iPhone 6 review
With a 4.7in display, new design, improved specs and new features, the iPhone 6 was bigger and better than any iPhone we'd seen back in 2014. We've now been using the iPhone 6 for almost two years, so we bring you our updated iPhone 6 review. See also: iPhone buying advice
When it launched in September 2014, the iPhone 6 was joined by a bigger sibling, the iPhone 6 Plus, which has a 5.5in screen and a few additional specs to the smaller iPhone. You can find out more about the iPhone 6 Plus here. We've also got an iPhone 6 Plus review.
See also: iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus
Things we like about the iPhone 6
There are a lot of benefits to having a bigger screen. Websites with smaller fonts are easier to read and you can see more detail in images.
I find myself reading books on the iPhone 6 (I never use my iPad mini now, in fact I’ve lent it to a friend). Reading books on the older iPhones seemed silly because you would be flicking through the pages almost a paragraph at a time, but there is a comfortable amount of text on each page. [Read our iPhone 6 versus iPad mini comparison.]
This screen size is also much better for drafting documents on, on the older iPhones it can often feel like the keyboard is taking up half the screen in Notes or Pages. Now you can read a good chunk of what you have written above the keyboard.
Now when I borrow a friend’s iPhone 5s I can’t get over how small it is. It’s like the move from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5 all over again, and I can't imagine I'd go back to anything smaller after using the 4.7in iPhone 6.
Things about the iPhone 6 that aren’t as bad as we thought
The one thing I was convinced that I would never get used to is the larger size. The iPhone 6 is bigger, and it has forced me to change the way I hold it, but I have adapted over time.
The benefits of the bigger screen go along way to make up for the inconvenience of the awkwardness trying to use the iPhone 6 with one hand (as a commuter this happens a lot, for those who use their phone with both hands because they have a luxury of a seat on the way to work this will be less of a concern).
I’ve adapted to holding the iPhone in such a way that I can hold it with my fingers and gently move it around in and let it slip into a different position in order to reach the corners. I don’t ever find myself using Apple’s Reachability system (where you can double tap to bring the top to the screen down) probably because it just feels like an extra step, and extra steps take time.
Things about the iPhone 6 that annoy us
I admit, I was initially annoyed by the fact that the power button had been moved directly opposite the volume controls because whenever I pressed the power button, I would end up turning the volume up or down and cancelling the action. Over two years later, I've got used to the placement and even though I still occasionally hit the volume button, it's much less of an issue. Besides, it's a feature of many smartphones with large displays as it'd be more impractical to try and reach the top of the display with one hand!
What is still frustrating is that there is only 1GB of RAM. I know all the arguments for why it doesn’t matter that there is only 1GB RAM in the iPhone (iOS is better at utilizing and clearing the RAM than those Android phones that have tons of RAM) but I use an app to clear my RAM because in a normal days use the iPhone turns sluggish and the only way to speed it up is to empty the RAM. [Read about how to do this here: How to speed up an iPhone]
Two years on, there are many iPhone competitors that boast 2/3/4GB of RAM, and the difference in performance is starting to become more noticable as time goes on and iOS becomes more demanding of the hardware. However, the iPhone 6 can be picked up for much cheaper than it once was and even though it still costs £459 from Apple, carriers and online stores (eBay, etc) sell them for less. If you're looking to upgrade to an iPhone from an older iPhone or Android but don't want to pay the premium for features like 3D Touch and enhanced cameras, the iPhone 6 may be the ideal option, even now after nearly two years.
Below is our our original review of the iPhone 6
iPhone 6 review: Price & availability UK
The iPhone 6 hit UK shelves on 19 September. The price of the iPhone 6 starts at £539, which is actually £10 lower than the original starting price of the iPhone 5S. That's still pricey for a smartphone, though, and is much higher than many of its Android and Windows Phone rivals.
If you want more than 16GB capacity, you'll need to cough up £619 for the 64GB model or £699 for the 128GB model. There's no 32GB model this time.
We really wouldn't recommend the 16GB, though. It will be more like 12GB in reality, and that will fill fast with apps, videos, photos and music. Try for the 64GB if possible.
Here are the full range of pricing options:
16GB iPhone 6: £539
64GB iPhone 6: £619
128GB iPhone 6: £699
Each of these phones costs £80-£90 less than the same-capacity iPhone 6 Plus.
