Hardware

Apple has taken the plunge on bigger screens but how does the new iPhone 6 stack up?

Does bigger necessarily mean better?

Does bigger necessarily mean better?

Hardware

Straight out of the box, the iPhone 6 looks extremely sleek and thin. The new rounded edges make it look like the phone has melted into the table. The rounded glass on the edge of the screen also picks up reflections from every corner.

Picking it up for the first time it feels extremely slippery. If you’ve used the earlier, more blockier iPhones you might be a little uncertain with how to grip this new device. However, the thinness of the device does mitigate the new, larger screen. There’s no trading thinness for worse battery life, either, and Apple states that battery life is the same as the iPhone 5s, which is impressive with the increased screen size it needs to power.

One thing that long-time users will struggle with is the relocation of the lock button to the side of the device, however this will become second-nature over time.

As per usual the device is made from metal and glass that gives it a premium feel to it, however the screen is just as prone to shatter as previous versions when dropped, so it’s worth getting a case, especially as this solves another problem: the camera nub. This is the protrusion on the back of the device caused by the camera. This is present on the latest iPhone due to the thinning of the case overall, unfortunately, the camera wasn’t able to fit into the thinner casing. The result is that it will rock slightly if tapping it when placed on a flat surface. For a company that is obsessed with design this feels like an odd compromise to make, but a case, which most users will end up using, does help this.

The camera protrudes from the body of the iPhone 6

The camera protrudes from the body of the iPhone 6

Screen

Of course, the biggest change with the iPhone 6 is the increased screen size. Going from a 4-inch screen to the 4.7-inch or 5.5-inch screen does take some getting used to but ultimately they’re both extremely impressive. The iPhone 6 screens may only have the same pixel density as the iPhone 5s but the improved contrast ratio really helps the screen stand out. At first it seems too bright to look at but a fuller range of colors are impressive.

The bigger screen also allows for more information to be showing at one time. This is a boon to all reading apps as more text can appear at once without scrolling. It’s also great to watch video on the new device in landscape mode. We would be reluctant to watch a whole film, but it would do if it was all you had on hand.

The extra screen space is great for playing games on

The extra screen space is great for playing games on

However, for games, the device really comes into its own. With more screen real-estate, on-screen buttons now take up less space and your fingers get in the way less often. It’s still not perfect but gaming should really be improved just by the extra area. With the improved A8 chip, the graphics also stand out from previous iPhones.

Software

The iPhone would be nothing, of course, without the operating system and this comes pre-installed with iOS 8. You can check out our iOS 8 review for all the details, but suffice to say it runs blazingly fast on the iPhone 6. Apple claim the CPU is up to 50-times faster and the GPU is 84-times faster to the original iPhone. We’d be inclined to believe these claims.

It’s not all plain-sailing though as iOS 8 does run into problems on the iPhone 6. There have been a few crashes here and there from default apps and the device has completely shut down on a couple of occasions. We expect these kinks to be worked out as minor upgrades are gradually released.

Third-party apps also suffer from the move to the new pixel resolutions. Many apps have not yet been optimized for the screen size and text can appear oversized. It can be a little jarring to use but these should also improve over time.

The black void that is revealed by Reachability

The only software feature unique to the new devices is Reachability. When you double-tap the Home button, the top of the screen moves down towards the bottom, making it easier to reach. This acts and looks OK on the Home screen but can be strange within apps, revealing a dark void in the upper half of the screen.

Usability

Apple has always championed their devices as being able to use with one-hand. Apple has clearly stepped away from this after realizing that bigger screens are what people want. The Reachability shortcut is meant to mitigate some of the awkwardness but if you have small hands, you’ll find that it’s definitely easier to use with two hands.

Changing your usage pattern can be a struggle at first. We tried to stick to using the iPhone 6 with only one hand but it soon became unworkable. As a right-handed user, the top left-hand corner is usually just out of reach. This forces you to alter your grip, and put yourself at risk of dropping it to reach the options. Again we could use Reachability but this new gesture hasn’t become second-nature yet. As mentioned before, this device can feel slippery in the hand and there’s been a few moments where we felt close to dropping it because of struggling to reach a button. Of course, these issues are even more prevalent on the iPhone 6 Plus.

Camera

The camera has received plenty of upgrades too, but Apple sticks firm at an 8-megapixel sensor. Despite this, Apple has equipped the new camera with something it calls ‘Focus Pixels’. This allows the phone to focus almost instantly, even when you’ve just whipped it out of your pocket for a quick snap. The phone does seem impressively quick when taking a snap, obviously working in tandem with the new A8.

It’s not just the rear-camera that’s been updated though, the front-facing unit has received quite an upgrade too. Those all-important selfies are now much clearer as the camera captures more light.

This image from Apple shows off the new exposure control feature

This image from Apple shows off the new exposure control feature

The video capabilities have also received an upgrade. It’s now possible to record at 60 frames-per-second or up to 240 frames-per-second in slo-mo. The former shoots at extremely high-resolution and is unlikely to be used by many due to the large file sizes it creates. The latter however, is extremely impressive. At 240-fps you can see every minute detail of the action you’re filming and something you’ll want to use as much as possible just to show off. While the iPhone has already replaced the digital camera, it entirely possible that it will replace your camcorder too, thanks to the high quality of video it captures.

Battery life

All of those added features may sound great but they’re not of much use if your device doesn’t last the day. Apple suggested that the iPhone 6 would last as long as the iPhone 5s with up to 14 hours of talk time, 10 hours of Internet use, or up to 11 hours of video playback. In day-to-day use it does appear to last as long, and in some cases even lasting longer, making it through two days before needing to be plugged in. In the iPhone 6 Plus, the bigger casing has allowed for a bigger battery and is able to last even longer than the 5s and iPhone 6.

If you’re a heavy user of your device then you’ll likely still plug in an iPhone 6 device every evening. If you’re looking for better battery life then you should probably plump for the iPhone 6 Plus.

It would be great to have a battery that lasted even longer but Apple obviously prefers to keep the device slim and light instead of adding bulk. It’s a common complaint throughout the years and doesn’t look like it’s one that will go away anytime soon.

Conclusion

Again Apple has made the best smartphone available in the iPhone 6. It’s light, easy-to-use, and lightning fast. There are a few teething problems in getting used to the hardware size (and location of the lock button) but once you’re over that you’ll wonder how you managed with a smaller screen.

The best smartphone available

The best smartphone available

If you can’t decide between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus we’d recommend taking a trip to your nearest Apple Store if you can to check them out for yourself. For some, the screen will be too big on the larger model, while the increased battery life will sway some to that model. Either way, you’ll still be getting a great smartphone and an improvement over last year’s models.