A detailed review of the iPhone 6 from a habitual smartphone swapper

Discussion in 'iPhone' started by Neon01, Oct 8, 2014.

  1. Neon01 macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2011
    #1
    I recently picked up a 64GB space gray IP6. To give a bit of my perspective, I'm ashamed to admit I tend to switch phones every 6-8 months. I'm in search of the perfect device. After what I've been through, I'm pretty sure the best I'm ever going to do is the perfect device *right now*. My smartphone ownership started with Windows Mobile with a HTC Touch in 2006 followed by several other Windows Mobile phones. I've owned iPhones 4s, 5, and 5s, as well as a Galaxy S, Galaxy Nexus, HTC One X, HTC One, and most recently a Moto X (2013). I’ve also spent significant amounts of time using the LG G3, Moto X (2014) and HTC One (M8). I love elements of both Android and iOS, and I've tried to be as unbiased as I can be in this writeup.

    I have no test equipment upon which to formulate a quantitative comparison to other phones, but plenty of good data are available from online sites such as Anandtech for those that wish to compare max brightness down to the Nit. This review focuses more on my user experience, and I’d state up front that it is entirely opinion.

    Display

    The display on the IP6 is quite excellent, but I wouldn't call it superlative in today's market. Ever since the IP4, iphones have been known for quality IPS displays with great (and accurate) color reproduction and good viewing angles. This phone is no exception.

    The display used to be a major draw for me over the android crop of phones, but these days are past. I'd still count it superior to such displays as the former Moto X (2013 version), but the new HTC flagship phones (M7 and M8 One), and the LG G3 is as good, if not better than, the iphone display in virtually every way. I'd subjectively rate the Galaxy S5 display as better as well on account of its PPI advantage (yes, I really can tell the difference past 300 PPI), true black, and rich colors. I admit this is a personal preference though, and some may not like the oversaturated look of the AMOLED displays.

    One thing I do think that still sets the iphone display apart is the brightness. It's very easy to use the iphone in full sunlight, though the polarizer on the glass does discolor it significantly if you're wearing polarized sunglasses.

    I'm not sure if it really belongs here rather than ergonomics, but the glass on the iphone display tends to reflect more light than other phones I've used. However, this glass is also one of its strengths (see below).

    Aesthetics

    Apple has always been known for creating works of art that seem to defy categorization within a form/function follows axiom. The IP6 is, again, no exception. Notwithstanding the plastic pieces separating sections of metal on the rear of the phone, the IP6 is truly a stunner. This rear ugliness is functional, no doubt, but probably could have been better executed with better color choices to at least minimize the color disparity. On the upside, it's a true gapless integration of components, and fingers never feel anything other than the texture difference.

    The front of the IP6 is gorgeous. The smooth lines of the glass tapering into the rounded edges are sublime, and translate into a much improved tactile experience as well. Many actions on a smartphone involve swiping a thumb in from the edge of the phone - the "infinity edge" of the glass on the front makes this ubiquitous maneuver a true joy to execute. The home button is neither raised nor excessively sunken, and the color throughout the front of the phone is solid black (space gray model) in most light, unlike previous iphones, which had a brownish tint to the display itself.

    If I have one criticism, it's that the IP6 doesn't *quite* come off as truly premium as its predecessors. I think this is due to the rounded edges which blend into the back, and the matte color of the brushed aluminum sides that you can see from the front. It's just not as swanky as the older iphones with their delightful polished chamfers and more industrial look. Apple's latest effort does look premium, but really doesn't stand head and shoulders above its peers anymore. IMO the HTC One (M8) and new Moto X are easily in the same league at this point, aesthetically.

    Ergonomics

    This is an area of phone ownership which I'm most picky about, and it's one that has brought be back to Apple time and again, since they traditionally just do this better than a lot of the Android models. The physical vibrate/ring switch, excellent tactile feel of the volume/power button actuation, and generally superb design and layout of the buttons themselves to intuitively draw the finger right to them in easy to reach locations. It's always been clear to me that apple knows how to actually test their products.
    Unfortunately, I do feel that some things have gone a bit awry with the increase in size of the chassis to accommodate the larger screen. I understand the reason for moving the power button to the right side, since the index finger may struggle to operate it with the elongated body of the phone, but I still feel it needs work. Given that I need to hold the phone so low to use the home button all the time, the button is still too high on the frame. Also, they've reduced the profile of all of the buttons, which I'm not a fan of.

