iPhone 6 Plus review
The iPhone 6 Plus is the biggest iPhone ever, with the sharpest screen of any iOS device in history. It's a record breaker, but is it worth the money? And is it too big for its own good, or too big for the average person to use one-handed? Our iPhone 6 Plus review puts the device through Macworld's rigorous battery of speed tests, graphics tests and camera tests, and evaluates every aspect of the iPhone 6 Plus's design, build quality, feature set, battery life, value for money and more.
Apple's iPhone 6 Plus went on sale on 19 September 2014 alongside the iPhone 6, both of which are now 5 months old - and if the iPhone 6 is big, the iPhone 6 Plus is really big: a gargantuan 5.5 inches diagonally across its screen. It's by a huge distance the biggest iPhone so far, but do the advantages of so much screen space outweigh the negatives: loss of portability, greater power requirements, and difficulty for one-handed use?
In our iPhone 6 Plus review we answer these questions, and many more. Such as: how can you buy an iPhone 6 Plus in the UK? What it the iPhone 6 Plus's UK price, and is it a good deal? How does the iPhone 6 Plus compare with the iPhone 6, not to mention the older iPhones? Plus, which iPhone should you buy? We also cover the iPhone 6 Plus's design and interface changes and its new features - and there are a couple of really interesting ones that will be denied to other iPhone owners even with iOS 8 installed.
Read next: Want to know what to expect from the next iPhone Plus? Read our iPhone 7 Plus release date and new features rumour roundup for the latest clues.
iPhone 6 Plus review: Size. Or, is the iPhone 6 Plus too big?
Before the unveiling of the iPhone 6 series handsets, Apple was pretty conservative on size. The iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and iPhone 4s all had 3.5in screens; the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s had 4in screens. We're not used to dramatic change in this area.
But now the screen size has seen a dramatic jump: up to 4.7in on the iPhone 6, and on the iPhone 6 Plus a stunning increase all the way to 5.5in.
This is exciting stuff for the many Apple followers who had been crying out for bigger screens. But Apple had its reasons for keeping things to 4 inches or below for so long. It came down to how comfortable the phones were to use, with Apple designing the iPhone 5 so you could reach all areas of the device while holding it in one hand.
However, in its insistance on being right about size not mattering (or rather, bigger not always being better), Apple ceded the large end of the market to Samsung and co, and customer pressure began to build. Why wouldn't Apple release an iPhone with a bigger screen? Even our own Ashleigh Allsopp joined the chorus. Eventually, Apple relented and introduced bigger iPhones. But the original reasons for staying small haven't gone away.
To get an idea of the iPhone 6 Plus's size, here it is compared to the iPhone 5s:
Having held the iPhone 6 Plus we have to say that it wouldn't be the phone of choice for all members of the Macworld team. Some of us have small hands, and the iPhone 6 Plus dwarfed them. We could hardly grip the phone with one hand, let alone use it one handed.
But even those of us with relatively big hands find it a little bit uncomfortable to use: not egregiously so, just slightly awkward. We prefer holding the iPhone 6; we sort of miss the iPhone 5s. And while at first we thought the iPhone 6 Plus's form would grow on us, even now, after five months of regular use, we're still finding it an awkward shape and size.
Macworld's Jim Martin, who uses the iPhone 6 Plus every day, says that, while he's now used to the size of the smartphone he's not overly keen on it. It's not just the fact that you can't use it with one hand (and even the Reachability feature that Apple has added doesn't help much and he doesn't use it at all anymore), it's also that apps don't make the best use of its pixels. Everything seems too big, because most apps aren't optimised for the iPhone 6 Plus yet.
He has said, however, that it's ideal for anyone who wants to use it to watch movies, as you can hold it with one hand in landscape orientation thanks to the large bezels at the top and bottom (or left and right when you're holding it that way) and your thumb won't get in the way of the screen.
Macworld contributor Lucy Hattersley tells us: "The bigger size does change how you use it; but I can't imagine going back to the smaller iPhone 6. The keyboard on the iPhone 6 Plus is a lot easier to use, and the screen looks amazing. I miss being able to go running with the iPhone though (it's too big to strap on your arm."
"I think I'll be happy with an iPhone 6 Plus and Apple Watch combo, but we'll see how that pans out in April," Lucy adds. Find out more about the Apple Watch here.
