The iPhone 6 Plus went on sale on Friday 19 September, along with the iPhone 6. In the days since Apple's first phablet-style iPhone (with a screen that measures 5.5 inches diagonally from corner to corner) made its debut, the new iPhone has had its fair bit of bad press. Not because stocks are so limited - order one now and expect to wait three to four weeks for delivery - but because of a video that went viral, sparking 'Bendgate', the latest '-gate' scandal to hit an iPhone launch. You can read our iPhone 6 Plus review here.
UPDATE: Reports of a recall for 128GB models of the iPhone 6 Plus are believed to be untrue, but the bendgate issue may be more serious than Apple lets on.
iPhone 6 Plus & Bendgate: Are the new iPhones bendy?
The first thing most potential iPhone 6 Plus buyers will want to know about is Bendgate - the cluster of early claims that iPhone 6 Plus units were bending in their owners' pockets. Is this something you need to worry about? How bendy are the new iPhones, exactly?
Let's begin by saying that these seem to be rare occurrences, and that some of the claims have been called into doubt.
Talk of Bendgate started days after the launch of the iPhone 6 Plus, when an owner of the new Apple phablet complained that his device had bent just from sitting in his pocket. (Sitting in the pocket for some 13 hours or more, by the by.)
Then a video went viral in which an iPhone 6 Plus was bent by hand. Pretty soon everyone was talking about 'Bendgate'.
But the YouTube video that sent Bendgate viral has now been called into question.
As a Reddit user explains: "When he is bending it with his bare hands, the phone shows 2:26 p.m. Then, talking about it later, claiming it has bent as a consequence of his actions earlier in the video, the phone shows 1:58 p.m. Then later when he is summarising, the time on the phone is 1:58 - 2:00 and has a bend in it. Then it shows 2 pm and the phone is straight with some possible damage near the volume button." This analysis of the peculiar jumps in the editing has lead people to question whether the video is an honest representation of how bad the bending issue is.
In response to the suggestion that there is some question about the legitimacy of the original Bendgate video, Unbox Therapy has now published a further video. In it Lewis Hilsenteger tries to claim it's a new phone straight out of the box - which made us suspicious because it was set up already when Hilsenteger turned on the screen. Whether that makes any difference is debatable, but it is odd that someone would have gone through the steps of setting up the iPhone first.
Hilsenteger compares the Moto X, and demonstrates that that phone doesn't bend, claiming it is "possible to engineer a device so that it can sustain that amount of force".
Here's Unbox Therapy's second video.
If you were left in any doubt about the bendability of a new iPhone 6 Plus, two boys have posted a video on YouTube of them bending an iPhone 6 Plus inside a UK Apple Store.
In a statement to the press Apple claimed only nine people reported a bent iPhone 6 Plus to them during the first six days of sale. (Apple sold 10 million iPhone 6-series models in the first three days - it hasn't revealed how many of those were iPhone 6 Plus models.)
However, according to a report published by BGR, the iPhone 6 Plus 'bendgate' issue is much bigger than Apple lets on. A reader reportedly told the publication that, while returning his iPhone 6 Plus to an Apple Store, he spotted a screen during the return process that asked for the reason for the return. The only option the Apple employee was required to select was to specify whether or not the iPhone was bent. This indicates that Apple is tracking the bendgate issue, and only the bendgate issue, among returned iPhones.
How true this report is is currently unknown, but BGR claims that a "trusted source" has confirmed that this is indeed the case. In the past, it is believed that Apple's return screen simply asked whether the iPhone was being returned due to a defect, without specifying what that defect was.
iPhone 6 Plus & Bendgate: Has Apple fixed the Bendgate problem already?
Then at the end of October a Reddit user put forward the startling theory that in the six weeks since launch, Apple has actually modified the design of the iPhone 6 Plus to stop it from bending.
(Startling, because designing, testing and rolling out a new iPhone 6 Plus spec - even if only slightly changed from the original - is something that you'd expect to take months, not weeks.)
The theory caused a certain amount of interest in the Apple-watching community (and on the Apple subreddit, where it was posted), but evidence seems pretty much non-existent - so far, at least. (It's only been a day, and the user has offered to post a video of the findings.)
Following the earlier reports, a ‘source close to the situation’ has told 9to5Mac that the rumour is incorrect. 9to5Mac's source denies the claims that some new iPhone 6 Plus models are heavier and possibly feature strengthened aluminium, emphasising that iPhones can vary in weight.
