Google held an Asia Pacific event this week to discuss on updates with its machine learning capabilities and the open sourcing of the Tensorflow platform that its engineers used, but at one of the mini demonstrations to show off what machine learning can do in real life, Google took the opportunity to also display its new Nexus devices, namely the Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X.
We will be covering the Nexus 5X soon, but let’s focus on the flagship Nexus smartphone: make no mistake, Google and Huawei made zero compromises with the Nexus 6P – and it leaves an arresting first impression. It may look bulky in pictures, but when seen in real life the Nexus 6P is actually not that much larger than a Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
The Nexus 6P on display was the Black version (though it really is a dark grey tone than black), while one of the Google staff at the demo area was using his own Silver Nexus 6P. In all honesty, the Silver variant is without a doubt one of the best-looking metal-clad smartphones released in recent times – there’s a sense of class in the way the alloy reflects light, while the contrast with the black camera strip at the top gives it a uniqueness that most phones today lack (just don’t tell that to ZTE).
As the flagship Android smartphone developed with Google, it is only fitting that the Nexus 6P packs the very best hardware available. The Nexus 6P sports a 5.7-inch 2K AMOLED display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor paired with 3GB of RAM, up to 128GB of internal storage, a 3,450mAh battery, a 12.3MP rear Sony camera and an 8MP front-facing camera, a USB Type-C port (with support for fast charging), and of course, Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box.
Of course, those who prefer a more understated colour won’t feel out of place with the Black version. The Nexus letters at the back are visible only in certain angles, and the Huawei branding at the bottom is even harder to see from a distance.
The metal construction makes the entire phone feel really good in the hands; there’s a heftness to it that is very well balanced – it’s not too heavy nor is it too light, while the oh so subtle curve at the back ensures it is comfortable to hold. In fact, it is quite similar to Huawei’s own metal-clad Mate S flagship smartphone the Chinese company announced a few months ago.
Huawei’s expertise does not end there. At the back, a round fingerprint sensor is located just above the Nexus logo, and it uses the same sensor found on the Mate S – and that’s awesome, because that is one one the fastest around. Simply tap on the sensor with a registered finger, and the 6P unlocks in less than a blink of an eye.
That is where things look vastly different from the Mate S. The Nexus 6P is of course running on Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and while the UI may look largely similar as previous Android versions, most of Marshmallow’s new features are just a tap away or already working in the background.
The highlight, of course, is Now On Tap. This feature is basically Google Now on steroids, and is a major testament of Google’s advancements in machine learning. Now On Tap is activated on any screen with a long press of the Home button (just like Google Now). Android then scans what’s on the screen, before offering contextual suggestions that predict what you might want to do next. One example is when you’re having a conversation with a friend via text message, and decide to meet at a cafe later in the day. When activated, Now On Tap will offer suggestions such as creating a Calendar entry for that appointment, look up the location of the cafe in Maps, or show reviews of the cafe itself.
Some may call it magic, but to Google this is machine learning at work to make life easier for humans.
Unfortunately, being in a demo room with less than ideal conditions (and a rainy outdoor) meant that we couldn’t try out how impressive the new camera was. What was immediately noticeable was in the speed with which the camera app launches and locks focus; this was likely one area that Google spent a considerable amount of time on.
As far as first impressions go, the Nexus 6P really left me wanting to spend a lot more time than what I had with it. The premium construction was evident, the software is highly intriguing and quite frankly I’m curious how the camera performs. Thankfully, we won’t have to wait too long: Huawei Malaysia has mentioned that the company plans to launch the Nexus 6P in Malaysia as early as this month.