in Hardware, Reviews

Nexus 6p – When P Means Premium

Well they finally did it. Google finally listened to all us geeks and produced a premium phone for the 7th generation of its Nexus line. A show stopper, Google produced the pinnacle of what they believe an android phone should be, and how it should work. This is the Nexus 6p — and when p stands for premium all others should take note.

When something is made well, it has Apple build quality — it’s a phrase used over and over again. A few have successfully matched, and down right copied, but the name still sticks. There have been a few Android phones to push those ideas, but none of the Nexus line have ever got anywhere near the upper echelon of build quality.

Build Quality

You could argue that is not what Nexus is, they are there to show the best of Android and put it in an understated and affordable body so developers can tinker. It is the prevailing opinion that the claimed developer focus is just not the case anymore. When specs sheets are almost null and void because Android runs well on almost anything it’s the outside that will win over the user. With the 6p Google have shown that the Nexus line can, and hopefully will continue, to not just point the way but also keep up with the best of them.

It’s not a fair comparison to compare the 6p with its little brother the 5x, but they are both born of the same parents. Gone is the plastic found on the Nexus 5x, replaced by metal and glass. It is strong and weighty which is reassuring in the hand rather than frighteningly light and creaky. There is no risk of you bending the phone despite what you may see, the whole phone feels premium with nothing spared.
The manufacturing partner for this outing is Huawei — unfortunately little known to much of the general public. They have already produced some stellar hardware, that is often let down by the software. Thankfully you will find nothing but Googles Android here, notice that doesn’t say stock, because Nexus versions of Android are more Googley than ever.

Huawei have done a perfect job squeezing a 5.7 inch screen into a body that is infinitely easier to hold that the previous version (Nexus 6), with flat sides and slightly chamfered edges the phone is a little slippery to the touch but does its best to grip on where it can. The screen dominates the front, rocking an eye watering 1440 x 2560 pixels (518 ppi) that covers more than 70% of the front. Only flanked by stereo speakers at the top and bottom giving THE best audio experience on a smartphone I have experienced to date.

Around the back, in order to get the all metal design Huawei have placed all the radio equipment and camera lenses behind a strip of glass. This has caused contrasting opinions in the design world, due to being raised very slightly from the rest of the phone. In reality rather than taking anything away from the design, it makes it much easier to tell which way is up when pulling the phone from your pocket. Combine this with the ability to still lay flat on a table it is likely to become a non issue and one of the best features of the phone.

Camera

Its also 100% worth the trade off for a bit of a hump, because Google made a big deal about these ‘Sony sensors’ they used in the new Nexus — and for once the results live up to the hype. As with the Nexus 5x, the camera is amongst the best Android snappers on the market. Images are crisp, and clear when there is plenty of light — with small amounts of noise creeping in when the light begins to fade.

Its unfortunate they didn’t include OIS even into this bigger phone, so images with small amounts of light survive by cracking the ISO up and image processing does the rest. You can mediate this by using HDR+, this reduces overly flattened areas of light and images are much more pleasing to the eye. See my periscope video above for some indicators of what you will be up against.

I have not struggled to get picture I want, although I have resorted to using the intelligent burst mode on more than one occasion and discarded the undesirable photos. This burst mode is only found on the Nexus 6p, and will not only take photos for as long as you keep your finger on the shutter, it will also make them into a moving GIF for you to share. Beware of all the images being backed up to Google photos though! You will find sample photos below from my Nexus 5x review — a cop out I know but its the same camera.

Fingerprint Scanner

The back of the phone does suffer the same fate is most previous Nexus phones, it doesn’t so much recieve a tramp stamp than a full back piece. With Nexus plastered all down the back of the phone just under the the mysterious small ring you will find on the back of both new Nexus phones. This of course outlines the fingerprint sensor, one which provides perhaps the best unlocking experience on the market.

After a few days of use you quickly become trained to the placement, a quick tap on the circle wakes and unlocks the phone with ease. In side by side tests the scanner was as accurate and for the majority quicker than the Touch ID sensor on the new iPhone 6s. Which just as with Apple’s new handset almost renders the lock screen useless unless you unlock the old fashioned way by using the power button.

Usage

It is unfortunate to miss out on Android’s lock screen because it still does everything right, but the added security and ease of unlocking using just a tap is something no phone should be without. Once you are using the phone, it’s clear to see Google’s work hard to implement material design, the system animations and design elements flow easily into each other.

This still falls down in some apps, as with my Nexus 5x review it is the app ecosystem that falls short. It was months since I had used Android fully before popping my sim into the 5x, and although most things are obvious Android is still inconsistent in interface and also quality of apps. There is a tendency to be overly critical because of this, but with a bit of time getting used to and trying out new apps it’s not impossible to find everything you should need.

With that said, Google is trying to implement some kind of Android interface guidelines, but you don’t get enforcement when the platform is at least reasonably open. However if Android is ever to attempt to win over users from iOS the vast inconsistency between even app developers by the same companies needs to be addressed — but that is just not what Google is interested in.

Battery Life

Battery life has been somewhat of a small disappointment for me, packing in a 3450 mAh battery gave me hope of all day usage. While that is true for moderate usage, and it is light years better than the 5x, do not expect much more than 4.5 hours of screen on time. Although that is not everything in battery life, standby time is dramatically increased by Android doze mode, this is only useful for light users and if you place your phone on a surface for large parts of the day

Buy it?

The belief was that users bought an Android phone because they couldn’t afford an iPhone. It was what parents bought their kids, it then began a succession of Android handset until eventually they just bought an iPhone. If you owned the last Galaxy plastic phone, when you upgraded you went Apple and almost never went back — at least according to Apple.

That’s just not the case anymore. With phones like the 6p Google has a top tier that users graduate to and stay with Android. There is just no reason to switch, no longer is the iphone the only phone to get great pictures. The results and experience is the same and Android is familiar. The 6p is never going to win over iPhone users, because that’s just not what it is for, it’s for current users to buy — the best Android has to offer.

If you are in the market for an Android phone just stop, click that big button next to the 6p and buy it. It’s the best Android has to offer — and it shows.