Apple made some drastic changes that shocked many when they revealed the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Deviating from what once was adamancy regarding have the perfect screen size for one-handed use, the company now offers two different iPhone models; both of which are larger than their predecessor. The iPhone 6 Plus is the larger of the two being technically classified as a phablet. While the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have been taking record amounts of market share from Android this time around, how does the phone actually stand up against its competition? Read on to find out our opinions on the matter.
Design and Display
Apple has been notorious for their attention to detail and cutting edge design in their smartphones. The design of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are drastically different from their predecessor. One of the major changes in design are the screen sizes. The iPhone 5S had a measly 4 inch screen. The iPhone 6 has a stunning 4.7 inch Retina Display, bringing it in-line with many of the mainstream Android devices on the market. The iPhone 6 Plus is even larger with a 5.5 inch HD Retina Display.
The screens on both devices are bright, crisp, and stunning. Being a Retina Display is defined by the pixel density going beyond what is visible to the naked eye. This equates to an incredibly crisp and vibrant experience. It is worth noting that the iPhone 6 is 1334 by 750 pixels leaving the pixel density at 326 pixels per inch. The iPhone 6 Plus has an even higher density of pixels at 401 PPI with its 1920 by 1080 screen. The resolution of the iPhone 6 Plus has the same number of pixels as non-4K HD televisions, which is pretty incredible for a simple 5.5 inch screen. The size of the iPhone 6 Plus screen is great for watching movies, viewing photos, and zooming in on those imperfections in your selfies.
One of the big questions on everyone’s mind is how do the phones feel compared to previous models considering their changes in size. The iPhone 6 is the perfect size. It fits well in your hand and is finally a decent size screen without being overly bulky. I wish I could say the same about the iPhone 6 Plus. The 6 Plus is just beyond the realm of comfort in the size department (and no I don’t have Mary Poppins hands thank you very much) It’s slightly smaller than the Galaxy Note 4, so if you’re comfortable with the size of that phone, you should be comfortable with the iPhone 6 Plus. The device is also extremely slippery. Between the slipperiness of the device and its size, using it in one hand is not a recommendable experience; especially if you have small hands. It does, however, fit into jeans pockets. I had multiple people ask me to show them how it fit in my pocket out of curiosity. While definitely a pocket-full, it all fits. Just don’t wear skinny jeans and you’ll be fine.
As far as BendGate is concerned, or the iPhone 6 Plus bending during regular use; we can confirm that those reports were false. Not only have I not seen any bending with regular use, but even when applying considerable pressure to the sides of the phone I did not see any flex. If this were Mythbusters, consider that myth BUSTED.
Other major design changes to the phones include a massive overhaul to the chassis/body of the device. What once were straight lined bezeled edges are now smooth curves. Aside from the edges of the buttons and camera lens, there is not a jagged edge on this phone. This makes a much safer experience when you feel the need to huck your phone at your friend’s head just for kicks.
The sensors and buttons are all, for the most part, in the places when you would expect them from previous models. The camera lens does protrude from the back of the device. While this is likely required to get the entire camera and lens to fit in an even thinner phone than its predecessor, it does make you uncomfortable when setting the phone down on its back. I’m pleased to report that the lens on the camera is quite durable and has yet to receive any scratches from my setting it on its back in my 2 months with the device.
Overall, the design changes to the device are welcome and needed changes. The market seems to agree that bigger is better despite some of its drawbacks. The iPhone 6 Plus is a bit beyond the size of comfort, but its dazzlingly large screen largely make up for it as long as you don’t mind using both hands with the device.
