Continuing the evolution of Android, Google today announced its next flagship Nexus smartphone. The Nexus 6 handset will be welcomed by developers looking for the ‘base’ Android L experience, and customers looking for a ‘clean’ experience of Google’s mobile operating system.
Sharp-eyed smartphone watchers will no doubt recognise the Nexus 6 as an updated to Motorola’s Moto X design. Last year’s Moto X proved to be a critical success, although the lions share of sales went towards the budget-minded variant that was the Moto G. Motorola updated the designs in September to the Moto X 2014 and Moto G 2014 editions (alongside the Moto 360 Android Wear powered smartwatch). Both handsets saw the screen size jump from 4.7 inches to 5.2 inches.
Size isn’t the only change, however, the Nexus 6 upgrades every aspect of the Nexus 5 and manufacturing duties have also switched from LG to soon to be ex-Google company Motorola. So let’s break everything down:
Screen Size: 5.96-inches, 2560 x 1440 (2K) Native Resolution
The most striking feature of the new Nexus will also be its most controversial: a mammoth 5.96-inch QHD display (493 pixels per inch). In surpassing both the size and native resolution of even the iPhone 6 Plus, it may finally get the Nexus range the attention it deserves.
The screen looks set to impress beyond its headline grabbing specifications. There is no sapphire on display, but there will be the ubiquitous Gorilla Glass 3 seen on almost all flagship mobile devices, including the new iPhone 6es.
The Nexus 5 will get Android 5.0 (now officially ‘Lollipop’) and Android Volta should improve its biggest shortcoming: battery life (more further down).
Design: Moto X Supersized
Previous years have seen Google’s manufacturer of choice tweak their current flagship phones for the Nexus variant and this is the case again as Motorola has effectively supersized its superb Moto X.
The good news is this means not only is there a curved design, but the Nexus 6 has the same super slim bezels as its smaller inspiration and (while still huge) this allows it to stay in the same ballpark as the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus and 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4:
- Nexus 6: 6.26 x 3.24 x 0.39 inches (159.2 x 82.3 x 10mm), 6.49 ounches (184g)
- iPhone 6 Plus: 6.22 x 3.06 x 0.28 inches (158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm), 6.07 ounces (172g)
- Samsung Galaxy Note 4: 6.04 x 3.09 x 0.33-inches (153.5 x 78.6 x 8.5 mm) and 6.21oz (176g)
There are some slight styling differences between the Nexus 6 and the smaller Moto X though, the most significant being the edges. Whereas the Moto X has buffed metal edges, the Nexus 6 continues the finish of the rubberised back. This is actually a smart move since we tend to grip ones at the edge rather than the back and it should allow a better grip.
Performance: Snapdragon 805 Chipset
Since the Nexus 5 the Google range has looked to drive cutting edge Android performance and with the shift to a huge new form factor it is no surprise the Nexus 6 is doing the same.
The phablet features a Qualcomm Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 chipset comprised of a quad-core Krait 450 CPU at up to 2.7 GHz per core and cutting edge Adreno 420 GPU. Quite simply there isn’t an Android phone or phablet to top it at present. The Note 4 matches it while the Galaxy S5, HTC One M8, Moto X and others all use the older 801 chipset.
The Nexus 6 also backs this up with 3GB of RAM, again a match with the Note 4 and 801-based OnePlus One phablet. The new Nexus is again at the head of the pack and is unlikely to feel off the pace for at least a couple of years.
Camera: 13 Megapixels, f2.0 lens, Dual Flash, Optical Image Stabilisation
The camera on the Nexus 5 had a difficult launch, but the combination of its integrated optical image stabilisation (OIS) and some smart firmware updates means it still holds its own today.
But Google is looking to avoid teething troubles this time around and the Nexus 6 hits the road running with a 13 megapixel sensor that retains OIS and marries it with a more powerful dual flash ‘ring’ for more natural flash performance as seen on the Moto X. The aforementioned 805 chipset (like the 801 before it) also supports 4K video recording and simultaneous 4K video playback on multiple devices.
On the front is a 2.1MP camera (a step up from the Nexus 5’s 1.3 megapixels) and it is capable of 720p video, but it isn’t a selfie-obsessed monster like the HTC Eye.
Battery Life – 3220mAh. Lasts Days Not Hours
While those looking for a new Nexus handset will not be pleased by Google’s phablet-only approach it does well and truly fix a traditional Nexus weak spot: battery life.
The Nexus 6 comes with a substantial 3220mAh battery which represents a 920 mAh bump on the Nexus 5. This is identical to the 3220mAh battery of the long lasting Galaxy Note 4, though it can’t match the huge 3900mAh battery inside the remarkable Motorola Droid Turbo.
Despite this the Nexus 6’s big battery works in conjunction with both the Snapdragon 805 (which is more efficient than its predecessor) and the exciting Project Volta Android 5.0 initiative (more below).
All combined the Nexus 6 is able to quote up to 330 hours of standby time, 9.5 hours and 10 hours of Internet usage over WiFi and 4G respectively, video playback of up to 10 hours and talk time of up to 24 hours. These are tablet figures more than phone.
Furthermore, should you somehow run out of juice, the Nexus 6 has quick charging which Google claims adds up to 6 hours of usage from just a 15 minute charge.
Android 5.0 ‘Lollipop’
Material Design – not just a new look to Android, but a new concept in how every element of the UI should react and interact. Expect more transitional animations, stronger use of colour, more prominent action buttons and many third party apps to follow suit. Google will also apply Material Design methodologies to all its products whether across Android, Chrome OS or the web. It is Android’s most important redesign to date
Project Volta – Google’s biggest initiative to date to reduce the battery demands in running Android. Central will be better control of a phone’s cellular checks which, along with the display, are still the predominant battery drainer. Tests with early Android 5.0 builds found Nexus 5 battery life increased over 30%. Fingers crossed the final product lives up to this.
New Notifications – Android’s notification centre has been an ‘inspiration’ for a number of mobile OSes, but it is giving them an overhaul (see below) in Android 5.0 particularly in the lock screen where they will be cleaner and more detailed.
Android RunTime (ART) – a smart hack for some time, ART will become standard on Android 5.0 and it controls how apps open and close and dramatically increases performance while saving on battery life.
New developer APIs and Multi-Window Rumours - Like most major mobile OS updates, Android 5.0 brings a wealth of new developer UIs including greater interactivity between apps and core functionality and better interaction between Android Wear, Chromecast and the upcoming Android TV. There is also a rumour that a multi-window mode may be supported akin to what we have seen with Samsung’s Galaxy Note Android customisations. Let’s hope so.
Price And Availability
The Nexus 5 retailed for a remarkable $349 (16GB) and $399 (32GB), but Google is keeping quiet on the Nexus 6 pricing at present and whether the Nexus 5 will continue to stay on sale.
But there are some leaks said that Nexus 6 price will be $569 (32GB) and $649 (64GB).
32GB and 64GB models of the Nexus 6 will be available (no microSD expansion like all Nexus devices). Google states pre-orders will begin “in late October”.