[alert type=alert-blue]Technical details[/alert]
Processor 2.7 GHz quad-core
Screen 5.96 inches
Resolution 2560 x 1440 pixels
Memory 3GB RAM
Micro SD compatible? No
Rear camera 13MP
Front camera 2MP
Dimensions 82.98 mm x 159.26 mm x 10.06 mm
Battery 3,220 mAh
Motorola’s been on a roll in the last year, unleashing hit smartphone after hit smartphone, and now it’s tackling another category: the phablet. Half phone, half tablet, the six inch Nexus 6 is big enough to put your iPad out of a job, and still makes calls when you need it.
But this isn’t a regular Motorola phone, like some sort of Motorola Moto X Plus. It’s one of Google’s premier Nexus devices, designed to show off what the Silicon Valley giant’s operating system can do above all else. As such, Moto’s been left to hardware duties alone while Google provides the software, vanilla Android 5.0 Lollipop without any manufacturer tweaks, or pointless network bloatware. Is it a worthy rival to the Samsung Galaxy Note 4? For the Android purists among you, absolutely.
Okay, so we said this wasn’t just a super-sized Moto X, but the Google Nexus 6 does admittedly look like one. Not that that’s a bad thing: the sleek, curved second-generation Moto X was one of our favourite phones of 2014.
Though it has the Nexus logo stamped on the back, the Nexus 6 shares much of the same design language, from the pebble-like design to the matte black plastic – which doesn’t feel cheap and smeary as so many cheap handsets do. It’s sturdy to hold, does not flex, and looks a lot less garish than the terrible faux-leather back of a typical Galaxy Note phone.
The Nexus 6 is of course massive. It looks almost rude shoved in a trouser pocket, and the six-inch display is all but impossible to use completely one handed – you’ll need to be an NBA player to reach the pull down notification shade. Even two handed, it’s quite a chore to reach everything: unfortunately, there’s no hidden stylus slot on the Nexus 6, as on all Galaxy Note phablets – you’ll just have to make do.
The benefit of having such a large screen is hard to miss however. The six inch 2K (that’s twice as many pixels as in your full HD TV) display is not only stunningly sharp, but so big it may prove the only screen you ever need. There’s acres of display real estate to store all your apps and widgets, and videos look absolutely glorious.
If we’re nitpicking, the colours on the AMOLED panel are vibrant to the point of over saturation, unlike those on an iPhone or Samsung smartphone. This looks great when you first set eyes on it in a shop, but does mean images tend to look blown out all the time. Still, the sweeping amount of space you have to play with more than makes up for that: you can load full desktop versions of websites and actually read everything, or watch a movie with a friend while on the train. We’ve found that for casual web browsing a phablet renders a bigger tablet almost completely redundant; rest assured the Nexus 6 will do the same for you.
We mention desktops, as the Nexus 6 would certainly work well as one, if you could be bothered to plug it into a monitor and pair up a keyboard. Unusually for a Nexus device, the 6 is one of the most powerful Android phones we’ve yet tested. Its 2.7 GHz quad-core processor is very fast, narrowly edging the likes of the Note 4 in benchmark tests, while its 3GB of RAM makes mincemeat of multi-tasking, rapidly snapping between apps without a problem. Neatly, there’s also Qi wireless charging support, so you’ll be able to start taking advantage of all the wireless charging pads starting to pop up in cafes and coffee shops.
Nexus phones have seldom impressed with their cameras, with Google instead typically focusing on the software and the SIM-free price. But the Nexus 6 is better-specced than most, with a price to match, so we were expecting a bit more from the 13-megapixel camera. It just doesn’t cut it compared to the iPhone 6 or a new Sony mobile sensor, with pictures coming out slightly washed out by comparison, even in optimal lighting situations. On the plus side, we have few complaints with the smooth, super sharp 4K video it can grab – it’s just unlikely you’ll have anything to watch it back on in full resolution yet.
As a Nexus device, the 6 runs stock Android, and the latest variant, version 5.0 Lollipop, which is the biggest update in years. If history repeats itself, you won’t see too many phones like this, since most manufacturers choose to change open source Android to their own ends, which is a shame, as Lollipop is a huge leap forward. Visually, it looks much cleaner thanks to its new Material design language: everything has been boiled down to simple colours and icons. Even the Android navigation keys are now simple geometric shapes.
[alert type=alert-blue]Speed Bumps[/alert]
There are new features too, alongside the noticeable speed improvements. Notifications now appear in full on the lock screen (if you allow them too) as they do on iOS, while Priority mode lets certain people or apps break through your silent mode in case of emergency. There’s also a Guest mode, which is particularly handy on a phone the size of a tablet that may be used by other members of your family, so you can hand your phone to someone else to use an app or play a game without fear of them snooping around or deleting anything. Lastly, the new native Power Saver mode mimics the excellent stamina lengthening modes introduced by Motorola and Sony in recent handsets, and is a welcome way to eke out a few more hours in a pinch.
There’s one drawback to running vanilla Android however, at least on a phone as large as the Nexus 6. While Google has made strides in recent years to get Android running viably as both a tablet operating system and a mobile one, there are a few missed tricks here.
For a start, you can’t run two apps side by side natively (some apps on the Play store can help you get round this), dragging and resizing them to suit your needs. This is one of our favourite features of Samsung’s larger phones, giving you a desktop-like option to have more than one app on screen at once. As a result, the Nexus 6 display sometimes feels like wasted space. You could be watching live TV while Twitter runs in a separate pane, or browsing the web while keeping an eye on Google Maps, but you can’t.
[alert type=alert-blue]Where’s the Stylus?[/alert]
There is no stylus (which Samsung always finds space for in its Galaxy Note) and helps make phablets much more manageable for smaller hands. Especially since pulling it out automatically brings up a menu of relevant apps for you to use. You can buy one but since it lacks Wacom’s digitizer technology, it won’t be as accurate as a Note for doodling anything more sophisticated than a note to remember to buy milk. The Nexus 6 retains the phablet’s other key advantage over smaller phones: battery life. Because it’s bigger, there’s more space for a bigger battery and the Nexus 6 runs for noticeably longer than its sibling the Moto X. If you don’t watch movies on full brightness, you can get two days’ hoovering up email, browsing the web and nattering away on WhatsApp throughout. And isn’t that what you really want this for? Nobody uses a device this big just to make phone calls.
The Google Nexus 6 is a paradox: it’s a reminder of what so many manufacturers are doing wrong by modifying Android, tweaking it and overloading it with bloatware before selling it to customers. The Nexus 6 is fresh, fast and tremendously powerful. It’s also a reminder that screens this large still need some additions to Android to make them manageable.