As we said previously, we’d advise against buying the 16GB version, you are likely to find it frustrating staying within those 16GB – especially next time Apple updates it’s operating system (which in 2014 required as much as 5GB of space on some iPhones). The 64GB iPhone 6 costs just £80 more and you get 300% more storage.
iPhone 6 review: Design
With the increasing popularity of larger smartphones from the likes of Samsung and other Apple rivals, it seems that the iPhone 6 and the even bigger iPhone 6 Plus are a reply to that success. Both models will undoubtedly help Apple reach new audiences that weren't being served by its 4in iPhone models, but it comes at the risk of losing those customers who preferred that smaller screen.
iPhone 6 spots the same curvaceous design as the iPhone 6 Plus, all-be-it slightly smaller dimensions. It measures 138.1mm tall by 67.0mm wide, just 6.9mm thick, and weighs just 129 grams (it's one of the lightest smartphones out there). It is available in silver, gold or space grey.
Although smaller than the iPhone 6 Plus, the iPhone 6 is still very large, and only the most gigantic hands would be able to comfortably reach to the edges. As a result Apple also offers Reachability on the iPhone 6, which allows you to double tap on the home button to pull the top of the screen down so you can reach the controls.
One glance at the iPhone 6 and you'll see that it is noticeably larger than the iPhone 5S, with a 4.7in screen rather than the older phone's 4in screen. Pick it up and you'll find that it's a lot different to Apple's previous iPhones, with rounded edges more like those found on the iPod touch and iPad. It also brings to mind the original iPhone, which also had curved edges and an all-metal back.
Without making that softening design change, the iPhone 6 would be monstrous. It is slightly heavier than the iPhone 5s, but it's so thin at 6.9mm and surprisingly easy to hold in your hand. Even the display's edges are slightly curved, a touch that we really like. It helps make holding the iPhone 6 extremely comfortable, which is clearly something Apple had at the forefront of its mind when designing this smartphone.
We love the size of the iPhone 6. It's the perfect medium, sitting between the now too-small screen of the iPhone 5s and the too-big screen on the iPhone 6 Plus. It still fits in your pocket (and no, ours didn't bend), it's fantastically light and it provides the ideal amount of screen space to comfortably watch video content, play games and view image slideshows.
As you'd expect from an iPhone, the iPhone 6's build quality is excellent. Some of the buttons and switches have been moved and/or redesigned, but they're still firm and responsive. The iPhone 5s's round volume buttons have been replaced with long metal ovals set into a slightly recessed indent.
One major design change for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus was the relocation of the on-off button, which was found at the top of the phone in previous generations. Now this button has moved to the side of the phone so that it is easier to reach when held one handed (the new home for this button does make taking screen shots harder though).
The new position of the sleep/wake button will definitely take some getting used to for anyone already using one of Apple's older iPhones, though. I found that I was used to it after just a day of use, but I've used several Android devices with the lock button in that position in the past.
Nonetheless, it does make it easier to hit the button without adjusting your grip or resorting to a second hand. Yes, Apple is still keen on its one-handed use motto for the iPhone, despite the bigger screen sizes, and it's doing everything it can to make you believe it.
Apple has even introduced a new feature to address the issue of the bigger screen for one-handed use. It calls this new feature Reachability. A double-tap on the Home button simply slides down the entire interface to about a third of the screen, letting you quickly access the interface without having to strain. The interface is fully functional – you can even tap the iPhone's status bar to jump back to the top of a webpage, for example.
This feature is not something we'd normally expect to see from Apple. It makes sense, but it's not very elegant. Intitially, we found it to be a bit inconsistent, but Apple has updated iOS 8 to iOS 8.0.2 and that seems to have solved some of the Reachability bugs. It's quick to get used to and it works for one-handed use with the iPhone 6, but we rarly find ourselves using it. The reality is that we've switched to a two-handed approach, holding the phone in one hand and controlling whatever is on screen with the other.
It seems that Apple didn't quite manage to squeeze in the rear-facing iSight camera when it decided to slim down its iPhone. The camera lens protrudes slightly from the back of the iPhone 6 and it's definitely noticeable. You can still place the iPhone flat on its back, but it doesn't quite sit evenly, which is another un-Apple-like move in our eyes. We'll be doing some further digging to find out exactly why Apple made this decision. Read: iPhone 6 Plus rivals
Read next: Apple Watch hands-on review
iPhone 6 review: Display
The iPhone 6 features a LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen with shatter proof-glass and an oleophobic coating (so it's not covered in finger prints). The 4.7in display of the iPhone 6 has a resolution of 1334x750 pixels, which actually means the same 326ppi pixel density as the iPhone 5s, but Apple has dubbed the new screen 'Retina HD'.
(It appears that the term Retina HD refers to the number of pixels across the screen rather than the pixel density: obviously there are more pixels on these larger screens, but they are stretched over a wider area. But it also encompasses some slight modifications in the screens' design, such as dual-domain pixels - which Apple says increases viewing angles, and we discuss below - and an improved polariser which makes the screen clearer when viewed through sunglasses in bright sunshine. We talk about the various elements of Retina HD - and plain Retina, for that matter - in What are Retina and Retina HD displays, and are they worth the money?)