Indeed a footnote on Apple’s website clarifies that “size and weight vary by configuration and manufacturing process”. Apparently it is completely reasonable that there would be a weight difference between two iPhone 6 Plus units of as much as 1.5 grams, according to the source.
The Reddit user based his speculation on a number of differences between his wife's iPhone 6 Plus (purchased the day after launch) and his own, bought six weeks after launch.
He said the newer phone weighs 21g more (a weight difference that cannot realistically be explained by the only difference in the devices' specs: the lighter phone has 16GB of storage, the heavier one 128GB). The older phone is "completely softer and smoother".
Tapping the phones produced different sounds: "Right where the previous 'bends' were in previous 6 pluses (above and below the volume rocker), there is a night and day difference in sound... I went as far as putting on a stethoscope and listening. Without a doubt, the new 6 plus (the one I got yesterday) sounds much more dull toned, indicating to me it's more solid than my wife's week 1 phone. Her phone had a lot more percussion sound, indicating that area was previously hollow."
Finally, he peered into the volume button aperture, and claims to see a mysterious red object.
We were sceptical when we first heard the report, for a number of reasons: the seeming impossibility of turning around a significant design change in such a short period of time (although Apple is better than most companies at solving logistical problems); the issue that this would throw up when week-six buyers find that their phones weigh more than advertised; the lack of supporting evidence; and finally, the fact that iFixit followed up on the claim and weighed two phones of similar vintage - and found that they were within a gram of each other.
Take a look at the Reddit thread, and feel free to add your theories to the comments below.
We can't help but wonder if this is an organised anti-Apple campaign since it seemed that bendgate had died down somewhat only to be reignited by these claims.
iPhone 6 Plus & Bendgate: Apple's stress tests
Apple was initially criticised for remaining silent during the bendgate saga, but eventually the company did make a statement on 25 September.
In its press statement Apple claimed that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus "feature a precision engineered unibody enclosure constructed from machining a custom grade of 6000 series anodized aluminum, which is tempered for extra strength. They also feature stainless steel and titanium inserts to reinforce high stress locations and use the strongest glass in the smartphone industry. We chose these high-quality materials and construction very carefully for their strength and durability. We also perform rigorous tests throughout the entire development cycle including 3-point bending, pressure point cycling, sit, torsion, and user studies. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus meet or exceed all of our high quality standards to endure everyday, real life use."
Apple also gave a tour of the laboratory where the phones are stress-tested. Apple runs three different 'sit-down tests' replicating real-world situations that replicate what might happen if the phone is sat on. The devices are put through a bend test with 25kg (55lb) of pressure being exerted. The devices are also twisted.
Apple claims it tested about 15,000 iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units before the devices began shipping.
This isn't the first time Apple has opened its doors to reporters; back in 2010, when the iPhone 4 antenna was causing dropped calls ('Antennagate', as it was known at the time), Apple allowed the press into its facility.
iPhone 6 Plus & Bendgate: Third-party stress tests
Apple's not the only company to have run stress tests on its iPhones. Consumer Reports has released the results of its own testing.
Comsumer Reports also calls into question the video that started Bendgate, calling it "highly unscientific". Consumer Reports "bendability" tests involve a "three-point flexural test", during which the device is supported at two points on either end, and then force is applied at a third point on the top. They found that the devices were "pretty tough". In fact, the iPhone 6 Plus performed better than the iPhone 6, deforming at 90 pounds (40.8kg) of applied force and coming apart at 110 pounds (49.9kg), while the 4.7-inch model took 70lb (31.75kg) before coming apart at 100 pounds (45.36kg).
Consumer reports didn't just test the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus: they also tested the iPhone 5, LG G3, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, and HTC One M8. (Complaints of bent iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s units can be found in Apple's own support communities.)
The HTC One (M8) was the least sturdy of all the smartphones tested, deforming at 70 pounds (31kg) of pressure and separating from the case at 90 pounds (40.8kg).
Slightly better than the iPhone 6 models was the LG 3G, which deformed at 130 pounds (58.9kg) and separated from the case with the same pressure: 130 pounds (58.9kg).
The iPhone 5 proved tougher than the 6-series, deforming at 130 pounds (58.9kg) and coming loose from the case at 150 pounds (68kg). Samsung Galaxy Note 3 was the toughest coming loose at 150 pounds (68kg) but deforming at 130 pounds (58.9kg) of force like the iPhone 5.
