Review by Sunetra Chakravati,9/23/2014 10:28:16 AM
Look and feel
Ease of use
Beautiful design | Improved battery life | Great camera | Excellent performance
No expandable storage | Can be slippery to hold | Expensive
Steve Jobs once said: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
This may have been true when the first iPhone made its surprise arrival in 2007, but the competition has caught up and, with larger screens all the rage, Apple has found its hand being forced by consumers who no longer need to be shown.
With the iPhone 6 Apple looks to satisfy those demands, go against its own claims that large screen phones are impractical, and give the people what they want.
Like an original iPhone which has gone under a rolling pin, the new model has a curved aluminium body similar to that of the 2007 genesis, but one which is incredibly thin and light. At 6.9mm and 129g, the iPhone 6 is thinner but slightly heavier than the year-old 5s, but with a screen 0.7 inches larger.
The back and sides are all one piece of aluminium, but outlined at the top and bottom by plastic antenna strips. This is the least attractive element of the iPhone 6, but a necessary compromise which others, like the HTC One (M8) have also had to make.
Due to the extra size of this and the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple has relocated the power button from the top to the right edge, where it falls neatly under your right thumb or left index finger. Otherwise everything is as you’d expect, apart from a redesign for the volume buttons. It's the iPhone's thinness which captures your attention more keenly; it's just 6.9mm and weighs only 129g.
Although looking gorgeous, the iPhone’s aluminium back is quite slippery to hold, and even though the thin profile, low weight and curved edges help improve grip, we didn’t feel entirely comfortable using the phone with one hand. Typing one-handed is possible, but feels like the phone is on your hand rather than in it; by no means a deal-breaker, but something owners of older, smaller iPhones may initially be uncomfortable with. Anyone switching from an equally-sized Android should have no trouble at all with how the iPhone 6 feels.
Colour options are the same as the 5s, which means gold and silver - which each have a white front - and ‘Space Grey’, which is a dark grey and comes with a black front.
The iPhone 6’s 4.7-inch screen has a resolution of 1334 x 750 and a pixel density of 326 per inch. That latter figure hits Apple’s self-imposed target for a ‘Retina’ display right on the head and is, theoretically, the point where your eyes cannot distinguish individual pixels. This is mostly true and, although not offering the Full-HD (1920 x 1080) resolution of the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One (M8) and Sony Xperia Z3, the iPhone 6 is a very strong alternative. Its colour balance is slightly warmer than the Z3, making whites a little more yellow than blue, but this is merely a difference rather than a drawback.
Viewing angles are very wide, colours are sharp and bold without looking artificial, and the depth between the glass (not sapphire crystal, as rumoured) and display panel itself is shallower than ever, making it feel like you’re dipping your fingertips into the screen and pushing each pixel around. It’s totally immersive and makes even the most mundane tasks a real joy.
Bigger is better: (left to right) iPhone 4s, iPhone 5, iPhone 6
As Android and Windows Phone manufacturers pushed through the 5-inch barrier some time ago and are now approaching six, we think Apple has found the sweet spot with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. At this size I can just about reach the top corners with a single thumb, but for when that’s uncomfortable a new software tweak means a double tap (not press) of the Home button brings the entire user interface down by an inch or so to help you reach.
To anyone upgrading from the three-year-old iPhone 4s or older, the iPhone 6 will feel massive, but - as we’ve said before - it’s surprising how quickly you get used to bigger screens. And for those who want to go even bigger, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus could be for you.
Apple’s new A8 processor is claimed to be a dual-core chip with 1GB of RAM and a processor significantly slower than the Android competition - but we urge you to look beyond the numbers and focus on what actually matters: how the iPhone 6 performs in the real world.
Here we’re pleased to report that it absolutely flies. The new iOS 8 software is as snappy and streamlined as any previous version, while the A8 chip boots up Real Racing 3 around 10 seconds faster than the new Sony Xperia Z3 can manage. Apps like Facebook, Twitter and Google Maps open equally fast on the iPhone 6 as they do on the LG G3 - goes to show, phone performance isn’t all down to clock speeds, cores and RAM.
After several days of using the iPhone 6 as our own phone we’re yet to encounter any performance issues at all. iOS 8 runs smoothly, apps open and close immediately, and the handset’s temperature is kept under control (although the back does warm up a little when gaming).
While gaming we noticed that the location of the iPhone's one speaker remains the same as before; it's at the bottom, which becomes the right or left side when gaming (or holding the phone to watch a film), and is thus covered by your hand, severely muffling the sound. HTC and Sony do a better job with their dual, front-facing speakers.
Joining the A7 is Apple’s new M8 motion-tracking sub-processor; the iPhone uses this to track your steps, exercise and, new for the 6, flights of stairs climbed thanks to a barometer to monitor changes in air pressure.
Battery life is often cited as the iPhone’s achilles heel, but for the iPhone 6 a bigger screen means a bigger battery, up from 1,560mAh in the iPhone 5s to 1,810. What this means in the real world is I regularly see around 30% charge left when I go to bed each night, and that’s a very welcome improvement on the 5 and 5s.
Finally, storage options are 16, 64 and 128GB; the large two are fine (despite the lack of microSD card slot), but keeping the 16GB version instead of making 32GB the base model stinks of trying to get consumers to ignore the ‘cheapest’ £539 phone.
Read More: Apple iOS 8 Review
Focus Pixels is a new system which Apple claims to make the camera’s autofocus faster than ever. We never found the iPhone 5s to be all that sluggish, but every little helps and the speed at which the 6 focuses wherever you point it is impressive. For 90% of photos you can shoot immediately and know the subject will be in focus. Only if you want to concentrate on a subject in the very foreground or background would you tap that area to focus.
Exposure can now be adjusted with a swipe up or down the screen. You can be very precise here, which is great for budding photographers seeking the perfect exposure, but for a quick-and-dirty change you’ll need to swipe the full length of the screen a couple of times; a long press locks the exposure in place. Another update for the 6 is that HDR is now set to automatic by default, as is the flash. Both can be set to off, on, or left on auto.
New for the iPhone 6 is 240 frames-per-second slow motion. Double the frames (and therefore half the speed) of the iPhone 5s means you can shoot some incredibly slow video with the 6. The results really look like something from The Matrix, and even the sound slows down to create some real cinematic treats. The only downside is that you can’t select several parts of a single video to be slowed down.
Some will no doubt argue that more megapixels means a better camera - and at 8mp on the back and 2.1 on the front, the iPhone now lacks way behind some 16mp rivals - but for us the results are still mightely impressive. You can’t zoom in and make huge crops like on the 41mp Lumia 1020, but for every other circumstance the iPhone 6 is excellent.
The people demanded a larger screen and that’s exactly what they got. Apple took what was great about the iPhone 5s, upgraded every aspect, and added them to the one thing Apple wasn’t offering - a big screen.
It’s not massive - that’s what the iPhone 6 Plus is for - but it’s much larger than the 5s, while being thinner and only marginally heavier. The extra size simultaneously reduces complaints from big-screened Android fans and pours cold water over the iPhone’s perennial battery life concerns.
Design counts for more than it ever used to, and although the competition from Sony and HTC in particular has produced strong alternatives, the iPhone is still king. Yes, it can be slippery and requires you to hold it carefully, but no other handset conveys such a sense of premium build quality.
But with superb build and aesthetics comes a high price. The iPhone 6 starts at £539 and runs up to £699 - a huge wad of cash in anyone’s book, but if you can justify it you’ll be taking home the best handset 2014 has to offer.
The people have spoken and, with the iPhone 6, Apple has given them what they wanted.