    Most of my problems with usability stem from that home button, and I really wish they would do away with it. I figure the odds of this happening are about as good as me winning the Powerball, but I do feel it cripples the IP6 ergonomically. It’s constant use forces me to hold the phone so low that using the entire top half of the phone is somewhat difficult. It’s extremely refreshing to see that Apple at least *attempted* to deal with this by adding the double-tap-to-pulldown feature, which works…OK. It’s effective, but constantly double tapping (the actuation of which is somewhat hit or miss, in my experience) to go back through 6 layers of nested menus to get from the battery usage screen to the top level settings is a complete disaster. It’s very clear that the OS just needs an ergonomic overhaul (something I think Android could benefit from as well). It makes ZERO sense to put every back button on the extreme upper left corner of the screen. This was uncomfortable even with the IP5, and now it’s nearly impossible without the klugey workaround. The home button also adds unneeded space to the bezels of the phone, making a 4.7 inch iphone roughly the same size as a 5 inch phone from competitors.

    On the upside, the home button works great when it’s used for clicking. It gives a nice solid tactile feedback without unnecessary throw. Also, it doesn’t feel wobbly or loose in its surroundings, unlike some of the previous iphones/ipads.

    Sadly, my gripes with the phone don’t end with the home button. The new curved sides of the phone, while very nice to look at, and very smooth in the hand, tend to make it more uncomfortable to hold. Instead of a 7-8mm flat surface over which the entire force of your hand can be distributed to hold the phone securely, all of that force is distributed over a very small portion of that curved side. Since the material is silky smooth aluminum, this means I need to have a deathgrip on the thing – almost to the point of hurting my hand – to feel like it’s secure. This is undoubtedly treatable with cases or skins. I abhor cases however, since they tend to make such a fine piece of kit feel cheap and bloated. I haven’t tried a skin since I’m not sure I’m keeping the phone.

    I know that’s a lot of negativity, but it’s still a wonderfully well-thought out phone with a lot of positives. The aluminum feels fantastic in the hand, and the flat back is nice too. It’s thin, but not too thin, and fits great in a pocket. Little things, like the ability to take photos with the volume buttons, instead of by tapping the screen, are the icing on the cake. Also, the screen seems to be some form of glass in lieu of the plastics all of the Androids use, and this goes a long way in increasing the usability of the display. I wash my hands often, and without a bit of oil on your fingertips, plastic screens just don’t glide smoothly.

    Call Quality/Signal

    Having no proper test equipment, I’m forced to rely on subjective evaluations of signal strength for this review. In short, the IP6 performs well with regard to signal strength; improving considerably over the previous IP5 and IP5s, and just about reaching parity with most flagship Android phones (GS5, HTC One, LG G3, Moto X). I work in a large concrete building with poor to average cell reception, and using the IP6 in the same locations as its Android peers yields similar, if not *slightly* worse, results. Websites take a breath longer to load, but calls can be made and maintained with the same reliability. Call quality is crystal clear, and IMO, slightly better than the Android phones I’ve used.

    I bought and used the IP5 and 5S for many months before I finally got rid of them because of absolutely horrible signal quality. I’m very pleased to see the IP6 has reversed this and brought Apple’s product back to the standards they had with the 4S, with the added benefit of LTE.

    Regarding Wifi, I never had the issues that many reported were the cause of the early 8.0.1/2 updates. I have a challenging test that I’m hoping a phone will someday pass – when I mow my yard, I use my phone and a pair of Bluetooth headphones to listen to music. My yard is a modest half acre, and I have multiple wifi transmitters distributed through my house (on different channels but the same SSID), but all phones to date have struggled with poor wifi reception in the outer reaches of the yard, and get confused as to whether they should failover to the cell service in lieu of the wifi. This results in stops and starts in my streaming music (Spotify). I’m sad to say the IP6 did not do any better (nor worse) with this than the other phones I’ve used, so I would subjectively say that wifi reception is very similar to other phones.

