Second Opinion: Huawei’s Nexus 6P offers the best Android experience available

Patrick O'Rourke

January 18, 2016 12:39pm

The Nexus 6P embodies the best Google’s Android ecosystem has to offer.

The smartphone’s build-quality is superb, rivalling the iPhone 6s in nearly every category. It features a blazing-fast Snapdragon 810 processor, a responsive fingerprint scanner, a sleek design, and more importantly for a power user like myself, a stock Android experience, not hindered by frustrating bloatware.

In short, Huawei’s 6P is the ultimate Android device. “But you said the 5X was your favourite smartphone?” you might ask. Despite my fondness for smaller handsets, my preference has slowly shifted to larger ones, and the Nexus 6P’s sleek, metallic aesthetic, as well as the battery upgrades that come along with bigger phones, spoke to my current smartphone needs. Also, because of my carrier situation, the price difference between the 5X and 6P was negligible, so I opted for the more powerful, better looking of the two Nexus devices.

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We live in a phablet world now, and after using the iPhone 6s Plus as my primary smartphone a few months ago, I’ve come to understand the appeal of larger devices; bigger batteries and more screen real-estate is now an advantage. Despite my initial hesitation, I’m two weeks into using the Nexus 6P as my daily smartphone, and haven’t once regretted my purchase decision.

It’s true that the 5X is the top affordable Android device on the market right now, reinforced by a recent $60 CAD price cut. With that said, though, the 6P offers a better experience, one that’s worth shelling out extra cash for if you have it.

The glowing list of things I like about the Nexus 6P is long. I’m a big fan of its massive 3,450mAh battery, which in part is possible because of the phone’s 5.7-inch body, which is larger on paper than in reality. I can easily use the 6P in one hand (with some minor hand adjustments) and have had no difficulty sliding it into the front pocket of my pants. Those with smaller hands may take issue with the 6P’s height, but I quickly overcame that feeling.

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Android 6.0 Marshmallow, on the other hand, doesn’t offer many new features I’m actually interested in. Now On Tap is fun to play around with, but just like Google Now’s voice assistant, and Siri, my use for Google’s new contextual search doesn’t extend much further than saying, “Hey, look at this cool feature,” when showing the 6P to friends and family. Whether that will change in the future remains to be seen, but right now I have very little use for Marshmallow’s impressive but ultimately not-very-useful Now On Tap.

I’m also not fond of the icon and graphical make over present in Marshmallow. Android once adopted a refined look, but with the operating system’s last few iterations, in part due to Google’s new Material Design, the OS’ aesthetic has taken a cartoon-like turn, and 6.0 amplifies this look considerably. The OS isn’t ugly by any means, but it also isn’t as visually appealing as it once was a few years ago. When I reviewed the Nexus 5X late last year, Marshmallow’s aesthetic shift wasn’t an issue for me. Stepping away from Android 6.0 for a few weeks, and then jumping back in full-time has caused me to steadily come across a number of new design flourishes I’m not fond of.

That’s not to say Android 6.0 doesn’t offer features I find useful, like Doze, for example. I haven’t been able to say this about a smartphone before, but if I lost my charger and wasn’t able to plug the 6P in before going to sleep, it wouldn’t matter, because this phone’s battery frequently lasts longer than an entire day.

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When the 6P is idle — for example, sitting on your desk at work, or at home on a coffee table — Doze shuts off apps that would normally run in the background continuously sapping battery life. With Doze, users are able to select which applications they want to remain active when they aren’t using their smartphone, leaving rarely-used apps blocked from running when the phone is not in use. What sounds like a simple tweak actually saves a considerable amount of battery life, and is probably my favourite Marshmallow feature.

Another area where the Nexus 6P impresses is its much-improved 12.3 megapixel back camera and 8 megapixel front camera. It’s no secret past Nexus devices, especially the Nexus 5 and 6, featured disappointing shooters. I actually dusted off my aging Nexus 5 for a few days before getting my hands on the 6P, and was surprised all over again by its sub-par sensor.

Thanks to Huawei and Google, the 6P’s camera is superb, once again rivalling the performance of the iPhone 6s PlusSamsung Galaxy Note 5 and Xperia X5, surpassing all of them when it comes to snapping great photos under low-light conditions. As a side note, the 6P’s f/2.0 aperture lets the phone take photographs with palpable depth of field, resulting in visually fascinating images I haven’t been able to take with other Android devices.

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The only downside I’ve noticed so far when it comes to the Nexus 6P’s camera is that its white balance detection sometimes seems off, especially under artificial light. To circumvent this issue, I often change the angle of my photographs, hoping the 6P’s camera more accurately detects the light; this works most of the time (switching to manual shooting mode also solves this issue). Unfortunately, like Daniel says in his Nexus 6P review, the 6P’s stock camera app is incredibly slow, sometimes taking multiple seconds to even open before snapping a photo. Thankfully significantly better camera apps are available for relatively low price tags, solving this camera related issue with a quick trip to the Google Play Store.

