When consumers think of Google's Nexus devices, they think about the promise of receiving the latest updates for Android essentially as soon as they release. They also think about the value proposition that Nexus devices provide by giving good hardware at a price significantly lower than other smartphones. However, this was not always the case. The Nexus One, Nexus S, and Galaxy Nexus were all priced at the same level as other flagship smartphones. It was only with the launch of the Nexus 7 at $199 that we began to see a trend of inexpensive but still high quality devices coming from Google. That hasn't changed at all in the past few weeks. The Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 are both still available, and they still provide a very high quality experience, arguably better than some other smartphones that are both newer and more expensive. But Google's newest devices take aim directly at other flagship devices with both their specs and their prices. At $399 the Nexus 9 positions itself against Apple's iPad Mini 3, while the Nexus 6 at $649 goes up against essentially every other flagship smartphone.

On paper the Nexus 6 doesn't really bring much to the table that sets it high above the competition. This is a consequence of it launching so late into the year, with other companies having already released their new flagship devices. That being said, how a device looks on paper does not translate into how good it is in actual use. There are lots of cases of powerful phones that disappoint, and phones that are weak on paper that end up being surprisingly good. It's still helpful to know what hardware you're dealing with, so I've laid out the specifications of the Nexus 6 below, along with the Nexus 5 as a point of reference.

  Google Nexus 5 Google Nexus 6
SoC 2.26 GHz MSM8974 Snapdragon 800 2.7 GHz APQ8084 Snapdragon 805
Display 4.95” 1080p IPS LCD 5.96” 1440p Super AMOLED
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE) 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE)
Dimensions 137.84 x 69.17 x 8.59mm, 130g 159.26 x 82.98 x 10.06mm, 184g
Camera 8MP Rear Facing, 1/3.2" CMOS size (Sony IMX179), F/2.4.
13MP Rear Facing, 1/3.06" CMOS size (Sony IMX214), F/2.0.
Battery 2300 mAh (8.74Whr) 3220 mAh (12.236Whr)
OS Android 5.0 Lollipop Android 5.0 Lollipop
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC
SIM Size MicroSIM NanoSIM

The design of the Nexus 6 is interesting in how it differs from all other Nexus devices, including the Nexus 9. Although the Nexus 9 launched alongside the 6 and is manufactured by HTC, it retains the slightly slanted flat sides and back cover design from the Nexus 5 which is made by LG. The Nexus 6 is made by Motorola, and it follows the style of design that we've seen on their other devices. The back of the device is heavily curved, with a plastic cover that meets a contoured aluminum frame which slopes downward at the top to accommodate the 3.5mm headphone jack and SIM card tray. Both the plastic back and the aluminum sides feel good in the hand, but due to the sheer size of the device your hand tends to rest more on the back cover instead of arching over it, so it doesn't quite have the premium feel of metal devices like the HTC One (M8) and the iPhone 6. Anyone looking to upgrade from the Nexus 5 should also know that the back cover does not have a soft touch finish like the black Nexus 5, and instead has the slightly rougher eggshell feel of the white Nexus 5.

Like always, the back of the device displays the word Nexus in all lowercase characters, and the manufacturing partner's logo which in this case is the slightly indented Motorola logo that appears on all of their other smartphones. Above that is the 13MP camera which is surrounded by a plastic ring that houses the two LED camera flashes. Unlike previous Nexus devices, the camera on the Nexus 6 is aligned in the center rather than being put in one of the upper corners.

The volume rocker and power button on the Nexus 6 are both on the right side of the device, and are placed close to the center of that side so they can be easily used even with the phone being so large. The power button is also textured with a series of small lines so that it can be easily distinguished from the volume rocker. While I had no issues finding the power button, I often found myself pressing the wrong half of the volume rocker which is very slippery and made of a single piece of ceramic. In general I've always preferred having separate volume buttons and the Nexus 6 is no exception.

For some reason one of the parts I found myself really liking about the Nexus 6 is its nanoSIM tray and tray ejector tool. The tray has a much better design than other devices like the iPhone, HTC One, or Nexus 5 which are essentially just a metal frame that you place the SIM into with no mechanism to hold it in. The tray on the Nexus 6 has tiny notches that hold the SIM in place once it has been inserted, so that it doesn't shift or fall out. It's also fitted very well to the bezel of the device, with no misalignment or fitting issues which were both complaints about the SIM tray on early Nexus 5 units. The ejector is also small and fits well on a keychain which I appreciate, as I like to have one with me in case my primary phone's battery dies.

The front of the device is dominated by the large display, with minimal bezel on the top and bottom to include the stereo speakers and front facing camera. Compared to the Nexus 5, the Nexus 6 is thicker and taller, but the curved back and smaller top and bottom bezels help to alleviate that. The increase in width is the most noticeable change from the Nexus 5. The Nexus 6 is a massive smartphone, and its size makes it a firmly two handed device. Of course, that's the point of the device. Having a large display allows you to display more content on the screen and creates a more immersive experience when viewing videos and playing games. It's a larger device than the Nexus 5 because it's meant to offer a different experience. Compared to other phablets like the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 the Nexus 6 is somewhat more difficult to hold, but not to the extent that I would say it poses an issue.

The comparison to the Nexus 5 is also interesting because Google is still selling the device, and so one could argue that the Nexus 6 is merely an addition to Google's lineup rather than a replacement. While this is a fair point to make, it doesn't address how users who prefer the smaller size of the Nexus 5 are also stuck with an ageing hardware platform. In the end there are always going to be tradeoffs to any device, and a buyer must consider how well a device fits the tasks they want to perform with it.

