 as the Nexus 6, but they are all about the same size. That means Google managed to put a bigger display and front facing speakers into a device about the same size. You have more real estate to enjoy YouTube, Netflix, games from the Play Store, and it’s just a great experience. I almost have no need for a tablet anymore.
There really isn’t much else to say here. The Nexus 6 display is excellent. It isn’t washed out like my Nexus 5, and viewing angles are superior. It isn’t too cold or warm, but everyone’s eyes are different. I have absolutely zero complaints about the display, and most buyers won’t either.
Is the Nexus 6 Too Big?
Everyone has different needs, wants and preferences, so this is hard to talk about or argue. As I said above, I’ve never really given big devices like the Note 2 or 3 a fair chance, but perhaps I should have sooner. I always thought 4.7-5.2-inches was perfect, but I’m having no problem with this big screen. I truly don’t, and if I only have one hand Google Now and voice dictation is my friend.
The Samsung Galaxy Note lineup is extremely popular, and this year Apple even caved to the pressure and released a huge 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. It’s a growing trend, even if it isn’t for everyone. My hands aren’t very big. Average and stubby, to say the least, and I do okay.
The Nexus 6 fits in all my pockets with ease, but I rarely walk around with it in my pockets and it’s usually in my hand. I have one pair of old Lucky Jeans where the front pocket is too shallow and you see a quarter of the phone sticking out, so consider that. I keep it in my back pocket, and it’s safe and secure.
It can be a bit uncomfortable in my front pocket while sitting, like any phone, so this is really up to the end user. All said and done we’d urge you to try any of the other big phones at a store before you buy.
Nexus 6 Specs
Specs and information on paper or the back of the box isn’t everything, but buyers still want to know what they’re getting to compare phones. Is it as good as other options on the market, what are the phone’s weak points, and what does it have to offer? Previous Nexus devices cut corners on the latest processor, had poor cameras and a smaller battery to keep costs down, but that isn’t the case here. The Nexus 6 is arguably the best, and most powerful, Android smartphone to date, and here are the cold hard facts.
- 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 (no micro-SD)
- Android 5.0 Lollipop
- 13 Megapixel camera with OIS, 2 MP front camera (4k video capture)
- Dual Ring LED Flash
- Dual Front-facing speakers
- Aluminum frame for Durability
- 3,220 mAh battery
- 82.98mm x 159.26mm x 10.06mm and 184 grams
Android 5.0 Lollipop
While you can expect another review of Android 5.0 Lollipop itself coming soon, we’ll quickly cover it here. Google’s done an excellent job by completely revamping and redesigning Android with the 5.0 Lollipop release. It’s a bold new look full of colors, animations, effects and a new ART runtime that improves performance, stability and battery life.
The new term is material design, which is the design language Google has implemented into Android 5.0, and is urging developers to do the same for a more cohesive experience. All their key apps have been updated to material design with bold colors, slide-out menu drawers on the top left, and animations and effects that give you a great experience. Everything has an animation or color change as you tap and navigate. This makes the operating system feel lively, interactive and friendly.
With Android 5.0 Lollipop we have a redesigned notification pull down bar with more options, easy quick toggle choices, better interaction with notifications and much more. Everything is in a card-style UI, with a paper effect of layers on top of all the animations. It’s neat, smooth, fluid and a joy to use. To mention a few other feature updates: they’ve added guest (or kids mode) for multiple user accounts to phones, instead of just tablets, a battery saver mode and most importantly, a new way to move everything from an old device to a new one called Tap & Go.
Tap & Go uses NFC to make and pair a connection, then bluetooth to transfer some information. As you saw above it takes one tap, sign into your accounts, and you let Android 5.0 Lollipop’s Tap & Go feature do the rest. It will download your apps, transfer app data and information and even put icons back where you had them before.
This makes going from an old phone to a new one easier than ever. If you skip this process there’s a secondary restore option allowing you to choose which device to restore from, if you have multiple like me, or a “setup as new” option for brand new users. This is one of my favorite new things, and surely will make the transition easier than ever to switch to a new device.
And if Android 5.0 Lollipop or the Nexus 6 has you jumping from an iPhone to the green side of Android, above is a how-to guide from Google themselves.
Obviously there is tons of new stuff with Android 5.0 Lollipop. The recent apps or multi-tasking menu is completely different, with a rolodex type UI that works wonderfully. Browser tabs are their own card, too, and multi-tasking is better than ever with Android 5.0. We have a lot to cover, so check Android 5.0 out in the few videos in this review, and expect a full Lollipop review in the near future.
Nexus 6 Camera
Google and Motorola came together to finally offer a good camera on a Nexus device. The Nexus 5 had an 8 megapixel camera with optical image stabilization, but it wasn’t the best. Google even added camera improvements in Android 4.4.2 KitKat updates to address this, but you can only do so much.
With the Nexus 6 we have an improved and refined 13 megapixel camera with OIS, a dual LED ring flash for improved low light performance, 4K video recording and tons of improvements in Android 5.0 Lollipop to give developers and manufacturers more options to better the cameras on Android devices.
The Moto X 2014 camera received mix reviews, and that’s likely the same camera here. We’ve experienced great shots with the Nexus 6, but of course snapping photos of moving objects like kids or dogs can be a challenge. Low-light photos are surprisingly quite nice, as you can see below, but could be better. We’ll have to compare it against the iPhone 6 and 16 megapixel Galaxy Note 4 in the future, but we have no major complaints.
Android 5.0 Lollipop has a shortcut where one swipe from the bottom right corner on the lockscreen instantly launches the camera, no need to unlock the screen, so you’ll never miss a photo opportunity. Add in Photosphere, Lens Blur, and a completely overhauled image editor and you’ll have everything you need. Android 5.0 and the Nexus 6 have some powerful Instagram-like editing tools at your disposal, so use them.
