Nexus-6-Review-AH-32

The Google Nexus 6 has AT&T-branded Problems Everywhere, It Seems

November 20, 2014 - Written By Phil Bourget

Guys, this will ruin the Nexus 6 for you if you love the Nexus mantra of ‘pure, unadulterated Android with no carrier interference’.  If you don’t mind and just want a great Android device, then you might find this anything from mildly annoying to unimportant.  And the worst part is that you probably knew it was coming too. AT&T has SIM-locked their Nexus 6. Worse yet, they have tinkered inside of it, to offer you some of their signature ringtones.  And on top of that, they have included the added security of a hotspot compatible plan check on the inserted SIM card when you go to turn the hotspot on.  Let’s get down into those.

First is the SIM lock.  The idea of SIM locking is a way for some carriers to make sure you only use the device you get at a lower price with the company that offered the lower price. AT&T is choosing to use the SIM lock to make sure you can’t use the AT&T Nexus 6 (sad to be able to say that accurately) on T-Mobile until you either pay off the device if you’re doing a monthly installment plan or finish your two-year contract and be able to get an unlock code from the carrier.  From other places, you can purchase an unlock code and manage that way, but that sometimes ends badly for the end user. Next up is the ringtones.  Now, that doesn’t sound so bad, right?  Set your ringtones, make sure they aren’t AT&T-prepared ones, then forget about it.  Simple, yes?  Well, it really is.  But it means that AT&T has put some files, which take up some internal space of the either 32 or 64 gigabytes of internal storage, onto the phone, in a part of the device that normal users without root cannot get to and / or remove.  The ringtones are the typical annoying ones that make people cringe or say ‘ugh, they have AT&T’.  Nobody really does that, it’s just disappointing to see happening to a Nexus.

There is still the problem of tethering, or using a mobile hotspot.  When your phone has great 4G coverage and you need some quick online time with a laptop, just use your sometimes-hacked, sometimes-free tethering capabilities, right?  Sometimes the device doesn’t check for a compatible hotspot-supporting plan on the inserted SIM card.  Sometimes, there is no hotspot built onto the device, so installing one essentially gets you a free one.  The AT&T Nexus 6 has software built into the source code (no quick fixes right now), so you’ll be hard-pressed to cheat it easily, let alone without root access on the phone.  The software checks the inserted SIM card for a hotspot portion of the plan (based on phone number) and allows or disallows activation of the hotspot based on the plan’s support.

With all these un-Nexus like traits, this Nexus 6 is looking to be not as bad as, but held in the minds of AT&T subscribers like the Verizon Galaxy Nexus was for their customers back in 2012.  Now, the software is still the same, even the tethering check, across all variants sold by the carriers.  All the devices will have the tethering security built in, and they will also all have a chance of baring a carrier-specific boot animation (which was also found on the AT&T version of the Nexus 6).  With that said, we still don’t know how much Verizon will futz with the Nexus 6.  The big red carrier has been known to tinker to an extent that makes customers look elsewhere for cell phone service.  So, as the Nexus 6 begins to arrive to customers, what else will we see carriers add to the Nexus experiences many of us bought the device for?  What do you think will surface as a carrier addition or alteration?  Let us know down below.