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Google’s Nexus smartphones are considered the holy grail of Android devices. These are the Android devices that are free of carrier bloatware, come with stock Android, and are the first to get updated to the newest version of Google’s mobile OS.

While it was believed the Nexus program would be killed this year in favor of the rumored Android Silver program, that rumor didn’t pan out. Instead, here we are, at the end of the year with the Nexus 6, Google’s latest flagship. Read on for our first impressions of this massive 6-inch smartphone.

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Specifications

  • Display: 5.96-inch (2560 x 1440 resolution)
  • Processor: 2.7GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
  • Graphics: Adreno 420
  • Memory: 3GB
  • Internal storage: 32GB, 64GB
  • Cameras: 13-megapixel rear camera with dual LED flash and OIS, 2-megapixel front camera
  • Battery: 3,220 mAh
  • Operating System: Android 5.0 Lollipop

Design

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In the past, Google’s Nexus smartphones have all been rebadged devices. For example, the Nexus 5 was really just a LG G2 with a different design. With the Nexus 6, Google decided to just enlarge the Moto X (2014). Really, that’s it.

Every aspect of the Nexus 6 is virtually identical to the Moto X (2014) — only bigger. The front display’s edges still melt into the sides, making swiping very easy to do. At the top and bottom are two speaker grills. Unlike on the Moto X (2014), these are actually front-facing stereo speakers. The Moto X (2014)’s speaker is only mono.

The metal frame is as solid as can be and the bulge that tapers towards the bottom and sides on the back is still present. The back is a soft matte plastic. There are no Moto Maker options to customize the Nexus 6 with leather or wooden trims, but that’s quite alright.

The only key difference other than the size is the rather large Nexus logo emblazoned below the Motorola logo dimple. If you ask me, it’s all a bit too busy on the back, but how often do you spend looking at the back of your smartphone, anyway?

Overall, the size is large — very, very large. I can’t get over it. If you thought the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 was a huge device, wait until you get your mitts on the Nexus 6. I couldn’t fit this behemoth in my pants pocket, so take that for what you will.

Display

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Since the Nexus 6 is absolutely massive, its screen is also pretty big. It’s one of the largest smartphones ever created. It’s no Samsung Galaxy Mega, but it’s in the same class. Technically the screen is 5.96-inches (diagonal), but Google classifies it as a 6-inch device. Yes, a 6-inch smartphone.

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The 5.96-inch display, however, isn’t wasted. It has a 2560×1440 (Quad HD) AMOLED display with a pixel density of 493 PPI. It’s only with these kinds of big displays that the QHD resolution is apparent. I can stare into this screen all day; it’s so sharp and beautiful.

Software: Android 5.0 Lollipop

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While everyone else is waiting for Android 5.0 Lollipop as software update, the Nexus 6 will ship with it.

A small OS update, Lollipop is not. There are a lot of new features including the new Material design which adds intuitive animations to the OS, universal search syncing between tablets and Android Wear devices, a new battery saver mode, guest user mode, smarter notification management, support for 68+ languages, and general performance improvements thanks to the new ART Android runtime.

You can see a more detailed change log of what’s in Android 5.0 here.

Camera

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Ask any Nexus 5 owner and they will tell you the camera isn’t the best. If you want a great camera on Android, the Galaxy S5, Galaxy Note 4 and LG G3 produce the best pics.

The Nexus 6 has a13-megapixel rear camera with an f/2.0 lens and optical image stabilization and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. The rear shooter is also capable of recording 4K resolution video, something both the Moto X (2014) and Galaxy Note 4 can do as well.

As usual, I didn’t have much time to test the cameras in the real world (only indoors). From my quick tests, the camera autofocuses quickly and pictures look pretty sharp. For once the Nexus camera might not be junk.

Again, I’ll need to actually test the Nexus 6 in more scenarios to get a better idea of how well it performs in things like low-light situations, so stay tuned for that.

Battery

You would think with such a huge display the Nexus 6 would come with a matching battery that is supersized, no? Well, not quite. Unlike the Motorola Droid Turbo, which has a 3900 mAh battery that’s good for two days on a single charge, the Nexus 6 only has a 3220mAh.

Google claims the battery is sufficient enough to power the device for a “full day”, especially with Android 5.0 Lollipop’s battery saving mode, but the skeptic in me won’t believe it until I actually see the numbers for myself.

Google also says you’ll be able to juice up the Nexus 6 to six hours in 15 minutes using the Turbo Charger. Another bold claim I aim to test soon.

U.S. Carrier Availability

For the first time ever, five U.S. carriers will sell the Nexus 6. T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, U.S. Cellular and Sprint are all onboard. That’s in addition to being able to buy it directly from the Google Play store.

First impressions

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The Nexus 6 is a very familiar device. At first glance, it’s just a supercharged Moto X (2014). It’s a very large device with a 6-inch QuadHD display and tons of processing power. This year’s Nexus is a beast; one that’s tough to wield with one hand unless you have big hands.

There’s no doubt that large smartphones are inching into the 7-inch mini tablet’s territory. The Nexus 6 isn’t even trying to be an ergonomic smartphone. It’s point is this: Go big or go home.

The most unappealing thing about the Nexus 6 isn’t even its large body, but its price: starting at $649. Since the Nexus 4, Google’s set an expectation for the value of a Nexus device. For a very affordable price, the Nexus lineup bought you an unlocked device with stock Android, meaning you wouldn’t get any bloatware and you’d be the first to get the latest Android update.

When the Nexus 4 launched in 2012, it was priced at $299 for an 8GB and $349 for a 16GB model. When the Nexus 5 launched last year, it was priced at $349 for a 16GB and $399 for a 32GB device. Those are prices for unlocked devices with no contract. Comparatively, Samsung and LG’s flagship devices cost about $650+ for unlocked models.

The Nexus 6 is a complete shift in pricing expectations: a 32GB model will cost $649 and a 64GB will cost $699. Affordable? Definitely not. Competitive pricing with other OEMS? Sure.

It’s clear that the Nexus 6 is not a device to show anyone the advantages of Android, as the Nexus 4 and Nexus 4 were. Now that Android is the world’s most popular mobile operating system, Google has no need to subsidize the full cost of the Nexus device. If you want Google’s premium Nexus 6, you’ll need to pay up, like you would with any other premium Android smartphone.

Filed in Cellphones. Read more about , and .

5.96"
  • 2560x1440
  • AMOLED
  • 493 PPI
13 MP
  • f/2 Aperture
  • OIS
3220 mAh
    3GB RAM
    • Snapdragon 805
    • None
    Price
    ~$349 - Amazon
    Weight
    184 g
    Launched in
    2014-10-01
    Storage (GB)
    • 32
    • 64
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