Some changes we would make
Here at AC, we do a lot of things. Making smartphones, however, is not one of them. But (there is always a but ...) we do use a lot of them. A whole lot of them. That gives us a bit of a different perspective, because we can see each little thing each individual phone does better than the rest.
If you read our Nexus 6 vs. Galaxy Note 4 comparison, you already know that we really like most things about the Nexus 6. Overall, we all would recommend the Note 4 to someone looking for a big-screen device, but the Nexus 6 matches up very well and is still a great choice. I have both, and even though I would recommend the Note 4 to most people, I use the Nexus 6 instead. I'm not most people.
Anyhoo, we went around the table and we each decided the one thing we would like to see changed on the Nexus 6. Here's what we came up with.
Never mind the theoretical. I've already changed the Nexus 6. For a Moto X. And what did I lose in the process? A small amount of time before getting an OS update? That's about it, really. (OK, I lost the front-facing speakers. That's a thing.) The bigger question is what did I gain. I gained Moto Display, which works leaps and bounds better than the Nexus Ambient Display. I gained a phone that knows when I'm coming for it and shows me the time and notifications. (Thanks, infrared sensors!) I gained a phone that fits in my car's cup holder. And in my pocket. And in my hand. I probably lost a little in the battery life department, but the nefarious Nexus radio probably makes that a wash, actually.
That's not to say the Nexus 6 isn't a good phone. I think it is. It's just too damned big for me, with too many things that the Moto X does better.
You're going to read about how the Nexus 6 is too big from most of us, because for most of us it's too big. While I also would like a smaller version, I know this falls under that choice banner and am glad there are Androids both big and small to make everyone happy. But still, it really is pretty damn big …
My issue with the Nexus 6 is that Google didn't release a fancy Qi charger shaped to fit the curved back in just the right spot. Any (and every) Qi charger will work, but the rounded back and extra-grande size makes placement on some of them more of a pain than it needs to be. Qi charging is an awesome feature, and I miss it when using a phone that doesn't include it. Google should have given us a sweet new cradle to drop our Nexus 6 in when it gets thirsty for the juice.
I have a few minor gripes with the Nexus 6, but the main thing stopping me using it as my daily driver — and I'm sure I'm not alone here — is the size. And I should point out, this is coming from someone who quite happily toted a Note 4 for several months. While I'm not opposed to big phones by any means, the Nexus 6 is just too big. The combination of a 6-inch display and sizeable horizontal bezels makes this sucker difficult to one-hand, and I'd be much more comfortable with something around the 5.5-inch mark.
Beyond that, the display could do a better job of handling darker colors, and the camera is pretty finicky — though that's mostly down to Google's software. You might think, then, that the 2014 Moto X would be the ideal phone for me. But given everything we've experienced with the camera and battery life on that device, Moto's made some unwelcome compromises on that phone as well.
There's also the fact that in either color, the plastic back of the N6 is fingerprinty and not particularly premium-feeling compared to the luxurious array of backs offered for the Moto X.
I can see why Motorola didn't just repackage the Moto X as a Nexus — its software experience is near identical, after all. But I can't help wishing for a smaller Nexus phone to sit alongside the N6 in Google's lineup. (Sorry, last year's Nexus 5 doesn't count.) Right now Google's the only phone maker shipping just a larger handset, and things can't stay that way forever.
I'm clearly not alone in this respect, but my changes to the Nexus 6 come down to size and camera. While I have my small issues with Lollipop, the software experience is hardly the issue here. The Nexus 6 is just too large for me to use on a regular basis, while only offering a mild upside when playing games and watching video. And despite all of the right specs in the camera, things are still quite hit-or-miss in terms of shot-to-shot performance, piling on top of the fact that the camera app is generally unstable and crashy.
Obviously the camera issues are potentially fixable via software updates in the future, but we're going to have to wait for the next Nexus phone before we possibly get a smaller one … unless you just buy a Moto X and call it a day.
While my trusty Moto X 2014 is plenty big for my needs, lots of people want bigger phones and Google/Motorola delivered on that desire. The phone is taller, wider, and thicker than the previous Nexus, and it's that last point I take issue with. In a world with an 8.5mm Galaxy Note 4, the 10mm Nexus 6 feels more unwieldy than it needed to. While Motorola does a decent job hiding this with its curved back, which it could be argued makes the phone a giant to hold, I think a lot more people would appreciate the Nexus 6 if it had managed to be the same thickness as its predecessor.
I might be alone here but I actually quite enjoy the 6 inch display size on the Nexus 6. After using the LG G3 for several months I grew accustomed to a display that was larger than most on the market.
My major gripes with the Nexus 6 are the lack of an IR blaster and no official Qi charger from Google for the built-in Qi charging capability. I was able to find the TYLT VU Qi Charging Pad which both charges my phone and props it up at an angle that makes it easy to read when notifications come in.
My want for an IR blaster also comes from my use of multiple other devices that have this piece of hardware built-in. After making the Nexus 6 my daily driver, I quickly realized just how often I relied upon my phone to interface with my television — I now have a LG G3 as my dedicated TV remote. I know this is something that a majority of smartphones do not have and is a feature most people do not care about, but having something so simple built into the phone would come in handy for those who want it.
While I'd love to repeat the boys about how the Nexus 6 is too big or too unwieldy, I'm not going to, because you've already heard it — ad nauseum. To me, the single biggest flaw that I have with the Nexus 6 is that while it maintained the shape and styling of the Moto X… it didn't capitalize on one of the Moto X's best additions: IR sensors.
No, I'm not kidding.
The IR sensors that grace the front of the Moto X may not seem like they do much — besides make the white model look like a pimple-studded teenager — but they bring one of my favorite features from the Moto X that the Nexus hasn't already stolen: reaching for my phone to wake it. Being able to wave my hand over my nightstand and see what notifications have come while I was off in dreamland is wonderful, especially since I don't have to fumble around and possibly knock my phone clear off the nightstand — or worse, knock my Disney mug of ice water onto my phone.
Wrapping it up
Google and Motorola had to build a smartphone and had a certain criteria to meet. I'm pretty sure they are happy with the outcome, and the Nexus 6 is a phone both companies are proud to have produced. Of course they couldn't think of everything, but overall it's a great phone in a great big package. This is just a list of things we would have liked to see done differently.
You might agree with our changes, or you might not. That's how opinions work. One thing I'm sure of is that everyone who uses — or considered using — a Nexus 6 has a list of things they would "improve." We want to hear them, so hit the comments and let us know!