Google’s Nexus 6P is an exemplar for big phones, or phablets, and it certainly has a serious amount of technological horsepower under the bonnet. But have we reached peak phablet?
It’s hard to tell if we’ve peaked with big phones, but since Apple is making a virtue out of small being the new big with its 4in iPhone SE, it is a question worth considering.
The logic is impeccable that you can do a lot more on a bigger screen. But the information remains the same; it’s just a question of what you need to do. And not everyone is cut out for a big phone. It’s down to the size of your hands, you see.
Google’s Nexus P, manufactured by Huawei, is a very big phone. But it’s a phone with a big heart and probably the closest thing I’ve seen from the Android stable to really compete with Apple’s flagship iPhone 6s Plus for power and performance.
Google’s strategy of reviving its Nexus brand with various manufacturers from LG to Huawei and Samsung is about influencing technology rather than being a serious earner for the internet giant. Some at Google might baulk at this assertion, but Nexus, in the Google scheme of things, does not mean the same thing from a revenue standpoint that iPhone means for Apple.
Just like with its Chrome browser, the Nexus 6P is effectively Google’s current view of what perfection in a smartphone using Android 6.0 Marshmallow should be.
Once I used to love what various manufacturers, especially HTC, did to make Android their own. But there’s a lot to be said for bare bones Android stripped of add-ons or branding. For example, functionally, it’s nice to be able to simply “cast” to your Chromecast device on your TV. Are you paying attention Samsung?
Look and feel
The first thing I have to say is the Nexus P is heftier than you would expect. Not alarmingly heavy or anything, but the aluminium cladding surrounding its 5.7-inch AMOLED display gives it a solid feel.
Contained in this structure are front-facing stereo speakers that are loud. So powerful, in fact, that you need to be mindful about the volume if you are expecting a call, especially if you don’t want to terrorise your cat or wake up people in the house next door to you.
The all-metal body is actually quite elegant, making the Nexus P stand out in a market where nearly all current smartphones are quite massive and look the same.
The 12.3MP camera at the back of the device is mounted very close to the top in its own virtual enclosure and surrounded by black glass that looks a lot more elegant than it sounds.
The display is Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and, according to Google, it is fingerprint and smudge resistant thanks to an oleophobic coating. I must have superpowers because I seemed to smudge it up pretty well.
The front camera is a powerful enough 8MP camera capable of capturing HD video.
The most arresting feature of the design of the device is that its fingerprint sensor is on the back. “Why?” you ask. Well, apparently this is more natural for how people hold phones.
I suspect it is a reality check for small-fingered people (Donald Trump, anyone?) who have to fumble with these giant phones when a call comes in or they need to hastily take a photo or a selfie.
It took me a while to get used to it and I can’t say I’m entirely in favour of putting a sensor on the back of smartphones. I hope it’s a fad rather than any real trend. The market is too used to the fingerprint sensor being on the front in the case of the iPhone or Samsung’s S6 or S7 devices. I still think Sony putting a fingerprint sensor on the side of its Xperia Z5 smartphone was a smarter, more intuitive move.
To begin with, the battery on the Nexus 6P is, by far, the best and most powerful battery I have yet experienced on a smartphone. The 3,450mAh battery gives it a standby time of up to 44 hours, talk time of up to 23 hours and internet use time on Wi-Fi and LTE up to 10 yours. You can watch 10 hours of video on the device or listen to 100 hours of music.
Allied to this is its fast-charging capability – 10 minutes of charging will give you several hours of battery life. That is amazing.
As someone who suffers from forgetting to charge my device regularly, I have found the Nexus 6P to be a virtual lifesaver and have done up to two full working days and possibly more on a single charge.
The other winning factor behind the device is its 12.3MP camera. It comes with a broad-spectrum CRI-90 dual flash and I defy anyone to try and take a bad photo with this device.
The massive screen and the powerful camera combined with a f/2.0 aperture and 4K video capture make it a powerful proposition that even photography buffs wouldn’t sniff at.
All of this, of course, would be pointless without the right hard metal – aka processing power – to make it all super fast.
Under the hood, the Nexus 6P is a beast. It is powered by a 64-bit octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon chip and has an Adreno 430 GPU. When taking pictures or jumping in and out of apps it is lightning fast to the point of being instant.
Google’s Android 6.0 Marshmallow operating system is exemplified in the Nexus 6P and the overall feel is uncluttered, stylish and functional.
As big phones go, the Nexus 6P is a big phone with a big heart. It is powerful, bright, shiny and elegant and a workhorse when it comes to business and life.
It comes in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB storage configurations and comes with 3GB of RAM.
It’s the ultimate media phone when it comes to photography, video, storage, performance and any possible use you can think of.
But the 178g weight caused by its all-metal body makes it a lot heftier than the iPhone 6s (143g) or the Samsung S6 Edge+ (153g), and I was constantly afraid of dropping and shattering it.
Another drawback – not a massive problem – is that it comes with a new USB-C port in order to enable the fast-charging capability, but this makes it incompatible with most other Android USB chargers. But the advantage of the USB-C charging port is you can insert the lead upside down and it still fits. So there’s a trade-off and it is worth questioning if USB-C will eventually become standard on all Android phones.
The Nexus 6P isn’t cheap either, with prices starting at €649. So, if you want a big phone, let’s just say you’ll need a big wallet.
My star rating for the Nexus 6P is 4/5.
All images via Connor McKenna.