“Shamu lives!” Those two words, the fist comment on Reddit about this news, poignantly expresses the sentiment of Nexus 6 owners today. Almost buried under the weight of CES 2017, Google has silently released Android 7.1.1 for the Nexus 6, model name “shamu”, after a delay of about a month thanks to a very device-specific bug. That no longer matter though, because Nexus 6 owners can now enjoy the latest Android release. And enjoy it they must, because it might be the last major Android version it receives.
Although the Nexus 6 already had its Android 7.0 update, the latest Nougat is 7.1.1 and, being a relatively recent Nexus device, it is still entitled to that minor but significant update. Android 7.1.1 brings a few added conveniences to Nougat, such as app shortcuts when you press and hold an icon while using the Google Pixel launcher or support for animated GIFs in chat apps as well as pictures on the Google Keyboard.
But equally important, and perhaps disappointing, are the features that the Nexus 6 specifically, as well as other non-Pixel smartphones, won’t be enjoying. That includes video recording in 1080p at 60 fps as well as the new Night Light mode. The exclusion of both have been blamed on the Nexus 6’s older hardware. The Night Light issue became particularly thorny because of how it replaced a perfectly functional Night Shade feature, leaving Nexus 6 users with no other resort but to adopt root alternatives.
The Android 7.1.1 update might also mark the Nexus 6’s end-of-life. Launched in late 2014, it has reached its promised two-year support for Android updates. Normally that wouldn’t be an issue, but with the death of CyanogenMod and the uncertain future of LineageOS, it remains to be seen if Nexus 6 users will be left with an upgrade path beyond Nougat.