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If you’re on the fence about which new iPhone 6 to buy, our guide might help you make your mind up
Almost everyone was expecting the iPhone 6 when Apple announced it back in September, but despite the rumors, the iPhone 6 Plus still managed to be something of a surprise. After all, Apple had long argued against larger smartphones, and the iPhone 5’s dimensions were supposedly governed by how far the typical thumb could reach.
But now Apple’s released a giant iPhone, and you’d need banana thumbs to cover the entire screen. So has Apple lost the plot? Or is this some kind of genius move? We suspect a bit of both, and if you’re sitting there trying to make sense of everything and decide which iPhone 6 is right for you, here are the pros and cons — as we see them — of owning a gargantuan iPhone.
Pro: iPad-like app views
Apps typically have two views: compact and regular. To date, iPhone apps have mostly only dealt with the compact variety, providing content in a single column. On the iPad, apps in landscape often get an extra column, such as Mail’s mailboxes to the left of the message pane. The iPhone 6 Plus in landscape works more like an iPad, and some third-party products are already taking advantage: for example, file manager Transmit iOS boasts a two-pane view for dragging files between local and remote sources. You won’t get that on the smaller iPhone 6!
Con: You can’t use it one-handed
We should clarify: you can use the iPhone 6 Plus one-handed, but only if you happen to have extremely large hands. Otherwise, chances are any thumb gymnastics and stretching in trying to use the giant iPhone like a normal smartphone will fail; you’ll see your device tumbling towards the floor in a cinematic slow-motion scramble of limbs, shortly before a sickening crunch and the stench of an expensive repair. Also, iOS apps essentially assume you will be using one hand with a smaller device or two hands with an iPad — but the iPhone 6 Plus is an in-between size. So you’ll either need to resign yourself to using both hands or get some kind of thumb-stretching device.
Pro: The huge screen is great for media
The iPhone 6 Plus screen is on the large side. It might not quite rival the iPad’s, but the screen’s way bigger than what you get with the iPhone 5/5s, and there are way more pixels too. In fact, it’s a widescreen 1080p display, which makes it ideal for movies; but that extra space means it’s fantastic for games as well. As long as you can reach the controls, obviously.
Con: Not all apps are optimized
Although developers at Apple’s 2014 developer conference were warned to embrace a more fluid type of app design, no specifics were provided about upcoming hardware. That means many developers are still frantically trying to update their apps for the new iPhones. Apps that haven’t been updated scale up, and while that merely looks odd on the iPhone 6, the resulting interface is almost comically giant on the iPhone 6 Plus.
Pro: Advanced camera technology
Both new iPhones have some pretty smart camera tech, but only the iPhone 6 Plus boasts hardware-based optical image stabilisation (OIS). This system uses the device’s chips and gyroscope to compensate for camera shake, minutely adjusting the lens accordingly. This boosts low-light photography, because the lens can stay open for longer; in fact, all shots should see reduced motion blur. In reality, the differences are slim, but it’s still nice to have if you buy a ginormophone.
Con: It’s really expensive
It’s fair to say that no iPhone is especially cheap. Good value, perhaps, but Apple’s not in the habit of providing bargains. And whereas the iPhone 6 is pricey, the iPhone 6 Plus is wallet-screamingly expensive. The 16 GB model is a waste of time unless you hate apps and media, meaning you’re looking at $849/£699 at least for a 64 GB model — $100/£80 more than the equivalent iPhone 6.
Pro: Enhanced battery life
A bigger device isn’t all bad, because most of an iPhone’s innards comprise the battery; and so the biggest iPhone naturally has the biggest battery. Apple’s specs page gives you the low-down on all of the figures, but the Plus outpaces the iPhone 6 in every way: an extra hour or two of web use; a few hours longer for video playback; 30 hours more for audio playback if you oddly decide to primarily use it as a huge iPod. Whichever way you cut it, it’s a win.
Con: The device is less portable
However, the iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t have that ‘Plus’ tacked on the end for nothing, and there’s a good reason Apple banged on about its new iPhones being the thinnest iPhones ever: because they’re bigger in every other way. But while the iPhone 6 adds a bit of height, width and weight over the iPhone 5s, the Plus is a comparative monster. Again, you can see the full specs on Apple’s website, but safe to say you’ll need a pretty big pocket to store this device in, and you’ll notice that extra heft if upgrading from the 5s.
Pro: It could be your only device
Time was people liked having task-specific devices, because all-in-ones forced too much compromise. Now, smartphones are more than good enough for pretty much every task you care to throw at them. But the smallish screen in Apple’s iPhone 5/5s meant it perhaps wasn’t a device that could potentially be your sole computer. With the iPhone 6 Plus, that’s certainly a possibility. It might feel a bit weird sticking the device in a stand and using a Bluetooth keyboard to type into a word processor, but the screen’s just about big enough for ‘proper’ work; elsewhere, the display is also plenty for drawing, media, gaming, reading, shooting and editing videos and photographs, and perhaps even creating digital art with a finger.
Con: It could be a compromise model
The iPhone 6 Plus is screamingly fast, but it also has essentially the same innards as the iPhone 6, so it’s trying to do more with the same guts and might date faster. Also, that display might be 1080p (1920 × 1080), but apps actually render at 2208 × 1242 and downsample. Only Apple can say why, but it smacks of compromise, and suggests the iPhone 7 Plus might properly have a 2208 × 1242 display, without slightly blurring what’s on the screen. We’ve sort of been here before, with the iPad 3. That tablet made compromises to get a Retina display into the iPad form factor, and in hindsight it was a quite good buy, but definitely not a great one; and so if there’s one thing that’d make us think twice about the iPhone 6 Plus, it’s that it might not be the device Apple really wanted it to be.