Instant access to the latest version of Google’s Android operating system the moment it drops is also another reason, whenever I’m looking for a new Android smartphone, I tend to always opt for a Nexus device, and since the 6P is Google’s flagship smartphone, this is exactly what I’m getting.

My one major gripe with the 6P relates to its power button and volume rockers. They feel soft and wobble back and forth, resulting in frequent accidental presses. This occurs even more frequently when I have the phone inside the Adopted 6P case I recently purchased from the Google Store. For a $699.99 smartphone, this isn’t an issue I expected to encounter. Problems like this should be expected with the Nexus 5X and other mid-range Android smartphones, not a device with the 6P’s hefty price tag.

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In the end, the 6P is the best Android device I’ve ever used, although the Nexus 5X and Nexus 5 will always hold a special place in my price-conscious mind. Some may find the 6P a bit too expensive, but given the weak Canadian dollar, as well as the high price point other Android OEMs have their flagship smartphones pegged at, the 6P’s price take is significantly more appealing than some might think.

If you’re on the hunt for a premium stock Android experience, the Nexus 6P is the best option out there.

Related reading: Nexus 6P review: The best of Android, and the best Android

  • It certainly is an awesome phone! A few bugs though. With Bluetooth, locking on to LTE but there related to Android 6.0 and not the Nexus 6P! Great second opinion Patrick!

  • nonenone22

    Google Voice is a telephony system, not Google’s answer to Siri.

    • Peter

      what?

    • Hunter Miller

      Google now is better than Siri.

    • chris

      The article said “Google Now’s voice assistant”. He’s very clearly talking about Ok Google, not Google Voice. LOL

  • Ben

    Although I agree that the build-quality is superb and on par with iPhone 6S+, the QC process at Huawei seriously needs to improve though as it is FAR from rivaling Apple’s. I don’t consider myself OCD but I am definitely nitpicky when it comes to new devices and I had to go through 4 units before I got one that had a defect free screen (no green or pink blotches, uneven screen or yellow tint) and balanced speakers.

    • Sean

      Too bad for your hassle, but it reminds me when Apple had screen problems awhile back. I think it was on the 4 or 4S.

    • Ben

      I do remember that as I had a work provided iPhone 4S back then. I think the problem is that it’s not only “my hassle” here, from looking around on Reddit, XDA, and other forums there have been a disproportionate amount of users who received poorly QC’d devices with scuffs, misaligned cameras, grooves or bumps in the metal frame, bad screens, etc… I think Apple benefits from “building their own devices” (to some extent) in that aspect, which is what Google should be aiming for next (Pixel smartphones).

    • Ivan Vodchenko

      Agre, I tried 4 units and could’t fine the one that would have no issues with screen uniformity. Got tiered of sending phones back and forth to Google and bought 5X instead.

  • Sean

    I got a 6P for my daughter as she needed a bigger screen and the iphone 6+ was way too many bucks. I so wish the 6P had come out a year ago. Now I have to wait for updates for my Note 4 Sammy. That 6P camera would be nice too.

    • Roger

      I only played with it at demo kiosks a few times for maybe total of 10 minutes, but I prefer my Note 4 with the S-Pen which I use on a regular basis.

    • Poda

      and in a year it would be nexus 17P 🙂

  • Orage42

    As silly as this may sound, I really wanted to grab a 6P but ended up with a G4, for pocketability reasons. That extra half inch in height makes a noticeable difference.

    I don’t care for front facing speakers, hopefully they squeeze the next iteration with the same size 5.7″ but better screen-to-body ratio.

    • ChrisPollard77

      The day I upgraded was the day my carrier got their first 6P shipment. I held it in my hand, looked at it lovingly, decided the rear “visor” wasn’t as bad as pictures made it look, and then got the G4. My last two phone purchases with the Nexus 4 and 5 (4 was mine, 5 is my wife’s current daily), so I REALLY wanted to like the 6P. But I wasn’t keen on the feel in my hand. That metal is just too slick. And the slight curve in the LG, front and back, just felt more natural – and grippier with the leather back. Plus, good as the 6P camera is, I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE the G4’s camera. f/1.8 gives even better bokeh. It’s pretty much fully replaced my SLR for most use.

      The other issues that kept me away from the new Nexus are no microSD and no replaceable battery. They’re two things I won’t ever give up easily again. The battery was the main thing that drove me to replace the Nexus 4. I couldn’t get three hours use out of it anymore – and with a nearly useless battery, the resale value is pretty limited too.

      Huawei did a great job on this phone, but it’s not for me.

    • Orage42

      I did the exact same thing when the 6P came out.. Hehe.

