Review: Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

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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.

Ever since the first iPhone was released, iLounge has independently tested every iPhone model by purchasing multiple phones and running a wide variety of tests to reveal their true pros and cons. As was the case last year, 2014 brings not just one, but rather two new iPhones. Yet unlike the iPhone 5s and 5c, which were marketed as flagship and mid-range models, Apple’s iPhone 6 ($199/16GB, $299/64GB, $399/128GB) and iPhone 6 Plus ($299/16GB, $399/64GB, $499/128GB) were debuted as similar products with different screen sizes and battery life as major differentiators. Are they truly comparable to one another? How much of an upgrade are they when compared to Apple’s last iPhones? These are just a couple of the many questions we wanted to answer this year.

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It goes without saying that these are physically the largest iPhones yet released. The iPhone 6 has a noticeably taller and slightly wider 4.7” display, up from the 4” display of the iPhone 5s, while a much wider and taller 5.5” display is the focal point of the iPhone 6 Plus. While competing Android smartphones have had similar screen sizes for years, this is the year Apple finally took the plunge and went big. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has said the company was more concerned with building the best screens, not the largest, but it’s obvious that Apple belatedly recognized the growing popularity of larger phones, and is playing catchup.

 

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Despite the larger screens, the bodies are actually thinner than the iPhone 5s, reinforcing Apple’s commitment to making its products as thin as possible. Yet both models are faster, deliver better battery life, and generally offer more storage capacity than their predecessors. There’s no 8GB model akin to the lowest-end iPhone 5c. Less anticipated was the elimination of the 32GB capacity in both phones — the middle pricing level now leaps right up to 64GB, with massive 128GB models rounding out the lineup for both devices. For the first time in memory, there’s a good argument to be made that most people would struggle to fill all of the space on the highest-end iPhones, though videos, photos, and other media will still compel top-of-line purchases.

Which of the models should you consider — the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus? The answer is not as simple as it might initially appear, so we’ll walk you through all of the details, below.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: The (Really) Big Picture

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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: Physical Design and Features

Whereas the iPhone 5s was a glass-covered rectangle with flat sides, the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are much different. Most obviously, the new phones are bigger: the iPhone 6 is 5.44” x 2.64” with a 4.7” display, and weighs 4.55 ounces, while the iPhone 6 Plus is 6.22” x 3.06” with a 5.5” display, and weighs 6.07 ounces. Despite their increase in overall size, both devices are actually thinner than the 0.3” thick 5s — the iPhone 6 is 0.27” thick, and the iPhone 6 Plus is 0.28” thick.

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Though their sizes differ, the two new iPhones basically have the same design. Borrowing design cues from the fifth-generation iPod touch, Apple has gone back to a more rounded design — the sides of the device are now curved, instead of flat. The sleep/wake button has moved to the right side of the device from the top, to make it easier to reach while holding the larger phones. There’s also now one line of speaker holes on the bottom of the phones, instead of two. The microphone, headphone jack, Lightning connector remain in the same places, as do the thinner volume controls and silent/ring switch.

 

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On the front of both phones, the FaceTime camera has moved to the left of the ear speaker, as a proximity sensor is now located above the speaker. Like the fifth-gen iPod touch, the backs of the phones feature a protruding camera lens — Apple’s solution for the camera sensor outsizing the thin bodies of the phones. The True Tone camera flash on both devices is now circular, instead of the pill-shaped form seen in the 5s. In both cases, plastic antenna bands are said to “complement” the aluminum of the phone’s rear.

 

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Though Apple has used the same colors in both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus as it did in the iPhone 5s — space gray, silver, and gold — the gold in the 6 and 6 Plus is a bit yellower than the subdued gold of the iPhone 5s. To many, it will simply look more golden. The space gray version is also lighter in tone than before, oddly reducing the distinction even further between the dark and silver metallic models.

 

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Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus come with Apple’s EarPods headphones, a Lightning/USB cable, and a 1A wall charger, all virtually identical to the ones shipped with prior iPhones. This year’s models could have conceivably come with a larger charger, a point we’ll get into a bit later.

 

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The curvier, thinner, larger design of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus make the iPhone 5s look a bit behind the times from the moment you see them all together. We’re not really bothered by the protruding camera lens, either, as concerns that it might destabilize the phones on a flat surface really have no basis in fact. However, there’s no escaping those plastic antenna bands — they’re ugly. We always recommend using a case on iPhones regardless, and we don’t think many will mind covering up the hideous lines, which don’t look worthy of Apple design.

 

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Our biggest issue with the iPhone 6 Plus from a design standpoint is something smaller, however: the ear speaker. Thinner than before, it can be somewhat harder to center properly on an ear, particularly given the larger size of the iPhone 6 Plus’s body. Depending on the size of your head and the way you’re accustomed to holding an iPhone, you may find the ergonomics challenging. We found the iPhone 6 easier to use as a telephone handset than the iPhone 6 Plus, but whether this will be enough of a problem to drive people to the lower model is open to some debate.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: Apple’s Largest iPhone Displays

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.”

