Google is radically changing its smartphone strategy: until now, “Nexus” stood for good hardware at an unbeatable price, but the new Nexus 6 starts at 600 euros. Can this device keep up at this price?
The Nexus 6 is available in two memory types: the 32 GB version costs 599 euros on the free market, the 64 GB model costs 649 euros. Interestingly, both are more expensive if you buy them directly from Google via Google Play: here, the 32 GB version costs 649 euros, the 64 GB model is 699 euros. This means the new Google phone is in the same price range as the iPhone 6. But can it survive in the major leagues?
The haptics cannot compete with the Apple smartphones, mainly because of the fact that the back is only made of matt plastic. That the Nexus 6 is still very pleasant to the touch is mainly due to the elegantly curved metal frame which holds the front and back together. It is not without reason that the design is reminiscent of the new Moto X: the Nexus 6 is made by Google on behalf of Motorola and the Motorola flagship served as a template. Because the back is arched, it fits comfortably in your hand – as much as you can say that for a device with a 6-inch display. One-handed operation is almost impossible with this giant, which is not exactly light at 185 grams.
The perfectly fitted buttons on the right are representative of the excellent workmanship of the smartphone. They are made of metal and have just the right pressure point. The icing on the cake would certainly have been an IP certification, making the Nexus waterproof.
The presentation on the 6-inch display is razor-sharp because the resolution is extremely high: 2560 x 1440 pixels are currently only to be found on the Galaxy Note 4 from Samsung and the G3 from LG. Like Samsung, Google is also utilizing OLED technology that enables high contrast, vivid colors and a wide viewing angle. Unfortunately, the component built into the Nexus 6 is not very luminous. Our measurement confirms that which is quite clearly visible in direct comparison with other smartphones: 255 candela are really very little for an OLED panel. The low luminosity display marks the first weak point of the Nexus 6.
We found Google’s decision to launch the Nexus 6 without a micro SD slot even worse. Depending on the amount of memory, users only have a maximum of 25 or 57 GB available to them. Of course, at first glance, this is not exactly low, but considering the high price, at the least a micro SD option should be available. This is something only Apple dares – but the iPhone maker doesn’t skimp on the display.
The remaining equipment is appropriate for the price. The combination of Snapdragon 805 and 3 GB of RAM is state-of-the-art in the Android world; there is simply nothing better out there. The performance is beyond reproach; we observed no system interruptions, skipping or other delays. On the contrary, the interface always glides smoothly across the screen.
The Nexus models have previously not been known for their photographic strengths, but the Nexus 6 has changed this. The 13 megapixel camera takes excellent photos that impress with sharpness and detail. The ring-shaped LED flash is very powerful, but tends to overexpose objects that are too close. Fortunately, the flash is not needed very often, because the optical image stabilizer ensures that motifs do not blur or fade even in poor lighting conditions. It also helps to stabilize fast panning in videos in 4K resolution banished to the memory. The buyer therefore gets a lot in terms of the camera. With one exception: the front camera is just average – if you use it often, you should choose another smartphone, such as the Desire Eye from HTC.
Google launched the Nexus 2010 series for two main reasons: the user should have the chance to experience Android as it is developed by Google without the adaptations of the manufacturer. Moreover, app developers have a benchmark device available to them on which the latest system version is installed.
If you buy a Nexus 6, you will benefit from excellent software support directly from Google. There is no Android phone which is supplied with new versions faster. In return, the user passes up the many additional features and interface modifications that manufacturers implement in the Android system. It lacks, for example, Sony’s special sound improvements and profiles or a social home screen like the HTC BlinkFeed. Pure Android also means that the system is puristic and comes without extras. But most of what’s missing can be downloaded in the Play Store.
It is beyond the scope of this article to introduce all the new features of Android 5. Google has fundamentally updated the system, the interface design has become flatter, the notification system has been refined, new security features have been implemented. You can discover many small but fine improvements by browsing through the settings menu; for example, the smart lock feature, which automatically disables the screen lock when the phone is at a pre-defined location. So you don’t have to unlock your phone if you pick it up at home.
In the connect test lab, the Nexus 6 initially showed that it is based on the Moto X in a very positive way. Just like the Motorola flagship, it is blessed with outstanding radio features: top grades in GSM and UMTS mode, 29 of 30 possible points in LTE networks – at the moment, not even a handful of smartphones are this good.
But the big shock comes from the current measurements. With only 5:10 hours in standardized connect mixed use, the Google phone is one of the stragglers in the major league, where the average in 2014 was between seven and eight hours. Long-distance champions such as the Ascend Mate 7 from Huawei hold out twice as long (10:37 h), the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 are close with 10:12 hours and 9:23 hours, respectively. Why is that? With a capacity of 3220 mAh, battery is not exactly undersized. Our detailed measurements show that the power consumption by the active display and processor shoots up when under stress: the Nexus 6 then consumes more than three times as much power as the Galaxy Note 4 in the same situation. The high quad-HD resolution does not seem responsible for this, but rather the poor adaptation of the software to the hardware.
Considering the high price and the weaknesses of the display and battery life, we cannot recommend the Nexus 6. For less money, you actually get more from other manufacturers. Only Android fans and developers who absolutely must always have the latest software should get this phone.