The Nexus 6P was the blueprint for Google’s pixel ambitions

Before the Pixel series came out, there was the Nexus. Originally conceived as an affordable platform for developers, over the years the Nexus range has morphed into Google’s vision of what Android phones should be. The series also created a community that was voraciously committed to the cause of the Android platform – an open ecosystem and devices that were truly yours.

The last of the line, the Nexus 6P, wasn’t quite such a device though. It’s been seven years since the Nexus 6P launched, and for all its successes and failures, it left an unmistakable mark on the future of Google’s smartphone ambitions.

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A flagship killer by another name


By 2015, Google was on an upward trend with the Nexus range, both in terms of ambition and price. The Nexus 6 launched at a surprisingly high price of $649, a significant increase from the $349 that the Nexus 5 was charging. Despite its initial developer-centric ambitions, it was clear that Google had been trying to position itself as a mainstream smartphone vendor for some time, and the Nexus 6P was the clearest sign of Mountain View’s intent.

Made in partnership with Huawei, the Nexus 6P was a far cry from the cheap, budget-oriented, trackball-equipped Nexus One. Google’s vision with the Nexus 6P was to create a distinctive flagship, and this was achieved through a mix of premium materials, unique design, solid internals and features that would soon define smartphones in general.

The Google Nexus 6P was a surprisingly innovative device with USB-C support, stereo speakers, and metal unibody design at a reasonable price.

It was also an innovative and trendsetting device with several high-end features unique to smartphones at the time. The Nexus 6P included USB-C support at a time when even Samsung hadn’t adopted the now-ubiquitous format. The phone has a large high-resolution OLED display and supports multimedia capabilities with stereo speakers. The Snapdragon 810 chipset in a metal shell didn’t run quite as hot as the competition, allowing the clean Android 6.0 experience to shine through. Of course, being a Nexus phone, the 6P also promised quick updates and security patches – now a hallmark of Google’s Pixel series.

The phone also stood out for its exemplary camera package. Google’s GCam efforts have started to pay off since it debuted alongside the Nexus 5, but it helped throw a lot more horsepower at it. The Nexus 6P stood out as one of the best camera smartphones of its time – across all price ranges.

It distinguished itself as one of the best camera smartphones of its time.

But what really sealed the deal was Google’s pricing. While the Nexus 6 launched at $649, dropping the price to $499 for the Nexus 6P put it squarely back into the cute, not-too-expensive category of Nexus phones that historically occupied.

In the nexus of a crisis


Despite a reasonably quality hardware and software package, life with the Nexus 6P hasn’t always been pretty. For one, the Nexus 6P had a fatal bug that resulted in a constant boot loop, just like the Nexus 5 before it. Eventually, a community fix was found that relied on turning off the phone’s power cores.

The Nexus series was beset with hardware issues, but the 6P had it even worse.

It wasn’t the only mistake on the phone either; A second bug that plagued the Nexus 6P was draining the battery prematurely. A class action lawsuit was filed against Google, and the court ordered the company to pay $9.75 million in settlement payments. The lower price also meant sacrificing flagship extras like faster storage and an IP rating.

Set the pace for Pixel smartphones


Looking back at the Nexus 6P with rose-colored glasses for its forward-thinking design and it’s easy to get the essentials down on paper. However, the series of problems with the phone has tarnished the brand identity of the Nexus series as a whole.

While the phone retained its accessible approach and open bootloader for developers and enthusiasts, by the time the Nexus 6P was launched it was obvious that Google had bolder and mainstream ambitions. In the meantime, the Nexus branding had garnered a following of enthusiasts but not much mainstream success, as well as a legacy of hardware failures that would be very difficult to shake. So Google did the next best thing. The very next year, the Nexus series was discontinued, and Google did a hard reboot with the very first Pixel phone.

The Nexus 6P was the last of the series, but it defined many of the traits we’ve come to expect from Pixel phones.

In the midst of its bittersweet final hurray, the Nexus 6P left an indelible mark on Google’s future course. Elements of the Nexus 6P continue to shine through in Google’s latest hardware endeavors, too. The Pixel 7 Pro’s visor-like camera layout is reminiscent of the Cyclopean rear of the Nexus 6P. The Nexus 6P wasn’t the first to focus on imaging, but it cemented Google’s abilities in machine learning-assisted camera excellence – a feature that has become one of the top reasons to buy a Pixel smartphone today. Google’s pricing strategy has also differentiated itself from the Nexus 6P Playbook, and Pixel phones continue to be hundreds of dollars cheaper than the alternatives.

Related: Everything you need to know about Google hardware

The Nexus 6P might not have been the resounding success Google had hoped for, but the phone’s legacy clearly paved the way for some of the best Google Pixel phones to follow. Let us know in the comments if you have any interesting Nexus 6P stories to share. The Nexus 6P was the blueprint for Google’s pixel ambitions

Chris Barrese

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