Hardware and Specs
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are also an upgrade in terms of specification. You can compare the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, and iPhone 5S using the chart below:
|iPhone 6 Plus||iPhone 6||iPhone 5S|
|Technology||GSM / CDMA / HSPA / EVDO / LTE||GSM / CDMA / HSPA / EVDO / LTE||GSM / CDMA / HSPA / EVDO / LTE|
|Dimensions||158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1 mm (6.22 x 3.06 x 0.28 in)||138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 in)||123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm (4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 in)|
|Weight||172 g (6.07 oz)||129 g (4.55 oz)||112 g (3.95 oz)|
|– Fingerprint sensor (Touch ID)||– Fingerprint sensor (Touch ID)||– 500 dpi pixel density fingerprint sensor (Touch ID)|
|– Apple Pay (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX certified)||– Apple Pay (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX certified)|
|Type||LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors||LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors||LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors|
|Size||5.5 inches (~67.8% screen-to-body ratio)||4.7 inches (~65.8% screen-to-body ratio)||4.0 inches (~60.8% screen-to-body ratio)|
|Resolution||1080 x 1920 pixels (~401 ppi pixel density)||750 x 1334 pixels (~326 ppi pixel density)||640 x 1136 pixels (~326 ppi pixel density)|
|Protection||Shatter proof glass, oleophobic coating||Shatter proof glass, oleophobic coating||Corning Gorilla Glass, oleophobic coating|
|– Display Zoom||– Display Zoom|
|OS||iOS 8, upgradable to iOS 8.1.3||iOS 8, upgradable to iOS 8.1.3||iOS 7, upgradable to iOS 7.1.2, upgradable to iOS 8.1.3|
|Chipset||Apple A8||Apple A8||Apple A7|
|CPU||Dual-core 1.4 GHz Cyclone (ARM v8-based)||Dual-core 1.4 GHz Cyclone (ARM v8-based)||Dual-core 1.3 GHz Cyclone (ARM v8-based)|
|GPU||PowerVR GX6450 (quad-core graphics)||PowerVR GX6450 (quad-core graphics)||PowerVR G6430 (quad-core graphics)|
|Internal||16/64/128 GB, 1 GB RAM||16/64/128 GB, 1 GB RAM||16/32/64 GB, 1 GB RAM DDR3|
|Primary||8 MP, 3264 x 2448 pixels, optical image stabilization, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash,check quality||8 MP, 3264 x 2448 pixels, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, check quality||8 MP, 3264 x 2448 pixels, autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, check quality|
|Features||1/3” sensor size, 1.5µm pixel size, geo-tagging, simultaneous HD video and image recording, touch focus, face/smile detection, HDR (photo/panorama)||1/3” sensor size, 1.5µm pixel size, geo-tagging, simultaneous HD video and image recording, touch focus, face/smile detection, HDR (photo/panorama)||1/3” sensor size, 1.5 µm pixel size, simultaneous HD video and image recording, touch focus, geo-tagging, face/smile detection, HDR (photo/panorama)|
|Video||1080p@60fps, 720p@240fps, optical stabilization, check quality||1080p@60fps, 720p@240fps, check quality||1080p@30fps, 720p@120fps, check quality|
|Secondary||1.2 MP, 720p@30fps, face detection, HDR, FaceTime over Wi-Fi or Cellular||1.2 MP, 720p@30fps, face detection, HDR, FaceTime over Wi-Fi or Cellular||1.2 MP, 720p@30fps, face detection, FaceTime over Wi-Fi or Cellular|
|Alert types||Vibration, proprietary ringtones||Vibration, proprietary ringtones||Vibration, proprietary ringtones|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, hotspot||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n, dual-band, hotspot|
|Bluetooth||v4.0, A2DP, LE||v4.0, A2DP, LE||v4.0, A2DP|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS||Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS||Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS|
|NFC||Yes (Apple Pay only)||Yes (Apple Pay only)||No|
|USB||v2.0, reversible connector||v2.0, reversible connector||v2.0, reversible connector|
|Sensors||Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer||Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer||Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass|
|Messaging||iMessage, SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email||iMessage, SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email||iMessage, SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email|
|Browser||HTML5 (Safari)||HTML5 (Safari)||HTML5 (Safari)|
|– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic||– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic||– Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic|
|– Siri natural language commands and dictation||– Siri natural language commands and dictation||– Siri natural language commands and dictation|
|– iCloud cloud service||– iCloud cloud service||– iCloud cloud service|
|– iCloud Keychain||– iCloud Keychain||– iCloud Keychain|
|– TV-out||– TV-out||– TV-out|
|– Maps||– Maps||– Maps|
|– iBooks PDF reader||– Audio/video player/editor||– Audio/video player/editor|
|– Audio/video player/editor||– Organizer||– Organizer|
|– Organizer||– Document viewer/editor||– Document viewer/editor|
|– Document viewer/editor||– Photo viewer/editor||– Photo viewer/editor|
|– Photo viewer/editor||– Voice memo/dial/command||– Voice memo/dial/command|
|– Voice memo/dial/command||– Predictive text input||– Predictive text input|
|– Predictive text input|
|Battery||Non-removable Li-Po 2915 mAh battery (11.1 Wh)||Non-removable Li-Po 1810 mAh battery (6.9 Wh)||Non-removable Li-Po 1560 mAh battery (5.92 Wh)|
|Stand-by||Up to 384 h (3G)||Up to 250 h (3G)||Up to 250 h (2G) / Up to 250 h (3G)|
|Talk time||Up to 24 h (3G)||Up to 14 h (3G)||Up to 10 h (2G) / Up to 10 h (3G)|
|Music play||Up to 80 h||Up to 50 h||Up to 40 h|
|Performance||Basemark OS II: 1222||Basemark OS II: 1252 / Basemark X: 15841||Basemark OS II: 1077 / Basemark X: 14341|
Courtesy of GSMArena.com
The major spec upgrades include the CPU, GPU, battery life, and the addition of the NFC chip. The CPU inside of both models of the iPhone 6 utilize Apple’s A8 chipset. This is a step up from the A7 chip used in the iPhone 5S and provides an approximate 25% boost in performance. Also, the GPU is also upgraded from the PowerVR G6430 to the PowerVR G6450 which provides an approximate 50% boost in graphical processing power. This means games should look and run better. However, some testing has shown that most of this “extra” power is exhausted from outputting to higher resolution screens; especially on the iPhone 6 Plus.
