This is all a long-winded way of saying I’ve had Google’s new Nexus 6P since Friday, and that’s not quite enough time to properly review a phone. (Though I’m getting close to having fully-formed thoughts. Spoiler: it’s good.) This is Google’s high-end, ultra-premium device, the one it made to show partners, developers, and the world just how good an Android device can be. It has new software and new hardware. It has a spec sheet you can’t beat. And in something of a first for Google, it’s really nicely designed.
It takes a little while to really get to know a phone. You don’t really know how the battery is until you’ve spent three hours in a train car with broken air conditioning and only Alto’s Adventure between you and a felony charge. You haven’t tested the camera until you run into Joseph Gordon-Levitt inside the world’s darkest bar. You don’t know much of anything until you’ve dropped it and watched its life and yours flash in front of your eyes.
Lots more to come soon, but after approximately 111 hours with the Nexus 6P, here are a few things I’ve discovered.
I can’t overstate how much more usable the 6P is than the Nexus 6. It’s a 5.7-inch screen, not 6 inches, but that small decrease plus a lot of edge-thinning and corner-rounding makes the 6P so much easier to use. And hold, for that matter.
It’s almost exactly the same size as the iPhone 6S Plus, despite having a larger screen. Way to go Huawei.
I’m still getting used to the idea of having a fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone. I keep sliding my finger over the front-facing speaker, thinking it’ll unlock the device. Plus, having to either pick up my phone or do my weird on-screen pattern, every single time I want to unlock my phone, is a huge pain. The divot on the back is easy to find with your finger, it’s just not where I’m used to looking for it.
That fingerprint sensor is insanely fast. Like, never-see-the-lockscreen fast. You just slide your finger over the round sensor, and poof: there’s your homescreen.
I somehow managed to register my bottom lip as an authentication method. Now I can kiss the back of the Nexus 6P and it unlocks. I don’t know what to make of that, but, uh, there you go.
The camera is capable of taking spectacular photos. Huawei and Google moved industrial design mountains to fit a giant sensor inside the 6P, and it seems to have been worth it. The detail on close-up shots is incredible, and it does a really nice job of keeping the whole frame sharp.
In low light, it does all the things a phone always does: it artificially brightens shots so much that everything gets a sort of warmed-over brownish look, and there’s a lot of over-processed softness. It’s as good in low light as any other Android phone—and better than most—but it’s still what you’re used to.
You can double-click the power button to launch the camera, which is fast but completely counterintuitive. You click once to turn your phone off, and twice to launch the camera? The logic just fails. I wish Google had kept the twist-twist gesture instead of killing it at the last minute.
The big plastic strip at the top of the 6P’s back that houses the huge camera sensors, while obviously necessary, is pretty ugly. The rest of the device is so clean and simple, and then it’s like, “Oh look that’s where they had to put all the stuff.” It looks like a periscope peeking out from the top of the phone. It’s not a reason not to buy the phone—though it is a reason to buy the black one, where it’s much less noticeable—but it’s not great.
Google Now On Tap, one of the most-touted new features of Android Marshmallow, is less exciting than I hoped for. If you’re on, say, a site about Courteney Cox (shut up I’m watching Friends a lot), it’ll figure out what you’re looking at and with a long-press on the home button will give you YouTube, IMDB, and other useful links. It’s great for looking up more information about sports scores, too, and occasionally digs out useful phone numbers on restaurant pages. But most of the time, unless you’re already looking at what you’re looking for, Now on Tap can’t figure it out.
On the lockscreen, the two quick-launch options are voice search and camera. That’s perfect, and has made my two most common activities much easier.
This phone is crazy fast. But only in the way that every phone is crazy fast now.
It is entirely ridiculous how much better Android is with notifications than iOS. The 6P is particularly great, because using the Android Sensor Hub you can just nudge the phone a little bit and the notifications will show up in black and white on the screen (it looks like the Moto X, which is clearly the inspiration here). Double-tap one, unlock, and you’re in the app. Using iOS, I usually unlock my phone and then figure out where to go. On Android, I move almost exclusively in and out of the notification windowshade. It’s better that way.
USB Type-C is going to be awesome. Right now, it is a giant pain in the ass. No one else I know owns a charger I can use for the 6P, so if I’m out of power I’m hosed. And the Type-C to Type-C cable that comes with the phone doesn’t work with any of my chargers / outlets / accessories. In a year, carriers are going to start mandating accessories support Type-C. But right now, heaven help you if you forget your charger at home.
There’s a lot left to see and try in Marshmallow, and on the Nexus 6P. (And now that we’ve photographed it, time for the drop test!) But 111 hours in, I’m into this phone. Camera hump and all.