    Bluetooth worked perfectly on my phone, established connection quickly with my X5 as well as my other devices. Subjectively, I believe the connection is even faster than with any of the android phones I’ve used. As a side note, however, the A2DP control from my Pioneer aftermarket head unit in my Honda S2000 does not allow for track forward/back control on the IP6 (as with all previous iphones), yet does allow for same control on all androids. This is probably more of a software issue, but I noted it here anyway. The BMW built in Bluetooth control does work flawlessly, however, and doesn’t give me the same issues I get with my Android phones. Tradeoffs…

    Battery

    Simply put, the IP6 has the best battery life of any phone I’ve ever used, and by a large margin. Android phones are doing a little better here with the larger phones increasing battery size, but this is an area where they continue to struggle compared to iphones. The IP6 gave me two full 18 hour days of mixed usage, and was still at 17% when I plugged it in at the end of the second day. I took a screen grab of the usage, and I believe it had something like 6 hours of actual usage time with 1 day 23 hours of standby time (and still had 17%). I really can’t heap enough praise upon the IP6 with regard to battery life – it’s truly phenomenal.

    Sound Quality

    As with previous iphones, sound quality is excellent. The speaker gets loud and remains undistorted even at high volumes. It’s a shame Apple will never consider front facing speakers, but given how capable the speaker is, I’m not losing any sleep over it. Samsung continues to release Galaxy phones with terrible audio, but much of the Android market has made big strides here in recent models. The Moto X and HTC One are particularly good, both with nice loud front-facing speakers.

    The Bluetooth audio seems stronger to me than Android phones, and does not require head unit volumes as high as its Android counterparts to achieve the same cabin volume. This is more a function of software than hardware, but I feel it’s worth mentioning.

    OS/Software/User Experience

    Much of this section will come off as an iOS vs. Android comparison. For that I apologize, but I saw no other effective way to evaluate the strengths of the software and user experience of the IP6. Most of what was changed with iOS 8 was a great step in the right direction, and I do feel that Android and iOS are becoming more and more similar with every release. Android is getting more stable and fluid, and iOS is allowing more customization and flexibility of the user interface.

    iOS 8 now has a version of what I’ve heard referred to as widgets within the notification menu. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’ve hit the mark with these. IMO, widgets should be easily accessible and very obvious. After all, if you’re not going to make them immediately obvious, where’s the real benefit from just having their functionality a single click away in an icon (as previous). Further, to even use them, you need to clutter up your notifications menu, and with just a few enabled I could see a long, bloated list of information all within the pull-down resulting. The functionality achieved by the “widgets” is also very limited. I’m sure not a few folks like the clean, clinical and homogeneous tiled appearance of the iOS desktop, and to an extent I agree. For that reason I don’t know if Apple will ever give this up, but I hope they do eventually. With a simple launcher like Nova on Android, one can have a very clean (I even eschew icon labels) home screen with only critical widgets featured. Surely some way to keep the iOS home screen clean is possible while gaining functionality.

    I LOVE that Apple has added the ability to use third party keyboards, but I experienced a few errors getting these keyboards to work. These are probably only early kinks that will be worked out quickly, and may even be attributable to the third party developers. One unfortunate aspect of the third party keyboards is that iphone always switches back to the default keyboard when passwords are to be entered. This is clearly for security reasons, but it just makes the third party keyboards like a hack, switching from dark skins to light going from one to the other. This needs to be fixed (and I’ve no doubt it will be) in order for this to be a truly great feature. Still, the impact of this change cannot be understated IMO, and Apple deserves credit for giving people what they want.

    Apple continues to have great built-in software that integrates well with the OS. The fact that I can swipe a finger up from the bottom and click a button to enable the flashlight or launch a calculator is awesome. The fact that I don’t have to use a “free” calculator app loaded with advertisements (as in Android) in order to get this functionality is even better. Like the difference between Windows and Mac, the included software means seamless integration within the OS, and less “hey, you don’t have an application that can load that file, do you want to search for it on the internet?”

    iOS continues to feel put together well and seamless with the user experience. However, the difference this time around (vice the IP4S/5 days) is that it doesn’t feel particularly *better* than Android. Back in the day I needed to restart my android phones every day or two just to start the clock over on the glitches. Not so anymore. I routinely go 10-15 days between resets, and even then it’s often not from errors or issues with the OS. I’ve also seen issues with iOS that I didn’t use to see. Things like black screens when I click the home button from an app until I click it again, hitching in certain apps, and the like. iOS is still flawlessly smooth in scrolling through app windows and websites, but the difference between it and Android at this point is virtually negligible. Still, I do see a lot more hitching in certain apps within Android than iOS.

