The Nexus 6 came in for a landing on my doorstep yesterday, and I've been happily exploring Google's new phablet ever since. Because I've had it for just one day, there's no way I could write anything resembling a review, so instead I thought it may be fun to do a very basic "initial impressions" post. There are a few things that immediately strike me about the device, so I'll discuss those here, with more details to come in the full review.
The Form Factor
The Nexus 6, known until recently as Shamu, is a whale. It's really big. That should go without saying since the display is 5.9", but when you see it in person its size is truly striking. To accommodate its bigness, Moto and Google even shifted the power and volume buttons down toward the middle of the device.
Beyond that, it's a really nice-looking device. The front, as you'd expect from a Nexus is all black. Except for the two speaker grills, it's one flat surface with very subtle curves on the edges. The device is framed by an aluminum strip and has matte plastic on the back with a Motorola dimple and the Nexus logo inlaid. Basically, if you took a Moto X 2014, stretched it out, colored the speaker grills, and added a Nexus logo, you'd have the Nexus 6. Whether this is the result of a last-minute effort to turn a Silver device into a Nexus or not, it's great. Moto is onto something with its design language, and the Nexus 6 is a device that not only looks good, but feels just fine in my hands, despite its size. That said, I am sort of dismayed to see the curve+angle design language's absence. The Nexus 9 appears to continue the trend (which I discussed in our Nexus 5 review) however.
My Nexus 6 review unit is white, not midnight blue. The back, while matte, is considerably slicker than, for example, the black Nexus 5. This may be because it's the white variant - the white Nexus 5, after all, was considerably slicker than the black variant, probably to resist staining or discoloration. While it squeaks a bit with a finger rub, it's not unpleasantly slick, and is far from glossy.
The speaker grills, like the ones on the Moto X, are grills with another piece added that slightly sticks out from the surface of the glass. While it looks good from a front angle, the extra dimension can be disorienting or annoying when fiddling with the phone, and the grills are unfortunate dust magnets. Unlike the Moto X 2014, the tops of the grills are smooth, not textured.
One other thing that jumped out to me about the overall body is that the microUSB port is reversed from the Moto X on the Nexus 6. It faces "right side up," with the broad side of the microUSB connector facing upward when plugged in.
The display on the Nexus 6 is impressive. It's a 1440x2560 quad HD AMOLED display (that's almost 500ppi for those keeping count). On the Moto X 2014, I can see the checkerboard effect of the subpixel layout at close distances, but the Nexus 6 successfully loses this effect. Unfortunately, the odd green/magenta color shifting at graphic edges remain on this display, but in normal use this isn't really noticeable. Graphics, interface elements, and especially fonts, look crisp, clean, and pixel-perfect.
The display gets sufficiently bright, even in daylight, and sufficiently dark at night. As for color balance? Compared to the Nexus 5's IPS LCD, the Nexus 6 is slightly warmer, and leans more toward green/yellow where the Nexus 5 leans toward blue/magenta.
I don't have a light meter handy to scientifically quantify the minimum brightness, but compared to the Moto X 2014 (as one Reddit user requested), the display on the Nexus 6 seems to be ever so slightly dimmer. Again this isn't a scientific statement, just my observation. Both displays on minimum brightness are perfectly fine in darkness.
One other thing to note about the display (which is actually a feature of Lollipop) is its new wake-up tricks. Lollipop introduces (for supported hardware) double-tap-to-wake, and lift-to-wake functionality. The latter seems to work fine on the Nexus 6 if you are actually lifting the device from a surface, but tap to wake is very finicky. It does work, but taps need to be direct and intentional, and it works best if the phone is lying on a flat surface. Picking up the phone and tapping with your thumb is unfortunately not an option here. Of course it's possible I just need to get used to the action, or that a software fix will make it more sensitive, but for now it's not great.
I was excited to find that - unlike the Moto X - both of the Nexus 6's speakers work when playing media, not just the bottom one. When Google says stereo speakers, they mean it. I'm not an audio buff by any stretch of the imagination, so I can only comment from my limited frame of reference. That said, the Nexus 6 speakers get plenty loud, but for example the bass tones in Vitalic's Bluesy Tuesday aren't entirely rich or full, and the bubbly high notes of Classixx's Hanging Gardens do experience distortion at higher volumes. In general though, the speakers do sound good. They aren't exactly on the same level as HTC's BoomSound on the M8, but they're definitely passable, and for myself - a person who rarely listens to music on phone speakers - they're good.
What can be said about Lollipop that hasn't already been said? The full experience of living with a semi-final Lollipop build definitely deserves its own section in the full review. So far, it's a lot like the current preview, but with updated Google apps things are already looking better.
I would argue that Android 5.0 is an even bigger change to the operating system (for the better) than Ice Cream Sandwich. Lollipop is bright, lively, fluid, and begs for more apps that make use of its capabilities. It's clear, as I've said before, that Google has taken its design philosophy the full mile in concept, even if it's not quite caught up in practice.
There are a few other points that - while I can't fully explore them here - are worth noting in the initial hands-on. First, the Nexus 6 does have double-tap to wake. The problem is - at least for now - the behavior is finicky. And I don't mean it's finicky in a way that you might get used to. I mean that it works maybe once out of every ten tries. Taps need to be direct and forceful, and it works best if the phone is lying on a flat surface, so tapping while it's in your palm isn't really an option. This is something that can (and hopefully will) be solved by a software update, but in the meantime it's a pain. That said, the lift-to-wake functionality works and nearly obviates the power button. Without the Moto X's extreme sensitivity though, you'll likely still find yourself hitting that little textured button.
Also, wireless charging is present. I don't own the Nexus charging pad (only the charging orb from the Nexus 4 era) so I can't comment on how well the device sticks to the pad's magnets. I can say however that the device is very nearly too big to use the orb, and its rounded back keeps the Nexus 6 from quite hanging on. This isn't too shocking for a years-old accessory that wasn't designed with the N6 in mind, though.
I haven't had much time to really put the device through its paces in terms of battery, gaming, etc., but I'll be working on that for the full review.
The rest I'll reserve for our full review. Hopefully this initial impressions post is enough to answer a few of your questions, while I'll more fully explore these topics and many more in the actual review, which will be coming in a little less than two weeks, once I've had time to live with the device and get to know it a little better. In the meantime, leave me some notes about what you'd like me to check out in the full review, or any quick questions I might be able to answer.