Google Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

Google-designed Nexus phones have been beating the handsets designed by third-parties for a few years now, owing to their use of an unfettered stock Android. With the 6P, Nexus finally gets gorgeous hardware to match the lustre of its powerful software. It's the Android phone almost everyone should buy.

What Is It?

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

A 5.7-inch Android smartphone designed by Google in partnership with the Chinese manufacturer Huawei. You may have never heard of Huawei, but it's been around. In fact, it became the number smartphone maker in China just last week.

The 6P is a metal/glass combo that sports a top-of-the-line Snapdragon 810 octa-core processor, a 12.3-megapixel main camera, and a QHD OLED (2560 x 1440) display. Unlike it's cheaper sibling the Nexus 5X, this is a flagship meant to compete with all the top phones. It starts at $US500 with 32GB of onboard storage (no Australian price as yet, unfortunately).

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

Android as a platform is enormously popular globally, but in terms of people shopping for "premium" devices, it's still playing catchup. In part at least, the Nexus program has been an effort by Google to guide the design of hardware to that point where a phone is aesthetically and functionally perfect.

Over the last few years, Android's been getting there! Very good phones from several manufacturers have come out and with few exceptions, the very best have been Nexus phones.

Google makes the operating system so this intuitively makes sense. With the 6P, the company finally gets it right, at a price that's hard to beat.

Design

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

Bigger is not always better. Last year's huge Nexus 6 was an awesome phone — it was one of my favourite I've ever used — but critics were right. For many people, it was too huge.

Enter the Nexus 6P which has a smaller display (5.7 vs 5.96 inches), is narrower (78 vs 83 mm), thinner (8.3 vs 10.1 mm), and lighter (178 vs 184 grams) than the Nexus 6. The most important change are the narrower and the thinner measurements. My hand couldn't quite hold onto the Nexus 6 comfortably with one hand, which made reading something one-handed a delicate balancing act. Now the 6P is totally manageable.

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

The phone's display resolution remains exactly the same, which means, of course, that you've got a denser layout. It's beautiful just like all the other OLED QHD displays out there. We are starting to reach a plateau for display perfection, at least one you can discern with the naked eye.

Unlike the Nexus 6, which was backed with plastic in an aluminium frame, the Huawei-made 6P is completely aluminium. The overall design is elegant, with clean lines that help the device feel even smaller than it is.

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

The phone does, however, have two unusual design features. First of all, like the new 5X, the 6P has a fingerprint sensor in a little dimple on the back of the phone.

The other odd facet is the rectangular camera bulge at the top on the back for what Google claims is a life-changing 12.3 megapixel camera.

The Nexus 6 makes the move many others have made to the USB Type-C charging port, which brings advantages like super-fast charging and blazing data transfer. It has the initial disadvantage that your local bar probably won't have one behind the bar, however, charging cables should be fairly ubiquitous soon.

Using It

The Nexus 6P is a mighty chariot for Android.

There's no lag anywhere. Tap an icon and an app launches, swipe the homescreen, and the next page flaps up instantly. I spent a few hours doing all of my work on my phone just yesterday: Chatting, using Slack, email, editing posts — the works — and I was really impressed at how nothing ever jammed up. Multitasking was a breeze. It's the kind of super-fast implementation of the OS that's sometimes missing from other spec-sheet daydream Android phones out there. The OnePlus 2, for example, really started to piss me off with this after a while — and as for Samsung's TouchWiz skin, well, that remains an inferior approximation of Android in it's simple goodness.

Now I'm not much of a mobile gamer, but I did fire up Dead Trigger 2 just to see if the phone would do all right with a more involved, more graphics intensive game. It loaded quickly, and I ran around killing zombies without the slightest glitch.

Despite the slightly smaller display, the phone retains its big phone utility. For me, the biggest revelation about the the Nexus 6 was the ability to read books in the Kindle app on my phone comfortably. I read entire novels on that thing. I haven't gotten through a whole novel on the 6P yet, but I did devour a 7000-word magazine article without straining my eyes or my patience.

Finally, a note on battery life. Google dumped a big 'ol pack in here, and it holds up about as well as you can expect for a phone with a QHD display. It easily makes it from morning to evening, and if I'm not totally abusing the phone, I can even squeeze 24 hours of battery out of it.

