Review: Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus | iLounge

Review

Review: Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

A-
Highly Recommended

Company: Apple

Models: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus

Price: $199-$499

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Phil Dzikiy

Pros: The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have bigger, improved displays which enhance internet browsing and media playing — the experience is especially great on the iPhone 6 Plus. Both devices feature upgraded back and front cameras with new features and better performance. Enhanced video recording frame rates, along with cinematic video stabilization, let both iPhones record top-notch video; the 6 Plus adds optical image stabilization for even better camera performance. Improved batteries are noticeable during the course of the day, especially in the larger Plus. The iPhone 6 Plus adds iPad-style landscape viewing of the Home Screen and certain apps, enabling the phone to be a tablet replacement for some. New features including VoLTE, Wi-Fi Calling and Apple Pay have great potential, but can’t fully be tested at this stage.

Cons: Calling sound is softer and more problematic, especially on the iPhone 6 Plus which takes some getting used to — some users definitely won’t like the ergonomics of the calling experience on the large device. A number of apps look worse when scaled up on the iPhone 6 Plus; both devices have software bugs, as well. Data speeds vary wildly depending on location, sometimes dropping to very slow levels, despite improved wireless hardware. New cases will be needed, and past Lightning accessories may not fit the larger devices. Some users may find the iPhone 6 Plus simply too large to hold comfortably, or place in some cars.

This is the second year in a row Apple has introduced two new iPhones at once. Last year, it was the iPhone 5s and 5c. While the 5s was a sleek aluminum and glass device, the 5c was a colorful plastic phone clearly meant to be a more affordable option for consumers. Apple has settled into a pattern in which odd-numbered years see new iPhones with mostly internal changes — the “s” years — but seemingly more drastic changes in the phones’ operating systems. Even-numbered years introduce a larger step forward for iPhones, and that continues this year.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus collectively take over as Apple’s top-of-the-line smartphones, with both available in 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB options. Last year’s iPhone 5s is now available for $99 at 16GB and $149 for a 32GB model. The iPhone 5c is still available, too, for free — but it’s only the 8GB model. At this point, the 5c is only for users who barely need a smartphone — those who wish to check email, surf the web, and take a few photos. Anything else will be severely hampered by the exceedingly cramped capacity, despite the phone’s otherwise capable hardware.

Otherwise, outside of the hardware upgrades, most users who use the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus will have a similar experience to those buying the iPhone 5s. Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE) and Wi-Fi calling are two new carrier-specific features for the new iPhones which are rolling out slowly — only T-Mobile users can currently use Wi-Fi calling, which allows users to make calls from Wi-Fi networks when they’re available, and when cellular reception isn’t up to snuff. Verizon is ahead of AT&T in the VoLTE game as of now, but needed the feature more because its prior iPhones couldn’t make calls and use cellular data at the same time. We’ll learn more about the performance of these features as time goes on. At the moment, most apps will work on all of these phones — though they might look a bit different — and all of them run iOS 8, Apple’s latest operating system for mobile devices.

 

Although Apple is calling iOS 8 “the biggest release since the launch of the App Store, with hundreds of new features,” it’s not nearly as big a leap as last year’s iOS 7 was from iOS 6. iOS 8 features Apple’s much-publicized Health app, which acts as a database for medical information, linked with fitness apps to become a one-stop shop for such data. Other new features in iOS 8 include the predictive QuickType keyboard, Family Sharing — which allows family members to share purchases with some restrictions, fully hands-free use of Siri when plugged in, extensions to show app content in Notification Center, a new iCloud Drive system for cloud storage, Continuity and Handoff — which allow users of multiple Apple devices to instantly move app content between them — and tweaks to Messages, Photos, and Camera, among many other changes. Read our Instant Expert for further details.

 

Though the changes in iOS 8 don’t feel like a great leap forward from the substantial redesign of iOS 7, there are a lot of nice, welcome features here. If you are a longtime user of iOS, and you had no problems sticking with it last year, iOS 8 certainly won’t drive you away. On the other hand, the software probably doesn’t contain any new features flashy enough to lure Android users away from their chosen phones, either. The likes of Family Sharing and Continuity tighten up the typical “just works” Apple user experience, which at this point either appeals to you or doesn’t.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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