iPhone 6s Plus vs. Nexus 6: One Android user's surprising take

As a long time Nexus user, iPhone 6s Plus was a pleasant change

iphone nexus 2

I have been a devoted Android user since its launch in 2009. (Before that I had a Nokia N70.) I order my Nexus devices the day they are announced. I took a little detour with Samsung Galaxy S4, but I was way too used to the stock Android so I returned to Nexus line. Buying Apple's iPhone never crossed my mind.

Before I delve into the iPhone 6s Plus review, I want to explain why I preferred Nexus devices over other Android devices. The number one reason is that OEMs and carriers took control of  updates.

Since the OEMs and carriers  wrote (and pre-installed)  their own custom software for the OS, they needed to ensure that their software would work on the new version. At the same time there was no incentive for them to invest time and resource in doing so. As a result users won’t get timely OS updates.

This also created a fragmentation problem for Android. Different devices are running different versions of Android, which makes it harder for developers to support each device,  which, in turn, ruined user experience.

Google broke this control with OTA (a.k.a. ‘over the air updates’)  through its Nexus devices; they also kept these devices free from any carrier or vendor bloatware. It was a 'pure' Google experience.  And as a tech journalist I wanted the immediate access to the latest Android that Nexus provided.

What I sacrificed with by choosing Nexus devices over other Android phones is that Nexus were not the best-of -breed devices. The camera hardware and the default camera app was mediocre. And despite being a developer device, Nexus lacked hardware such as IR transmitters. This was all fine as long as Nexus were affordable Android devices, but that changed with Nexus 6; $800 was way too much for such hardware. That was the last Google purchase that I ever regretted.

iPhone 6s Plus: My first impression

I have already written about why I chose to get the iPhone here.

I ordered the 64GB Gold iPhone 6s as soon as T-Mobile started taking pre-orders, and I received my phone on September 25th, the same day Apple started selling it. I chose the 6s Plus over its smaller brother because I prefer a larger screen, and the additional battery life and image stabilization of 6s Plus made it an obvious choice.

iphone buttons

Better grip than Nexus, clearing all buttons.

As far as size is concerned Nexus 6 is a tad wider than the iPhone 6s Plus. And I found that those few millimeters made the iPhone 6s Plus more comfortable to hold in one hand.

iphone vs nexus 2

The flat back of the iPhone 6s Plus, compared to the rounded Nexus 6, gives better balance so you can easily hold it in one hand and type -- something I can't manage to do on Nexus 6. I have dropped my Nexus 6 more times than I can count, and I blame it on the design of the device.

nexus 6 power 2

Fingers cover all three buttons when you hold the phone.

Another huge design flaw of Nexus 6, which continues to exist in the latest Nexus devices, is the placement of the power and volume buttons at the center of the device. This placement increases your chances of mistakenly pressing the volume or power button -- especially if you are trying to operate the phone one-handed.

The hardware

Touch ID: I have become a heavy user of the fingerprint sensor on iOS devices. Logging into the devices is much easier, as the sensor is quite responsive. It's not that consistent though. You still need to use the PIN or Passphrase when you restart your device. And when using the App Store sometimes it will ask for the TouchID and other times it needs your PIN.

The Camera: The iPhone 6s Plus's camera beats the Nexus camera in so many departments that I won’t even bother to compare. I actually got inclined towards the iPhone after comparing the cameras of a friend's iPhone 5s and my Nexus 6. (Yes iPhone 5s and not 6.) Suffice it to say, the iPhone camera is faster and better. I had missed many important occasions with my Nexus camera as there is a noticeable lag between focusing and capturing a shot, and videos shot on my Nexus 6 were jittery. The lack of burst mode on the Nexus 6 was another mark against it.

Speakers: Google has done a better job with the placement of stereo speakers at the front of the phone (iPhone's speakers are at the bottom). You get a more immersive experience on the Nexus 6 vs. the iPhone while watching movies, listening to music or playing games.

The screen: The Nexus 6 certainly has a better screen specs than the iPhone 6s Plus --  2560x1440  pixels (~493 ppi pixel density) compared to 1920x1080 pixels (401 ppi). However, I found the colors on the iPhone a bit more saturated and closer to reality than Nexus. The image on iPhone looked sharper despite its slightly smaller size.

iphone nexus screen

iPhone 6s Plus vs Nexus 6 screen

Accessories: My Android devices do double duty as an extended monitor and remote for my DSLR, thanks to many apps. Just connect the DSLR with the phone using an OTG cable and the two devices will start talking to each other. It becomes extremely useful when recording videos and shooting long exposure or HDR. None of this turned out to be possible with iOS devices, which don't talk to DSLR over the USB cable.  I would have to buy $300 hardware to connect the two devices.

That said, there is whole gamut of hardware that can use the 3.5mm audio port and the Lightning port of iOS devices for connection. You can get a high quality Lightning microphone, IR remote, thermometer and more with your iOS device. That’s incredible.

Software and ecosystem

If hardware were the whole story, iPhone 6s Plus would handily beat Nexus 6, but that is decidedly not the case. The software and ecosystem is what creates the main difference between iOS and Android devices.

To an Android user, iOS feels locked down to a suffocating level. For example, you need iTunes to transfer any file between your PC and iOS devices, but on Android you can simply plug in your device and copy/paste files. And once the files are on your Android devices you can use the app of your choice to access them. If I have movies on my Android devices, for example, I can play them using any app of my choice, including VLC. Same goes with music, photos, ebooks and other stuff.

Android also allows sideloading of apps that are not available through the Google Store. As a result you get a desktop-like experience.

Conclusion

Both iPhone 6s Plus and Nexus have their pros as cons. Overall, iPhone gets higher marks for hardware, including the built-in hardware and working with 3rd party hardware; Nexus gets higher marks for the Android software ecosystem, which gives you total control over your device.

As for me, I have decided to keep both Nexus 6 and iPhone 6s Plus. As it turns out, sometimes in order to have your cake and eat it too, you need two cakes.

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