I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a Nexus 6 smartphone from T-Mobile on Wednesday morning. Having now had a couple days of usage under my belt, I feel confident in offering some initial impressions and advice.
First, let me get the obvious questions out of the way. Is this a good phone? Absolutely! If I hate "phablet" type devices, is this going to change my mind? Nope.
The Nexus 6 is a premium device, and commands a premium price. Unlike previous Nexus devices which were an elegant combination of innovation and cost-savings measures resulting in some of the best phones around with a killer price, the Nexus 6 breaks course. The Nexus 6 simply isn't cutting ANY corners. It features a quad-HD AMOLED display, giving you sharp images with lovely color reproduction and gorgeous black-levels. It sports a full 3GB of RAM for task swapping response, a 13MP camera with optical image stabilization and ring-flash. The fit and finish of the device reads as more high-en than the Nexus 5 before it. It's 2.7Ghz quadCPU offers cutting edge performance. But this spec list results in a device that retails for closer to $700 than the previous model's $400.
The phone itself is an interesting beast to adapt to. I've never really been interested in the larger format phablet devices, though I've often forgone my tablet in favor of using my Nexus 5, since it's a more powerful device than my Nexus 7. With the Nexus 6, it simply makes sense to use the single powerful convergence device. Once common complaint regarding this form-factor is the inability to use it single handed. While hand-sizes (and therefore results) may vary, I have no trouble typing with gestures on the device. Extending your thumb to the upper area of the screen to access notifications does require that you hold the device a bit more loosley than I generally like.
When it comes to texting and app usage, I have nearly always used a 2-hand approach. So moving to the phablet didn't bother me at all. I simply find holding a device whit one hand and operating it with another to be more comfortable. I'll wager it's also my my devices experience fewer blemishes and falls than some folks I know. ^_^ Heavy texters that use both thumbs to type will likely enjoy the additional screen real-estate that the device offers and the able room to hold it between the hands.
Using the device as an actual phone is where things feel weird. While using it handset style is perfectly comfortable, it just feels weird to have such a large slab against your head. I expect this is the sort of thing one just has to adapt to with a new form-factor. The bluetooth faithful will obviously not care one way or the other.
I won't spend much time talking about Android 5 (Lollipop) itself, as this topic has been covered in depth all over the internet. But suffice to say that it's a excellent release with some really useful enhancements and a higher level of overall polish than any previous Android release. I couldn't be happier with it. The new notifications, trusted devices and locations, and unified look of the interface has come a long way. The only thing that gives me pause is the migration away from the concept of a "silent mode" to the new "priority notification" method of phone interruption management. The new device migration options on first boot also help to streamline the first-boot process.
The device is suitably snappy and responsive. Minor annoyances on the Nexus 5, like to occasional delay of picture snapping in HDR+ mode are absent on the Nexus 6. The camera itself also takes much nicer shots, excelling in outdoor light but also offering slightly improved focus speed and image quality in lower-light conditions.
There's very little that I find outright bad about the phone's performance and design. However, one attribute than many reviews have spoken positively of, I take extreme exception to. The rear of the device has a curvature to it. The center from top to bottom is thicker and it narrows as it curves to the side edges. While this does feel nicer and more ergonomic in your palm, it's irritating at all other times. When sitting on a desk or other flat surface, screen up, the device wobbles and spins very easily. This coupled with the fact that the device is quite smooth on the rear make me anticipate several instances of accidental slides for those that don't want to use a case. While it may have given a cheaper or more elegant appearance, I much prefer the "soft-touch" feel of the Nexus 5's rear surface.
Another issue I have with the device (which relates to the first), is charging. One of the much-hyped features of this device is it's turbo-charger capability. Using the included wall-charger does in-fact charge the phone at a shockingly fast pace. Which I can appreciate this for those times when I'm hard-pressed for time or in an emergency situation, the fact is that I dislike plugging the device in. Since the Nexus 5, I've been positively in love with wireless charging. Both the Nexus 5 and the Nexus 6 support the Qi Wireless charging standard. Once you have the capability to just toss your phone onto a pad on your desk or nightstand when you're not using it and otherwise never have to think about charging it's VERY hard to go back. The Nexus 5 had carefully placed metal pins in it that matched with magnets in the official Nexus wireless charger. This made it dead simple to line up the device for optimal charging. it also offered a very secure bond between charger and device when coupled with the Nexus 5's flat, textures back. You could easily mount the charger and a wall and magnets along would hold the phone perfectly safely. Meanwhile, the Nexus 6's curved back makes it all but impossible to use with the 2 Qi chargers I have access to. If you carefully place the device it will charge, but very slowly due to the increased space between the coils. Also, with no metal points for the magnet to latch onto the curves device spins a slide around the surface of the charger dangerously. At best this misaligns the coils causing no charging to take place. At worst, the phone flies off the shelf/desk. Honestly a strong breeze causes it to spin in place. I've read reports that the phone works far better with the older Nexus Orb charger or 3rd party chargers like the TYLT. But it's frustrating to have paid for the official charger only to have it rendered ostensibly useless by an unnecessary design choice.
Other aspects to consider are that women, who typically have smaller (or no) pockets may find this device difficult to carry around without a holster or purse. I can pocket it easily enough, though if you pop the Nexus 6 into an Otterbox or anything other than a slimline case, you'll probably encounter portability issues. Surprisingly, despite the larger size, I can barely detect a weight difference between the N6 and N5. The device is deceptively light.
Much ado has been made of the larger battery in the Nexus 6, and it's true that it lasts longer than is N5 brother. The new "battery saver" mode also allows you to squeeze extra juice when it's needed most, but I wouldn't consider it a day and night difference over the N5.
And that's the sticky issue. The Nexus 6 is a great device, but is it enough of a leap over the Nexus 5 to make the upgrade worthwhile. In all honesty I can't really say that it is. While every aspect has been improved, in real-world usage you just don't see that much of a difference. Especially now that Android 5 is out for the Nexus 5 handset. Lillipop has breathed new life into the device. It's snappier and more responsive than ever. In some cases, the N5 even appears to be snappier than the N6. And I'm not the only one to have experienced this. The common consensus is that the forced encryption present in the N6 causes a performance hit that causes occasional hiccups in the device's potential snappiness. While it's by no means sluggish, the fact is that an unencrypted N5 can sometimes launch apps or swap tasks quicker than the newer device. So the extra power of N6's CPU frequently doesn't appear to matter in real-world usage. What about the RAM, which it's true that the extra gig of RAM does improve heavy task swapping and insures that some background apps won't close as soon as they might otherwise, this is again a niche concern and not one that I feel it worth $300 additional dollars to the average consumer.
I love the Nexus line, and as an early adopter and tech adviser, I always want to latest and greatest, but it's hard to recommend to Nexus 6 to an existing Nexus 5 user. If you're using anything but a Nexus 5, and you want the stock Android experience, I'd strongly recommend visiting your cell provider and getting a Nexus 6 in your hands to see how you like the feel. If it suits you, it will serve you well. If not, there are still Nexus 5s around to be had.
If you already have a Nexus 5, there's no compelling reason to upgrade unless you call into one of the following use cases:
-View / Take lots of video and photos, where extra screen/camera size and quality come into play.
-Need every bit of battery power you can get and require extremely rapid charging for travel.
-Have been eagerly awaiting a phablet device direct from Google with the benefits of Nexus ownership.
Beyond that, I think the Nexus 5 will server anyone admirably and is an absolute steal at it's current price. The upgrade to Android 5 alone gives the feel of a new device.