That's a bit disappointing compared with some rivals, which have in excess of 400ppi displays. Apple has, however, made the iPhone 6 Plus 401ppi, so you'll have to buy the 5.5in iPhone if you want that better screen.
Despite the similar sounding pixel count between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5s, the pixels aren't packed any tighter on the iPhone 6 than on the iPhone 5, there are just more of them because the screen is 110 pixels wider and 198 pixels taller. The screen on the iPhone 6 is better though - Apple has made modifications to the newer screens' design, adding dual-domain pixels that allow for increased viewing angles, and other features that improve visibility on the display and a better contrast ratio (the contrast ratio on the iPhone 6 is actually better than on the iPhone 6 Plus). Also,
Nonetheless, we loved using the iPhone 6's display. It's bright, crisp and the content appears almost stuck on top of the glass rather than beneath it. Apple has made some adjustments to the display to improve viewing angles and the contrast ratio, and it seems to have made a significant difference to the overall display quality.
Thanks to the use of scaling, iOS apps will still work on the iPhone 6 even if they haven't been updated for the larger display, because it'll simply scale up to fit the new size. If you look really closely you might notice the difference but the apps will still work in the same way.
For those that struggle with the size of the text on the iPhone 6's bigger screen, Apple has introduced a new feature called Display Zoom, which actually emulates the display of a smaller phone but scales it up to fill the iPhone's display.
But if you turn on Display Zoom, you'll miss out on some of the tweaks Apple has made thanks to the extra screen real estate. There are new columns of buttons on the iOS keyboard when used in landscape orientation, which on the iPhone 6 introduce an undo button and a comma on the left, and cursor keys and a full stop on the right. Of course, with iOS 8 comes new support for third-party keyboards and also a new optional QuickType suggestion bar.
iPhone 6 review: Processor and benchmarks
Like the iPhone 6 Plus, the iPhone 6 features Apple’s A8 chip and the M8 motion coprocessor. The A8 chip has PowerVR GX6650 hexa-core graphics, and is paired with 1GB RAM. It is 50 per cent more power efficient than the A7, according to Apple.
As Apple continues to improve its processor it's becoming increasingly difficult to match the percentage increase in speed each year. Apple has managed to make the A8 even faster than the already speedy A7, but the improvement is more modest than the jump from the A6 to the A7.
Apple has managed to make the A8 processor 13 per cent smaller than the A7, though, and it's designed to be 50 per cent more power efficient so should provide slightly better battery life.
The A8 processor in the iPhone 6 is running at 1.2GHz, according to GeekBench, which is similar to the A7's clock speed. The iPhone 6 Plus, on the other hand, has a clock speed of 1.39GHz. Both iPhone 6 models have the same 1GB of memory as older iPhones.
GeekBench tests of the iPhone 6 found that it can achieve a single-core score of 1569, higher (and therefore better) than the 1409 of the iPhone 5s. In the multi-core test, the iPhone 6 achieved 2794 compared with 2549 of the iPhone 5s.
When compared with some of the best Android smartphones, the iPhone 6 competes solidly. The Galaxy S5 scored 926 points in the single-core test (much lower than the iPhone 6's 1569) and 2869 in the multi-core test. The HTC One M8 scored 962 points in the single-core test, and 2761 points in the multi-core test.
So the iPhone 6 is a superfast phone that can just about compete with the best Androids, in general use.
We also tested the iPhone 6's graphic performance in the updated GFXbench, and were very impressed by the results. The iPhone 6 achieved 26fps in Manhattan and 49fps in T-Rex, which suggests that the iPhone 6 is capable of handling very challenging games and apps.
iPhone 6 review: Specs & hardware
A new version of Apple's motion co-processor has been introduced with the iPhone 6, too. Unsurprisingly, it's called the M8 (replacing the M7), and it works with the iPhone 6 to determine when you're walking, cycling and running. This chip collects sensor data as you use your iPhone, even if the A8 processor is resting.
Using the new iOS 8 Health app you can wonder at graphs showing your daily steps, but you need to either carry your phone on your person at all times or use a separate activity tracker and a variety of other apps to get a complete picture. It can also estimate distance and elevation, so it'll know when you're running up the stairs, for example. That's in part thanks to a new barometer sensor in the M8.
The barometer is also included for measuring air pressure to determine your elevation (it can basically tell if you have been climbing stairs). This is one of the fitness and health features available to iPhone users. All iPhones also offer an accelerometer and gyroscope for the same purpose.
All of the sensors, and also the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, will be available to third-party developers for future iOS apps.