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: The New Cameras + Audio Performance

Screen size is far from the only important spec when judging the overall appeal of a display, but it’s the number people gravitate toward. The same goes with megapixels in a camera, and this time around, the raw number remains the same as the 5s in both new iPhones — 8 megapixels. While competing smartphones offer between two and five times as many megapixels as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cameras, Apple has chosen to improve its cameras in other ways.

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The rear iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus camera feature a new sensor, improved face detection, an enhanced panorama mode capable of up to 43 megapixels, a circular True Tone flash, and advanced autofocus with what Apple calls “Focus Pixels.” The cameras found in both devices are exactly the same, with the exception of optical image stabilization, which is only found in the iPhone 6 Plus. That feature allows the image sensor to move, reducing the impact of hand shaking or other camera motion, a benefit especially noticeable in low light and during video recording.

 

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Autofocus with Focus Pixels is meant to making focusing quicker and easier, and the feature is most evident whenever something that’s not the subject of your photo passes by your screen — the new cameras can refocus much faster, leaving users much less likely to get a blurry photo when shooting quickly. Macro refocusing capabilities haven’t been improved as much as distance focusing, but when you’re able to get dialed in for a good macro shot, you’ll love the depth-of-field and sharpness. Low light shots are also improved in the new phones, with much lower noise and around 2/3 of a stop of extra light in typical shots, but we didn’t see much difference between the 6 and 6 Plus. Below, you’ll see a big difference in a quick, refocused shot between the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6 Plus.

 

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Video recording has been improved as well, with the camera now capable of recording 1080p HD video at 60 frames per second, as well as the previously standard 30 fps found on the iPhone 5s. Slo-mo video can now be recorded at 240 fps as well as 120 fps, making a cool feature even better-looking. Added to iOS 8, time-lapse video is another new recording mode, letting users condense a long period of video into a shorter viewing time for a sped-up view. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cameras also use an improved form of digital stabilization, referred to as cinematic video stabilization, further helping to reduce jarring motions during movie recording.

 

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On the front side of the phones, the 1.2MP FaceTime camera also has a new, improved sensor, and a larger aperture to gather more light than before, reducing blurring. Again, face detection has been improved, and burst mode is also now possible with the FaceTime camera to take a number of photos in rapid-fire succession. We did find that on both the front and rear cameras, the new iPhones could identify faces faster than the 5s did. It’s a shame that Apple has failed again to improve the resolution of this camera, as selfies have become increasingly popular, and the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus deliver very low-quality images.

 

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FaceTime call quality has improved noticeably from the iPhone 5s, particularly when making calls between iPhone 6 and 6 Plus devices. Thanks to an improved H.265 video codec, which uses less data when sending roughly the same quality of video, calls made and received between iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were smoother in our testing. But when calling a 5s or other devices, the feed coming from the older device looks much worse, falling back to the older H.264 standard Apple previously has used.

 

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Overall, the new cameras are definitively better than the past cameras found in the iPhone 5s. While both cameras are excellent and almost completely similar, the Plus gives you the advantage of a larger viewfinder and sharper screen. However, when you get the photos home on your computer, you’ll find little difference between what was captured by the 6 and 6 Plus. The video cameras are just as improved. Shooting on the move has improved with cinematic video stabilization, and the 240 fps slo-mo and 60 fps video are definitely nice additions. iPhone 6 Plus users can expect small but noticeable improvements thanks to the optical image stabilization. In sum, there’s a lot to like about these cameras — alongside the screens, these are probably the biggest reasons to upgrade from a past iPhone to the iPhone 6 or iPhone Plus.

Sound

When used as a handset for making phone calls, audio on both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus sounds a bit softer than on 5s. During calls, the iPhone 6 Plus will take some getting used to, as it can be hard to center on your ear, just due to the size. Call quality was good on both phones, though there appeared to be more background noise heard by callers when using the iPhone 6 Plus, a surprise given that the microphone on that model is more likely to be close to a user’s mouth, and was for sure closer to ours during testing. Additionally, the iPhone 5s ear speaker was louder than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus speaker on highest volume, which might make the newer models harder for some people to hear in noisy outdoor environments.

 

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The bottom speakers on the 6 and 6+ are different from the 5s, as well. Both the 6 and 6+ sound pretty similar, and both represent modest improvements over the 5s. There is some obvious distortion in the bass at high levels in both of the new phones. The 5s sounds a bit more distorted and robotic overall at its top volume, but it also has slightly better treble, which makes for better speakerphone calls, with a little less warmth when listening to music. When comparing the two new iPhones to each other, the 6 Plus has just a little less treble than the 6, and is a bit bassier. These differences aren’t huge.