Here's Consumer Reports video of the tests:
iPhone 6 Plus & Bendgate: Why are the iPhone 6 Plus handsets bending?
It's been suggested that the iPhone 6-series models are more bendable because the case is predominantly aluminium, and aluminium is a particularly malleable metal.
Other reports observe that the smartphones which proved least susceptible to bending feature a magnesium alloy chassis on the inside to add extra strength, which is something that Apple's iPhones lack.
A Reddit user, meanwhile, is suggesting that it's not Apple's choice of aluminium material that's to blame, but the design. The bend is happening at the root of the volume buttons and the bend is only happening at that side, with the other side pretty much unscathed. This is because Apple has actually cut holes to accommodate the volume buttons and the stress is focused on this area.
The Reddit user explains that the Galaxy Note 3 passes the bending test because there is an l-beam cross section that supports it when pressure is exerted.
We don't think it is really surprising that a 7.1mm-thick device made from aluminium would bend; you can bend pretty much anything if you exert the right pressure from the right direction. Most users want a phone that is both thin and light, and the result may well be that it is slightly more fragile than a thicker phone.
We also think that this is just the latest '-gate' scandal associated with an iPhone launch. Back when the iPhone 4 launched it was Antennagate; last year there were complaints that the iPhone 5c was too highly priced, or that the iPhone 5s was apparently hackable. These things only really happen because Apple is Apple and it makes good headlines, and also because a lot of people run out and buy an Apple product at launch. Other phones suffer from similar issues but we hear about them less because the only people who really care are the owners of those devices.
Our recommendation is don't sit on the iPhone 6 Plus, just as we would advise you not to sit on your glasses.
Read: iPhone 6 Plus rivals
128GB iPhone 6 Plus recall: Reports aren't true
At the beginning of November, reports from Business Korea began claiming that Apple was recalling 128GB models of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus due to a stability issue with the flash storage that's being used in the device that causes the iPhone to unexpectedly crash and reboot. Understandably, the report sent the iPhone 6-owning users of the internet into a complete frenzy.
However, 9To5Mac's anonymous source close to the situation claims that Apple has said the reports are "inaccurate." So basically, they've been completely made up and we should all stop panicking. The crashing issue is said to be very rare, and also only occurs on iPhones with more than 500 apps installed, but Apple is believed to be aware of the issue.
iPhone 6 Plus buying advice: UK price, and why it's not a rip-off compared to the US dollar price
The iPhone 6 Plus will be available in the UK for a suggested retail price of £619 for the 16GB model, £699 for the 64GB model and £789 for the new 128GB model.
In comparison, the iPhone 6 costs £539 for the 16GB model, £619 for the 64GB model and 128GB model for £699. The iPhone 6 Plus is £80 more than the iPhone 6 at the 16GB level. The 64GB version is £70 more, and the 128GB model is £90 more than its smaller counterpart.
The iPhone 5s will still be available for £459 (16GB) and £499 (32GB) - the 64GB model has been discontinued. When it launched the iPhone 5s cost: £549 (16GB), £629 (32GB) and £709 (£64GB). The iPhone 5c also remains: the 8GB version will cost £319.
So the iPhone 6 starts at £10 less than the iPhone 5s did. The 64GB is £90 than the 64GB model was last year. And the top of the range iPhone 6 comes in at less than the iPhone 5s flagship did last September.
The iPhone 6 Plus will be available to buy from Apple’s retail stores, and through O2, Vodafone, EE, Hutch, GiffGaff, Virgin, TalkMobile and select Apple Authorised Resellers.
There have been some claims circulating on Facebook that the iPhone is significantly cheaper in the USA. Those claims are based on the US price of $299 - which is what US customers pay in addition to a two year contract. Where here in the UK we may be able to get the phone for even less on a contract.
Apple is offering an off-contract iPhone 6 Plus for $749 in the US - which equates to a pre-VAT price of £459, or £550 total. Which isn't that far from the £619 starting price in the UK.
We are collecting the contract prices for the UK and will share them in this story soon.
iPhone 6 release date and availability
iPhone 6 Plus started shipping on Friday, 19 September. However the waiting time if you order on Apple website at the moment is 3-4 weeks for that model or 7-10 business days for the iPhone 6.