The iPhone 6 also offers touch ID, and along with the iPhone 6 Plus, NFC, which is a necessary ingredient for using Apple Pay (not yet launched in the UK). NFC works together with Apple's new Apple Pay mobile payment service. We haven't been able to test Apple Pay in the UK yet because it is only available in the US. It's expected to arrive in Europe this year. It's also worth noting that Apple has confirmed that NFC will not yet be opened up to third-parties so will only work with Apple Pay to begin with. We expect Apple will wait until the next generation of iPhone or beyond to open the tech up to developers. Find out more about the new service in our Apple Pay FAQ.
In terms of connectivity, the iPhone 6 has better LTE capabilities than previous Apple handsets. You will also find 802.11ac Wi-Fi in the iPhone 6, while the older models only go as high as 802.11n.
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 review: Camera
The camera has been improved in the iPhone 6, though you might not realise it if you simply look at the specs. The rear camera is still 8Mp, it still has a True Tone dual-LED flash, its aperture is still f/2.2 and the pixels are still bigger, at 1.5 microns.
Apple says that the sensor is all-new, though, and that new autofocus, advanced face detection and digital image stabilisation features will mean improved photographs.
Apple has also added dedicated "focus pixels" to the camera, which means speedier and better autofocus for both photos and video. The main area of improvement we noticed was the video autofocus, which was clear and smooth instead of robotic and jarring as we've seen in previous iPhones.
The iPhone 6 shares some camera features with the iPhone 6 Plus. These include 43 megapixel Panoramas, the option of recording HD video at 60 fps and Slo-mo video at 120 fps or 240 fps.
This even slower slo-mo feature can shoot at 240 frames per second, so when running that clip at one-eighth of the speed of normal video you'll get some impressive slow motion results, improved even more so by the better video stabilization.
There is also cinematic video stabilisation and continuous autofocus video.
Our only criticism is that the iPhone 6 tops out at 1080p, which will be fine for the majority of people for the lifetime of the handset, but it does mean there is no support for 4K video.
The front-facing FaceTime HD camera has a new sensor, a better aperture and better low-light photographs. It's also able to use the Burst mode and HDR.
Here's a video where we demonstrate how to create a timelapse movie:
iPhone 6 review: Battery life
When it comes to battery life, Apple claims that iPhone 6 offers up to 14 hours of talk time on 3G; up to 10 hours of internet use on 3G, up to 10 hours on LTE, and up to 11 hours on Wi-Fi; up to 11 hours of video playback; and up to 50 hours of audio playback. You’ll get more battery life from the iPhone 6 Plus, but the iPhone 6 battery is still better than those in the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, which both had identical battery life, according to Apple. Those handsets offer up to 10 hours of talk time on 3G; up to 8 hours of internet use on 3G, up to 10 hours on LTE, and up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi; up to 10 hours of video playback and up to 40 hours of audio playback.
In real world testing, we usually manage a days' constant use before needing a recharge, or two days at a push. And we're not light users: we send email and browse the web via 4G on our commute, for example. Obviously your mileage will vary: if you're an intensive gamer, you'll need to recharge every day. If you're the cautious type that doesn't like to leave the house with less than 50 percent remaining, you might find yourself recharging every night.
iPhone 6 review: Software
The iPhone 6 runs iOS 8, which was released on 17 September, two days ahead of the release of the phone itself. You can find out more about iOS 8 and its new features in our iOS 8 review.
You can find out all about iOS 8 here.
iPhone comparison reviews
If you've enjoyed this article, perhaps you'd be interested in more iPhone buying advice? We've written a series of comparison reviews, which set various combinations of iPhone against one another, head to head:
- iPhone 6s vs iPhone 5s
- iPhone 6s Plus vs iPhone 6 Plus
- iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6s
- iPhone 6s vs iPhone 6s Plus
- iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6
- iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus
These may be useful if you're trying to device between two specific iPhone models.
iPhone buying guide, autumn/winter 2015
And for a broader look at Apple's current iPhone range, take a look at our iPhone buying guide video for autumn/winter 2015:
Or, if you'd prefer to see our buying advice in written rather than video form, head over to our iPhone buying guide article.
But now, on to the verdict!
It's clear that the most important change with the iPhone 6 is its size. Yes, the processor is a bit faster and the camera is slightly improved, but it's the 4.7in display that makes the biggest difference. It means a better experience when watching TV or movies on your iPhone, it displays photos better, and it allows more information to be shown on the screen at once.
If you've got an iPhone 5 or older, the iPhone 6 is a sold upgrade that you'll get used to after just a few days of adjustment, but iPhone 5s owners might want to seriously consider waiting another year for the iPhone 6s as they've already got a brilliant smartphone and aside from that bigger display, the iPhone 6 doesn't bring many other new features to the table.