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Google Nexus 6 review: A larger Moto X with fewer Motorola enhancements

The new Nexus 6 is a six-inch Moto X running a pure Google experience. Matthew is convinced the Motorola enhancements make the Moto X a better choice.
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Topic: Mobility
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1 of 19 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Google Nexus 6

Just like the Apple iPhone, Google rolls out Nexus smartphones once a year. The new Nexus 6 is priced $300 more than previous Nexus models and has a massive 6-inch display. Unlike previous models that seemed to be missing one or two things, the Nexus 6 has it all.

ZDNet's Larry Dignan took a look at the Nexus 6 when it launched and wrote that it could be an enterprise workhorse compared to the larger Google Nexus 9. I agree it is a much better device than the Nexus 9, but also think the 2014 Moto X offers more while also being a device the masses can handle.

Specifications

  • Operating system: Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Processors: Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 2.7 GHz quad-core CPU
  • Display: 5.96-inch quad HD AMOLED screen with 2560 x 1440 pixel resolution (493 pixels per inch)
  • RAM: 3GB
  • Storage capacity: 32GB and 64GB internal storage options
  • Cameras: 13-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization (OIS), and 2-megapixel front-facing camera
  • Radios: 802.11a/b/g/n/ac (2x2 MIMO)Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, near-field communications (NFC), GPS
  • Audio: Dual front-facing stereo speakers
  • Battery capacity: 3,220 mAh with support for Turbo charger and Qi wireless charging
  • Dimensions: 159.3 x 83 x 10 mm, and 184 grams

In the past, Nexus devices had good specifications but there were always a few specs that were less than the latest and greatest. As you can see above, the Nexus 6 has the high-end specifications seen on only a few other Android devices, such as the Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge.

On the hardware

Motorola made the Nexus 6 so comparisons to the smaller 2014 Moto X are expected. After using the Nexus 6 alongside a new Moto X, I personally find the Moto X more compelling. Much of that has to do with software — I will discuss this in the next section below — but the form factor is also a major consideration. My MoTR podcast co-host Kevin Tofel just purchased a Moto X instead of a Nexus 6 and echoes many of my thoughts.

The Google Nexus 6 feels very much like a larger Moto X with the same metal frame, textured power button, rear Motorola logo and dimple, and ring flash surrounding a 13-megapixel camera. The Nexus 6 is so much larger though and rivals the Apple iPhone 6 Plus in size. Thankfully, the back is curved on the Nexus 6 so it does still feel comfortable in your hand.

The Nexus 6 has front-facing stereo speakers that sound great. The Moto X has a front-facing mono speaker that I am satisfied with, but the stereo speakers definitely beat this mono speaker and come close to matching the HTC One M8 speakers.

The Nexus 6 has Qi wireless charging, along with the ability to charge up quickly with the Motorola Turbo Charger. Thankfully, the Turbo Charger is included in the Nexus 6 retail package while Motorola charges $34.99 for Moto X owners.

The 2560 x 1440 AMOLED display looks fantastic and it really was a joy to use. The camera has performed well for me and meets my phone camera needs. The Nexus 6 has all the wireless radios I need, a cool form, long battery life, and more. I like big phones and have seriously considered the Nexus 6 a few times, but lack of availability has killed my spur-of-the moment decision to pick one up.

Pros Cons
Android 5.0 Lollipop operating system Large phone with no special enhancements or optimized applications
Rock solid design, tapered at the edges to fit well in the hand No support for microSD expansion cards
Qi wireless charging and Turbo Charger support  
Front-facing stereo speakers  
Turbo Charger support with accessory included in the package  

On the software

The Nexus 6 launches with Android 5.0 Lollipop and it looks great. I appreciate the Material Design elements of Lollipop and enjoy the new calendar, Messenger app, quick controls, and notification area.

The Nexus 6 is very responsive and easy to use. The homescreen widgets and Google Now panel are useful. The app launcher is a bit too stale for me with no ability to create folders for apps or organize them in any manner. It is a pure Google Android experience, but I am no longer convinced that is always the best approach on Android.

Motorola has done a lot to enhance the Android experience with their Moto X and G devices. The Moto X is a nearly pure device, but has subtle enhancements we don't see fully employed on the Nexus 6. For example, Moto Assist, contained in the new Moto app, is not available on the Nexus 6. The intelligence of your smartphone working for you is just not as complete on the Nexus 6 as on the Moto X.

You can now enable OK Google on many Android smartphones, while the Moto X remains the exclusive device to customize this initiation phrase. Trusted Bluetooth support is also available on other devices. Overall, the Nexus experience is good, but other smartphone customizations may actually offer more to most owners.

Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC, and others offer owners enhancements that no longer consume unreasonable resources. Many of these enhancements are useful and some of us prefer those experiences over the Nexus experience. I think the low cost of the last few Nexus devices helped justify the simple Google experience, but I'm not convinced it is the better experience at the same price as flagship phones.

Pricing and availability

The Nexus 6 is priced well beyond what we have seen with the last couple of Nexus models. The 32GB model is priced at $649 with the 64GB at $699. This is still $150 lower than iPhone 6 Plus pricing and $50 less than an iPhone 6. However, the Nexus 5 was priced at $349 and $399 so the $300 increase is a bit of a shocker.

While you still can't purchase a Nexus 6 directly from Google, carriers look to finally have some availability after earlier delays.

The competition

Large screen smartphones are popular today with even Apple joining the party. The Nexus 6 is similar to the iPhone 6 Plus, but even Apple has provided some apps with enhanced landscape orientation experiences and lets you rotate the home screen. Google hasn't done anything to justify the 6-inch display as it really just provides larger icons and more viewable screen real estate.

Samsung's Note 4 and Note Edge excel at stylus support and multi-window view while LG and Sony have support for additional small screen apps to take advantage of the larger displays.

Conclusion

The Nexus 6 is the best Nexus ever and for once a Nexus device is not lacking in any specification. The price reflects the high-end nature of the Nexus 6, but the competition in the Android marketplace is also much stiffer than it was in the past. I still need to use the Nexus 6 a bit more with my T-Mobile SIM to convince myself it isn't the device for me. I enjoy large screen smartphones, but find other offerings to be more compelling.

The new Moto X itself is a fantastic choice, especially given the Motorola experience enhancements and more pocketable form factor. The new Moto X actually feels small compared to the Nexus 6 and I think most people will appreciate that device more than the Nexus 6.

Contributor's rating: 8.5 out of 10

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2 of 19 Matthew Miller/ZDNet

Google Nexus 6 comes with Lollipop operating system

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Nexus 6 in hand

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Top of the Nexus 6

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Back of the Nexus 6 with ring flash around the camera

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RIght side with power and volume buttons

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Moto X on top of the Nexus 6

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New Moto X and Nexus 6

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New Moto X, Nexus 6, and new Moto G

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Front of the Moto X, Nexus 6, and Moto G

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Lumia 1520, iPhone 6 Plus, Nexus 6, and Galaxy Note Edge

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Quick controls area

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New settings design

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App launcher is simple

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Camera settings

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Simple camera interface

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Cool new Messenger app for text messaging

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Colorful Calendar application

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Phone app with favorites page

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