Three months with the Nexus 6P
How has the top-end of Google's Nexus line held up after three months?
It's been awhile since the Nexus 6P was released. That new-phone smell has gone away, and all of us here at Android Central have had plenty of time with it in our hands. That means we need to revisit things and see how the 6P has held up.
Each of us have a 6P of our own, and they get a lot of use. Even if we don't enjoy everything, we have to stay up-to-date on the things Google does with Android, and a Nexus phone is how we do that. It's a tool to do our job, and we have to be familiar with it. While you may see us using the Nexus 6P when talking about updates and apps, this time it's 100 percent opinion. Have a click or two and see just what we think about the Nexus 6P.
I like the idea of the Nexus 6P way more than the reality of actually using it. In theory it's the best Android phone out there — and if not that, certainly the best Nexus ever. Great build quality from one of the rising powers in Android, Huawei. A camera and display worthy of the high-end, and battery life that doesn't suck (in a year of sucky Android battery life). For those of us who've lived through — well, literally every other Nexus phone up to this point, it's the most compromise-free handset in the series.
The 6P hasn't escaped the software and performance wonk that's plagued other Nexus phones in their early days. It's perfectly smooth most of the time, but nowhere near all of the time. App loads, and anything that leans heavily on the speed of that encrypted internal storage, has a tendency to chug from time to time. Going from the current crop of Samsung (or even LG) phones, the difference is noticeable, and not in a good way. Worse still are software bugs like the infuriating "time drift" glitch that I've seen on my 6P even on the latest January update. Displaying the correct time is a pretty small ask for a modern, $500 smartphone. I've also seen a reasonable amount of Bluetooth wonk on my unit, a fairly common complaint among 6P owners.
The 6P hasn't escaped the software and performance wonk that's plagued other Nexus phones
Then there's the whole Snapdragon 810 thing. Google and Huawei have done a better job than just about anyone at taming the 810, a chip which will go down in history as a rare bump in Qualcomm's roadmap. Nevertheless, it's way too easy, in entirely normal everyday use, to force the phone to disable all its high-powered A57 cores to reduce temperature. When this happens, you absolutely can see a difference in app performance and responsiveness. (Less so than other 810 phones, but it's there.) And this is especially noticeable if you happen to be in an area with spotty cell coverage.
In other areas, I think many have been lulled into giving the 6P a free pass. The camera is decent, but not great, and Google's camera app is still unforgivably terrible. It's slow to load, slower to shoot, and sometimes straight up fails to save HDR+ shots. Low-light performance is decent, but not to the point where it "obviates the need for OIS, " as Google dubiously claimed when announcing the phone. It's a better camera than some of the less impressive Android shooters this past year, like the HTC One M9 and Moto X Pure Edition. But I'm a little underwhelmed by it, and it's still a tier or so below the very best phone cameras from Samsung, Apple and LG.
So what we're left with is a pretty but imperfect handset — I'm a fan of the "periscope" camera hump, by the way — that does a lot of things really well, but stumbles more often than I'd like. It's another Nexus phone with a few too many caveats for my liking. But I don't hate the Nexus 6P, and I'm going to keep using it for now. Maybe the next major software bump, be it Android 6.1 or something else entirely, will smooth things out.
The honeymoon period for the Nexus 6P has definitely worn off, but for me that hasn't meant a dramatic decrease in how much I'm loving this phone. After a few months with the Nexus 6P, I'm still enjoying the display, hardware build, overall performance and battery life.
Sure the phone's a tad tall and a little slick (I've actually shifted to using a really slim case for extra grip), but it's hard to say "no" to the smooth edges and bits of flair around the Nexus 6P that make it stand out. I wasn't initially worried by the glass visor on the back, and after spending more time with it I'm still not bothered by the little bulge — particularly when it allows for the rest of the design to be so sleek.
The honeymoon period is over, but I'm still loving this phone
While Marshmallow itself hasn't exactly blown me away, everything on the Nexus 6P is so smooth and quick, it really spoils you to the point where it's tough to use most other phones. And to get that kind of performance while keeping all-day battery life, it's a real treat — especially if you've used previous Nexus phones that need plugging in at dinner time.
But of course, this is still a Nexus, and that means over time I have encountered just a few odd software bugs that have bothered me. While the phone is blazing fast about 99 percent of the time, it'll still have an odd lockup or soft reboot for seemingly no reason, and more than a few times I've had the camera fail to open when double-pressing the power key. Doze also seems to be a bit overzealous, and will incapacitate many apps when I don't want it to.
In my time with it the Nexus 6P is the most stable Nexus phone I've ever used, but it still seems to lack that extra bit of polish that would make it a complete experience. Even with these sparse issues, I've been more than happy using the Nexus 6P every single day since it arrived.
Right about the time the Nexus 6P was released, I said it was the best Android phone I have ever used. I got lucky and was tasked with the review, and had a little bit of time to use it before it became available. Three months later, and it's still the best Android phone I've ever used.
I can even go a step further. Because of how quickly some recently exposed security issues in Android and the Linux kernel were resolved, the Nexus 6P is on the short list (along with the BlackBerry Priv) of Android phones I want to use. I love playing with all the cool new phones from the people who make them, and those folks make a lot of great stuff, but I store my life in my phone and don't really want to give my money to people who aren't aren't trying hard enough to keep things secure. Having Marshmallow is nice, but I'm more concerned about those monthly security updates and having them handled transparently and made easy to understand.
