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Nexus 6 deep-dive review: A supersized smartphone that shines

JR Raphael | Nov. 13, 2014
Been avoiding big phones? Google's Nexus 6 packs pure Android Lollipop software into a plus-sized package that's actually pleasant to use.

nexus 6
Credit: Motorola

The line between smartphones and tablets is officially gone.

It's been blurring for a while now, but with the size of phone screens pushing up to 6 in. and tablet displays dipping as low as 7 in., I think it's safe to say that the way we categorize a device has become more or less arbitrary. They're all Internet-connected, and they can all even make phone calls; the only real difference is that some of them need the Internet connection to make and receive calls, while others do not.

That certainly seems to be the mindset behind Google's new supersized Nexus 6. The Motorola-made Nexus 6 -- on sale now from Google for $649 (32GB) or $699 (64GB) and coming soon to all major U.S. carriers starting at $199 on contract -- is basically a small tablet that you carry around and occasionally use to make and receive calls. Along with the Nexus 9 tablet, it's one of Google's two flagship devices for the new Android 5.0 Lollipop platform.

I've tested plenty of plus-sized phones before. Despite their inherent benefits, I've never been fully sold on the concept; they're usually just too bulky, too awkward and too compromise-filled for my liking. The Nexus 6, however, is different. After living with it for more than a week, it's the first plus-sized phone I could actually see myself using.

Big -- but not burdensome
Part of what makes the Nexus 6 different from other plus-sized phones is its form: The device is basically a scaled-up version of Motorola's 2014 Moto X, which is one of the most ergonomic smartphones on the market today.

The Nexus 6 is quite a bit bigger than the Moto X, as you'd expect: 6.3 x 3.3 x 0.4 in. compared to the Moto X's 5.5 x 2.9 x 0.39-in. frame. But it maintains the Moto X's gently curved back and soft-touch plastic material (though only in two color choices and without the options for leather or wood). Even with the Nexus 6's ample footprint, those factors make it surprisingly comfortable to hold; it feels like it fits my hand and seems far less hefty than it actually is.

What's interesting is that the device is actually slightly larger than Samsung's plus-sized Galaxy Note 4 -- by about a third of an inch in length and a little less than that in width -- but its shape makes it significantly less awkward and more natural to hold than the Note's flat and boxy form. Design makes a major difference in usability -- and relative to the plus-sized class, the Nexus 6 is about as ergonomic as it gets.


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