In previous years Apple has received a small number of handsets in store each day, but these seem to be going to people who have already reserved the handset, so don't turn up and expect not to be disappointed.
iPhone 5.5 dimensions
The iPhone 6 Plus might be the biggest ever iPhone, but it’s thinner than the iPhone 5s.
Where the iPhone 5s was 7.6mm thin, the iPhone 6 Plus is just 7.1mm. The iPhone 6 is even smaller at 6.9mm
Apple says that they have aimed to make this bigger iPhone "still comfortable to hold and easy to use."
The iPhone 6 Plus is 158.1mm tall by 77.8 mm wide. It weighs 172 grams.
In comparison, the iPhone 6 is 138.1mm by 67.0mm and weighs 129 grams, while the iPhone 5s is 123.8mm by 58.6mm and weighs 112 grams.
iPhone 6 Plus design
Like the iPhone 5s, the iPhone 6 Plus (and iPhone 6) are covered in anodised aluminium and come in gold, silver and Space Gray.
Apple claims that it has worked hard to make the iPhone environmentally friendly, and it is now beryllium-free.
There are also new silicone cases for the iPhones, including a Product (RED) option for the AIDS in Africa charity. They cost £25 each.
iPhone 6 Plus spec
The iPhone 6 Plus (and iPhone 6) come in three storage options, with a huge difference to previous years. The options are: 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB. Yes, there is no 32GB and presumably that means the 64GB now moves into the mid-rage price bracket. We hope that the 64GB and 16GB versions see a like-for-like price drop compared to last years models.
Read about why it's not a good idea to buy the 16GB version: The problem with Apple's 16GB iPhones and iPads
iPhone 6 Plus screen
The new iPhone features a glass front that curves around the side to meet seamlessly with the anondized aluminum back, complete with stainless steel Apple logo.
Both new iPhones also feature brand new next generation Retina displays, referred to by Apple as Retina HD displays. Colours are said to be sRGB accurate. They also feature new thinner backlights.
The LCD is made with a tech called dual domain pixels. According to Apple, the contrast is higher, the blacks are darker, and the angle of view is broader. Photos look gorgeous, claims Apple.
The screen boasts 1920x1080 pixels, 401ppi for the iPhone 6 Plus, compared to 326ppi (1334x750) on the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. That’s more than two million pixels on the iPhone 6 Plus. 185% more pixels than the iPhone 5s.
The bigger, sharper screen also means you can see more text on a page, clearer. You can also benefit from an iPad-like screen layout, which even includes a horizontal home screen view. Even the keyboard has extra keys in landscape, like dedicated cut, copy, paste keys. The team at Apple has done a lot to make it easier to use one handed, according to Phil Schiller.
iPhone 6 Plus camera
The new iPhone has a 8MP rear facing camera, like iPhones before it. Apple’s still not increased megapixels, but we don’t think they need to because 8MP is perfectly adequate for the size of shot anyone is likely to ever print out of view on a screen. And anything bigger would just take up more space on your iPhone. The camera offers a 1.5-micron pixels and a f/2.2 aperture – the same as the iPhone 5s. However there are various new technologies built in, including phase detection autofocus, which is incredibly fast autofocus.
There are some new camera features that are only available on the iPhone 6 Plus. For example, there is optical image stabilization on the iPhone 6 Plus – while iPhone 6 offers digital image stabilization. The lens on the iPhone 6 Plus can actually move up and down, and side to side in order to adjust and stabilize images. Apple claims it works really well in low light.
iPhone 6 Plus video camera
Boasting that the iPhone is now the world’s most popular video camera, Apple’s Phil Schiller announced that it can shoot video at 1080p at 30 fps or 60 fps.
It can also shoot slow-mo video at 240 fps on 6/6 Plus. In the iPhone 5s slow-mo shooting was at 120 fps at 720p.
There is a new iSight sensor in the rear-facing camera that has Focus Pixels that help users get fast autofocus. These Focus Pixels also help when shooting video. These pixels automaticly focus continuously while you're shooting. You no longer need to touch the screen to tell it where to focus, it does so immediately, according to Apple.
iPhone video recording also gains Cinematic Video Stabilization, according to Apple.
iPhone 6 Plus FaceTime, selfie Camera
The front facing, FaceTime camera features a new sensor with a larger f/2.2 aperture that lets in 81% more light – perfect for low-light selfies and video calls. It also offers improved face detection and, new to the front-facing iPhone camera is Burst mode, which will take multiple photos a second while you hold the shutter button down.