    The new iCloud drive functionality sounded neat in the keynote, and I’m very excited to be able to use it as described, but it seems that the real functionality to upload and manage documents within the cloud is only on the Mac, from what I’ve been able to tell. I was hoping for something akin to dropbox that I upload files on my IP6 and access them with my ipad and Mac. Clearly Mac hasn’t been upgraded here yet (Yosemite pending), so maybe there’s more to come, but the operation of Drive is not transparent to me at this point, so I continue to use dropbox.

    One of my major gripes with iOS has always been its lack of common file system that is addressable by all apps. How nice would it be to be able to download file XXX.PDF, save it to the internal memory, then access that file whether you’re using Adobe Reader, Goodreader, iBooks, or any number of other PDF viewers? Instead, we have to load that single file into EVERY one of these apps in order to be able to use it in all of them. iCloud Drive would have been a great opportunity for Apple to create something like this, wherein all files could theoretically be stored, and retrieved to each app through the “Open in…” command. Perhaps this is what we’ll get, but it seems that direct control of the Drive will be lacking from iOS devices, and reserved for Macs.

    iOS apps in general continue to be more refined, less buggy, and generally more responsive than those in Android. Apple has a more rigorous process for vetting apps into its app store, and it shows. With that said, I do find that some apps that I use are free on Android but charge on iOS. It’s usually not more than a couple bucks, but it adds up.

    I’m finding that iOS apps still need to be updated for the IP6. It’s clear right now that even some of the major apps (like Google and Spotify) have not been updated for the higher resolution, and appear soft on account. Usually the big devs are better about having updates released very quickly for the major new phone releases, but not in this case.

    All in all, iOS has taken some critical, if not terribly significant, steps in its latest iteration. The inclusion of third party keyboards, “widgets”, and a number of other minor improvements, iOS 8 is definitely a step in the right direction. I just wish it had come farther. Too often I have to use workarounds to manipulate files, move them where I need them, attach them to emails, and accomplish other things that are easy on Android (e.g. anything having to do with torrents). Though it feels a bit more klugey - albeit less so than ever before - Android OS just feels more capable. It brings information to my fingertips in a way that makes it easier to find and more readily accessible. Put simply, Android (and Google Now) makes me pull out my phone and *use* it. iOS doesn’t, but I know that when I need it, it’s usually better and more reliable at doing what I want it to.

    Wrap Up

    In my week using the IP6 as a “daily driver”, I found a couple things. First, that the 6 eclipses the 5S in just about every way, with the exception of ergonomics. This is to be expected, given its significantly larger size, but I feel a bit more effort designing for the larger size of the phone could have alleviated much of the growing pains. In every other aspect of operation, it is simply a better device.

    Secondly - though I’m a little disappointed to say it - it didn’t *wow* me. Maybe it’s how good Android has gotten, or some of the killer apps it’s integrated (read: Google Now), or maybe it’s because iOS 8 didn’t bring *enough* additional functionality to the table at a time when I felt like it needed to in order to keep pace. At the end of a week-long trial with any phone, I always end up with a few “well, if I get rid of it, I would have to make due without…” The IP6 is no exception, though for whatever reason, less so than its predecessors. Most of what it really brings to the table now over its competition is a general feeling of excellence in lieu of any one particular “gotta have it” feature. The only thing I can really put my finger on is battery life, and while that’s extremely nice, I’m rarely more than 3-4 hours away from a charger anyway, so it’s more of a convenience thing. At the end of the week, my gut is telling me $750 is a heck of a lot of money to spend without a bit more of the “gotta have it” factor. But for the Apple faithful that aren’t considering alternatives, and only considering whether it’s worth upgrading their 5 or 5S, I would give an enthusiastic “yes!”
     
  2. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6

    ucfgrad93

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2007
    Location:
    Colorado
    #2
    Good grief, who in the world is going to spend the time to read that ginormous wall of text.:rolleyes:

    Some formatting would be greatly appreciated.
     
  3. AppleP59 macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2014
    #4
    It's a small novel.
    And no mention of the word "gate". Thats a first! Well done.
     
  4. Neon01 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2011
    #5
    :( It is formatted... The bold didn't come through right away, but I edited it within minutes of the initial post
     
  5. ucfgrad93 macrumors P6

    ucfgrad93

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2007
    Location:
    Colorado
    #6
    I must have seen and posted before the editing was done. There was no spaces between paragraphs, headings weren't bolded, etc. Looks much better now.

