Meet Nexus 6P, Google’s Latest Top Tier Phone

The Nexus 6P is one of two Nexus phones released by Google in 2015, along with the smaller 5X manufactured by LG. This gives you a wider range of devices to choose from, as in the past some people have been disappointed by the size of the Nexus 5 (in 2013) or the 6 (in 2014). Now you can finally choose the phone that’s right for the size of your hand.

After the specs were revealed, and after the honeymoon period wore off, I’m finally left with a clear overview of the phone, and this is the perfect time to do a Nexus 6P usage review.

Launched in late 2015, the 6P is the result of the first collaboration between Google and Huawei. Prior to its announcement, the internet was filled with rumors, memes and mockups of what the phone might be.  After launch, the phone was received with overall positive results.

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Boasting several new features and upgrades over previous versions, the new Nexus is a powerhouse. Packed with a 12MP back camera, a 8MP front camera, a brand new fingerprint scanner and a wide range of more or less obvious features, this is among the top choices for a flagship Android phone this year.

I’ve been using it for a couple of months now, and in this Nexus 6P usage review I’ll showcase how the device handles in day-to-day use. I’ll handle everything you use in your day to day activity:

  • the build quality
  • the camera
  • the (spoiler alert) awesome software, and
  • the battery.

My history of love-hate-love relationships with Android phones

We all have biases, and mine is that I’m a fan of Android phones in general, and the Nexus line in particular. The more I fiddle with Nexuses (Nexi? Nexii?) the more I find I’m a total fanboy. I thought this should be noted for a fair Nexus 6P usage review.

My first Android phone was a Samsung Galaxy S3. I had a love-hate relationship with it from the get-go: on the plus side, it had all the wonders an Android phone can bring to the table – a crazy amount of apps, plenty of customization options, and decent specs for a decent price.

On the downside, the support from Samsung left me wanting, and almost a year after buying the phone I was always 3-4 Android versions behind. The love-hate slowly turned into meh-hate.

That “meh” feeling was what drove me to get a Nexus device. When the Nexus 5 was released I grabbed one and used it happily for the next two years. When the 6P was announced, I knew it was time for an upgrade.

I kept a close eye on the rumor mill and was pleasantly surprised to see that most of the 6P’s specs and features lived up to the expectations, at least as far as the early reviews showed. On the day the phone became available in my country I made an order and brought my shiny new device home with me.

I’ve now been using the phone since late December 2015, so more than two and a half months, and I feel confident that I have all the angles covered. So let’s start the show:

Life with my Nexus 6P, my closest digital companion

So here’s where we get down to the nitty-gritty and I put it all to the test. What’s good? What isn’t? Is the phone worth it at the end of the day?

The 30,000-foot view

Every new phone I’ve gotten has been the best phone I’ve ever had, and the Nexus 6P is no exception. It definitely has its drawbacks, but the more I use it the more I’m confident that this was the right choice for me.

Most of the times, the phone works without a hitch and you find yourself just using it without any pesky issue. The build quality is amazing, the camera is more than decent, the battery life is decent and I’ve yet to find an issue that would become a dealbreaker.

I won’t go into too much detail about the specs, after all, this is a Nexus 6P usage review and I doubt that many of us care about the exact model of the CPU or every kB of RAM the phone packs.

The hardware: let’s judge a phone by its cover

Build quality is one of the aspects I feared the most when I got the Nexus 6P. I had read a ton of reviews from users on Reddit who were complaining that just a couple of weeks after buying the phone it bent in their pockets.

After two and a half months of carrying the phone in my pocket with no case, no screen protection, just a decent amount of care, it looks brand new with not a scratch on it. Unlike my other phones, this one has yet to meet the floor, so I’m holding out ruling on that one.

But don’t just take my word for it, here’s how the phone has held up:

nexus 6p in use

Not a scratch on it!

What I like about the hardware and the build quality is:

The phone is slim despite its size. It feels comfortable to use and carry around in your pocket. I feared the leap to a phone with 5.7” screen would mean that I’d have to carry it around like a tablet, but most times I don’t give it a second thought.

