Google Nexus 6 review

Does Google's bigger Nexus compare to the iPhone 6 Plus?

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Our Verdict

Nexus 6 proves that Google's Nexus program is not only far from dead, it's alive and kicking with a powerful 6-inch phablet that runs its latest Android software. It's bigger than the Note 4, but not better.

For

  • Supersized display
  • Android Lollipop
  • Better 13MP camera
  • Qi + Turbo charging

Against

  • Way too big for some
  • No Active Display
  • Pricier than Nexus 5
  • New Messenger app

Ratings in depth


Nexus 6 review

Nexus 6 review

Nexus 6 review

Nexus 6 review

Nexus 6 review
  • Our Google Nexus 6 review has been updated to include the new Google Project Fi information.

Google Nexus 6 is a supersized version of the new Moto X that has been given a two-handed booster shot and appropriately received a post-surgery Lollipop. The results? It's among the best phones in 2015.

This phablet-sized smartphone was the first to run Android 5.0 Lollipop and, really, there's no better way to experience all of the changes Google has made to its operating system.

It parades the colorful new Material Design interface on a massive 6-inch display, moves seamlessly between apps thanks to one of the latest Snapdragon processors and 3GB of RAM, and lasts all day in most cases with a Qi-chargeable 3220 mAh battery.

These Nexus 6 specs are enough to edge-to-edge out Apple's mighty iPhone 6 Plus. It feels better to hold in my hand, and typing is easier thanks to Androids always-superior keyboards options.

Nexus 6 review
Nexus 6 edges out the iPhone 6 Plus in size and specs

Google Now, still one swipe to the left, is more personal than ever, which shows this phone is willing to go the extra .5 inches to please without BendGating over backwards.

Nexus 6 isn't for everyone, especially one-handed texters who think the 5.2-inch Moto X pushes the limit, or anyone who can't live without the presence-sensing Moto Active Display. It's also not as flashy as the newly launched Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge or premium feeling as the all-metal HTC One M9.

That said, Motorola has built one of the best Android phablets with very few feature misgivings.

Availability and price

Google Nexus 6 is now available worldwide on just every major carrier following its initial early November release date in the US, and the upgrade to Android 5.1 is underway.

At first, it was limited to AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint, but Verizon began selling the Android phone with VoLTE enabled on March 12, four months later. In the UK, Vodafone and O2 were first to launch it.

At $649, £499 unlocked (AU$869), it's pricier than past Nexus phones. And that's just for the 32GB model. Google is selling the 64GB version for $699 in the US, £549 in the UK and AU$929 in Australia.

On-contract, it's $249 down in the US and in the UK plans start at as low as £32.50 a month with a free phone upfront. Yes, it's big in every way imaginable.

Google Fi

Nexus 6 is the first - and so only - phone to support the search engine giant's experimental Google Project Fi cellular network, currently in beta.

The invite-only program bounces between the signals of third and fourth place US carriers T-Mobile and Sprint with more forgiving and far cheaper plans for data usage.

It could shake-up the overpriced service of traditional US carriers and, hey, Android updates wouldn't be as much of a problem since it's a network operated by Google.

Design

It takes two hands to properly operate the Nexus 6, but this Android phone feels better in my increasingly ambidextrous grasp for its size.

Motorola's design, borrowed from the Moto X, gives it a sturdy BendGate-free aluminum metal frame and palm-pleasing gently curved back.

Nexus 6 review
The curved back feels good in the palm

It's sloped, so while the contoured sides run as thin as 0.15 in. (3.8mm), the thicker hump is 0.39 in. (10.1mm). The height and width are a normal 6.27 in. (159.3mm) x 3.15 in. (83.0mm).

Nexus 6 pushes an edge-to-edge display with no physical buttons, so the - by comparison - "small" 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus isn't too far off: 6.22 in. (158.1mm) x 3.06 in. (77.8mm).

At 6.49 oz. (184g), it weighs more than the new iPhone or Samsung Galaxy Note 4. But there's a good chance that if you can fit Apple's biggest smartphone in your skinny jeans, you're also going to be able to squeeze this oversized Android into a pocket too. You... might not always be able to get it out as easily, especially when driving or sitting down.

The curve feels natural against my hands, and the back, while made of hard plastic, is at least smooth. It doesn't try to mask the material with fake leather stitching or bumpy plastic.

Google Nexus 6 review
The metal frame is a huge improvement on the Nexus 5

Nexus 6's shell is different from the rubberized Nexus 5, but I found it a lot easier to grip than its "premium," but far-too-slippery competitors that feature an all-metal design from top to bottom. With the iPhone 6, I felt like I needed a sleek-design-defeating case not to drop it.

This is a familiar Motorola device almost all of the way through, down to the dimpled logo on the back where my finger automatically rested when on a call. But it skips out on the Moto Maker customizations like wood finishes and far-too-supple leather backs.

Nexus 6 colors are limited to two: either Cloud White or Midnight Blue with the advantage of both being compatible with Qi wireless chargers, a feature all of those tricked-out Moto X phones don't support.

Nexus 6 review
Nexus 6 is available in these two colors -- when it's not sold out

It's also missing the Moto Active Display functionality. Waving my hand above the three IR sensors of the Moto X triggered a mostly unlit screen with just the current time and notification icons. Pressing down on these icons revealed more information like email teasers.

Active Display is nowhere to be found here, even though it was a great a battery-saving idea that made notifications very glanceable. Instead, there's the less reliable Ambient Display mode that provides a greyed-out lockscreen whenever you lift the phone up suddenly. This doesn't always work.

Nexus 6 misses the boat when it comes to a fingerprint scanner to rival Apple's Touch ID. Apparently, the iPhone-maker is inadvertently responsible for killing Motorola's biometric design plans because it bought supplier AuthenTec.

You won't find a working LED light indicator here either. Recently, a developer discovered that the phone does emit one of these notifications pulses, but it's disabled. Turning it on requires a rooted phone.

Also missing, or at least inconsistent, is the Nexus 9 tablet's knock-to-wake feature. It actually works sometimes and turns on that greyed-out screen, but other times I get no response at all. "Hello, is anyone home?," I keep asking. Maybe a firmware update can resolve this in the future but that hasn't arrived in the months since the original launch.

Nexus 6 review
Does this Cloud White cover make my Nexus 6 back look big?

Nexus 6 does, thankfully, inherit the new Moto X's ridge-filled power button. This helped me differentiate between the right-side located power and volume buttons in the dark. More phone manufacturers need to steal this design idea. I won't tell.

Phablet manufacturers also need to take note of these front-facing speakers. The stereo sound is almost as good as BoomSound technology found in the HTC One M9 because it points the sound in the right direction. I'm tired of backward-facing speaker grills.

Nexus 6 review
The Moto X buttons are here, and that's a really good thing

At the top of the Nexus 6, at its frame's thickest point, is a 3.5mm headphone jack along with the nanoSIM card slot. Sadly, there's no MicroSD slot to speak of. You're locked into 32GB or 64GB configurations.

It's also not waterproof like other IP67-certified Androids. It's merely "water resistant" and has Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protecting the 6-inch AMOLED display that I'll peer at next.