Tech Review: Nexus 6 “Phablet” smartphone by Motorola

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Front of Google Nexus 6 by Motorola

Front of Google Nexus 6 by Motorola

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In the world of smartphones a new category has emerged: phablets.  It’s that grey area when phones approach tablet size but are still sold as smartphones.  The Samsung Note line has proved that there is a pretty big market for these larger than average smartphones.  Google’s newest Nexus smartphone, the Google Nexus 6, is the newest phablet to hit cell phone stores.  I had a chance to test it out before it went on sale.

Nexus 6 and Moto X side by side
Nexus 6 and Moto X side by side

Hardware

If you have seen the newest Moto X smartphone, then you know what the Nexus 6 looks like.  It’s a Moto X that has been blow up a bit.  The 6″ Quad HD screen on the front is massive.  With a 1440×2560 resolution it is crisp and bright.  There’s no question that this is one of the best big screens we’ve seen on a smartphone.  That big screen also means we’re talking about a big phone.  None the less, the curved design of the Nexus 6 makes it feel a bit smaller than it actually is.  This won’t make it fit into your shirt pocket any easier but it does feel nice when holding it.

The Nexus 6 flies!  Inside of the Nexus 6 is a 2.7 Ghz quad-core processor.  Not only is this one of the fastest mobile processors on the market it’s probably faster than the processor inside of your computer.  Apps load amazingly fast and everything feels fluid.  Most games didn’t skip a beat in my tests.

Back of Google Nexus 6 by Motorola
Back of Google Nexus 6 by Motorola

On the back is a 13 Megapixel camera that takes great pictures and video in 720p, 1080p and 4K.  I was a bit disappointed not to see the fun SloMo mode that is available on the Moto X.  I’m sure the hardware is capable but there’s no Moto Camera app on this phone, it uses the Google Camera app.

This big phone requires a big battery and Google was sure to pack that in.  The 3220 mAH battery is plenty to get you through the day.  It also includes a Turbo Charger inside the box.  This means when your battery is getting critically low you can get 6 hours of battery life by charging your phone for just 15 minutes.  If that’s not enough, the Nexus 6 also has Qi wireless charging built-in.  You can set your phone on a Qi charging pad and it will start charging.  No wires, no fuss.  This is a feature I miss on so many other smartphones.

Software

Google’s Nexus phones and tablets are almost always a launch platform for a new version of Google’s Android operating system.  This time, it’s Android 5.0, also known as Android Lollipop.  It’s a big change to the Android operating system.  Google revamped the look of the OS and added a lot of tweaks and features.  Many of the charges are behind the scenes and you won’t really see them but hopefully your phone will run better because of them.  You will notice a big change to the menus and multi-tasking interface.  I love the changes but if you’re used to previous versions of Android be ready to spend a few days adjusting.  I won’t spend this entire review writing about Lollipop but I will say that some of my favorite new features include the addition of Smart Lock.  This means you don’t have to type in your unlock code if your phone recognizes a familiar bluetooth device nearby.  For example, if you’re in your car with bluetooth it knows that and simply skips the unlock code.  Face recognition is also updated and actually usable.  When you’re at the unlock screen it can look for your face and skip past the unlock code if it recognizes your face.

There’s also an option to use your camera flash as a flashlight in the drop down menu.  Small but huge!  Thank you Google.

Notifications are also much better than before.  You get more information and usability with notifications on your unlock screen.  This is a big update and a much appreciated change.

Some phones, including the Nexus 6, now support Ambient Display.  This means when you pick up your phone it will display a simplified notifications screen.  You don’t have to press power, simply move your phone and it turns on.  It does the same thing when a new notification arrives.  It’s a nice touch that makes it easy to glance down at your phone to see what that beeping was all about.

The Nexus 6 also supports Google voice recognition without turning the phone on.  The original Moto X introduced this feature last year and it’s great to see it arriving on other phones.  When the phone is turned off, simply say “OK Google” and it will beep prompting you for a question.  You can ask your phone what the weather is like, what appointments you have today, etc.  I use this feature ALL the time on my Moto X and am thrilled to see it on the Nexus 6.

Conclusion

The Nexus 6 is an awesome phone. It has some of the best hardware we’ve seen in a smartphone yet and the Motorola frame is rock solid.  The screen is big and gorgeous.  My only problem is that, for me, this phone is simply too big.  I love the Nexus line because they offer “pure” Android without additional bloatware but I can’t justify carrying a phone this large in my pocket every day.  None the less, for those looking for a phablet this should be on your short list.

The Google Nexus 6 is available now from At&t, Sprint and T-mobile.  You can also buy it without a contract directly from Google starting at $650 but stock has been limited.

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