While I would use a phone that wasn't the one I thought was "best" if it were more secure, I don't have to. As I write this, I have eight high-end phones from various manufacturers on my desk, and they all have supposedly better hardware than the Nexus 6P, but they don't do the things I want my phone to do nearly as well. Simple things, like not lag while I'm typing or push applications out of memory so I can't go back to where I left off. Games still play just fine, I can still see things outside in the sun, and my Bluetooth and WiFi are just fine. I get that others may be having problems, but I only know what I can see.
Other phones supposedly have better hardware than the Nexus 6P, but they don't do the things I want
I'm still liking the camera, and while LG's is still better, it's good for times when I don't need a real picture from a real camera. There have been times when I wish it had OIS, but there also have been a few times when I'm glad I didn't have to see the black halo effect OIS can bring. It's not perfect, but it's plenty good in most situations. I haven't had any complaints when I use it for work "stuff" either. Phil and Derek like to complain (I still love them both) so I reckon it passes that test, too. They probably should have included OIS though.
Finally, I'm still loving the battery life I get out of this thing. Even on days when I'm out in places where there are no cell phone towers, I still have enough battery to get through the day unless I run it down with several hours of gaming. My unit Dozes when it should, wakes up when it should and charges quickly. No complaints about battery capacity or in-use times on my end. I also wish they had just stuck with microUSB for the connector, or went with USB 3.0. Changing just for the sake of changing means I need to buy new cables, and remember to carry them when I might need them, with no clear benefit.
Of course, there are some things I wish were different. I really wanted to see Qi charging. And yes, I say that every time we talk about the 6P. And while I've decided I have to accept bigger phones, I really wish the 6P was a bit smaller when it's in my pocket. I like the big screen when I'm using it, but like it less when I'm carrying it around. Insert your skinny jeans comments here, I guess.
After everything's said and done, the Nexus 6P is still the phone I would spend my own money on. It's also the phone I would recommend to anyone asking which they should buy.
The past 12 months I learned to live with large phones. OK, most phones are large these days. I'm talking about the largest of the large. The Note 5 started things — and it's not nearly as gargantuan as it once was. And I moved from it to the Nexus 6P. That's not to say I wouldn't still want something smaller, though. But the Nexus 5X maybe was too small (I can't believe I'm writing that), and definitely too slow.
So, Nexus 6P it's been. I'm mostly OK with the size, actually. The only time it's really an issue is when I'm wearing jeans. It just doesn't fit in my front pocket comfortably when I'm sitting. (I work at a standing desk in the office, though, so that helps.) I held it through the entire showing of Star Wars, worried an over-zealous theater would cause trouble over it. And it just barely fits in the cup holder in my car. Sideways. Sort of. OK, it's not great. But I made it work.
Nexus is usually more about the software than hardware; this time things are a bit more balanced
For me Nexus usually is more about the software experience than the hardware. With the Nexus 6P it's definitely more balanced. Huawei did really well with it, keeping a good bit of its own design language (OK, design very much influenced by other manufacturers) while bringing something special with that Cylon-worthy visor. I'm digging it, particularly since it gives a target for NFC tapping. And that's not to say the software is perfect this time around. Some years Nexus is more beta than others. But it's also more up to date in the security department than any other phone. That's hugely important to me now, even if a lot of the threats you read about aren't all that practical. It's more about the principle of the matter, and I'm voting with my wallet.
Nexus Protect has been a good investment, too. Somehow I got a crack in the rear glass. I'm not sure if it's something I did, or if it just happened. (Notice I'm not screaming "Design flaw!!!" "Don't know" means "don't know." But the return process (after the $79 fee) was quick and painless. And I'm using it on Project Fi, which generally has been a breeze to use. (Though not without the occasional hiccup.)
I've been playing with the LG G4 again in preparation for the G5. I very much still love its size and feel of that one. But I'm also very much come to enjoy the simplicity of the Nexus 6P, the quality of its camera, and the consistency of security updates. I've no reason to put this phone down any time soon.
It's still too big, and it's still a little too slippery for my personal taste, but there's no denying the Nexus 6P is the best Android phone available right now. Huawei nailed the hardware, especially the display and the speakers. Just about every time I hand my phone to someone to check out a quick video when out and about, the first comment is about the quality of the experience even when outdoors or in a loud room.
There's no denying the Nexus 6P is the best Android phone available right now
The camera is still incredible, performance is fantastic — especially once I switched to browser-only Facebook — and there's been no problems with the battery getting me through the day. Given all of my complaints about the Nexus line over this years, this is without a doubt Google's best offering so far.
That having been said, there's plenty of people out there with less-than-stellar experiences that Google needs to address. Reports of Wifi and Bluetooth signal strength issues and persistent software bugs that mess up the clock on the phone should be top priority. While I've yet to experience these issues myself, the sheer volume of reports make it clear these are real issues in need of solving.
These are our thoughts after using the Nexus 6P since launch, but of course we want to hear your opinions as well. Hop into the comments below to let us know how the phone has treated you over the past three months, and for a deeper discussion get into the Nexus 6P forums!
- Nexus 6P review
- 5 things to know about the Nexus 6P
- Read the latest Nexus 6P news
- Learn about Project Fi
- Join our Nexus 6P forums
- Nexus 6P specs