    Nice write up, thanks for an interesting read.
     
  6. areyes163 macrumors 6502

    areyes163

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #7
    Nice review although I found it way to long so I skimmed it. Although I swap phones about every other month. My iphon6 six comes tomorrow I'll see how she goes from tjere.
     
  7. ajm222 macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2012
  8. arftech macrumors regular

    arftech

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2010
  9. Retired Cat macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2013
    #10
    Nice review! I don't agree that the ergonomics are questionable, but I guess that goes to show just how subjective this aspect of a phone can be.
     
  10. techspin macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jul 21, 2014
    #11
    You must have gotten a unit with a golden battery. :eek: Or maybe you meant to say you reviewed the 6+.
     
  11. eelw macrumors 6502a

    eelw

    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2012
    #12
    Good write up but disagree on the home button and lack of file system. Even though I generally use the assistive touch button, the home button is what remains the center of the iPhone just like the scroll wheel was to the iPod. And I prefer the security of apps being sandboxed vs having a shared file system.
     
  12. greytmom macrumors 68040

    greytmom

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2010
    #13
    Here's my review:

    My phone is big, and purty, and non-bent, and I like it a lot.
     
  13. areyes163 macrumors 6502

    areyes163

    Joined:
    Jun 15, 2012
    #14
    Perfect and will summed up.
     
  14. afsnyder macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2014
    #15
    Did you forget that the back button is just there to know there is a back button?

    A swipe right-to-left acts the same as tapping the back button so that comment is not entirely accurate.
     
  15. Neon01 thread starter macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2011
    #16
    No, I want aware of that trick. Where does this work? In the settings menu?
     
  16. Bobo03 macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Sep 21, 2014
    #17
    Nice write up. Thanks for sharing.

    I going through the same dilemma right now. I want to give an iphone a 14 day demo, but can't decide on a size. I'm fine with a smaller screen, since it is more of a phone and less a media device, but the battery on my note has me spoiled. The 6 plus battery seems like more my speed, but I just don't like the size.
     
  17. Neon01 thread starter macrumors member

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    Nov 7, 2011
    #18
    I've not used a note, but I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by the battery in the "vanilla" 6.
     
  18. afsnyder macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2014
    #19
    Everywhere that uses the slide over and replace content UI. Swipe from the left edge of the display (you will feel the curved edges of the phone). Settings, Mail, Contacts, Messages, Parts of Calendar, Parts of Photos, Safari (forward and back). Essentially everywhere that makes logical sense.. although I wish they would add it in places that didn't make finger-to-touch logical sense so that it works regardless of the animation that needs to be done but thats just me.
     
  19. Rangomango macrumors member

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2012
    #20
    How did you find the iPhone 6 earpiece volume in comparison to the g3? I feel like the iPhone isn't nearly as loud when turned all they way up.
     
  20. Hal~9000, Oct 9, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2014

    Hal~9000 macrumors 68000

    Hal~9000

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    Sep 13, 2014
    #21
    You know you really should be writing for a tech website instead of just a forum :)
     
  21. macblitz macrumors member

    macblitz

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2014
    #22
    very nice review. i like the comparisons to android as I used to be a big android fan.

    switch to iphone because of battery and laggy feel of android.
     
  22. jimbo1mcm macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2010
    #23
    There are a lot of people who still enjoy reading an informative piece, instead of being spoon fed a video or a cartoon.
     
  23. zhenya macrumors 603

    zhenya

    Joined:
    Jan 6, 2005
    #24
    It looks like you've been clued in already, but the edge swipe to go back gesture is one of the best recent features of iOS. No reason to use reachability although not all third party apps support this or are as consistent as they should be.

    I kind of agree about the look of the phone but I find the seamless rounded edges to be the most comfortable iphone design ever to hold. The chamfers on the previous devices were beautiful when new but not durable and were a sharp pressure point when holding the device although that is far more noticeable with the iPad than the iPhone.

    Haven't read the rest of your thoughts yet. :)
     
  24. deeddawg macrumors 604

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2010
    Location:
    US
    #25
    Agreed. Though I'm sure we'll die off pretty soon in this "ten minute video in lieu of a couple sentences" culture... :cool:
     

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