Disappointingly, there was not an upgrade to the RAM of the device. Utilizing only 1 GB of RAM puts the iPhone 6 in line with a low-end Android Phones. However, you’ll notice that the device is silky smooth in terms of performance. This is for a number of reasons. For one, iOS is optimized for the specs of the devices. Android has so many different devices on the market that it is challenging to optimize for every device. Also, iOS requires less power to operate. While you may have a lower powered lawn mower, the fact that you’re a slim 140 pound man as opposed to a 350 pound wrestler is going to give you better performance than you would expect from only 1 GB of RAM.
Battery life has also seen a huge improvement! I can often get nearly 2 days out of my iPhone 6 Plus without a charge with relatively heavy use. Some days I will just leave the screen on for extended periods of time while working to monitor various things. Even when leaving the screen on for hours at a time, the battery always gives me at least a full day’s worth of use.
One of my favorite new pieces of hardware on the device is the fingerprint scanner. While I largely considered it a gimmick on past phones and computers due to being a clumsy experience, the finger-print scanner works so well that it’s become one of my favorite features of the iPhone 6 Plus. It is surprisingly accurate and zippy. If you power on your phone with your thumb, a simple half second linger on the button will take you past the lockscreen which is surprisingly more convenient than you would thing. Also, being able to pay for apps and games in the app store by scanning your fingerprint instead of typing your password is extremely convenient as well. I did notice that any moisture on your finger would inhibit the device from being able to read your fingerprint. If you have clammy hands, don’t look forward to using the fingerprint scanner.
Camera and Video
The iPhone has been a photographer’s smartphone favorite for many years. While if you simply compare cameras by megapixel, the iPhone 6 Plus is considerably behind its competition. However, the way in which the camera takes and processes the image as well as the sensor size both play a large role in the quality of the image. The only time megapixels is going to impact you is when you’re blowing your pictures up to extremely large sizes. As long as you’re not planning on displaying/printing the image beyond 20 X 30, the quality of the image should be just fine.
I don’t profess to be a professional photographer, so I’m going to defer the camera comparison over to our professional photography friends at improvephotography.com. In their testing they found that in many ways the iPhone 6 Plus’s camera actually performed worse than the iPhone 5S. They mention that contrast and burst shots performed considerably better on the iPhone 5S.
However, in the iPhone 6 Plus’s favor, it performed better in low light settings. The phase detection auto-focus also delivered clearer more focused photos; especially in very noisy environments.
You can view their entire comparison below:
Overall, I’ve been pleased with the quality of the pictures that I have taken with the iPhone 6 Plus. While it is definitely no DSLR replacement, it gets the job done and gives you an accessible camera anytime anywhere. Below are a few examples of photos that we took with the iPhone 6 Plus:
The front facing camera is only 1.2 megapixels and shoots in HD at 720P. While far from the best front-facing camera on a smartphone, it gets the job done for video chatting and low res selfies.
Video on the device also comes with some bells and whistles. While shooting in HD is nothing new for iPhones, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus both shoot at 60 frames per second which equates to smoother video. Apple’s Focus Pixel technology works surprisingly well while changing from one subject to another and remaining in focus. When shifting quickly from one subject to another, there are fractions of a second in which you will notice the camera refocusing, but it performs significantly better than my DSLR’s ability to autofocus while shooting video.
The new slow motion video mode is also an extremely cool new feature. Having the ability to capture video at 240 frames per second allows you to see an entirely new world. While Samsung has had this feature since the Galaxy S4, the execution of slow motion mode on the iPhone is a much better experience. For one, after shooting video, you can choose what portion of the clip you want to show in slow motion. Additionally, when the phone is shifting into slow motion it shifts quickly but gradually giving it an almost Hollywood movie slow-down slow motion effect. Also, the iPhone 6’s slow motion video also captures sound; something the Galaxy S4 nor S5 capture when shooting in slow motion.
