Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nexus 6 Review: Wi-Fi Done Right

I've been a Droid user for many years.  Started out with the Droid 1 then onto a Droid 2, Droid RAZR Maxx, Droid Ultra, a very short-lived and painful experience with the Droid Turbo, then a Droid Maxx which is essentially a slightly fatter Ultra with more battery.  When my battery's capacity started to run short, I started looking at other phones.  I decided to get a Nexus 6 (unlocked from Amazon) when Google announced that they would roll out Wi-Fi Assistant to all Nexus phones.

Wi-Fi Assistant was originally a Google Fi feature that applies a VPN to open Wi-Fi access points - without user intervention.  In fact, Wi-Fi Assistant is now (once you have the Play Services 9.6 update) capable of securing all open Wi-Fi, even ones where you manually connect.  This is a huge move by Google that will hit the cellular carriers hard because if I'm able to use public Wi-Fi with confidence, and my phone is latching on to open Wi-Fi by itself - why do I need a large data plan?

This all takes Wi-Fi a step closer to being a viable alternative to cellular data, although there are still many issues.  The problem is that managing a Closed SSID network is painful and complex, and Open SSID networks are subject to abuse.  Wi-Fi also suffers from a handoff problem (i.e. it has no handoff method) and it's fairly easy to do a man-in-the-middle attack in coffeeshops - without 802.1X there's no way to know if that "xfinitywifi" hotspot is really Comcast or not.  Wi-Fi Assistant solves that problem by providing a VPN back to Google's servers.

zOMG so fast!
So far I'm very happy with the Nexus 6.  It's a two year old design but it feels quite snappy.  Google's clearly still putting effort into development, and the Android is pure - no Verizon or Motorola/Lenovo weirdness.  It's a bit larger than I'm used to, so I'm glad I didn't get the Nexus 6P, but I have large hands so it works for me.  Wi-Fi in the 5 GHz band using 802.11ac on the Nexus 6 is fast.  It easily maxed out my 75 Mbps DSL connection in a speed test.

For a while I'd been using an iPad in the evening because the screen was much better than my Droid Maxx.  Now the iPad sits forgotten for days at a time, as I find the Nexus 6 screen good enough to handle almost anything.

No comments: