Saturday, November 15, 2014

Nexus 6, the Star Destroyer of Phablets, Goes on Sale

Google's Nexus 6 phablet on Friday became available for sale at Sprint stores, as well as on its website and through other Sprint sales channels. Priced at US$696 with a service plan, qualified buyers can purchase the Nexus 6 with no down payment (however, tax will be charged), and 24 monthly payments of $29.

The other three major U.S. carriers have announced plans to carry the Nexus 6 as well, but Sprint is first out of the gate.

The Nexus 6, which was unveiled in October, has a display that measures nearly 6 inches diagonally. The AMOLED screen's resolution is 2560 x 1440 pixels, and it is protected with Gorilla Glass 2. That compares to 1920 x 1080 pixels for Apple's super-sized smartphone, the iPhone 6 Plus. 

As is typical with Nexus phones, this model runs the latest version of Android out of the box -- 5.0 Lollipop -- and promises to have peppy performance with its 2.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor and 3 gigabytes of RAM.

It supports all popular channel access methods -- GSM, CDMA and LTE.

The Nexus 6 will be offered in midnight blue and white.

Other features include hearty built-in stereo speakers, a DSP chip that allows Google's voice-activated assistant to be summoned even when the phone is turned off, a 13-megapixel, f /2.0 Sony camera, and support for Qualcomm Quick Charge. Quick Charge can provide enough juice in 15 minutes to run the unit's 3220 mAh battery for 6 hours. Fully charged, Google rates the run time for the battery at 24 hours.

Great Phone, but...

While the Nexus 6 has garnered some good reviews, almost all come with an emphatic "but."

"The new Nexus 6, which Google produced with Motorola, is in nearly every way a better device than its predecessors," wrote Nathan Olivarez-Giles in The Wall Street Journal.

"The build, display, battery life and camera have all improved. But its most notable feature will be a dealbreaker for some: It is one massive phablet," he declared.

"The Nexus 6 is something entirely new to the Nexus line-up," wrote Greg Kumparak in a review for TechCrunch.

"It's big to the point that it's almost laughable, stretching the definition of what you could reasonably define as a smartphone to its very limits," he observed.

"If that's what you want, however, the Nexus 6 is a very solid phone," Kumparak continued.

"It's fast, it'll get its software updates before pretty much every other gigantor phone on the market, and the battery life is thus far solid. Just know that you'll have to keep a death grip on it, or the device's size combined with its slick texture will almost certainly lead to a very sudden introduction to Mr. Sidewalk," he added.

As ungainly as some reviewers found the Nexus 6, they may change their minds over time, suggested Dieter Bohn, reviewing it for The Verge.

"Using the Nexus 6 is absolutely awkward until, strangely, it's not," he wrote.

"When I show this phablet to people, I get the same glassy-eyed 'I don't need this' look that I used to get when I showed them my big, honking pre-iPhone smartphone all those years ago," Bohn continued. "They all converted. You just might do the same."

Gaining Market Share

With the Nexus 6, Google may be aiming at new markets, noted Carolina Milanesi, chief of research and head of U.S. business for Kantar Worldpanel ComTech.

"I think that with the Nexus 6, Google may be looking at a device that might appeal to enterprises as well as those users who cannot afford to buy a smartphone and a tablet," she told TechNewsWorld.

In the quarter ending on June 30, 7 percent of phones sales in the United States were phablets, according to Milanesi, although they've gained a double digit market share in China.

"Despite this segment's growth, I do not expect it to be mass market," Milanesi noted. "That said, buyers of these devices might offer a higher return on investment for Google as they tend to be more engaged with their devices."
Others see supersized phones growing beyond the niche stage.

"Three years ago, I would have said this is a fad," Wayne Lam, a telecom electronics analyst for IHS, told TechNewsWorld. "It's not an ergonomically ideal design, but it's a sustainable segment of the market now, and it will become upwards of a quarter of the market in two or three years time."

Small Tablets Doomed?

As phablets become more popular, they may need to be redefined, observed Michael Morgan, an independent mobile devices analyst.

"Right now, whether something is a phablet or not is purely dependent on screen size," he told TechNewsWorld.

"In the future, we'll want to know what's done with that additional screen real estate that makes it more than just a big cellphone," he said. "You see that with Samsung with its screen approach and app switching. You don't see it with the iPhone 6 Plus."

Growing phablet sales could squeeze some segments of the tablet market.
"Between the greater adoption of larger phones and aggressive pricing of larger tablets, it will be tough to compete with a 7-inch tablet in the market," Ross Rubin, principal analyst with Reticle Research, told TechNewsWorld.

"Will the big phone obliterate the small tablet market?" asked IHS' Lam. "Not completely -- but it's going to have a significant impact on it."

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