      My biggest concern when buying the G4 was software. I got used to stock Android so much I was very hesitant. Happy to report its a non issue. Nova launcher and a couple of tweaks make it even better than I thought it’d be.

      The camera is outstanding. I was coming from a Nexus 5.. Lets just say it’s a major improvement!

      Battery, MicroSD (and even replaceable back covers) are very welcome added bonuses.

  • Techguru86

    nexus is a very nice device but you can get same experience with the Moto X play and pure for a fraction of the 6P price. And Google needs to start advertising the devices, most users don’t know anything about it. The only stand alone Android device is the Priv as it’s really the only Android that offers anything unique out of the box and software wise, plus it’s low light camera is better then the 6P

    • Longtin

      LG G4 is a great device especially for it’s price, the Priv is too overpriced especially compared to the 6P , S6 and G4. I’d even throw in the M9.

    • Techguru86

      LG would be a great product line if they were to ever launch software updates and they are notorious for it so, LG will never be a serious seller in Canada

    • Longtin

      I personally don’t even care or notice a difference with the 6.0 update on My HTC M9 or 6P. Who cares if I have to wait until March to get it on my G3 lol I guess it depends on the individual.

    • Techguru86

      HTC have been good with older devices and OS UPDATES, LG are definitely near the bottom of the list, even the Moto X play already has marshmallow

    • Longtin

      Unfortunately not many people care about the software updates. Who cares if you have to wait 2 extra months for barely a difference on the battery? Does your phone call and text? can you still access your apps ? That’s what they care about; if anything people are annoyed with updates (unless it’s a fix for a bug / glitch like what apple does on a monthly basis). That being said G4 in my opinion is up there with the S6, M9 and 6P.

    • blzd

      Why would Google advertise Moto devices? They barely even advertise their own stuff lol.

    • Frederick The Great

      Out here pumping Blackberry again I see. The Priv is a piece of overpriced shît. Please spare us the constant infomercials here for that company.

    • WhoaManWtF

      I have seen quite a few commercials for the Nexus 6P in my area.

    • thereasoner

      My wife has the Moto X Play, great device for the money and perhaps the best bang for your buck. That said, I noticed when downloading/installing apps how much slower it is than my GS6. I would presume that the same situation exists for the 6p. The Moto is also lacking figure print sensor, the premium build and doesn’t have, among other things as good screen or cameras as the 6p.

      Also, the Note series offers the unique stylus and the related software and that as well as my GS6 offer a very cool VR experience with the Galaxy Gear VR powered by Oculus.

    • KID ANDROID

      You can’t get the same experience as the 6P from the Moto X Play, stock like yes but I have a Moto X Play and it’s so slow compared to high end devices it has become annoying to use.
      Did you just say the Priv camera is better than the 6P? If you did you are nuts, it doesn’t even compare and it’s one of the big reasons along with terrible battery life that I didn’t end up getting the Priv which is a really nice device but has to many downfalls and unknowns as well as being plastic which I just can’t go back to anymore.

    • Techguru86

      software updates fixed that quickly, look at video reviewers , many show side by side and the Priv is out shooting the 6p since the update, or you clearly bought a nonfunctional unit which can happen to any device.

  • Lukeiphone

    So some of my honest opinions about this device –
    I bought the 128GB version of 6P, initially I really enjoyed until the bugs started to show up. The battery barely lasted all day on medium use. Secondly, any of the VOIP apps like viber, whatsapp or even Google hangouts, which I use alot, almost every time the person on the other line could hear their own echo. Actual phone calls were crisp though.
    Then, the vibrate I just found to be too weak. I missed several phone calls and notification. Last but not the least, I noticed that the screen had a yellowish tint. I did some search around it and turned out to be that it is normal.
    Anyways, I traded my 6P for a Note 5 64GB. Cannot be happier.

  • fidorulz

    would still take a Moto X Pure Edition over this phone. From all accounts battery even if smaller performs as well as the 6P on 6.0. Add expandible memory and lower price and its number 1 in my book. I dont need NFC especially considering how insecure it actually is and fingerprint scanner is not something I need. Obviously other may want these options

  • Humbre

    I rock a 6P daily, amazing phone.
    Swapped my Note5 for one, coudn’t stand Touchwiz anymore…

  • J.S.Bach

    Huawei, brought to you by the Chinese government and used to fund worldwide theft of intellectual property. Enjoy.

    • MoYeung

      You’d ask how USA built their Yankee empire?

    • Elton Bello

      True, but since the US gov and all western nations are being hypocrites and doing bussines with them for profit even they are a communist party in power nation, you cant do much. What happened to the spreading of democracy? Or does that relate only to oil? Lol

    • Chito

      Really? Where was your phone made?

    • J.S.Bach

      I don’t think you understood my comment, try again and read slowly this time.