Android 6.0

With the new Nexus line, we're getting our first look at the of the latest version of Android Marshmallow.This time around, the OS didn't get as huge of an overhaul as on Lollipop in 2014. To my eyes the most noticeable additions are customisable app permissions and Google Now On Tap.

The former is a really great idea, one that's blessed iOS for a while now. Rather than letting an app tell you what permissions it's going to take, you can customise exactly what permissions are allowed by granting permissions when the app actually needs them. For example Evernote always wants to access my calendar to associate my notes with whatever was happening on a day. (Oh, cool, so my note about a story idea is associated with Darren's birthday. Useful. Thanks Evernote.) In Marshmallow, I just deny Evernote access to my calendar, and tell it to never ask me again. Boom. Done. It's pretty nice and seamlessly integrated.

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

Google Now On Tap is supposed to bring contextual search to every app, which also sounds like a great idea. When you press and hold the home button, Google uses whatever's on the screen to perform a search, and then suggests some possible links. It's very fast, but hardly perfect. The results are a mixed bag — even if it finds anything at all. I know I've only been using this phone for a week, but On Tap has failed to change my phone usage in any meaningful way.

Fingerprint sensor

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

It works! Mostly. Before switching to the 6P, I was using the iPhone 6s Plus and compared to that impossibly fast, incredibly consistent miracle, the 6P seams weak. If you pull your finger away from the sensor too quickly it doesn't register. It also takes maybe a beat longer than I want it to. But in fairness, it works fairly consistently, and it's certainly not laggy.

I appreciate that if place your finger on the sensor, it wakes up your phone and unlocks it in a single step. That said, the feature has adverse consequences that can get a little annoying. When you're just grabbing your phone and not necessarily trying to unlock it, the sensor will pick up the side of your hand or a random part of your finger. Thinking you're trying to unlock the phone, it will vibrate angrily that the fingerprint doesn't match. Sometimes, I'll activate the sensor when I'm just reaching in my pocket trying to grab my keys or something and get a little love buzz on my leg. It's a minor thing, but a quibble nevertheless.

Finally, I quite like the idea of positioning the sensor on the back of the phone. It's a curious idea that has both advantages and disadvantages. It's well-designed and reflects the way we actually hold our phones — that's exactly where my index finger was going to be anyway! It also frees up real estate on the front of the phone. That said, I kind of miss being able to quickly unlock a phone when it's sitting on my desk without picking it up.

Camera

OK, Nexus phones have never had the best cameras, but they have certainly been making progress in recent years. The best way to describe the 6P would be "serviceable." I took photos at a concert in a dark bar and pretty much got the shot I was looking for though it wasn't always the first shot I took. I think the phone definitely suffers for its lack of optical image stabilisation, which the Nexus 6 did have.

In other words: It does the job, but it's not in the top tier occupied by the iPhone 6s, LG G4, or Galaxy S6.

I do like that Google's incorporated a quick camera open feature this time around. Double tap the power button on the side of the phone, and the camera opens up. Google's new streamlined photo app is very efficient. It has almost no features! So if you want a little more power, you'll need to go with a third party application.

Here are some photos:

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

This skyline photo taken in great light is oversharpened.

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

Dr. Zoidberg looks pretty good in this photo shot in reasonable light.

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

This is a dog drinking Guinness in a dark dive bar — an awesome thing that happened. Unfortunately, this is not an awesome photo.

Should You Buy It?

Nexus 6P Review: The Android Phone For Everyone

Definitely. This is it. The Android phone for everyone. It does most of the regular phone stuff you do everyday better than everything else. This is the purest and most polished Android experience you're going to get. Period.

I noted some drawbacks in performance of the camera and fingerprint sensor, and I think I should qualify that these are really minor complaints. The camera and the fingerprint sensor work. They're just not up to the incredibly high bar set by the phone's design, general software performance, and other phones that do these things better. But a single phone can't be the best at absolutely everything.

The entry-point is $US500 for 32GB version, which puts it slightly out of the range of cheap Android. It's cheaper than flagships like the Galaxy S6 and the LG G4, and I think you would be nuts to buy those over the Nexus 6P, which is a better phone. You can get the seamless, and sleek Nexus 5X for $US130 less. If you want a big phone for cheaper, the $US390 OnePlus 2 is a crapton of phone for the money. The Moto X Pure Edition is also a solid mid-tier competitor. (For the more Moto love there's the $US220 Moto G, but that's not really a phone for this conversation.)

