Nexus 6 long term review

Who keeps the same cellphone for more than 3 years these days? 

Who keeps the same cellphone for more than 3 years these days? 

My Motorola Nexus 6 Android cellphone arrived June 30th 2015 when my Google Project Fi invitation arrived.  I had been using a Nexus 5 cellphone prior on AT&T and then T-Mobile’s network, but in order to switch my cellular service to Project Fi I was required to purchase a new Nexus 6.

Motorola Nexus 6

I bought a Project Fi Nexus 6 (64 GB, Midnight Blue) $549 and that was my cellphone for nearly 4 years.  I added a plastic case and slipped a metal plate inside it to use with a magnetic mount kit.

Motorola Nexus 6 rear

A Project Fi Welcome Kit was also sent to me and I got a number of Android OS and security updates sent to it.  I noticed the battery life getting low about a year ago and some noticeable swelling of the battery pack.  The phone continued to work great other than the ever shortening battery life.  I think the original Motorola power block developed an issue and stopped supporting fast charges after a couple years. The battery pack on my Nexus 5 has also swelled in the years since it’s purchase and lost most of it’s capacity. The batteries on my Nexus 7 and Nexus 9 tablets still look and work great.

Motorola Nexus 6 swelling battery

I was considering using one of my tablets to replace it for main cellphone use since they can also make and take calls on Google Fi but when I saw a 50% off sale celebrating the birthday of Google Fi service I decided to purchase a new Google Pixel 3 to replace my Nexus 6.


Google Pixel 3

My new phone arrived today and activating it and moving over my apps and data couldn’t have been easier. Today was the last day I used my Nexus 6 as my cellphone and I hope my new Pixel 3 is as good as it was too me.

Pixel 3 and Nexus 6

Google Project Fi roaming in Vancouver, B.C. Canada

Project Fi in Canada
Project Fi in Canada

I waited until after I was past Canadian Immigration and Customs in the Vancouver airport before I powered on my Nexus 6 cellphone.  I am running the latest Marshmallow release which at this time was 6.0.1  I wait for two reasons.  The first is to avoid the temptation of using my phone where they ask you to not use your phone.  The second reason is that I think it’s more likely to find the best signal once you are outside of the airport building.

It took many minutes and my phone didn’t indicate service while I was wanting to pull up Google Maps and verify my mass transit routing to my hotel.  I got frustrated and power cycled my phone.  After waiting again without luck, I decided to take the escalators up to the train platform and simply figure out my way without using my phone.  I also thought that there would be a better signal up there than down in the arrivals area.
By the time I had purchased a ticket and spoken with a transit authority to confirm the stop I would get off the train, my phone had found roaming service and was working fine.

Bell Mobility
LTE connection to Bell Mobility

My phone was on Bell Mobility and while it started with a GSM signal at first it quickly switched to LTE. I never got a Welcome to Canada SMS or message in Hangouts but I did capture the screen in the Fi app. The data speed seems to be the capped at 256 kbps that Fi provides when roaming, which is obviously much less than a LTE connection can provide, but still works decent enough for most things. I use the Signal Check app to know which carrier I connect to. Otherwise my just indicates the Fi Network.

Once I got to my hotel in downtown Vancouver, I powered on my Nexus 9 tablet which uses a data only SIM from Project Fi.   It found a Bell Mobility signal quickly and connected for data just fine.  One small difference between the data only SIM and the one in my phone, is that the tablet indicates it is roaming with a small R next to the signal icon, which does not appear on my phone’s display.  The speed in my tablet is also capped at 256 kbps even though the LTE connection is capable of faster speeds.  This is a contractual limitation with the international roaming agreements that Project Fi has with other carriers.  In the past I had used T-Mobile’s similar worldwide roaming which was half as fast, limited to 128 kbps.

I make a point of saving any tasks which require much data for when I am connected to a WiFi signal.  There were many WiFi access points in downtown Vancouver all though most were password protected.  I found it easy to get the password and connect while in my hotel, or at any of the places where I was drinking or eating.

Cell and WiFi data
Cellular and WiFi connections

Having phone and data service that easily roams at reasonable rates and speeds is important to me.  I don’t need to be able to stream video or require unlimited international roaming data.  Checking email, Google searches and maps, and a little bit of social media is all I really want to work well.  I previously found the T-Mobile service which was capped at 128 kbps was a bit slow but workable.  Using Project Fi now at 256 kbps there are less times when you notice it’s slower loading images in web pages or emails, but unlike the T-Mobile international data which was included at the slow speed without charge, the Project Fi international roaming data is charged at the same $10 per GB as your fast data when you are back in the US.  I just remind myself to defer uploading or posting pictures and videos until I have a WiFi connection, and everything works well within my expectations.