The metal back doesn’t slip from your hands. I’ve used other metal phones that made me feel uneasy, as if it’s biding its time waiting for the right moment to leap on the floor. This doesn’t happen here. However, from what I’ve read online my opinion isn’t shared by everybody, and I’ve seen tons of people that complain about the back actually being too slippery for them.

The screen’s glass keeps most fingerprints off it, and it cleans easily – all you need is a sleeve, rub it twice and a genie… Well, no genie, but the screen is clean again.

The speakers are amazing. When I was using my Nexus 5 I had this trick where I would cup my hand around the speaker to make a funnel of sorts so I would hear something. The two stereo speakers on the front of the Nexus 6P are loud enough that you can hear them even in a noisy environment, and the sound quality is great. I find myself watching a lot more Youtube videos on my phone now; in landscape mode the stereo sound is near perfect. However, I don’t recommend listening to music on the bus, regardless of the sound quality.

The USB-C charger makes all the difference. It charges the phone lightning-fast when using the official charger – a couple of times I charged it from the battery’s red zone to 100% in the time it took me to get ready to leave in the morning. The nexus 6P is the first phone I’ve had that doesn’t need to be plugged in all night, every night.

The fingerprint scanner. I saved the best for last, because this is hands-down the best hardware feature on the phone. Even though Android now has “Trusted Devices” that can disable the lockscreen code when the phone is paired to your Android watch or a trusted Wi-Fi network, I keep it on at all times (more on that later) and always use the fingerprint scanner.

Nexus Imprint, as it’s called, works flawlessly and usually by the time I take out the phone from my pocket it’s already unlocked and ready to go. You can register up to five fingers that would work for unlocking the phone, and I opted to enter my index fingers twice (and one thumb) – this helped me have a near 100% success rate for unlocking the phone, whereas when I used five different fingers the phone would slip up and not recognize my fingerprint every now and then.

I don’t love everything about the build quality, though…

It heats up. If you often go skiing and want to use a hand warmer this might come in handy, but otherwise it’s not that pleasant. After a couple of minutes of moderate or intense use (watching videos or playing games) the phone heats up significantly.

The buttons sometimes press themselves. This is the reason why I keep a lock on the phone at all times. While in the pocket, I’d often find the phone unlocked and one or several apps open (mostly gibberish written on the Google Keep app). This happened to my Nexus 5 as well, and I solved the problem by simply locking the screen.

The glass on the back. I haven’t had a problem with the phone’s glass back yet, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about it. The fact that it’s the first to come into contact with the surface you place the phone on makes me feel uneasy about scratching or downright breaking it.

The display: how does it look, anyway?

I know, the display is technically still hardware, but I felt this one needed a category of its own. The 2K screen is better than anything I’ve used on a phone so far, the colors look great and I’ve yet to have any burn-in issues. Some Nexus 6P users have reported that the buttons at the bottom of the screen have left their mark on the display after just a couple of weeks of use, but that’s not the case for my device.

I keep the brightness level at about 30% and that’s great for both indoor and outdoor use, even in direct sunlight. If I crank it up to 100% it looks even better, but that comes at the expense of battery life, which I’m not willing to give up.

nexus 6p display

The 2K display: bright, clear, awesome.

The camera: will it turn you into a photographer?

When I first got the Nexus 6P this was the feature that I loved most. On the back you have a 12.3 megapixel camera capable of filming 4K-resolution videos, or 240fps slow-motion video. On the front you have the same camera that’s on the older Nexus 5, and that’s decent enough for a front facing camera.

After taking hundreds of photos these past two months, here’s what I like about it:

Low-light photos look great. The f/2.0 aperture is responsible for this, and the result is awesome. I’ve taken photos at night, with no flash and little light around the subject, and even though I won’t win any prizes for those pictures the details captured in them are great.

Fast focus, thanks to the laser autofocus. I used the camera to take photos in a couple of seconds, unlike my older phone which took 5-10 seconds just for the focus to figure out what I’m trying to capture.

