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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.

Another Moto X-like feature that's made its way into Lollipop and the Nexus 6 is Ambient Display, which is Google's take on Motorola's Moto Display system. Whenever you pick up the phone, its screen lights up with the current time and any pending notifications.

While the concept is similar to Moto Display, however, it works a bit differently: For one, anytime there's a pending notification, the Moto X "pulses" and flashes a small circle on the screen every few seconds so you'll see it. The Nexus 6 lights up when a notification first arrives but doesn't continue to flash the information frequently thereafter, which makes it harder to know at a glance -- without touching the phone -- when something needs your attention.

The Nexus's system also seems to be less sensitive than the Moto X's in general: While the Moto X lights up without fail every time I pick up or even nudge the phone, the Nexus doesn't do it a fair amount of the time. And the Nexus lacks the sensors present on the Moto X's face that give you the ability to activate the feature simply by reaching for the phone or waving your hand over it.

Finally, while the Moto X shows you notifications as icons in small circles, which you can then touch to view in detail or dismiss, the Nexus 6 shows you stacked notification bars -- just like you'd see in the phone's main notification panel, only in a scaled-down and black-and-white view. It's more info-dense than Motorola's implementation, which has its advantages but can also make the data less easy to digest at a glance.

If you're worried about privacy or security, by the way, Lollipop's settings allow you to prevent the system from showing notifications whenever the phone is locked. You can also disable the feature altogether, if you'd prefer.

There is a software-related asterisk I'd be remiss to omit: One new Lollipop-level feature, multiuser support for phones, was rather glitchy on my Nexus 6 review unit; I was able to use it, but the phone often acted erratically when I did. This is clearly the result of a bug and something I have to imagine will be fixed prior to the consumer release -- Google is aware of the issue and has confirmed that the phone will be receiving a software update of some sort within the coming days -- but as of this review, the feature appeared to be unfinished and rough around the edges.

I'll explore that and the rest of Lollipop in detail in my upcoming Android 5.0 review, which will be online very soon.

Bottom line
Assuming Google manages to address the multiuser glitch before the device ships, it's hard to find much negative to say about the Nexus 6. The phone is beautifully designed and ergonomic. It has a gorgeous and generously sized display, excellent front-facing stereo speakers, impeccable performance, outstanding stamina, support for both wireless charging and turbo charging, a great camera and the best user interface you'll find on any Android device today -- not to mention the guarantee of timely ongoing upgrades directly from Google in the future.


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