As much as you may hope that you can use the iPhone 6 Plus one handed, you are likely to be disappointed. It really is a device destined for two-handed operation so it'll be tricky to use when standing on a crowded train - unless you choose not to hang on to anything.
For some people that won't be a concern. Not everyone commutes and therefore not everyone needs to use their smartphone with one hand. If you change your mindset to think of this as a two-handed device, you should enjoy using it.
And, if all else fails, one quick-thinking accessory maker has already come up with a solution: this giant thumb stylus.
The real message here is try the iPhone 6 Plus in your hand before you buy it because no two hands are the same and that means that only you can decide if you are comfortable with this gigantic phone.
For pocketability, the iPhone 6 Plus is of course less convenient than its smaller siblings. It does still slip into a trouser pocket (helped by its wonderfully thin body) but you're far more aware of it. The iPhone 6 Plus feels like more of a handbad/briefcase device than a true pocket handset.
That's been made even clearer since the Bendgate issue arose shortly after the iPhone 6 Plus's launch. While we've yet to experience the issue, many iPhone 6 Plus owners reported that their iPhone had bent after being carried around in a pocket for prolonged periods of time. We talk more about Bendgate below.
You can also read our full first look review of the Apple Watch, and our Apple Watch Release Date story, including UK pricing for the Apple Watch.
iPhone 6 Plus review: Reachability
Apple has added a feature in iOS 8 that makes it easier to reach the controls for the iPhone. Apple calls it Reachability and it is a pretty good word for what it does.
Conscious that some smartphone buyers (and, to be brutally honest, the company itself, when commenting on Android phones in the past) have said that 5.5-inch screens are too large to use one-handed, Apple has equipped the iPhone 6 Plus (and, in fact the iPhone 6 too, even though its not quite so vast) with the Reachability feature to enable precisely that.
This is Apple’s solution for not being able to reach the far corners of the screen when you are using the iPhone 6 Plus one handed.
You activate Reachability by tapping the home button twice (just a tap, not a push). When activated Reachability slides the top of the screen down to where your thumb can reach it. The idea is that, when you're holding the device in one hand, you can't reach the whole screen; so if Mohammed can't get to the mountain, the mountain must come to Mohammed. Ingeniously, Reachability brings the entire screen down to within finger-tapping reach. Another double-tap returns everything to normal.
Reachability isn’t a particularly elegant solution to the issue, but it is a solution and it does make the larger screen more usable. In our testing there was some inconsistency in how Reachability was implemented. We expect this to be ironed out in future operating system updates.
However, we love the idea, and the humility of acknowledging that such an approach might be needed. (Compare with the Steve Jobsian 'You're holding it wrong' approach when the iPhone 4's antenna issues emerged.) Our US colleague Dan Moren isn't totally convinced by Reachabiity, however.
"This 'fix' is weird and somewhat un-Apple," he observes. "I found myself wondering if a better solution might emerge farther down the road. But I suspect that this feature will appeal to the same folks who frequently use the multitasking gestures that have been built into the iPad for a long time. It's the iPhone's equivalent of a keyboard shortcut: something for those power users who just don't want to be slowed down."
iPhone 6 Plus review: Can the iPhone 6 Plus replace the iPad?
The 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus is Apple's entry into the phablet market, something we're sure Steve Jobs would have pooh-poohed a year ago had he still been alive. But phablets are hot right now: some say they're a major reason why tablet sales have slowed down.
That's not to say that the iPhone 6 Plus is more popular than the smaller iPhone 6. After reporting an incredible, record-breaking Q1 2015 in January with a huge 74.5 million iPhone unit sales, Apple CEO Tim Cook confirmed that the iPhone 6 was the most popular iPhone. He declined to break out figures of iPhone 6 versus iPhone 6 Plus, but he did say this: "What I can tell you is that iPhone 6 was the most popular iPhone last quarter. But obviously to sell 74.5 million, they were all really popular. And all did well. There is clearly a geographic preference difference, where some geos would skew much higher on their preference to the iPhone 6 Plus than other geos. So it's not consistant around the world."
Meanwhile, tablet sales are slowing, and Apple reported sales of 21.4 million iPads in the quarter, which is 4.8 million less than the same quarter last year, and it's certainly possible that phablets are part of the cause.