Fast overall camera performance. With the stock Android 6.0 that the 6P is running, you can double-tap the power button to open the camera in about a second. It’s not quite instant, as you’ll see in the Samsung Galaxy 6 Edge, for instance, but it’s fast enough for me.

Slow-mo is cool. This isn’t a new or an outstanding feature, my 2007 LG Viewty could take slow-motion videos, albeit at low resolutions and poor quality. I’m glad to see this feature is back and I’ve used it on a ton of videos so far, making me feel like an entry level time traveller of sorts.

Burst mode is great. If you use the stock Google Camera, pressing the shutter button and keeping it pressed will have the phone take a burst of photos. In the initial Keynote presentation, Google announced that burst mode meant you could take 30 photos per second, although in practice I’ve seen that it takes 7-8 photos per second at most, depending on the lighting conditions. Once you finish the burst, Google Photos will combine the result in an animation or a collage (or you can do that manually afterwards). This feature is great for making sure you don’t miss a moment, and for a sequence shot.

Google Photos burst

The Burst option gives you a couple of neat ways to play with your photos.

However, it’s not all sunshine and roses…

The camera has its fair share of flaws:

Burst mode isn’t flawless if you’re using it in low-light. If you are, and you’re holding the phone in your hand, burst mode basically translates to “take a dozen photos and hope you can use one of them.” I tried this with my cat and apparently Burst mode turns him into a blur every time he moves his head. And trust me, in real life he’s not the least bit blurry.

BlurVideos are shaky. This is where the lack of an optical stabilizer is obvious. Some videos come out shaky – they’re not ruined by all means, but it is noticeable for motion shots.

Slow-mo is weak in low-light and artificial light. This isn’t the camera’s fault as much as it shows the current constraints of the technology. If I’m indoors and filming at 240fps, a flickering light bulb will be very noticeable, giving the video an old-timey feel.

The software: how’s the phone on the inside?

The stock Android feel is hard to match and impossible to beat, in my opinion, and the way the Nexus 6P runs on it can be described in one word: flawless.

For the past couple of months I’ve had as little as 50 and as many as 200 apps installed on it, and I’ve yet to encounter a freeze, a reboot that came out of nowhere, or any other performance issue. I have a number of resource-consuming games on the phone and after booting up in a flash they run with no errors, 100% of the time.

That’s no surprise, either – my 2013 Nexus 5 ran fairly smoothly despite being a two-year-old phone, and I put it through quite a few tests.

It should be noted that I haven’t rooted my phone and most of the apps I use are stock – I rely heavily on the Google ecosystem (Calendar, Keep, Inbox, etc.) and it’s been smooth sailing so far.

One of the biggest advantages that the phone has is that it’s always up-to-date. Most times I don’t even find out there’s been a security update (although they come in monthly now) until I get the shiny notification letting me know that I’m due for an upgrade.

The battery: how long will the juice be flowing?

The Nexus 6P comes with a 3450 mAh battery, which seems plenty. In practice, this allows me to take the fully charged phone in the morning, run around all day listening to podcasts, browsing, checking my email and social media accounts, playing the occasional game or two, and make it home in the evening with just under half of the charge left.

Of course, there are days when I wish for more. Look at the example below: In these screenshots, I had listened to podcasts for 3-4 hours and used the hotspot for another two hours. Sprinkle some email usage in between and… I barely squeezed 15 hours of battery life, and 2 hours of screen on time. That’s just enough to make me paranoid about the battery for an entire day.

So, on a scale from 1 to 10 I’d rate it 7-ish. It’s not bad, but I still don’t get how other users report getting 4-5 hours of screen on time from it.

nexus 6p battery info

Nexus 6P usage review: The takeaway

The Nexus 6P is definitely one of the best smartphones on the market right now, and I’d place it at the top of all Android phones too. Using it is a delight, and its flaws, although present, can be overlooked.

After using the phone for almost three months now, I feel like it brings the best out of Android, and with the launch of Android N coming soon I have a feeling things are only going to get better.

How about you? Have you had any contact with Google’s newest phablet? What’s your experience with it? Love it, hate it, can’t decide?

photo credit: cnet.com

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