It's taken a few years, but Google finally did it. Here's the phone Google's been trying to make. The spirit of Android, realised in matter.

Nexus 6P Specs:

  • OS: Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)

  • CPU: Snapdragon 810 processor / Adreno 430 GPU

  • Screen: 5.7-inch 2560x1440 AMOLED (518 PPI)

  • RAM: 3GB

  • Storage: 32GB, 64GB, 128GB

  • Camera: 12.3 megapixel rear / 8 megapixel front

  • Battery: 3450 mAh

  • Dimensions: 159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm

  • Weight: 136g

  • Price and Availability: Starting at $US500, Australian pricing currently unavailable.
  • Extra notes: No wireless charging, fingerprint sensor, USB Type-C

Images and video by Michael Hession.


Comments

    Australian pricing:

    32gb = $899
    64gb = $999
    128gb = $1099

    Ouch! I'm still buying the 64gb model when it's released.

      It's a lot of money. You would have to be happy to use it for at least 2 years, because if you used it for 2 years you are paying $41 a month for the phone. (for the 64GB model)

      If this is being sold by the carriers, it would definitely be cheaper to buy this on a 2 year contract. For example, the galaxy Note 5 is being sold at a similar price with less storage (1099 for 32GB) and Optus offer that at $100 per month with a 12GB data plan.

      If you buy say the 64GB unit outright now for $1000, what happens next year when they bring out an even better model? Replace it, and suddenly you have paid $83 a month for this phone before you get any plan from a carrier.

      Last edited 26/10/15 11:23 am

        Yeah I make my phones last two years anyway. I always buy my phones outright, it always ends up being more expensive on a plan. Plus, I can guarantee that unlocking the bootloader would void a carrier's warranty where it doesn't if you buy through Google (this is a big thing for me). We don't even know if the Nexus phones will be available through carriers anyway, Google has stated they won't be.

          These phones won't be offered through carriers, correct, google aren't even doing that in the states. I was just pointing out that if they were, it would be cheaper.

          You are also right about the bootloader. I haven't rooted a phone since the Galaxy Note 3 and it's worth pointing out that most legal streaming services in Australia won't work if you are rooted, which is a dealbreaker for me.

          I disagree that it's "always more expensive on a plan" as the maths just don't stack up once the outright cost gets up around $1000, even if you are with Telstra.

          $1000 phone + $70 BYO plan (7GB with Telstra) = $2680 / 24 = $111.66

          A Galaxy Note 5 with a 7GB plan is $105 per month x 24 = $2520

          The higher exchange rate has meant it's definitely cheaper to buy the flagship phones on contract, sorry but that's just a fact. If the exchange rate goes back to around 85-90 cents, then yes it's cheaper to buy outright.

          Just like Optus & Vodafone, Telstra are offering more data on contract vs BYO as well which is a big change in the industry. At Telstra, the data tops out at 25GB on contract, but 7GB is the highest you can go if you BYO phone.

          I'm only advocating contracts at the HIGH END premium phones. I am BYO too, paying $50 a month for 10GB with virgin, but I only paid $599 for my Oppo R7 Plus which I am happy with overall.

          I would love to get the 128GB Nexus, but not until the price drops. Not at 1099.

          Last edited 26/10/15 11:36 am

            I guess we'll have to agree to disagree when it comes to plans. You get the illusion of a better deal but it really isn't (in my opinion). I use prepaid anyway, I only need $30 a month with Telstra, it gets me the calls and messages I need and something like 1.3gb of data (I'm pretty much always on WiFi). So I'll outlay the $999 for the phone and spend a total of $720 over two years for service. An unlocked bootloader is an absolute must for me as I'm heavily involved in XDA Developers, I don't use any streaming services so that's not a problem. Oppo make some pretty nice phones, I can't stand ColorOS though. My current phone is the OnePlus One which is an absolute beast of a device and was super cheap too, I'd easily say it's the best phone I've ever owned. It's a shame the Two was such a flop otherwise I probably would have bought that. My son can have the One when my Nexus arrives.

              I can't stand ColorOS
              I just started watching Halt and catch fire and that name seems like a terrible choice for the 1980s.

              My current plan is $40 a month for 2gb of data, unlimited talk and text, and a Huwaii mate 7. Over the 2 years, I pay almost half as much as you. Some plans are better than others, but you can pick up some real good deals.