We’ll have more camera and photo comparisons later, but below are a few decent shots we took with the Nexus 6 both indoors, outdoors, and at night here in Las Vegas.
The auto-focus isn’t the fastest, and the stock camera in Android 5.0 may not have as many options and settings as some, but it gets the job done. Of course the iPhone is a standard most compare to, so expect that in the near future.
Nexus 6 Performance
A lot of different aspects go into performance of a device, but it all boils down to the specs, apps installed, and of course the version of Android on board. With the Nexus 6 the quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM keeps this phone fast and fluid all the time, and Android 5.0 Lollipop is one of the best mobile operating systems I’ve ever used. Everything simply flies. There’s no lag, no stuttering or delays, and it just runs like a well oiled machine. The Nexus 6 is fast.
There are no app crashes, force-close problems, or bugs that’s we’ve experienced so far, even if a few reports and rumors suggested Android 5.0 had a battery bug delaying the release. Of course each release will have its share of problems, but the Nexus 6 simply runs extremely smooth and stable.
The large 5.96-inch display has no problems playing back 1080p video with ease, multi-tasking between apps on the fly, and pushing all those pixels isn’t a problem. WiFi is strong, Bluetooth doesn’t have any dropping issues (at least for me) and so far I don’t have any initial Android 5.0 complaints. The Nexus 6 screen is big though, and some widgets weren’t sized properly, but you can always resize them as needed.
Everything from playing some of the most graphic intensive games, to enjoying videos with the front facing speakers, are all a joy. I seriously don’t know why more manufacturers haven’t added front facing speakers. Add in a huge display to crystal clear sound, and this is the ultimate content consumption device and computing tool in the palm of your hand.
The Nexus 6 with Android 5.0 Lollipop is one of the best smartphone experiences we’ve had to date, and will be the standard all devices look to in 2015.
Nexus 6 Battery Life & Charging
Battery life is a major concern for most, especially if you’ve ever owned a Nexus smartphone. The Nexus 5 had a small 2,300 mAh battery, and don’t even get me started about the Galaxy Nexus. With the Nexus 6 we have two things to ease your mind. That being a huge 3,220 mAh battery, and a new Turbo Charging feature. You’ll need a big 3,220 mAh battery to power that huge 5.96-inch display, and that battery matches that of the Galaxy Note 4 and is bigger than the iPhone 6 Plus and LG G3 battery. But does it hold up?
Depending on the user you’ll be able to get well over 30 hours from the Nexus 6. I’ve been enjoying around 4-6 hours of screen on time, with my phone lasting well over 12 hours of heavy, heavy usage. I can take it off the charger at 9AM, and have 35% or so leftover the next morning before starting my day. Of course your mileage may vary, and I’m a pretty heavy user that’s constantly on the phone.
Above is a screenshot of a rather intensive usage day. With the phone being used heavily for playing music, using Google Maps navigation, playing at least a few hours of some addicting games from the Play Store, not to mention checking emails, Twitter, Facebook and everything else most smartphone owners do. This isn’t excellent battery life or anything, but 12 hours with over 30% left after a rather hard day, is more than enough for me. My Nexus 5 barely lasted 7 hours no matter what I was doing.
This brings us to our next point, and that is the Turbo Charger included in the box. Using a new quick charge technology and the included charger, Motorola and Google promise 6 hours of battery life after just 15 minutes on the charger. If your phone is nearly dead, an accelerated charging feature (safe to the battery) will speed up charging and get you to nearly half-full with just 15-20 minutes on the wall. This means if you have a heavy usage day like I did above, but are going out for a Friday night, simply drop it on the charger for 20 minutes and head out the door.
The Turbo charger isn’t a revolution or anything, nor would we spend the extra money on the Turbo Charger from the Play Store if we had the Moto X (which can use it), but since it’s included we’ll take what we can get. If you charge the Nexus 6 here and there while working, driving or at home lounging you’ll never, ever have to worry about battery life being a concern. I haven’t at least.
Could it be better? Absolutely. And we’ll probably see some battery optimizations in future updates too, so keep that in mind. Android 5.0 is still brand new, and fresh off the lot.
Nexus 6 Review Verdict
The Nexus 6 is a great smartphone that has tons to offer: the latest version of Android, a beautiful display and excellent performance, but might be too big for everyone to enjoy. It’s also extremely expensive, costing as much as an iPhone 6 or Galaxy Note 4, something Nexus users are not used to spending. We all wanted it to be $399 or $449, but considering everything it has to offer, this is a premium flagship smartphone that’s worth its price.
If you can manage and pocket the bigger display and price tag, it offers a great device that’s perfect for gaming, watching movies or streaming NFL Mobile or Watch ESPN on gameday, or even getting work done with Google Docs.
The front facing speakers are a huge and much welcomed addition, as is the bigger battery, and no one can argue against the fact that this is the best Nexus smartphone ever released. It’s one of the best phones released in 2014, and will be tough to top with a new Nexus in late 2015.
I would have been fine with a 5.5-inch display in a slightly smaller form factor, a more textured design to make it less slippery, and perhaps some water resistant features like the Galaxy S5, but beggars can’t be choosers. You can’t have the best of everything, then expect Google to give it away for a low price. Compromises needed to be made, while specs and certain features needed to be included. Overall Google and Motorola have delivered an excellent all around package that should showcase Android 5.0 Lollipop in all its glory.
It’s an expensive phone all things considered, but still comes in more wallet friendly than anything from Apple or even the smaller Galaxy Note 4, so remember that while debating your purchase. If you can handle the massive phablet size Google is offering, you’ll find that there’s a lot to love about the Nexus 6.