There’s a similarly small difference in headphone port audio quality. We noticed that the treble on the 6 and 6+ is noticeably diminished versus the 5s when using really good headphones, making music sound a bit less lively. The difference is less obvious using basic headphones.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: Battery Life, Charging + New Hardware: A8, M8 + NFC/Apple Pay

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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus: Wireless Results, Accessories + Early Bugs

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.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

Conclusion

Though many people were skeptical that a larger-screened device could really improve upon the iPhone 5s—we weren’t among them—the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus certainly do feel like steps up from the iPhone 5s. Apple has been accused of playing a bit of catch-up with the emphasis on the bigger displays, and that’s true. But whether that really matters at this point is a different question. Android users previously saw the bigger displays as an advantage of their platform, but it’s now wiped away, leaving iOS with a nice assortment of different screen sizes. So other features, including the impressive camera, Touch ID with Apple Pay, iOS 8, and the big hammer in all of this — Apple’s ecosystem — will make the difference.

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Are these differences enough to cause Android users to make the leap to Apple? Some who have been waiting for a larger screen might feel the time is right to jump into the App Store, as the rest of the hardware is there, as well. But cost-conscious users and hardcore Android fans won’t be convinced to make the move based on what’s here. Apart from the screen size changes, both new iPhones continue Apple’s strategy of modest incremental evolution of this device family. If you were looking for a big change in any other feature, you won’t find it here — unless Apple Pay comes roaring out of the gate and becomes a widespread digital payment option. Time will tell on that point.

If you’re a long-time iOS user and on the fence about upgrading from an older iPhone, we’d generally suggest going for it. iPhone 5s users can probably hold off — if you find the camera good enough, and have no need for a larger screen, we’d recommend waiting until the 6s next year. However, we do think many users will get a glimpse of the larger screens and feel the urge to upgrade. Going back to even the 5s after using either the 6 or 6 Plus feels like a downgrade, though the extent to which this is true will depend a lot on the needs and preferences of the individual user. The gulf widens considerably if you’re upgrading to the 6 or 6 Plus from an iPhone 4, 4S, or 5. Serious photographers should be swayed by the new camera, which is truly point-and-shoot class, minus the lack of a zoom lens, and the video recording features are equally superb. If you’re a big iOS gamer, the iPhone 6 Plus will be the perfect device for many titles, particularly given its extra battery capacity.

 

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We most highly recommend the 64GB version of either the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. The 16GB version of the phone will be too small for most users, and at a $100 premium, the 64GB model offers more than enough storage capacity for most users’ needs. The 128GB model is a true luxury, and we’d only recommend it for users who want to tote around huge media collections.

 

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Which iPhone 6 version should you choose? The answer primarily comes down to biometrics — the size of your hands — and the related size of the pocket or purse where you’ll carry your device. If you previously were pleased with the size of the iPhone 5 or 5s, the iPhone 6 is a natural choice, as it’s just a little taller than before and should generally fit in all of the same places as its predecessors. Using a second hand to swipe the iPhone 6 Plus screen isn’t that big of a deal, but if you have small to medium-sized hands and you know two-handed use will frequently be a concern, don’t hesitate to go with the iPhone 6.

 

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On the other hand, the iPhone 6 Plus is easier to fit in pockets than some people expected, and definitely very close to ideally sized for users with larger hands. It’s not easy to use with one hand, even for larger-handed guys, but it’s not unwieldy, either, except when it’s being used as a phone handset — here, the ergonomics feel somewhat off, and in need of improvement for a future model. That said, the iPhone 6 Plus is a bit more of a challenge to place in the car, since it doesn’t comfortably fit in typically-sized cup holders, or much of anywhere else, unless you get a good air vent mount.

 

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Using the iPhone 6 Plus will also affect your tablet use more than the iPhone 6: the iPhone 6 is a companion to the iPad mini, iPad, or iPad Air, but the iPhone 6 Plus effectively displaces the need for the iPad mini under most circumstances. Believe us when we say that if you’re using an iPad mini, the iPhone 6 Plus will make you wonder whether to use it any more. They are different in size, but the 6 Plus displaces the need for the mini in all but the most productivity-focused apps. Even so, Plus users will likely feel more comfortable going with an iPad Air now, if they even still feel the need for a tablet. It’s possible to pick the iPhone 6 Plus and a computer, with no need for anything in the middle.

 

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So, which should you pick? When using both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus for long periods of time together, as we did this weekend, the iPhone 6 feels like a nice new iPhone. It’s fast, with a great camera, and a respectably large display. By comparison, the iPhone 6 Plus feels like a new product altogether, and our larger-handed editors found it easy to prefer over the iPhone 6. If you’re concerned about the size, hold both new iPhones before making a decision. For us, the iPhone 6 Plus offers enough extra oomph to be the more desirable model. But for the first time in the iPhone’s history, one size definitely doesn’t fit all users. This year, your size will be more important in choosing the right iPhone model than whatever slenderizing Apple has accomplished. For different reasons, both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus merit our A- rating, and are highly recommended.

Our Rating

A-
Highly Recommended

Company and Price

Company: Apple

Models: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus

Price: $199-$499

Total
11
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