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.

Along with the new larger screens of the new iPhones come new, higher resolutions. The 4.7” iPhone 6 display has a 1334 x 750 pixel resolution at 326 PPI, the same dot density as prior Retina iPhones, while the 5.5” iPhone 6 Plus display has a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution — true HD resolution — at 401 PPI. Despite the substantial resolution differences between them, Apple is billing both displays as being “Retina HD.”

Although the iPhone 6 screen has the same PPI as the iPhone 5s, the screen looks better under a variety of situations. It looks a bit brighter at maximum brightness, a little more viewable on off-angles and a lot more visible outdoors, with more accurate colors. The screen on the iPhone 6 Plus looks even better — in addition to those benefits, the added size of the larger screen makes everything pop, even though the higher pixel count isn’t really discernible. Both displays are a step up from the 5s, but it’s hard to look at the 6 and 6 Plus next to each other and not prefer the 6 Plus screen just because it’s bigger.

 

But some users, especially those with smaller hands, may find it hard or impossible to reach all of the screen while holding either phone with one hand. For this problem, Apple has introduced Reachability — a light double tap on the Touch ID sensor drags the top half of the screen downward for easier access. It’s a nice touch, and works well enough, but we wonder how often people will actually use it. Most of the time, you’ll probably just use your other hand.

Apple noted enhanced color accuracy of the displays during the iPhone 6 keynote, and while they’re better than the iPhone 5s, the Retina HD displays aren’t identical in color to one another. The iPhone 6 screens we tested tended to be a bit cooler, while the iPhone 6 Plus seemed warmer, with a slight yellow tint. It’s not a make or break difference by any means, but don’t expect pure, neutral color rendition from either model.

 

Users are given the option to view the screens with a standard or zoomed view. On the iPhone 6, the standard view can display an extra row of iPhone 5/5s-sized Home Screen icons (now 28 versus 24), while the zoomed view increases the icons’ size while losing a row on the Home Screen, just like the iPhone 5/5s but with closer-to-iPad mini-sized icons. When compared to the 6 Plus, the iPhone 6’s standard view can seem a bit small, but unless you have limited vision, that probably isn’t enough of a reason to lose that row of icons.

 

In addition to supporting 28 icons in both standard and zoomed display modes, the iPhone 6 Plus gives users a few other options not found on the iPhone 6. First, the larger iPhone offers the ability to view the Home Screen in landscape mode, with the dock on the right hand side. Along with that, certain apps add a second pane, akin to the iPad — a nice touch with no real downsides, though it’s only currently found in a handful of apps and unclear as to how widespread support will be from third-party developers. A new landscape keyboard has also been added, with a number of new keys, including cut and paste. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite work: it’s awkward and uncomfortable to use, mostly due to the width of the screen. But the iPhone 6 Plus portrait keyboard is much better. In fact, it’s the best keyboard we’ve ever seen on an iPhone, with a good width and easy to reach keys that make for a really pleasant typing experience. Larger-handed users will love it, and at least two of our editors found this feature alone to be worthy of picking the iPhone 6 Plus over the iPhone 6.

 

The new, larger displays will be the major selling point of the new iPhones — while it’s not really accurate, many potential customers believe that iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are just like the last iPhone, but with a bigger screen. These larger screens, on their own, may not be enough to convince some to upgrade, and even less of a reason to get Android users to join the ranks of iPhone users. But those with an open mind will be impressed. We only wish Apple had made slightly different choices, going slightly smaller with roughly 4.4” and 5.1” options; these sizes would likely have met the needs of most users without the Plus model seeming quite as huge.

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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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