Google Nexus 6 Review71
Interface and Functionality
There’s no more separating the smartphone and tablet experiences of Android, seeing that Lollipop sticks to a uniform approach.
Uniformity, that’s the obvious strategy that Google is going after with its latest update for its mobile platform – Android 5.0 Lollipop. Already, we’ve raved about the overhaul the platform receives with this newest version, but after experiencing it on a tablet with the Nexus 9, that principle of uniformity becomes even more profound with the Nexus 6. In previous iterations, Android on a tablet looked and operated differently than its smartphone counterpart, but that’s all changing with Lollipop, seeing that the two experiences are unchanged – keeping true to that uniform experience between mobile devices.
Frankly, the Nexus 6’s Android 5.0 Lollipop experience bears the same Material Design and slick set of features we’ve been exposed to already with the Nexus 9. We can’t stress enough about the meticulous look of Lollipop! From blatantly obvious things like the clean and modern approach of the interface, to smaller things such as the animation that kicks in once we scroll all the way to the top or bottom of the address book, nearly every visual aspect of the platform has been retooled.
And of course, there are all of the cool new features of Lollipop, which like any successive update, only diversifies and deepens the experience. We’re not going to rehash all of them, but we’ll share a couple that stand out here with the Nexus 6. In particular, we’re ecstatic to see that we’re now given support for multiple users, which isn’t something necessarily new with Android per se, seeing that Android tablets have offered this feature since the release of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean. With Android 5.0 Lollipop, however, this is the first time smartphones are being given access.
Another new feature that we normally don’t get with other platforms is the ability to “pin” apps with Lollipop. We wouldn’t say it’s something we’d use frequently, but when the occasion arises when it’s needed, there’s no kidding that it proves its usefulness. The premise with pinning is being able to lock the phone to use one specific app, so if you have a friend who is notorious for posting weird status messages on your Facebook as they’re borrowing your phone, they won’t be able to do that because the phone is locked to a certain app – say like the web browser or something.
Needless to say, Android 5.0 Lollipop is an evolutionary step for Google – one that distances itself in the features department over its rivals. As we’ve seen, consistency is sought out with both the smartphone and tablet versions of Lollipop. So much so that the two employ the same exact interfaces and features, but considering that we’re dealing with a phablet-like device here with the Nexus 6, it’s missing certain elements that take full advantage of the larger real-estate it has over other smartphones.
That folks, is arguably our main and only complaint with the experience we get from the Nexus 6 – it just lacks those phablet-like features we see in other phablets. Due to the immense size of the screen, you’d think we’d get some kind of one-handed operation feature, but we don’t. In addition, there isn’t an enhanced multi-tasking feature in tow with the experience. For the most part, we fall back to going through the task switching menu – as opposed to the simultaneous approach we get from some other smartphones.
Peaking at the phonebook, Lollipop’s Material Design is highly evident, as it sports a blend of bright colors, a minimalist layout, and nifty transition effects when something is tapped on. Broken down into three main categories, speed dial, recents, and contacts tabs, we can instantly jump into the dial pad at any time by pressing on the icon that’s floating above the rest of the interface. Best of all, the dial pad is also accessible via the lock screen for instant access.
In standard fashion, the usual crew of organizer apps accompanies Lollipop, which consists of the calculator, calendar, and clock apps. Not surprisingly, they all receive the slick new visual enhancements courtesy of Google’s Material Design – though, some more so than the others. Specifically, we see it in the calendar app, which relies heavily on layers to present data. For example, the main view shows us our typical weekly calendar layout, but when we tap on the month near the top of the interface, a new window expands to give us the monthly view.
Adhering to the needs of productivity users, there’s a folder on the homecreen called “create,” where we can launch apps like Docs, Sheets, Slides, Drive, and Keep. These apps, naturally, provide us with light productivity in the event we ever need to do some quick work outside of using a computer. Indeed, they’re helpful and whatnot, especially when we can still create a spreadsheet or document even when the phone doesn’t have connectivity to the network.
With the arrival of Lollipop, the Android keyboard receives a visual change that eliminates the borders that normally outline each individual key. At first, it’s an uncanny sight to behold, as we’re sometimes left wondering how it’s able to distinguish between keys, but we’re able to adapt and type away with normal ease. Thankfully, we can change the keyboard’s theme in the settings menu – to revert back to the traditional layout with borders we’re accustomed to using.
For the most part, the overall typing experience doesn’t differ, as it’s very responsive and offers a decent auto-correct function, but as an alternative, there’s also Gesture Typing, which relies on those swiping gestures to input text. On the Nexus 6, we prefer to use the portrait keyboard, seeing that our finger is doing less swiping across the keyboard’s layout. In contrast, we’re more likely to individually press each button with the landscape option, as opposed to Gesture Typing, just because it’s offers us with a more comfortable, natural experience.
Gmail for Android has been a versatile email client, one that delivers the same rich experience we get from the desktop client. Naturally, Lollipop’s arrival brings forth an even more refined and unified experience. Not surprisingly, Google’s Material Design is profoundly evident with Gmail, as the flat layered design language principle is heavily reinforced – as tabs movie in-and-out when we select a folder or message.
Yes, there’s an “email” app icon in the app panel, but Lollipop now diverts us to using the Gmail app for all our accounts – hence, its unified experience. The setup process is no different from before, but what’s odd is that there’s no unified inbox. What’s even tougher to distinguish is the way the platform differentiates the email notification icons in the menu bar area, since they all use the Gmail icon.
Processor and Memory
From small to intensive operations, there are no tasks that the Nexus 6 can’t overcome with its Snapdragon 805 processor.
You know you’re a high-flying, power punching smartphone when you’re packing the latest and greatest processor from Qualcomm’s camp. Yet again, it’s in an elite club with its quad-core 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 SoC, coupled with an equally beefy 3GB or RAM and the Adreno 420 GPU. Generally speaking, it’s not frequent to find handsets using this piece of silicone, which of course, gives more precedence to the ones that do – like the Nexus 6.
Rarely does the Nexus 6 exhibit any lag with its performance, as most of its processes are accompanied by snappy responses. Every now and then, however, we will see just a slight delay when opening apps, or switching between them, but it isn’t terrible. Finally, the hardware package in tow here is more than equipped for the task of running several of today’s 3D intensive gaming titles.
Being available in 32GB and 64GB capacities, there’s enough flexibility between the two to accommodate our needs, but it seriously would’ve been better if it were blessed with a microSD card slot to supplement things.
Internet and Connectivity
Chrome’s functionality here with the Nexus 6 hasn’t greatly changed, so the experience is for the most part identical to any other Android smartphone running the browser. Lollipop introduces the option of having individual page tabs appear in the app switcher, so rather than using the feature that’s built-in with Chrome, it’s instead monitored by the platform – where tabs are individually displayed in the app switcher. Overall, there’s nothing too out of the ordinary with the experience here, seeing that we’re presented with fast pages loads, instant page rendering, and that tight feel with navigational controls.
The Nexus 6 is available in two SKUs, one for US market and another for the rest of the world. Starting with the former, its cellular radio offers support for the CDMA networks – whereas with the international model, it doesn’t. Furthermore, the US model offers support for 12 LTE bands, while the international one only goes up to 10. Despite that, both units are armed with the usual set of connectivity features we’d expect to find – like aGPS, Bluetooth 4.1, dual-band 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, and NFC.