    • Chito

      Did you understand what you yourself wrote? Any product you buy made in China “funds the Chinese government”… to do whatever they want.. And you talk like IP theft is just a Chinese thing.. typical.

    • danbob333

      Mine is made in Korea, like many Samsung and LG phones.

    • Chito

      Many components in “Made in Korea” phones are made in China.

  • Peter

    Excellent article, the only problem I have is that the phone works so well that I am on it a lot more than my other phones, need to charge it often now, that’s a good thing.

  • marshallpower

    I bet many people will be selling their Nexus 6P once they’ll see the new s7 with micro SD , the new Britecell camera, Marshmallow and probably waterproof…and more…I don’t trust the brand Huawei enough to keep that Nexus phablet for the next 3 yrs…but I’m not in a hurry, my Note 2 is still alive. 😛 38 months old, that’s how good it was!

  • Ozmodiar Flanker

    i agree the 6P is an amazing phone – except that the volume and power buttons are situated right in the phone’s center of gravity so it’s IMPOSSIBLE for me to handle the phone in any way without hitting one of them. it’s so freaking stupid that for me the inconvenience totally cancels out how amazing the phone is in every other way

    like seriously?

  • Stuntman06

    I got a Nexus 6P and it has certainly exceeded my expectations. I can’t believe how long the battery lasts. It is rare that I need to charge it before the end of the day and I use Waze all the time when driving.

    There are only two things that I really would have liked changed. The first is I’d rather have everything, but with a 5″ screen. I think the phone is too big. The other is for the USB-A to USB-C cable to be another foot longer, so it can reach from my car charger to where I mount my phone in my car.

  • Brett Arnold Allard

    My only issue I have with the 6P is when I listen to music via headphones on Google play music I occasionally have tracks during midplay get strong static white noise.. It however stops as soon as I skip the track or fast forward. Annoying none the less.

  • h2oflyer

    wow … Doze sounds like an exact copy of Sony’s Stamina. I’m amazed that Patrick didn’t see the similarity to his Z5 review.

    • Except Stamina doesn’t really work very well, especially when compared to Doze.

    • h2oflyer

      Would love to see your comparison results. I’m always looking for reported facts, instead of opinions.

  • Bill Patrick

    I’m sure it’s a good Nexus phone, but this is essentially a “throw-away” phone once the battery inevitably fails. Phones should easily last longer than the life of their batteries especially at this price range. Lack of MicroSD is unforgivable as well. I really, REALLY want to like these Nexus phones and own one. Especially with the MicroSD love included with Marshmallow and it’s battery-saving feature. How disappointing that after all these years, Google still can’t this right!

  • Jared Bedi

    I couldn’t agree more that this is the best phone I’ve used, very happy with the purchase. I disagree on the buttons though, mine has zero wiggle room and very precise every time I use them; no accidental pushes and even in the Rinke Fusion case they are still surprizingly responsive. I do sometimes wish it was a little shorter for my jeans pocket, but otherwise the screen is fantastic!

  • Harley Davis

    A few months in and i’m very very very happy. The only issues so far are related to the Bluetooth in my car not always connecting (although this seems to be getting better on it’s own, perhaps through updates), and ‘OK Google’ sometimes not responding until I restart the phone.

  • Ipse

    Amen re the horrible look of Material Design…..Google has no taste whatsoever.
    For me the major letdown of an otherwise good ( but pricey) phone is the camera…no OIS? slow? Come on…

  • selonmoi

    Thanks for the great review. The 6P is still a no-go for me due to size, so I’ve got the 5X and I’m happy with it. The price is not an issue for me – if there was a 5P, I would have bought that.

    Actually, even the 5X is a bit too big — it peeks out of the pocket of some of my pants. The Nexus 5 was a perfect size. I really wish Google would take a cue from Apple and stop trying to push everyone to ever-bigger phones. There are sweet spots, and they’re pretty obvious. Pocketability still matters to a lot of people.

  • robinottawa

    I’m still glad I traded my 6P for a 6 and cash, but only because cash is tight. If it wasn’t an issue, I’d prefer the 6P for the camera.

  • Dean Daley

    It is a great phone. Although mine dropped on it’s back while wearing a Spriggen Rugged case. It now has the tiniest crack and the whole phone doesn’t work. -_-

  • I have the Meizu Pro 5, also a 5.7 inch screen and the same Samsung processor found on the Galaxy S6 and Note 5, also nearly two full days of battery life. Check out GSM Arena’s list of phones and their battery life. The Nexus 6P is not one of the best ones in that department. Too bad more people don’t import Chinese phones directly to Canada like those made by Meizu or Xiaomi. Nearly all Chinese phones have FDD band 7 (2600) which works on Rogers/Fido and Bell for LTE. The Meizu Pro 5 is only $430 US dollars at the moment.