This year the latest Nexus phone is being welcomed with open arms by all the major carriers in the US, joining Google and its own Play Store sales of the Nexus 6. But if you pick up the phone from one of these networks, just what are you in store for? After all, the Nexus line is heralded as as the purest of Android experiences, yet anyone with even a modicum of experience with carriers knows that they’ll do everything they can get away with to influence your phone’s software. Now with the first carrier-sold Nexus 6 handsets arriving, we’re finally getting a full picture of just how these carrier-sold handsets differ from their Play Store equivalents.
For this, we’re looking at the Nexus 6 as sold through AT&T. First up, that carrier logo we saw the other day is indeed present. Then when you start up the phone, you’ll be greeted by an AT&T boot animation.
Going through Google’s automated setup process with your AT&T SIM inserted will result in the installation of a couple AT&T account management apps, though you’re free to uninstall those if desired.
Unsurprisingly, the phone is SIM-locked to the carrier, with the usual contract requirements for unlocking.
Android has the baked-in ability to do tethering checks, and even though it technically could let you tether without AT&T’s OK, the system still requires you have the right permissions on your AT&T account.
You’ll also find AT&T-specific ringtones, despite the Nexus 6 running the same carrier-agnostic ROM it does anywhere else – the key to both this and the boot animation is that this data is stored on separate partitions that allow you to still use stock ROMs; even flashing a factory image from Google won’t touch any of that, leaving the AT&T influence intact.
That’s the gist of it: yes, there’s carrier stuff present, but not at the cost of requiring carrier-specific ROMs.