iPhone 6 review:
iPhone 6 Plus
Overall, the iPhone 6 is a significant step up from the iPhone 5s. One of the first areas where we see noteworthy changes is in the industrial design of the phone. Instead of the hard edges that we saw with the iPhone 5 design, the sides of the phone are now all curved in nature to give much better in-hand feel, and the result is surprisingly appealing as well due to how the glass curves down to meet the metal body. The iPhone 6 is also sitting right around the best balance of display size and one-handed usability, which helps with the in-hand feel aspect. I really have to make it a point to address size in the case of the iPhone 6. While this is definitely a matter of personal opinion and will vary from person to person, I find the size of the iPhone 6 to be refreshing after using phone after phone that pushed display size too far. While Reachability is definitely helpful, the size of the iPhone 6 is such that I really wouldn't miss such a feature on the iPhone 6 because it is an appropriate size. I never really had any issue handling a flagship from 2013 like the Nexus 5, Galaxy S4, G2, or One (M7), so this is a recent issue for me. Those that find those phones to be a good size will likely find the iPhone 6 to be similarly fit for their hands.
While I like the iPhone 6s industrial design, increasing overall thickness to eliminate the camera hump could be an interesting variation as it would also bring a larger battery. Some users may also dislike the thick plastic lines, though I personally dont notice this in day to day use.
The display itself is also a solid improvement, with incredible native contrast, high brightness, great viewing angles, and great calibration. I still feel like Id want higher pixel density to make it the perfect display, but its clear that there are some very real limitations on resolution selection for iOS devices due to the point system used. Given that the resolution cannot be changed, the iPhone 6s display is ultimately one of the best Ive seen all year.
The SoC is also a significant upgrade, although not quite the jump that we saw from A6 to A7. For the most part, the architecture of the new CPU cores is relatively similar and we see a jump in GPU performance that puts the GX6450 on par with the Adreno 420. Apple continues to ship some of the best CPU and GPU choices on the market, and in our GFXBench rundown test its obvious that Apple has an extremely efficient system as skin temperatures remain in check while running at maximum performance for the duration of the GFXBench test. Its clear that the NAND is also of high performance, although random I/O performance isnt quite as amazing as sequential performance.
In battery life, once again Apple has managed to successfully maintain good battery life despite a relatively small battery capacity. The iPhone 6s battery life is consistently near the top tier in this category. In the GFXBench rundown where the iPhone 6 falls short it makes up for it with incredible sustained performance.
Outside of the basic user experience, there are still even more improvements. The new camera seems to have better low light performance than before, along with significantly improved focus speed. The continuous auto focus enabled by phase detection autofocus is a killer feature for video when combined with the improved stabilization function. For a relatively small sensor size, Apple has managed to drive performance that rivals the relatively larger cameras of the competition. At the 1/3 sensor size, Im not aware of a camera that is more balanced in its capabilities for daytime photography, low light photography, and anything in between.
In audio quality, Apple has delivered a solution on par with HTCs audio solution, which places it among the best for this generation that weve tested. While there are some issues, theres relatively little value to pushing audio quality any further unless high resolution audio becomes common.
Finally, the software experience continues to be great. Apple has taken advantage of the increased display size to increase information density out of the box, and generally improved the polish of iOS with iOS 8. We continue to see strong integration of TouchID into software, and with time I expect to see its value increase even more as Apple Pay and the use of TouchID for third party apps becomes widespread. There are only two significant issues that I noticed in my week with the iPhone 6, and one is because the application was originally intended for iOS 6. The only flaw that the iPhone 6 has is a lack of RAM, and this is only an issue if you also felt it was an issue on the iPhone 5s.
Overall, the iPhone 6 has been a surprise for me. While not all that much changed on the surface, this is the first phone that Ive reviewed all year where Ive found more to like the deeper I dug. The iPhone 6 is a great phone in its own right and needs no qualifications in that recommendation. While as a current Android user Im still reluctant to use the iPhone 6 as my only phone, the iPhone 6 is good enough that Im willing to consider doing so.
iPhone 6 Plus
The first key point is the display size. This is fundamentally the most important difference between the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6. While there are other differences, none of them matter when compared to size. I personally found the iPhone 6 to be right around the ideal balance between screen size and one-handed usability. If one is looking for that combination, then the iPhone 6 is really the better choice, even if it doesn't get everything that the iPhone 6 Plus does. However, if one doesn't care about using their phone with one hand on a regular basis, the iPhone 6 Plus starts to be a much more appealing choice.
There are really a few key advantages of the iPhone 6 Plus over the iPhone 6 once the size issue is settled. The first is the camera. While rarely active, optical image stabilization has made it possible to achieve far better photos in almost any situation where longer shutter speeds can be used. Apple has really made it painless to take long exposures, as even a quarter of a second doesn't incur significant motion blur due to the multiple exposures combined for each photo. Even though this seems to be the only application of OIS, Apple has managed to make the overall camera experience better in a way that no other OEM has.
The next advantage is battery life. While the iPhone 6 has competitive battery life, the iPhone 6 Plus manages to extend their lead while also maintaining the same thin and light profile that we see on the iPhone 6. The difference in battery life can be quite significant, especially in compute-bound cases where battery life scales mostly linearly with battery size.
The final advantage is resolution. While the iPhone 6 Plus does have a bigger display and all the advantages that come with the bigger screen, Apple has also provided an even higher pixel density than before with the iPhone 6 Plus. While it's certainly not as incredibly high as what we see in phones like the LG G3, the improved pixel density is definitely visible. There are definitely performance trade-offs in GPU-based benchmarks, but otherwise Apple has managed to make this bump in resolution compromise-free. I definitely notice the improved resolution, but this is a mostly subjective area that requires personal experience to judge whether the higher resolution has value.
Overall, the iPhone 6 Plus is definitely a great phone that builds on the foundation of the iPhone 6. Whether it's right for you will be based upon whether you want the larger display or not. Once again, it's pretty easy to see the strength of Apple's integrated hardware and software approach as it's only a matter of time before most applications take advantage of the iPhone 6 Plus' additional screen size. However, comparisons between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are mostly pointless as they fall into distinctly different categories with different target audiences. There's also relatively little value to testing the iPhone 6 Plus against the Note 3 as this would give the iPhone 6 Plus a massive lead due to differences in time of launch. The iPhone 6 Plus must be compared to the Galaxy Note 4, which looms large on the horizon as Samsung has consistently succeeded in holding on to their first-mover advantage in the phablet market. If one has to buy a phablet now though, the iPhone 6 Plus is the best one available.