SAN FRANCISCO—Google has a new flagship Android superphone: the Nexus 6P.
Replacing the Motorola-built Nexus 6, this phone was built specifically to take advantage of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. We spent a bit of time with it here at the launch event.
Google uses the Nexus line to force hardware vendors into pushing the platform forward and making use of every new feature Google builds into the OS. Sure, the Nexus phones compete with other Android vendors like Samsung, Motorola, and LG. But that is nothing compared to the competition the platform gets from Apple, a company whose hardware and software development is completely in sync. The new Nexus 6P was built by Huawei and shows off a lot of the new Android features that you wish you could get on your phone.
The Nexus 6P is a big phone; the 5.7-inch screen is designed to do battle with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the iPhone 6 Plus. That said, it doesn't feel huge in your hand. I had to check twice to make sure I hadn't picked up the 5.2-inch Nexus 5X instead. It's also very thin (7.3mm) and light (178 grams.) By comparison, the iPhone 6s Plus weights 199 grams.
While the Nexus 6P isn't really based on the Huawei Mate S, it has some echoes of the company's latest flagship. The all-aluminum, unibody design, for instance; it feels like a solid slab of metal rather than a handful of pressed-together parts.
Surprisingly, the phone runs Qualcomm's controversial Snapdragon 810 processor, which has had overheating issues and doesn't quite measure up on power to the latest products from Samsung and Apple. The phone comes with 3GB of RAM, and no, it doesn't have a removable battery or MicroSD card slot. Like all of Google's flagship devices this year, the phone uses a USB-C port that supports fast charging, something sorely missing from Apple's phones.
Google upgraded the camera on the Nexus 6P. It has slightly fewer pixels than the Nexus 6's 13-megapixel shooter, at 12.3 megapixels, but it uses larger 1.55-micron pixels. The pixel size is important, according to Google, because larger pixels collect more light. That makes the Nexus camera perform better in low-light conditions. In my 20 minutes of testing, it took nice pictures. Other camera improvements include 4K video, laser auto-focus, and a front-facing 8-megapixel camera.
The Nexus 6P will also be the first phone to have Google's new Imprint fingerprint sensing technology, based on the fast, accurate FPC1025 fingerprint sensor. The same sensor is in the Mate S, where we found it to be just as responsive as Apple's Touch ID. It will also improve its results as it learns a user's print. Perhaps most importantly, Imprint will store print information in a secure chip on the device, keeping it safe from prying cloud services.
The WQHD (2,560 by 1,440) AMOLED display delivers 551ppi, far greater than Apple's Retina screens. I was using it a pretty low-light environment, but the screen looked great. I played some HD video downloaded from YouTube and the screen looked sharp, with smooth frame rates. There are two speakers on the front of the display, but it was hard to hear them in the noisy press-room environment.
I couldn't really test one of the coolest new features of Android 6.0, the so-called Doze mode. In this mode, the phone uses sensor data and consumer usage history to snooze the phone when you aren't using it. The phone is still on, but it uses much less power. Google claims that doze mode can extend "screen off" battery life by 30 percent on existing models. The 6P has a big 3450mAH battery as well as a new sensor module that should extend battery life even more.
The Nexus 6P is available for pre-order now at the Google Store. Prices start at $ 499 (32GB) and go up to $ 649 (128GB), all without a contract. That's less expensive than the iPhone 6s Plus, but costlier than the Moto X Pure. In addition to all major U.S. carriers, the Nexus 6P will work with Google own wireless service, Project Fi.
The products will ship sometime in October, which is when we hope to have a full, lab-tested review available for your reading pleasure.