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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Nexus 6: bigger than brilliant



When Google launched its latest Nexus mobile phone, staff encouraged journalists to think of its biggest handset yet not as a mobile, but as a device through which to access the internet. The shift in mindset is reasonable as fewer and fewer of us use phones primarily for making calls: does it matter so much if a phone looks ridiculous held up to your head when it’s so seldom in that position? And isn’t it more important the screen is bigger and better for the increasingly commonplace activities of watching films and using apps?

Design
So far, so plausible. But we can’t always use two hands for our phones. With a 5.96” display and at 83mm wide, the Nexus 6 is firmly in phablet territory. Made by Motorola, it draws on the lovely design of the Moto X, with its curved back and premium feel. At the larger size, however, the curve only slightly helps users to keep hold of the phone. A dimple for the ‘M’ logo provides extra stability, but there’s no getting away from the fact this is an enormous device. Whether you like it will come down to personal preference and the size of your pockets or handbag. At 186g, its weight is significant but not excessive.
Display and sound
Where that enormous screen comes into its own however, is with its AMOLED display at a resolution of 2560 x 1440 (493ppi). That’s the same as the Galaxy Note 4 and the LG G3, but here at a fractionally lower density because of the larger screen size. All in all, however, it means that the blacks are deep and the whites are white enough; watching a film, even with auto-brightness on, is compelling. If you’re one of those awful people who prefers to blast music through a phone's speakers rather than using headphones, the Nexus 6 won’t disappoint you. If you want to use it discretely as a speakerphone, it’s more than adequate.
Performance and software
Like its predecessors, this Nexus doesn’t bother with a MicroSD slot, but it does include a battery that lasts the day in typical use (finally), wireless charging and a ‘turbo charger’ that will get you to 60 per cent in just half an hour. All of this adds up to hardware that matches design for excellence.
A blazingly fast Qualcomm chip – seen in just a few phones before – makes the new Android Lollipop software feel faster than any previous version of Android. And when it comes to software, the Nexus 6 is the first handset to officially offer Lollipop. That means massively improved design, with big solid flat colours, neat animations and easy access to settings such as the torch and wifi connections. Offering none of the clutter from Samsung or HTC, it’s a neat experience. In an act of insanity, however, Google has killed the total silent mode, offering only a rather noisy vibrate option if you turn the volume down. Coupled with bugs that precipitate unprompted rebooting, albeit only occasionally, Lollipop is an upgrade rather than a revelation. 
Camera
A 13MP camera with optical image stabilisation and 4K video is rather let down by Google’s own camera app, which lacks the bells and whistles of Sony or HTC. But it does offer HDR and good performance in good light; anything away from that, however, and this is the weakest area for a phone that is aiming to rival the 6 Plus or the Z3. On the front, 2MP is selfies-only territory.
Conclusion
Nexus handsets were conceived as great, cheap devices, and Motorola too has talked about ‘democratising’ technology by making it cheaper. It’s surprising, then, that the Nexus 6 is a full-priced handset, which might justify its price by its size and swanky features. To a degree it does, but its hard to escape the feeling that, in essence, if you want a big phone you’ll like this one – and if you don’t there’s little extra here to win you over.

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