Four years ago, Steve Jobs was quoted as saying that nobody would buy a bigger iPhone. But after developing technologies to make such a product possible, and with increased pressure from competitors, Apple is upping its game. The bigger iPhone is here, and it’s absolutely as brilliant as you’d expect.
But the question isn’t really “is it good?” Ultimately, the question for most of you will be “which iPhone should I buy?” We know you love new Apple devices, and for many of you this will be the point where you upgrade to a new phone. For the first time, though, there is a tough choice to make – do you go for the bigger iPhone 6 Plus to get the 1080p HD display, improved camera image stabilisation and more powerful landscape mode? Is it worth the extra cash? And even if it is, does the huge 5.5-inch screen make it too big to slip into your pocket easily or use while walking to work? Is the iPhone 6 a more manageable size, or is it worth saving some money and just going for a – still extremely respectable – iPhone 5s?
There’s a lot to think about, especially when you’re about to drop £600 or more on a new device. With that in mind, we’re forgoing our normal review and taking a closer look at how the two new iPhones match up. We’ll answer all your most burning questions about the new devices, and help decide which one is right for you.
Size and weight – how easy is it to hold the iPhone 6 Plus?
The biggest news with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, if you’ll excuse the pun, is without a doubt their larger screens. But before we dive into the displays themselves too deeply, we first need to talk about what a larger screen means for the rest of the phone.
The size of your hands, and your willingness to stretch to reach far corners of the screen one- handed, should play a big part in your decision of which iPhone to buy. With both iPhones, it is difficult to reach everything on the screen without shifting your grip. We did find that we could reach everything on the 6 with a little repositioning and a bit of a stretch, but things are naturally worse on the iPhone 6 Plus, where we had trouble comfortably scanning our fingerprint with the Touch ID sensor, let alone tapping at the top of the screen. The grip you’re used to with an older iPhone just won’t cut it with the 6 Plus – you’ll get used to shifting the phone in your hand regularly to get to everything you need. Reachability – a system where a double-tap on the Home button slides the screen down so it’s easier to tap higher items – helps, but on the 6 Plus we still had a difficult time reaching all the way across the screen one-handed. On the iPhone 6, Reachability is more useful, saving us from constantly juggling the phone in our hand, but it’s still an inelegant solution. The iPhone 6 Plus, though, is definitely more of a two-handed device – it’s closer to the iPad mini than the iPhone 5s in that respect.
By comparison, the iPhone 6 feels like the natural evolution of the iPhone 5s. It is larger, yes, but only slightly, and the thinner frame ensures it’s never uncomfortable in your hand. For smaller hands especially, the iPhone 6 is probably the way to go, unless you’re used to doing everything on your phone with both hands.
Of course, the size is only one part of the overall iPhone experience; don’t rule out the 6 Plus just yet. That larger screen is put to good use, and there are plenty of other reasons to opt for the bigger size. But unless you’re happy to use the new iPhone with two hands, more like an iPad, your decision may already be made…
Battery life – better in every way
The larger iPhone 6 Plus benefits from a considerable battery boost thanks to its bigger size, while the iPhone 6 manages to beat the iPhone 5s in every test – if only by a small margin. We stress-tested both devices by playing video on a loop, and while these are extreme results (real-world use would last much longer) we were blown away by the iPhone 6 Plus. You can see the results below. More impressive is the charge time – you can get to 30 per cent in around 30 minutes, and the iPhone 6 takes just two hours to fully charge, with the iPhone 6 Plus taking just under three.
Screen – Retina HD displays rated
There aren’t too many big differences between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus, but by far the most prominent is the screen itself. The mammoth 5.5-inch display of the 6 Plus pushes up the pixel density higher than any other Apple product – it’s a full 1920 x 1080 display, showing full HD movies at native resolution. This means you get a whopping 401 pixels per inch, and the results are absolutely stunning.
Don’t get us wrong, both displays are beautiful – compared to the iPhone 5s (which was no slouch when it came to the screen) the new models are brighter, have a better contrast ratio to produce deeper blacks and offer more accurate colour representation. The iPhone 6 also pushes up the resolution over the iPhone 5s, but due to the increase in screen size, the pixel density stays the same at 326 ppi. This still looks fantastic – in fact, it is only noticeably inferior to that of the 6 Plus when the two are side-by-side. The extra screen space of the iPhone 6 Plus has also allowed Apple to do a little more with iOS 8. For example, the 6 Plus now offers a landscape mode for the homescreen, as well as new, iPad-like layouts for apps like iMessage and Mail when in landscape. You’ll get extra buttons when typing in landscape, too – options like copy and arrow keys are present on both the 6 and 6 Plus, but the larger iPhone offers tools like cut, bold and extra punctuation options. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s a nice addition.
Camera – iPhone 6 Plus Optical Image Stabilisation & more
For a few years now, the iPhone has been the most popular camera in the world. And the iPhone 6 offers more improvements over last year’s model that will help to keep Apple’s place at the top of the tree. First off, both the iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus include an eight-megapixel iSight camera, and now offer Exposure control before you take your shot thanks to iOS 8. But the hardware has been given an update too.
The new camera systems use a new feature called Focus Pixels – these are dedicated pixels on the camera sensor that work to ensure everything is in focus. The results are amazing – the camera focuses instantly, whether you’re shooting photos or video, so you can capture the moment perfectly every time.
But the biggest difference between the two devices’ camera systems lies in image stabilisation. Both new iPhones have digital image stabilisation, and this works surprisingly well. It’s most noticeable in video footage, where our videos looked considerably smoother on the iPhone 6 than on older models, as the camera automatically counteracts movement felt by the accelerometer and gyroscopes. But the iPhone 6 Plus also features optical image stabilisation – the camera actually moves inside the iPhone’s casing to keep photos and videos smooth. This is great for photos in darker environments, and for video it can make a huge difference. We were pleasantly surprised by the abilities of the iPhone 6, though – the optical image stabilisation of the 6 Plus is great for those that are desperate for optimum performance, but for most daily use the iPhone 6 should be more than capable. Whichever iPhone you pick, you’ll be able to take some truly stunning photos and videos.
Geekbench results – iPhone 6 vs 6 Plus vs 5s vs iPad mini with Retina display
The two new iPhone models both offer a small jump over the iPhone 5s and iPad mini with Retina display, but the power increase isn’t as great as we saw last year. The iPhone 6 comes out just ahead of the 6 Plus, likely because of the extra processing clout needed to power the latter’s larger screen, but both are incredibly powerful devices that are top of the iOS roost – at least until new iPads are released.
Everyone’s a winner
Making the choice between an iPhone 6 and an iPhone 6 Plus isn’t a simple one. The bigger screen of the iPhone 6 Plus is beautiful, offering stunning clarity and a lot of extra space for your apps. But with it comes the problem of size – for some people the 6 Plus will simply be too large. For others, the bigger screen, improved camera and boosted battery life will be exactly what they want.
If you’re still not completely sure which one is for you, turn the page for our ultimate decision- making chart. And if you’re still unsure, our best advice is to head into an Apple Store and hold both models in your hand – there really isn’t a better way to work out which one is for you.
One thing is for sure, though: whichever way you look at it, this year’s iPhone line-up is the best one yet. It caters for more varied needs, comes at various price points and is packed with new features that make it well worth the upgrade.
Our sincere thanks to Three for providing us with the devices. To see their brilliant iPhone 6 deals, head over to www.three.co.uk