You’ll notice, when using this mode, resolution does go down to 720P. Also, it doesn’t perform well in low-light settings. Our NoPhone Gymnastics video was shot using the iPhone 6 Plus and you can see some minor flickering while playing back the video in slow motion.
In proper lighting however, slow motion shots look crisp. Check out one of our favorites that we’ve found online below:
While a higher megapixel camera would have been welcomed, the camera performs really well in terms of taking pictures and videos with a variety of different features and modes to keep your creativity on steroids.
With the additional of an NFC chip to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, Apple released Apple Pay; a new form of mobile payment. The system is slick and works surprisingly well. It keeps track of all of your transactions in tandem with each credit card you have registered with Apple Pay. In my experience with Apple Pay, it does have a few pros and cons.
The setup process was extremely easy. You tap add a card, input the details, and in some cases you have to take a picture of the card. However, once you’re completed with the setup process, it doesn’t give you any kind of indication as to what to do next. In my first test, I didn’t know what to expect. I went to my local Circle K, opened up Apple Pay, held my phone against the sensor, and hoped it would work. Thankfully, it did. I had to promptly scan my fingerprint to finalize the payment process, after which point there was a delay. During this delay was an awkward time where myself and the cashier looked at each other in suspense in wonder whether the payment method was going to work or not. Once the card processed, it indicated success on the screen and I walked away with my goods after proudly paying as if someone from the future.
It’s worth noting that not all cards are accepted. I tried to add my credit union debit card and it said it was not approved for use with Apple Pay and that I would need to contact the Credit Union. This is extremely disappointing. Also, very few retailers have the hardware in place to support Apple Pay and some have even disabled Apple Pay due to relationships with other mobile payment companies. For this to replace my wallet I need two improvements to occur in the near future. All cards need to be accepted and the majority of stores need to have the hardware to support Apple Pay. At this point I still have to carry my wallet which defeats the overall purpose of Apple Pay.
Interface and Operating System
iOS has always been one of the more user-friendly and intuitive experiences out there. Apple has worked hard to keep it that way. Since the release of iOS7, the operating system has been enjoying a much-needed facelift with quick access menus that Android users had been delighting in for years.
One of the major new features released with iOS 8 was third-party keyboards. Coming from the Android world previously, I was excited to not have to abandon Swype. However, I was disappointed that Swype on the iPhone did not perform nearly as well as it did on Android. Autocorrect on the iPhone was much more strict and less intelligent. If a word is not in their dictionary, the iPhone is going to correct it continuously unless you tell it not to. Whereas on Android, if a word wasn’t found in the dictionary, I could simply type it and the phone was smart enough to know that I was adding a word not found in the dictionary amidst my Swyping.
Also, I found the third-party keyboard feature to be buggy. Whether the bug resided in the code of the keyboard or the operating system remains unknown, but anytime I would open the text messaging app, it would not load my keyboard. I would have to close out the app and re-open it to respond to any texts. This became frustrating to the point of switching back to the stock keyboard.
Some other highlights of iOS 8 are as follows:
- On the fly messaging. If you receive a message while within another app, you can quickly respond without leaving the app your using. However, keep in mind that if you get another notification while typing up a message you will lose your message.
- Healthkit – This new aspect of the OS allows the iPhone to stay integrated with a number of different fitness tracking devices.
- HomeKit – Home automation is on the rise with the advent of the smart bulb, smartlock, and more. HomeKit is a new aspect of the operating system that will unify the home automation experience on iOS
- Siri Improvements – Siri has performed extremely well. I’ve used Siri both in a noisy car over Bluetooth and in quiet rooms simply through the standard microphone. I would estimate around a 95% success rate. You do have to have a solid internet connection in order for Siri to “hear” you.
- Family sharing – Now you can share apps, photos, and more with up to 6 iTunes accounts. Just make sure you keep those embarrassing audio journal entries from making it into the family cloud.
Overall, I feel that iOS has caught up with Android in terms of necessary functionality. While definitely not perfect with a bug here and there, the interface is intuitive and it performs really well with the hardware inside of the phone. It’s unfortunate that third-party keyboards don’t work better. Hopefully this will improve over time.
In conclusion, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are both phenomenal phones. The new design, added screen size, and crystal clear display make for a fantastic visual experience. The upgraded specs and hardware enable the device to perform well, although we would have liked more system RAM and an increase in megapixels to the cameras. Apple Pay is a welcome addition, although there are a variety of things that need to happen before it becomes a viable wallet replacement. The iPhone 6 Plus is a bit too large, but doable as a two-hander phone. Overall, I highly recommend these devices to anyone looking for a smartphone with a strong portfolio of options and features.