Battery Life and Charge Time
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  • synaesthetic - Thursday, November 27, 2014 - link

    I'm still deeply in love with my Nexus 4 despite it being two years old, but the 16GB storage is starting to chafe a bit. I'll be looking at trading up, selling the N4 to fund a 32GB Nexus 5. It's a better phone in practically every way and I really think LG did a fantastic job on both the N4 and the N5.

    The N6 is just... really, it's confusing. I don't get it. How could they fuck this up?
  • EleGenius - Tuesday, January 27, 2015 - link

    I felt the same way about my Nexus 4 but after water damage I purchased the Nexus 6 as the N5 was no longer available from the Play Store. I rooted the N6 for the notification light and Titanium Backup, turned off ambient display, installed brightness pro (quick manual control from any screen with one touch), and I'm loving the device. I get about two days worth of battery without playing games. I'll admit It's taken me about a week to get use to it but now it's easily my right hand and going back to the N4 in a way seems silly.

    My wifi connections and cellular signal with T-Mobile has been solid. I’ve noticed only one issue and that’s within the first 10 seconds after the phone has restarted there's a slight delay (I think it's the encryption being initialized) but after that I think the update 5.0.1 has resolved the encryption speed as the phone is as fast if not quicker then I am.

    If you're happy with your N4, keep it it’s a good device. My N4 ran Loliopop very well except for the random daily reboots which I haven’t experienced on the N6. If you upgrade to the N6, I think you'll find it's a great device too even if it first comes off as confusing. My only caveat would be smaller hands and if you wear tight pants with small pockets. I'm 6'3" - 6'4" with above average fingers and can use this device one handed. I can see where people with smaller hands may run into handling issues. This device fits very well in my front pockets too. A little snug when wearing jeans but still completely manageable.

    I was bothered by the N6 at first but now after owning it it’s easily my favorite Nexus to date. I use my N6 more then my N7 and with it rooted for the notification light (Light Flow) it’s like having by N4 back but better, much better. Don’t throw the N6 out yet, it’s turning out to be a solid device that’s now become my digital right hand. If you give it a chance I think you may find the same to be true.
  • jimv1983 - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    How anyone could ever go from a Nexus device with stock Android to a Samsung phone running that TouchWiz garbage amazes me.
  • grayson_carr - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    Same. Samsung owners are always going around talking about how fast their phones are... no lag, no slowdowns, perfectly smooth, etc, but every time I go into a store to play with a new Samsung phone on launch day, it feels slow as hell, dropping frames left and right, compared to my Nexus devices. The GS5 and Note 4 are no exception. Maybe Samsung phones feel fast compared to older phones, especially older Samsung phones, and maybe that's why so many people think they are fast, but they just don't perform at the same level as modern Nexus, Motorola, and HTC phones. If they did, I would have a Note 4 in my pocket right now, because I love the camera, screen, and build, and I can live with the cluttered and slightly garish software.
  • akdj - Friday, November 14, 2014 - link

    Change the launcher
    The Note 3 SMOKED the Nexus 5
    The Note 4 SMOKES the Nexus 6
    And it's NOTHING to do with the 'hardware' as it's essentially the same. That said, something in the software isn't allowing the Nexus 6 to run ANYwhere nearly as quickly, efficiently and smoothly as ANY other Android flagships. Period.
    That was the same issue with the Nexus 5 ( that and the shitty camera )
  • akdj - Friday, November 14, 2014 - link

    Wish there was an edit ...
    Because you're essentially admitting TouchWiz is superior to 'stock' Android. TouchWiz @ release was trash. Through the release of the G3--->& everything but the kitchen sink.
    Since then with the S4 & 5, Note 2, 3, & now 4---> Samsung's spent MORE time developing the compelling features of TouchWiz while elimating the 'duff'
    The carriers and their bloat ass to the crap. I've owmed them all, and when it comes to 'large phones' or phablets, there's not an equal to the Note 4
  • theduckofdeath - Friday, November 14, 2014 - link

    You'd have to go really far back in history to find trash TouchWiz. TouchWiz had a hardware accelerated UI on the GS2. Yeah, that was with Android 2.x. I agree the TouchWiz Samsung used on the original Galaxy S needed a lot of tweaking, thanks to horrible choices of file systems and really sloppy colour and sound calibration. But since the GS2, I've never felt the need to root a Samsung phone.
  • mlambert890 - Saturday, December 20, 2014 - link

    Far back? TouchWiz has noticeable user experience impact ON THE NOTE 4

    Samsung zealots simply don't notice or are in denial, but anyone objective IMMEDIATELY sees it.

    When you go to swipe to the left and your 8 core desktop level phone pauses? That's not normal just FYI. Benchmarks don't tell that tale.

    TouchWiz has REAL WORLD performance impact in exchange for zero benefit

    Yes you can change launchers, root the phone, install hacked ROMs, and get a PhD in phone. Or you can just avoid Samsung
  • nafhan - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    Eh, I've gotta' say I feel extremely satisfied with buying a Nexus 5 (yes, 5) last week.
  • grayson_carr - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    If Google put a slightly larger battery and the camera from the Nexus 6 in a revamped Nexus 5, I would buy it in a heartbeat. The processor, RAM, and screen are shockingly all still great, even a year in. It's still as fast, if not faster in day to day tasks than the Nexus 6 (and pretty much every other phone), and the sub pixel density of the screen is actually higher than the Nexus 6, not to mention much better brightness and color calibration!

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