Google is already responsible for creating the biggest smartphone operating system in the world, and now it’s created one of the largest phones in the world to go with it.
The Nexus 6 is not only Google’s first plus-sized phone, it’s one of the biggest phones you can buy period. With its 5.9-inch screen, it’s larger than both the 5.7-inch Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.
But what’s perhaps even more interesting is that the Nexus 6 also marks another important first for Google.
The company’s line of Nexus smartphones have always been marketed as a relatively cheap option for those looking for an off-contract phone and a clean Android experience. Last year’s Nexus 5, for example, sold for $US350 through the Google Play Store when it launched, and you could only buy it through Google or T-Mobile.
Now , it seems like Google is trying to target more of a mainstream audience. The Nexus 6 will be available through all major carriers in the US and starts at $US649 without a contract, a price point that’s common for competitors like the Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus. It will cost less with a contract, but prices vary from carrier to carrier.
After playing with the Nexus 6 for a few weeks, here’s what it was like to use Google’s new mammoth of a phone.
The first thing you’ll notice about the Nexus 6 is its abnormally large 5.9-inch screen, which features a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels. According to those dimensions, the screen on Google’s new phone packs 493 pixels per inch, while the iPhone 6 Plus’ display includes 401 pixels per inch and the Note 4’s screen squeezes 515 pixels in each inch. This technically means the Note 4 should have the sharpest screen of the three.
The second thing you’re likely to pick up on is how different the Nexus 6’s software looks. That’s because it’s the first phone to ship with Android 5.0 Lollipop, a brand new version of Android that comes with a complete makeover known as Material Design.
The Nexus 6 comes with a 13-megapixel camera that includes optical image stabilisation, which prevents your images from coming out all shaky and blurry from unintentional movement. There’s also a 2-megapixel front camera.
The phone is powered by a quad-core processor that’s common in several popular Android phones, which means it should be able to juggle multiple tasks with ease.
How It Looks And Feels
The Nexus 6 both looks and feels gigantic. It’s not subtly large like the LG G3, which comes with a 5.5-inch screen that feels like it’s only about 5-5.2 inches since its bezels are so thin.
Google’s new smartphone looks like an supersized Moto X. It has the same shape, front-facing speakers, and curved back.
The back of the white Nexus 6 appears to be made of a hard matte polycarbonate material. This makes the phone feel sturdy and durable, which I much prefer to the plastic and faux-leather materials Samsung uses for some of its flagship smartphones.
Still, the metal edges on Samsung’s new Note 4 do give the phone a more premium and classy feel compared to the Nexus 6. Google’s new phone also seems less delicate than the iPhone 6 Plus’ aluminium build, which feels like it will easily get scratched up if I don’t use a case.
The Nexus 6 is much more cumbersome than the iPhone 6 Plus, which gives it both an advantage and a disadvantage. It’s a little heavier, which some may dislike, but the extra weight and matte texture make it easier to grip. It doesn’t feel as slippery as the 6 Plus.
The screen on the Nexus 6 is capable of rendering gorgeous and incredibly sharp images, and it’s bright enough to prevent glare. The phone’s gigantic screen size also makes it ideal for watching longer content like TV shows and movies.
Although the Nexus 6’s display is enjoyable, it’s not quite as impressive as the screen on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4. The display on Samsung’s phone is noticeably brighter and exhibits colours more boldly than the screens on both the Nexus 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Apple’s phone is a close second when it comes to screen quality. When watching the trailer for “Interstellar” on all three phones, I noticed the the Nexus 6’s screen looked a bit dull in comparison.
One of the best things about the Nexus 6 is its incredibly long battery life. With light usage, I was able to get about two full days out of the device. I typically had the screen brightness turned up to its maximum setting too. If you check your phone constantly, get tons of notifications, and frequently use it to play demanding games or streaming video, you’ll probably get a little less (maybe 1-1.5 days).
The camera on the Nexus 6 captures clear, bold images, but they seem a bit dark in comparison to photos taken with the iPhone 6 and Galaxy Note 4. In the images below, you’ll notice how the lower right corner of the photo taken with the Nexus 6 is dark compared to the rest.
At the same time, Samsung’s phone seems to have blown out the image too much. The blue sky in the background looks overexposed compared to the other photos. The iPhone 6’s picture seems to be the most accurate in terms of colour reproduction. You can tell that the area near the church in the photo was shady, but it’s not too dark. The green colouring in the leaves on the tree outside the church also look bolder, while the same tree in the Nexus 6’s photo seems muted.
See for yourself below.
Galaxy Note 4
iPhone 6 Plus
The biggest problem with the Nexus 6, however, is that it doesn’t really take advantage of its ginormous screen size. This is where Samsung’s Note series excels beyond its competitors. The Note comes with its own stylus and a handful of different features that make its large screen easier to use. There’s a one-handed mode for easily reaching apps without stretching your fingers, and you can open multiple apps at once with Samsung’s Multi-Window feature.
Apple’s iPhone 6 Plus also lacks these multitasking features, but it at least comes with a Reachability mode that scooches content from the top of the screen to the middle so that you can reach it with one hand. The Nexus 6 doesn’t come with any software that’s optimised for one-handed use or that truly takes advantage of its large screen, which is a bummer.
Granted, you can probably find some decent one-handed keyboards in the Google Play Store. But, since Google is touting Lollipop as a software that’s meant to work across all screen sizes, some proprietary features catered to larger screens would have been appreciated.
Google’s New Android
With Lollipop, Google has given Android a giant makeover. Google calls this facelift Material Design, and it gives the software a cleaner, flat, look that will be easier to maintain across various different types of gadgets.
For example, you’ll notice that Google has made its own apps such as Gmail appear more colourful and bold. There’s more of an emphasis on shadows and depth in app icons, too. It’s clear that Google paid a lot of attention to detail when building this version of Android.
This is evident more than ever when you look at the transitions and animations buried throughout the interface.
Tapping the app drawer icon, for instance, causes the phone to launch your menu of apps with a subtle spiral motion.
One of my favourite animations in Lollipop is the way the notification drawer displays your notifications. When you pull down from the top of the display, you can scroll through notifications and fold them over one another to stack them.
Lollipop is Google’s smoothest and most responsive operating system yet. The software responds to even the lightest taps and touches with no hesitation.
Is This The Plus-Sized Phone To Buy?
The Nexus 6 is a welcome addition to Google’s Nexus family, and it’s a fine phone. But there are areas in which competitors like Apple and Samsung excel. For example, both the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 take better photos and have screens that show colours more boldly than Google’s phone.
The biggest catch, however, is that Google hasn’t added any special features that help you take advantage of the Nexus 6’s giant screen like Samsung has.
If you love Android and want a giant phone, you’ll probably love the Nexus 6. It’s one of the only phones with Android Lollipop right now, and it works beautifully on the Nexus 6. If you care about having a super clean Android experience with no layers over it, go for the Nexus 6. Even when the Lollipop update eventually rolls out to the Note 4, Samsung is likely to heavily skin it as we’ve seen in some early leaks. You probably won’t get the same Material Design experience you’d get with the Nexus 6.
Here’s the short answer: the Nexus 6 offers long battery life and a super smooth Android experience. That’s where it really succeeds. But the plus-sized phones from Samsung and Apple offer a more polished design, better cameras, sharper screens, and equally impressive battery life.