Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Nexus 6 Cometh!

The Nexus 6 is practically here! The timing couldn't be better for me; my lovely Nexus 4 has developed a hardware fault within warranty (which means I can replace the handset and give the replacement to my wife who hates her Sony Xperia J) and anyway ... i'm way overdue an upgrade. 

Two years ago the choice was simple. The Nexus 4 floated the sea of mobile phones touting big guns and stripped down functionality. It was unchallenged on price, unfettered and oh so exclusive. I've lost count of the number of times people asked me "What phone is that?" That developer phone was my dream device, and still is in 2014 ... until the behemoth Nexus 6 loomed on the horizon. Last year my brother bought the Nexus 5 and I've had a play with it. In my opinion it's the 4 made bigger, beefier and rubbery. The camera is just as fussy, the battery equally leaky, and the google experience pure and generally sublime. I never felt the need to upgrade my 4 last year, my son was accusing it of controlling his life due to the way it plugged into most systems in the house, and that felt reassuring.

The 6 is a seismic shift for Google. That lumbering corporate beast, which engulfs all before it, has started grazing the same pastures as Apple. After years of evolutionary (but oh so respectful) head bashing, these two entities are set for direct conflict. The primary upshot of this will almost certainly be price point. Google are unleashing a Flagship device for the first time. Until now they've been filtering out developer handsets, reference devices with added panache. The Nexus 4 and 5 were successes, mainly because they were very powerful phones costing less than half the price of an iPhone or any mainstream Flagship device. By releasing the Nexus 6 as direct competition to the iPhone 6+, Google are saying "this is what we can do when we don't pull our punches".    

Apple lost their mystic hold on design perfection this year. The iPhone 6 phones are beautiful but there are compromises that look jarringly wrong. Mainly I'm talking about the banded antennae, but also the "Droidification" of Apple this year is apparent. The iPhone 5 was a bold design departure for Apple, but clearly it was an Apple product retaining many of the iconic design features. The iPhone 6 and 6+ look more like Android devices with a circular Apple homekey on the front.  

Apple may lose some customers to the Nexus range this year, but it won't upset the applecart. 2014 is almost over. Apple have had a very successful year. Next year however is when I envisage gorgeous Android devices, and massive issues with pricing for Apple. Next year will see the birth of "Ok Google" to the masses. I've been talking to my phone for 2 years, but recently I've noticed friends and colleagues talking into their devices with more regularity. It's becoming a normal everyday function for everyone. And the power of advertising has never been so blatant. Google have trained their customers to say "ok Google" in public, dozens of times a day! With the unstoppable march of Google I can't see the iPhone coming down in price. More realistically, and this is a big change for Apple in recent years, they will release "budget" handsets. They are missing out on too much of a market not to do this. India craves affordable handsets. With the release of Oneplus One, following on from the early affordable Nexus devices, people are seeing an opportunity to split from their providers and go contract free. 

How they implement those will remain to be seen, but I'll go on record and say that they'll never dumb down their cameras within their units. After form factor and iOS, I suspect that camera functionality is a massive priority. At the end of the day, Apple always has been about image. 

With the emergence of the phablet wars in 2014 consumers are left with some difficult choices. Is a 6" screen really practical as a phone? I don't know the answer to that question yet, I've tried the Note 4 to see if my hand fits around it. I've gone back to the Nexus 6 specs page and drooled for the zillionth time this week. 5.9" AMOLED display, dual speakers and a big battery. Those three features are what sells the phone to me. You know the rest is going to follow. It's going to be powerful, it's going to be smooth. The Gfx processor will be better than ever. Lollipop will be even smoother and more elegant than any previous version. Yes, I'd like to know if it will record slow motion but this isn't a deal breaker. 

I'm excited. I've saved the money by selling all my precious frivolities. I've bailed everything out in order to fill my bank balance with enough cash to click on "pre­order" as soon as it Google activate it. And that is quite a lot of cash. Granted, 400 ­ 440 quid (i'm fairly confident that will be the price of the 32gig and 64 gig variants) isn't cheap. I had to sell my Festina watch, my Carom board, my Pine corner desk, my spare graphics card, a shirt and a spare pair of cycling shoes in order to be ready for this phone.  

And the biggest worry isn't if it will be everything I've hoped for. I know it will be. I know the screen will be rich and vibrant. The blacks so black and the colours so rich and immersive, almost 3d even. The screen will be a thing of beauty. The construction will be solid and professional looking. The Android experience will be amazing. I even suspect the camera will rock having viewed the recent video from The Verge. I'll be "productive" with this new device in ways I've tried to be with previous devices. 

And I know why Google have gone supersized. Obviously because everyone else is. But also because of the imminent explosion of Wearable devices. I can see myself buying a smartwatch just so that I don't have to use this device as much. Wearables are very 2015, and with a phone this size you don't want to be pulling it out every two seconds. I will probably get a smart watch in due course so that this phablet can behave more like a portable computer/workstation. 

What really worries me isn't the specs or the experience. I fear the moment when somebody actually calls me... and I have to use this monster as a phone .... at work. What will I look like? Will people laugh at the man holding a flat black brick to his ear? Will I ever become comfortable with the sheer size of this device? It's my only concern (and I'm 6'2" with big hands). And it's so subjective there is no definitive answer. The design and physical presence of this device aren't yet available. Watching a wooden mock­up on YouTube gives me a good idea of the real­world size, but until it's nestled in my mighty paws, I'm going to be in the dark. I'll just have to buy the thing, go to work and wait for a call....   

In a fit of sentimentality, and laziness, this article was typed on my Nexus 4 via Bluetooth Apple wireless keyboard, in bed. A swansong of retro-productivity.

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