Let me tell you what it’s like to use Google’s flagship, top-of-the-line Android phone, the Huawei Nexus 6P. This is a large, good-looking phone that runs the latest, greatest edition of Android (Marshmallow) that packs some innovative features you won’t find on phones running “that other operating system.” In fact, this is the Android phone that might actually convince some Android skeptics that it’s time to switch. Without a doubt, this is the best Android phone I’ve ever laid my eyes or hands on. Let’s go.
I’m going to kick this review off by talking about the design of the Nexus 6P which is, in two words, pleasantly straightforward. From the front it looks a bit like any other smartphone. From the back it looks better than almost any other smartphone. The metal body looks and feels nice; it’s tough and there are a few noticeable design flourishes that keep it from being too repetitive or unimaginative. There aren’t any hard lines: the edges are all angles and the corners are rounded.
When the screen turns on this phone really comes to life. The WQHD AMOLED display really does make objects onscreen pop. Lines are crisp and smooth and details are extremely attractive. Looking at the home screen right now I feel like I could pick the app icons up between my thumb and first finger; that’s how real they appear.
And the screen, like the phone, is large, measuring 5.7 inches diagonally. I like that a lot. It makes watching videos more enjoyable than a smaller screen. It means I can fit more apps on my home screen. It means photos are bigger and more vivid. It means I can read more of an article or ebook without having to scroll. Snapchat content is bigger and easier to absorb and get lost in. Instagram images look surprisingly awesome (really — there’s a BIG and highly enjoyable difference). Actually, the same goes for several apps I use daily: from Flipboard to Instapaper to Wunderlist. That extra screen real estate — on this beautiful display — is truly stunning.
But does that large screeb make the Nexus 6P a bit awkward to operate? It’s actually not hard to hold — not at all. And you absolutely can successfully operate it one-handed most of the time. However, as a guy, my thumb only reaches about 95% of the screen (items in that top opposite corner require some help from my other hand or some repositioning). But that’s really just the nature of a large (okay huge) phone like this.
Now let’s get to some of my favorite features, starting with the fingerprint scanner, which lives on the back center of the Nexus 6P. This fingerprint scanner is incredibly fast and accurate. It’s also easy to reach with your index finger. It works so fast and well that I often find myself unlocking the phone when I simply meant to read my notifications on the lock screen. So positioning my hand and fingers appropriately based on what I wanted to do took a bit of getting used to for me (no, self, that’s not a built-in finger rest…). But ya, the fingerprint scanner is impressive.
So the fingerprint scanner is easy to access, but so are the volume and power/lock buttons. In fact, they’re almost too easy to access. There are many occasions when I accidentally hit the volume or lock the screen because the buttons are positioned just where your fingers rest — no matter which hand you’re holding the phone with. I love that there’s an edge with no buttons, though, because it makes it the natural choice for setting the phone on its side to watch a video (which I do nearly every day while I’m on the treadmill). Also, I love the texture that Huawei placed on the power button to let me know which button my finger is resting on without having to look. That’s very helpful.
I’m a huge fan of the speakers — and the speaker placement — on the Nexus 6P. The two front-facing speakers really bring audio straight to your ears so as long as you are facing the screen, you’re going to get the best sound experience. This is much better than phones that have speakers on the bottom of the phone and/or phones that only have one speaker. Naturally, the audio is louder with two speakers. But the sound is also perhaps the best I’ve ever heard coming from a smartphone.
One of the most unique features of this phone is its ability to capture really great low-light photos. That’s because the camera is built to absorb a greater amount of light. The difference between low-light photos taken with this phone compared to other leading phones is pretty phenomenal. And it’s a fairly big deal, to me at least, considering I take lots of photos at night. And it’s not just the extreme use cases (like taking a photo outside at night and being able to see the subject more clearly); it’s the ordinary use cases where this feature comes in handy, like taking a photo of my son at night in his room. Other flagship phones I’ve used struggle to take good photos inside at night even with with an overhead light on. This is one area where the Nexus 6P really shines.
The front-facing camera will please selfie enthusiasts. One place where there’s room for improvement is for video calls. If you keep the phone perfectly still while doing video using the front camera — there’s no problem at all. The image is nice and crisp and highly useable. But if you wiggle the camera a bit you’ll notice some latency.
The octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor is really fast. And that means this phone has some really snappy performance. Gaming works well, swiping through multiple screens and windows works really well (no lag whatsoever — which you will definitely get on less-expensive budget Android phones) and photo and video editing happens without a hitch.
The battery on the Nexus 6P seems to get me through the day just fine for the most part. And I like that I can recharge using the USB Type-C cable/port. Like many phones, you’ll get a faster charge the lower the battery is, and when that is the case, it’s pretty zippy. I like that fast charging because there are lots of times when I just need a bit more juice before I head out of the house again and need to use my phone for directions, etc.
I’m also enjoying Android Marshmallow. It’s a nice upgrade from Lollipop. And it runs absolutely speedily on the Nexus 6P. It’s fun to be able to swipe left on the home screen and get some Google recommendations (from articles to appointments, weather and more) all served up on-tap. After a few weeks of testing I haven’t run into many operating system issues at all aside from the occasional app (or app store) crash (though that happens on any mobile OS).
Overall I’m really impressed by the quality of the Nexus 6P. It feels solid and capable and worthy of being a reliable “daily driver.” From the looks to the finish to the features and capabilities, the Nexus 6P is all-around impressive. If you’re already an Android fan, you’ll love it. If you’re thinking about making the switch to Android, this may be the phone that convinces you to pull the trigger.
The Nexus 6P retails for $499 for a 32GB version (and goes up to $649 for 128GB). Don’t forget to check out some of Huawei’s other premium products as well.