The front-facing camera is also offering single-shot HDR shooting too, for better photographs when there is a lot of contract between light and dark.
iPhone 6 Plus, Touch ID and NFC
Apple Pay is Apple’s new wallet technology (turns out it’s not called iWallet). Apple Pay uses NFC, which is included in the new iPhone 6 Plus. It also works in conjunction with Touch ID and a “new secure element” that stores all payment information securely.
Users can pay in stores just by holding the iPhone near the contactless reader while keeping a finger on Touch ID. There is no need to unlock your iPhone or launch an app, says Apple.
This means you can now pay using Touch ID on your iPhone. It will work in the US at launch, UK start date of this service is to be confirmed.
New iPhone 6 Plus gestures
Speaking of making it easier to use the iPhone 6 Plus one handed, Apple has added some brand new gestures to the iPhone 6 Plus. Apple is calling these Reachability.
For example, you can double touch the Touch ID button and the whole display will slide down so you can reach the top without taking your hand off the bottom of the display.
In Safari you can move backwards and forwards by swiping back and forth.
And you’ll notice that the sleep/wake button is now positioned on the right side instead of the top, making it easier to reach while holding the iPhone 6 Plus in one hand.
New iPhone 6 Plus apps
Wondering if your existing apps will work on the iPhone 6 Plus, and whether they will look as good as they do on your existing iPhone? Within Xcode are automatic layouts that will enable iPhone apps developers to tell their app to scale depending on the phone you are using. An app doesn’t have to be redesigned, it will just scale to the size of the iPhone. However, app developers can redesesign their apps to take advantage of the new horizontal view, or to take more advantage of the portrait view.
Apple says that with Metal, its new graphics technology in iOS 8, developers can take performance of the A8 chip even further to bring console-class 3D games to iPhone.
iOS 8 will be availabile to download on Wednesday 17 September.
New iPhone 6 Plus A8 processor
Apple explained that there are 2 billion transistors in the A8, compared to 1 billion in the A7. Like the A7 it is 64-bit. It uses the 20-nanometer process, that’s 13% smaller than the A7. The CPU is up to 25% faster, and the GPU is 50% faster. This means the iPhone 6 is up to 84x faster than the original iPhone.
Apple said that with the A8 it is striving to deliver that performance with energy efficiency; 50% more efficient than A7, so can sustain performance over a longer period of time. With other smartphones, Apple claimed, it is necessary to throttle down performance so the device doesn’t overheat.
Apple explained that the combination of the new A8 chip and Metal (the new games technology) they will be able to maximize performance and “do amazing things”.
iPhone 6 Plus battery life
This better performance also aids battery life. Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus offer better battery life than the iPhones before them.
According to Apple, the iPhone 6 Plus can offer 80 hours of audio. 12 hours of LTE 4G browsing.
The iPhone 6, on the other hand, offers 50 hours of audio playback, 11 hours of video or wi-fi browsing, and 10 hours of LTE or 3G browsing. It seems likely that the iPhone 6 Plus boasts more battery life because there is room for a bigger battery inside the case.
iPhone 6 Plus M8 motion co-processor
There is also a new version of the M8. The M8 works with all the iPhone sensors to tell when you're cycling, walking, and running. It can also estimate distance and tell how many steps you're running, how far you've gone, and what the elevation was. There is also a new sensor in the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, a barometer which measures pressure to provide relative elevation.
iPhone 6 Plus – calls and Wi-Fi
The iPhone 6 Plus will support over 200 LTE carriers worldwide, and up to 20 LTE wireless bands - more than any other smartphone in the world, according to Apple. Apple is also adding a new technology called VoLTE – voice over LTE to the offering. The new phone also supports Wi-Fi calling.
Both iPhones also include 802.11ac Wi-Fi with speeds up to 433 Mbps and Bluetooth 4.0.
iOS 8 features for the iPhone 6 Plus
There are various new features in iOS 8 designed to make one-handed use easier. Other features take advantage of the new M8 motion co-processor.
The new Messages application includes an Audio messages feature and a new controller to make it easier to use one-handed.
Takes advantage of the capabilities of the new M8 Motion co-processor. When iOS 8 launched there were bugs with the way the Health app worked with third parts apps, however that has been cured with the launch of iOS 8 0.2. Read: Should you update to iOS 8?
More to come...
To read our notes about all the rumours leading up to the launch of the iPhone 6 Plus, go to page 2...