            It's on the optus store for pre-order on a plan and virgin already has it.
            Only 32gb model.

            Last edited 26/10/15 6:10 pm

        You are ruining impulse buying for everyone.

        If you can depreciate part of it it's really not too bad. Lets say with the Telstra $50 BYO plan it would be the following on 12 months.

        Phone $999
        $50/month Plan $600

        Tax Deduction @ 50% business use
        ((999+600)/2)*.3 -$239.50

        Minus estimated sale of phone at 12 months
        -$600

        Minus Plan cost -$600

        Actual Loss on handset is $159.5 over the year which os only 44c per day for the privilege of having the latest and greatest phone with warranty. That's how I do it anyway.

      Now on tap hardly useful!? It's the best thing that happened in marshmallow and in fact better than I would dream of. With a single tap and hold get all the details about any movie/show including IMDB ratings on Stan or Netflix! Saves you a ton of time in searching or watching craps half way through because you didn't feel like checking the rating first.

      And that's now even the only great use case. Try it on trip advisor or fire square to sea how it saves you time.

    Everyone with lots of money

      +1 You can buy an LG G4 for $539 in Australia and a Galaxy Note 4 is under $700.

    Zoidberg looks good in any photos. He's just so photogenic!!

    geez. i've almost looked at nexus phones to be affordable.

    It's a freaking phone guys. Does your phone work reasonably well to surf, to sms, to phone, to video phone. If it yes to all these and buying a new phone for $1000 is a stupid money when you can just buy a better gadget. Remember you drop it, sayonara mobile phone. If you buy it, will you feel content for more than 10 months?

    the $US390 OnePlus 2 is a crapton of phone for the money.
    No, it literally isn't. There is no comparable hardware, that's not the price and it isn't a phone.

    We just did Back To The Future anniversary nonsense. The reason nobody raved about the price and hardware of hoverboards is you can't buy them. If I tell you about the specs and price of my hoverboard you can't buy, that hasn't changed. Want to join my 4million waitlist because I can't manufacture them?

    It looks like an ok device, i dont think i would be swapping it for my note 4 though, what is the strip around the rear camera , does that remove or something to reveal an sd card ? it looks a bit sloppy in that area what ever it is.
    good size battery in it though .
    the finger print sensor on the back, ive said it before , but if you have your phone on the table, every time you want to unlock it you have to pick it up, if you have it a car cradle it sucks, i suppose it depends on the person , but it would piss me off though.

      The strip around the rear camera (and another one near the base of the phone) on metal clad handsets is the antennas.

      Without those strips you would have no mobile signal, no wifi and no bluetooth.

      Car cradle is something you're the first to call out. If you were going to get it NFC tags + Trigger app would be a solution, probably.

    My biggest gripe with the nexus 6 was the on screen buttons didn't disappear so it reduced the 6 inch screen to a 5.7 inch screen. Looks like this model is the same so the 5.7 inch screen on this will be reduced to 5.5 inches of usable screen. Stupid mistake on Google's behalf and I wouldn't touch this with a ten foot pole.

      Think that was OS standard thing they replaced earlier in the year on Lollipop with the allow-full-screen update. Smashed my Nexus, can't check.

    Dumb Question [my phone is old... living in the past...S4]
    Can you unlock the phone with the buttons on the side and use a passcode to unlock [like i can with my current phone]?.. as well as using the finger on the back?

      Yes, can unlock with usual swipe pattern/code instead. That's also required on power-off reboot.

    Dumb Question [my phone is old... living in the past...S4]
    Can you unlock the phone with the buttons on the side and use a passcode to unlock [like i can with my current phone]?.. as well as using the finger on the back?

      Sure can. The Nexus Imprint fingerprint reader is going to be the fastest and easiest way to unlock most of the time, but you can still use PIN and pattern unlock as well if you want.

    Vodafone just started offering the 64GB aluminium model which comes with a free case, headset and a Huawei talkband B2. $75 on a 3GB plan

    After my experience, and many others, with wi fi and Bluetooth being disabled with OS 5 and later updates on Nexus 5. Also uncommanded restarts and cache issues, I am not going near Nexus 5X

    Lol. US$500 = AUD$900
    Google pay bugger all tax here anyway AND we are closer to China. Care to rip us off anymore?

    A very nice phone though, no doubt.

    Why on earth have you got your keys in the same pocket as your new AUD900 phone?! How big are your pockets anyway?

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