The Nexus 6 has landed. Sort of. Google and Motorola’s collaboration phablet device isn’t available for everybody right now, T-Mobile specifically has had the phone delayed for a week. Coming in with the newest version of Android, 5.0 Lollipop, Qualcomm’s latest and greatest Snapdragon CPU, and a humongous screen size at 5.9 inches, the only thing bigger than the phone is the hype train following it.
But this Nexus device has been a break from form for Google, in the trend set by the last few Nexus devices released, this device doesn’t have the budget pricing arguably heralded by the Nexus 7 2012. Coming in at $649 off contract, it was assumed by most to, finally, be a no-compromises Android phone, great battery life, awesome screen, insane performance and all the newest Android features.
The Nexus 6’s review embargo ended yesterday, with reviews coming in being mixed. No reviewers actually put out that the device was genuinely bad, but a few reviewers had a handful of concerns that seem to be a dealbreaker for the Android community. Criticisms ranged from slow performance, average battery life, lackluster brightness, and an unfinished camera software. Many users claim that they will no longer be picking up the Nexus 6.
In the phablet world, the Galaxy Note 4 will almost undoubtedly take the prize for being the best. On the phone front, it’s up in the air and varies on personal preference. But Google, for the first year in a long time, has nothing to compete. Google’s devices often set standards on how Android should work. The Galaxy Nexus threw out software buttons back in 2011 for instance. They did so because they were innovative, always coming with Google’s newest versions of Android, but also because they were bleeding-edge. The Galaxy Nexus shipped with a 720p display before it was a thing, the Nexus 5 offered insane performance with the Snapdragon 800 on stock Android, and the original Nexus 7 gave a solid user experience with rock-bottom pricing.
The Nexus 6 seems to be without an identity. Unlike previous Nexus devices, it’s not an innovator, it’s a follower. Google’s attempt at a phablet doesn’t really throw anything new at the table, Samsung has had 4 generations to create interesting and useful software for their device, and it shows.
People aren’t buying smartphones like they used to. Samsung is suffering despite being the top-seller of Android devices in North America. Oddball designs created out of desperation more than inspiration, like the LG G Flex or the Note Edge, don’t have practical appeal that would encourage the purchase of a new device when, “My old one works fine”. The lackluster appeal in the Nexus 6 isn’t just a failure of hardware and pricing, it’s a reflection of the failure of the market as a whole.