Meet the Nexus 6P, Google and Huawei's shockingly svelte flagship
After last year's unwieldy attempt, Google had to think a little more carefully about how its nerd-friendly Nexus line should work and feel. Rather than just offer one new phone today, Google showed off two -- the Nexus 5X and 6P -- meant for different subsets of people. The former? It provides enough horsepower for the masses in a body that normal humans won't have trouble carrying (and I'll have a deeper dive ready shortly). The 6P, on the other hand, is the more sophisticated cousin, and more impressive than it might look at first glance.
First off, it's just as sleek and light as you'd expect a modern Huawei phone to be -- the designs might be different, but you can definitely feel some of the P8's unibody metal DNA here. In fact, it's just that devotion to metal that drew Google to Huawei in the first place. As an Android team staffer casually mentioned while showing me the phone, Huawei is one of only a few companies that can make these unibody metal chassis at scale, and that sturdier direction is what Google was gunning for this year.
Sturdier, in this case, doesn't mean "heavier." Like the fantastic-in-plastic 5X, the Nexus 6P feels almost impossibly light, belying the power of the revised Snapdragon 810 with 3GB of RAM thrumming away inside. Can we real talk for a moment? It feels great. It might seem a little tricky putting a chipset with that much power into a slim metal frame, but nothing we could do with it here at the venue could make the thing overheat. Yet another nail in the coffin of those persistent rumors about the 810's heat-management problems. Anyway, that much power should ensure the 6P runs nice and snappy, which is exactly what I experienced while I was fiddling around with the phone and testing out some of Android 6.0 Marshmallow's newer features. Throw in a nicely saturated, 5.7-inch WQHD display that showed off some sweet, deep blues and the 6P's broad strokes are very encouraging ones.
One of the last big question marks leading up to today's show was the big, black bar that swallowed up the 12.3-megapixel rear camera lens. Turns out, it's actually hiding quite a lot. I'm told that next to the camera and two-tone LED flash is the near-invisible laser autofocus module and a whole host of coils and antennas to help with connectivity. That's the problem with metal bodies, right? Too much metal could mean WiFi, cellular or NFC signals get snuffed out, so Google and Huawei shoehorned a bunch of them behind that black plastic bar. Aesthetically it's still a little weird, but it's a neat engineering solution that should get the job done -- we'll bring the full low-down once we get a review unit. Same goes for the ballyhooed camera that Google and Huawei dropped into this thing; the shots we got in this dim event space were better than I'd expected, but they require even more scrutiny.
Despite spending about a half hour with the phone, I'm still a little surprised it's a Huawei. Yes, the company makes good, well-built devices. I simply didn't expect Google to give it a public pat on the back like this. Being tapped to build a Nexus phone is no sure sign that a company will find huge success, but it is a very nice gesture toward a company that has made many great phones without a glut of admiration.