Upgrade Not Needed: How the 6P Holds up as the Last Nexus Phone

Upgrade Not Needed: How the 6P Holds up as the Last Nexus Phone

The Huawei Nexus 6P is one of the best Android devices I’ve used, and certainly the best I’ve owned. It looks and feels like a premium device, has a rich and pixel-dense screen AMOLED display, great speakers, a fast fingerprint sensor, an excellent camera and an awesome custom ROM scene.

You probably know all of this, as the device has enjoyed a successful year in the market and among enthusiast communities in particular.

Good qualities don’t have to be perfect, though, and it’s important to point that out. For example, looks are subjective, and not everyone appreciates some of the 6P’s design decisions such as the odd camera bump — this was a particularly debated aspect of the phone early on, but I’d say the device itself ended up looking much better than the early leaks suggested. If you’re using a naked device, some finishes show up scratches and wear more easily than others. The Nexus 6P’s chamfers are also notorious for catching microscratches and dents. As for the front-facing speakers, some might notice they have inferior sound quality compared to some other devices, but only a handful of the sound-focused smartphones.

Then there’s the average bits. Battery life is acceptable, but by no means stellar. Screen-on time isn’t a great metric, but it’ll do for a quick idea: it’s between 3-4h throughout the day when mostly using mobile data and generally good network service for me… The phone can get warm for some resource intensive tasks such as navigation or streaming videos, too, in great part thanks to the Snapdragon 810. We actually suspect the 810 is also to blame for the sub-par battery life (when taking the massive battery into account). Some games can push the temperature a bit further, sometimes making it noticeably and even uncomfortably hot especially for longer sessions. Throttling isn’t a rarity either.

There are also some more concerning issues: Many users are reporting battery failures with their devices shutting down with up to 60% battery shown remaining, and some devices are constantly bootlooping. These problems aren’t with the hardware per se, but with the quality assurance of said hardware: the rate of these defects is abnormally high for a consumer device, or at least that’s what reports make us believe (we also have people in our staff who have been affected). However, and as with many of these issues, the vast majority of users enjoy a functional, future-proof device.

All things considered, how well does the Nexus 6P still hold up?

The need to upgrade?

As someone who’s owned the Samsung Galaxy S4 (Exynos processor) before buying the Nexus 6P, it does far better than the S4 did after the same period of use. The S4 was far from a perfect device, having overheating issues that made me put the phone down at times just to cool it down so I can hold it comfortably again. The finishing was also inferior, and it felt cheap compared to the 6P: the back was severely peeled off, and the “SAMSUNG” logo letters all fell off one by one — you’ll probably recall that Samsung wasn’t renowned for its build quality at the time, and not just for offering glossy plastic. Official software support was well behind and while custom ROMs were present, they had major flaws as expected due to the chipset employed (e.g. even worse battery life, unstable camera, no sound from VoIP apps without temporary workarounds, etc).

Other than being a much older flagship, the S4 was an exceptionally bad one. Comparing them directly is unfair and definitely not the aim of this section. However, it helps give some context to my own perspective.

The two major issues the 6P suffers from are an average battery life and heat. Coming from an S4, thermals were a non-issue for my real life usage: my 6P occasionally gets warm, but not even enough to make holding it or putting it to my ear uncomfortable. An important caveat is that I rarely game on my mobile phone; when I do, it’s usually less-intensive board or puzzle games.


As for battery life, my experience with the 6P has been comparable with that of the S4. The battery’s enough to get me through the day, but I’ve adopted certain charging habits to ensure it’s never an issue when it comes close to failing to do so: I always hold an extra wall charger around, and have a type C quick charger in my car as well. An extra $35 for those accessories was well worth it to me. Fast charging certainly makes this experience better, as even a short session is enough to replenish my 6P for a reasonable time.

When it comes to my 6P, I simply feel no need to upgrade just yet

A lot of this applies to newer flagships and even some lower priced smartphones. When it comes to the hardware, smartphones have matured enough for many premium features to be available across the board.

Going back to my experience with the S4, the need to upgrade was present and strong a year later. My phone looked battered by then with its worn out back and whitened edges, battery had degraded severely (around half of its original capacity) and heating issues made phone calls or even normal usage extremely uncomfortable at times. It was still usable (and is still around as my backup phone), but very much far from ideal.

When it comes to my 6P, I simply feel no need to upgrade just yet (barring the battery failures some are experiencing — fortunately, I’ve been lucky so far). For most existing 6P users, I see little reason to upgrade this year unless heating issues are noticeable with your usage patterns. Many newer flagships actually feel like a downgrade in some aspects, especially if you’ve grown used to the front-facing speakers or excellent custom ROM support.

The one thing I do miss from my S4 is the replaceable battery. No matter my charging habits, the battery life will become atrocious on my 6P at one point because of normal battery wear and replacing it won’t be an easy option. I expect that to be in around a year’s end, just in time for 2017’s flagships.

Final Thoughts

Barring quality assurance failures, the Nexus 6P is still an excellent device today. As an existing user, I see no reason to upgrade until 2017’s flagships come out. It’s not just that the 6P is “still usable” — it’s actually still better than all other smartphones I’ve considered. Now, this is highly subjective and greatly depends on your priorities and what features you like the most. More objectively, the 6P is still a pretty damn good phone today.

It’s hard to fall out of love with the Nexus 6P

Would I recommend it as a new device? Only to friends who like custom ROMs, and only if they live somewhere where returning the device if there are any defects is an easy process. I definitely wouldn’t recommend it to any of my friends who still live in my country: it’s an excellent device, but the risk of getting a hardware defect is too big when returning the device would require paying to have it shipped abroad and waiting for weeks for a replacement. In the first world the Nexus 6P is cheaper nowadays, however, and getting a second-hand unit is even cheaper.

That doesn’t mean other phones are not worth considering as well — ultimately, the decision depends on a few subjective factors that depend on your personal usage. That being said, has the Nexus 6P stood the test of time? For me, it definitely has, and it combines all the features I personally look for in a device: a sleek look, a good (AMOLED) screen and camera, front-facing speakers and an active development community. The 6P still has great performance: apps run smoothly on it, and even the latest graphics-intensive games run without difficulty when I happen to try them out. A custom kernel has also made heat more manageable even for gaming, though that’s not an issue you can completely fix with software. Overall, it’s hard to fall out of love with the Nexus 6P, and it’ll remain one of XDA’s favorite devices ever not just for being such a rounded package, but also given it was the last Nexus.

>>> Check out XDA’s Nexus 6P Forums!

About author


Currently studying for a Master's degree in Computer Science at EPFL, Germain Z. is interested in all things related to technology, mobiles and programming. Previously, he was also a Forum Moderator and Recognized Developer on the XDA forums.