USA TODAY US Edition
Android’s new darling
Meet the Nexus 6P,
Google has a winner — at least until the next great phone pushes it aside
Google’s state-of-theart Nexus 6P smartphone is a robust new version of its praiseworthy predecessor and a showcase for the tasty new version of Android known as Marshmallow. The new phone is faster, has a superior camera and is one of the few handsets to support Project Fi, Google’s own wireless service.
Put the 6P at or near the top of the Android heap.
Last year’s Motorola-made Nexus 6 has been on my short list of favorite Android devices.
This time around, Google is teaming with Chinese hardware maker Huawei, and the two companies have delivered an even stronger device in the 6P.
LOOK AND FEEL
The thing you notice right off the bat is the 6P’s all-metal aeronautical grade aluminum body, which gives the handset more of a premium feel compared to the Nexus 6. At 6.3 ounces, it’s a tad on the heavy side though still a bit lighter than the previous flagship.
The 5.7-inch display is a beauty, though a little smaller than the 5.96-inch screen on the Nexus 6.
PRICING AND AVAILABILITY
You can get the 6P at a starting price of $499 for a model with 32 gigabytes of storage, or $549 and $649, respectively, for models with 64GB and 128GB. Google is reporting that phones already are on back order or out of stock.
For a smaller, less pricey option, Google is selling the new Nexus 5X (made by LG), which starts at $379. These are unlocked devices, meaning you can choose any major U.S. wireless carrier, or go with Project Fi, as I did, assuming you’ve got an invitation from Google.
Marshmallow brings Android Imprint, which lets you use your fingerprint to unlock the device and authenticate purchases through Android Pay.
True, there’s nothing novel these days about finger- print sensors — the iPhone and Galaxy have them. But Google and Huawei designers chose a different path by placing the fingerprint sensor on the rear of the Nexus 6P. Yes, it took getting used to, but the design ultimately makes sense because of the way most of us hold the phone. The finger you’re most likely to call upon is already resting on the rear of the device. In any case, the phone routinely recognized my fingerprint without a lag.
The cameras on the new phone, not always Nexus’ strongest suit, have gotten a lot better. You can easily launch the camera by double-pressing the power button. The rear shooter on the Nexus 6P camera has 12.3megapixels, the front camera, 8MP.
I was very impressed with the colors and sharpness on many of the images I shot, including pictures snapped in dimmer conditions. Such images land inside the Google Photos app, Google’s answer to Apple’s Photos app.
The 6P also can shoot 4K video. And you can “cast” photos and videos to a big screen TV via the Google Photos app, if you have a Google Chromecast device.
CONNECTIVITY AND POWER
The phones include the versatile USB-Type C charger that is an emerging standard. As with Apple’s Lightning cables, USB-C connectors are reversible — that is you can insert the plug either way, a nicety you come to appreciate. You also appreciate that some new computers also support USB-C.
I got a full day of juice, and then some, in normal use with the 6P, but when you are running low on power you can quickly charge things up, getting up to seven hours of battery life, Google claims, while plugging in for just 10 minutes.
Marshmallow through a new Doze feature generally promises longer battery life by shutting down or placing certain functions and apps on standby when the phone is idle.
NOW ON TAP
One of the most interesting features that comes with Marshmallow is called Now on Tap, an extension of the Google Now feature that anticipates your search needs before you actively seek certain information. To summon the new feature, which isn’t yet perfect, you tap and hold the home button on the phone. Now on Tap then promises to surface relevant information associated with whatever it is you have on the screen — in other words, it’s about context.
I haven’t used Project Fi for long but my early experience is mixed. I like that prices start at only $30 a month and you only pay for the data you use. But while Project Fi is supposed to automatically choose the best connection among Wi-Fi and 4G LTE networks from Sprint and T-Mobile, I didn’t always get a strong phone signal or a signal at all as I used the 6P in and around Northern New Jersey.