It’s pretty clear that we’re reaching some sort of plateau in terms of smartphone development. In fact for the past two years you could say that new models – even from the A list brands – have been more an evolution than revolution. Nice to say then, that the new Google Nexus 6P phone, the flagship Android phone of the moment, is definitely a pleasant surprise in a lot of ways.
We’ve taken a long hard look at some of the rather cool, and not so well known bits from the new handset, as well as some interesting features from the brand new Android 6 O/S, to show what’s trending in the Android world at the moment. Remember that the Nexus brand is designed as a Google reference platform to showcase new tricks and treats, so it’s interesting to see how things are developing. Check out the video to see what we mean.
Here’s a quick look at some of the stuff in the video.
1. Excellent Camera. On the face of it just another 12 megapixel phone camera. Only it’s not. The up-rated pixel size, 2.0 aperture and hot stuff firmware combine together to deliver a camera which is really superb. Especially in low light conditions. We’re guessing it’s a combination of these bits, plus the very clever HDR+ mode which manages to grab low noise and wide exposures just like a proper camera should.
2. Great Battery Life. Again, with many phones now shipping with 3000mAh plus batteries, the Nexus should offer a me-too experience with its 3450mAh block. But the surprise is in the new power management functions in Android 6. Not only does it have the usual battery saving modes, but you can now also set battery optimization per app, which is pretty cool. And that’s not to mention Doze, the new power down when idle mode, which extends standby to infinity and beyond. Or at least a long time. The result is a phone which delivers intelligent battery life depending on how you use it, which is just how it should be.
3. Fast Fingerprint Unlock. Once more the new Nexus surprises and delights. Most existing fingerprint security functions on phones are clunky and unreliable. The Nexus manages to offer up a fast and robust way to unlock your phone with zero hassle. Some may complain that the pad should be on the front of the handset, but we found the rear position to be ideal to unlock as you take the phone out of your pocket in an instant. Literally.
4. Voice Search From Lock Screen. This may seem a trivial feature, but combined with the ever improving OK Google voice control system, it makes for a really cool automation tool. Set the phone up for automatic operation and you’ll get a handset which will give you Star Trek type responsiveness and results every time. We’ve not come across such an elegant implementation of voice control on a phone before. It really rocks! Throw in the cool Google Translate app, and you’re suddenly having conversations in Russian in real time (as long as your data connection is solid). Wow!
Oh and did we mention the music identification feature built in, just like Shazam? Just hit the little blue note bottom right.
5. Super Fast Image Sharing. Another trivial but very cool productivity enhancement. Now when you want to share a photo, the top icons are the people you most communicate with, so it’s a cinch to quickly send something to the other half. Or even Bill Clinton if you’re Mrs C.
6. Super LOUD speakers. What a nice change to have a pair of speakers that really are loud enough to use without problems. They’re front facing, and perfect for everything from impromptu music sessions to satellite navigation in the car. One of the few phones we’ve tested where we had to turn down the speakers in the car with Google Maps navigation. Really!
Oh and the 3 months free trial of Google Music is a nice touch, if possibly doomed to failure.
7. USB C . OK, this one is a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand it’s yet another cable standard to have to worry about, if you’re stuck out and about right now, you’ll probably struggle to find someone other than a new Apple product user with a USB C cable to lend you for a re-charge. On the other hand it’s the future, so we’ve got to get used to it sometime. And the no-fiddle anyway insertion of the cable is great, as is the extra fast charge feature. 7 hours use from a 10 minute charge sounds good to us.
8. Android 6. The new Android system looks very similar to the old one – there’s that evolution again – but the subtle changes are actually pretty cool. And we get the feeling there’s been a good bit of work done under the hood they’re not telling us about. The snappy, accurate voice recognition, improved Google Now (now called Google Now On Tap) and other tweaks suggest that the operating system is now getting some polish as well as the typical routine work.
And did we mention the phone is fast? 2.0GHz 64bit Octa-core processor, 3 GB RAM, blazing fast graphics processor, and a superb WQHD high resolution screen. Yes it’s a flagship all right.
9. Users. We don’t know about you, but we get a little bit of the nervous wobbles when lending a phone to a friend or family member. It’s just such a personal thing, and you’re never quite sure if grandma isn’t going to accidentally delete your whole family photo collection or Johnny trash your Flappy Birds score (what, is that old hat now?). So users is a great idea. Just set up a Guest user (or even more than one) and you can happily share the phone with anyone, and they’ll get their very own environment, which won’t touch yours. Safe at last!
10. Value For Money. This is a LOT of phone for the money. Sure, it’s nowhere near as cheap as some of the budget phones we’ve tested in the past, but then again, this is delivering flagship features and a flagship operating system version for the price of a mid-range Tier 2 smartphone. That’s impressive. Once you factor in subsidies discounts and the rest, we’re likely to see this Nexus under-cutting the price of many of the lesser brands out there, which is good for the consumer (although maybe not for you Mr HTC?).
The design of the phone is top notch too, all smooth sleek smudge-free aluminum, rounded edges and Gorilla Glass 4 where it counts. And it works like a dream. When you throw in the world class camera (see below for comparison with our previous favorite camera, the 20 megapixel Nokia Lumia 1020), superb sound and superb performance and this is a winning phone, no question. Recommended.
Price: £449 / $612 (32GB model)
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
WQHD (2560 x 1440) AMOLED display at 518 ppi
16:9 aspect ratio
Corning® Gorilla® Glass 4
Fingerprint and smudge-resistant oleophobic coating
1.55 µm pixels
IR laser-assisted autofocus
4K (30 fps) video capture
Corning® Gorilla® Glass 4 enclosure
Broad-spectrum CRI-90 dual flash
1.4 µm pixels
HD video capture (30 fps)
Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 810 v2.1
2.0 GHz Octa-core 64-bit
Adreno 430 GPU
Memory & Storage²
RAM: 3 GB LPDDR4
Internal storage: 32 GB, 64 GB, or 128 GB
Dual front-facing stereo speakers
3 microphones (2 front, 1 rear) with noise cancellation
3,450 mAh battery
Fast charging: up to 7 hours of use from only 10 minutes of charging
159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm
Love the idea, and would have had one in a heartbeat, but it lost the wireless charging of the predecessor Nexus 4/5/6. This phone with replaceable battery, expandable memory, and induction charging would be the perfect (so far) phone!