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 has seriously updated the wireless hardware inside both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but for most users, the differences will unfortunately not be perceptible. For instance, the maximum cellular bandwidth of both models has been increased from 100 Megabits per second to 150 Megabits per second, supporting an enhanced version of LTE that is not widely available in the United States at this point. As such, cellular speeds differed considerably between locations during our testing. At one point, we experienced a 2.97 Mbps download speed and 5.89 Mbps upload speed, roughly as bad as we’d seen on pre-LTE iPhones. But we also saw a 39.44 Mbps download speed and 12.53 Mbps upload speed, with most results in the 10-15Mbps down and up range, even in places that used to have faster speeds — higher network saturation is to blame. At one particularly strong location, we saw speeds as high at 84.73 download, and a 15.75 upload speed. Your results will vary based on location and how crowded local networks are.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have also added support for 802.11ac, the latest Wi-Fi standard to gain traction. Theoretically, 802.11ac supports faster data speeds and more reliable connections at various distances than the prior standard, 802.11n, but real-world performance in most locations — your home, school, or office — will be reduced markedly by limited broadband modem speeds, the lack of widespread 802.11ac networks, and the presence of other, slower devices on your network. Once again, do not expect to see major real gains in iPhone performance here, though support for the 802.11ac standard is welcome.

 

Similarly, the story with accessories is also somewhat mixed. These phones are much larger than past iPhones, so new cases will be needed, and they’re already rolling in to our offices for testing. At the moment, it’s unclear what effect various case designs will have on Apple Pay; one case maker is already advising users not to use its magnetic attachments for fear that they’ll disable the new iPhones’ NFC capabilities. We’ll check back on this topic in the near future.

Considering the state of Lightning accessories — there are very few Lightning speaker docks, and relatively few Lightning add-ons, period— the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus won’t have as drastic an effect on the accessory market as they would have if Lightning accessories were thriving. Be sure to check if your Lightning docks have wide-enough openings and high-enough backs to support the larger phones, as there could be issues there.

It’s also worth noting that a wide variety of software bugs have cropped up on both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, some beyond the scope of what we’ve previously seen on just-released iPhone models. Neither model seems to work with Apple TV via AirPlay at this point. The iPhone 6 Plus screen once locked while upside down; status bar overlays sometimes appear on top of the video display in the Camera app. Another time, the iPhone 6 was buzzing and receiving a call, but no notification popped up. Hopefully, iOS 8.0.1 will solve these and other issues, but after waiting months for iPad-related patches to iOS 7 last year, Apple’s timeline for bug fixes is somewhat hard to predict.

 

In third-party apps, graphics issues are the most common — in games, we noticed the disappearance of water on Fish Out of Water on the iPhone 6 Plus, and rasterization problems in vector games such as Dropchord. A number of other apps just look wrong on the iPhone 6 Plus compared to the iPhone 6 due to the size; developers will have to adjust for the size of the apps, but there’s no guarantee they’ll do so quickly. There are also some functional problems, such as Facebook’s camera roll, which didn’t appear correctly. There could be a great deal of fragmentation between iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus apps; we’ll just have to see.

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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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