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.

Apple’s 64-bit A8 chip takes another step beyond the A7 of the iPhone 5s. Apple promises between 25-50% improvements in raw performance on the CPU and graphics sides, which aren’t the biggest jumps we’ve ever seen between iPhone generations, but are welcome nonetheless. Practically, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus feel the same as one another, and a little faster overall than the A7, which you’ll probably only notice in that apps open a touch quicker. If you’re not paying close attention and comparing directly to the 5s, you may not perceive much of a difference. Geekbench 3 gave the iPhone 5s on iOS 8 a 1460 single-core and 2560 multi-core score; our scores for both the 6 and 6 Plus roughly averaged 1604-1620 for single-core, and 2861-2901 for multi-core. Interestingly, the iPhone 6 got the higher average benchmark scores for us, at 1620 and 2901, respectively; the iPhone 6 Plus tended to lag a little behind. We also saw significant variations between the scores when we ran the tests multiple times, with the iPhone 6 typically scoring a little higher. The likely culprit is the iPhone 6 Plus’s screen and the additional lifting Apple’s A8 needs to do to support it.

Battery life on the iPhone 6 is slightly improved from the iPhone 5s, versus a more major improvement on the iPhone 6 Plus. We’re still in the middle of doing battery testing, but in typical mixed-use daily interaction, the iPhone 6 can be relied upon for an hour or so of additional run time, whereas the iPhone 6 Plus can last through an entire day of fairly frequent interaction — not two days of active use — without a battery charge. Apple claims 1-2 hour battery improvements on the iPhone 6 over the iPhone 5s, and larger battery improvements on the iPhone 6 Plus.

 

In our most aggressive battery test, game playback, which typically runs an iPhone down around three times normal speed, we ran the graphically demanding Infinity Blade III at 50 percent brightness and 50 percent speaker volume until the battery drained. On the iPhone 6, the game ran for 3 hours and 57 minutes, up from 3 hours and 42 minutes on the iPhone 5s, versus an amazing 5 hours and 37 minutes on the iPhone 6 Plus. The game ran smoothly on both devices, as did Metal games such as Epic Zen Garden and Asphalt 8: Airborne. That said, we noticed some fairly substantial video artifacts on the iPhone 6 Plus during many prior-generation games, due to combinations of upscaling and downscaling. In one case, a game displayed in a small window in the corner of the iPhone 6 Plus screen; in others, we saw wavy lines where we’d once expected sharp pixel-perfect rendering. It’s unclear how games will look once they’ve been truly optimized for both of these devices.

 

Interestingly, though both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus come with included 1A charging adapters, we found both devices are able to support 2.1A charging under some circumstances. Demanding games and GPS apps, for instance, can push the iPhones to use more than 1A power, and with an iPad power adapter, they can continue to recharge while using the extra juice. What this means practically will vary based on how and when you recharge your iPhone. If you plug the iPhone 6 into a 2.1A charger and don’t use it during charging, you can expect a full recharge time of around 2 hours and 24 minutes — the same as with its included charger. But if you’re using the device a lot, the charging speed with the 2.1A charger might remain at 2:24 while it would stretch out with the 1A charger. With the iPhone 6 Plus, a 2.1A charger refilled the battery in 2 hours and 49 minutes, while the 1A charger took 3 hours and 13 minutes for a full recharge. Again, these times will vary based on device usage.

Other new hardware features in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus include the advanced M8 motion coprocessor, which can calculate distance and elevation in addition to tracking steps and sensing travel like the M7. A barometer is also included for measuring altitude. When taking a look at the Health app, we were given distance and elevation results that appeared pretty accurate over a day of testing.

 

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus mark the second time Apple has included Touch ID in its phones, following the fingerprint scanner’s introduction in the iPhone 5s. Although Apple hasn’t specifically pointed out any improvements with Touch ID, it feels like it’s been improved slightly. The speed is about the same — perhaps a touch quicker — but it appears the recognition success rate has improved. iOS 8 will subtly show you which finger is currently being identified when you go into Touch ID settings.

Apple’s new upcoming mobile payment system, Apple Pay, uses Touch ID as a part of the payment process. You place a finger on Touch ID while the phone is scanned using a new NFC wireless antenna — notably unavailable for use by other accessories —  making a quick payment from credit cards stored on the device. Apple already has a number of large partners for the venture, banks seem to be impressed, and the company appears to have gotten it right with security measures, though time will tell. Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be able to use Apple Pay.

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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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