We have two iPhone 6 Plus owners here at Macworld, and after five months of using it they've found that their iPad-using habits have changed. Lucy Hattersley says that, while she's always used the iPhone more than the iPad, it is now easier to work on the iPhone with the larger screen. She tends to reach for the iPad Air in the house and stick with the iPhone on the move, but she didn't buy the new iPad Air 2 when it arrived (she usually buys all of the latest Apple tech), so that's pretty telling. "I'm not sure I'll buy another iPad unless it does something radically different," she said.
If you already own an iPad - particularly an iPad mini - you may be wondering what the iPhone 6 Plus could bring you that you don't already get from your iPad. Perhaps the iPhone 6 Plus makes more sense for those of us who don’t own an iPad, or for those who think an iPad is a tad too big for what they have in mind. There's also the benefit that the iPhone 6 Plus has many features that you won't see on the iPad, yet.
We tackle this issue in more depth in a separate article: iPhone 6 Plus vs iPad mini 3 comparison: When to buy a big iPhone, and when to buy a small iPad
iPhone 6 Plus review: Design and differences
There's not a big difference between the two newest iPhones. Other than the size (the Plus is 14 percent wider than the iPhone 6) and some more advanced camera technology inside the iPhone 6 Plus, the two phones share many specs and a similar design that sets them aside from 2013's iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c.
Despite being the biggest and second-biggest iPhones of all time in terms of height, width and screen size, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are both more slender (flatter) than the phones that preceded them. The design is more curvy, with rounded edges rather than the straight sides of the iPhone 5s.
Oddly enough, the iPhone 6 Plus brings to mind the original iPhone just a little bit, what with its curved aluminium edges and all-metal back. A more recent touchstone for many users will be the iPhone 3GS, the most recent 'rounded' iPhone design.
Even the glass screen has a slight curve at the edges, which feels pleasant against your hand in a way that the sharp edges of the iPhone 4 and 5 series (iPhone 5c excluded) never quite did.
It strikes us that Apple needed to slim down the iPhone 6 Plus as much as possible. Had the edge been 7.6mm rather than 7.1mm, that would have been a lot of extra bulk to cart around, not only adding to the weight, but meaning it would sit less comfortably in your hand: you would have to stretch your palm half a centimetre further in order to reach the screen. This definitely matters if you have small hands.
There are other hardware design changes that set the new iPhones apart from the iPhone 5s. For example, the volume buttons are no longer round, but oval. And the sleep/wake button is no longer at the top of the iPhone where it has always been - instead, it's on the righthand side. This is presumably to make it easier to reach one handed.
As with all iPhones, build quality is excellent. Buttons and switches are uniformly firm and responsive, and the Ring/Silent switch produces a satisfying click. One small concern is the rear-facing camera, which (presumably as a casualty of the ever-shrinking depth of the iPhone's chassis) sticks out a little bit and marginally spoils the integrity of the iPhone 6 Plus's profile. Laying the iPhone 6 Plus down on its back on a hard, flat surface causes it to lie unevenly.
We will talk more about the new iSight rear-facing camera later in this review.
The colour options are the same for the iPhone 6, 6 Plus and the iPhone 5s: black (Space Grey), white (silver) and gold. Only the iPhone 5c offers a selection of bold colour options.
iPhone 6 Plus review: Build quality and 'Bendgate'
Following reports that claim an iPhone bent when it was kept in an owner's pockets for some time, and a video in which an iPhone 6 Plus was bent by force, a number of people expressed concerns about the new iPhone 6 Plus handset.
Reports are suggesting that the build quality of the new handset isn't up to scratch. Is this the case?
Apple has released a statement claiming that it rigorously tested its new iPhones, and that 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).
Apple emphasised in its statement that: "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 its iPhones are tested. Apple says it runs three different 'sit-down tests' that replicate what might happen if the phone was sat on. The devices are also put through a bend test with 25kg (55lb) of pressure exerted. The devices are also twisted.
Apple's not the only one to have performed stress tests on the iPhones. Consumer Reports performed their own "bendability" tests which involved a "'three-point flexural test', in which the phone is supported at two points on either end, then force is applied at a third point on the top," and found that the devices were "pretty tough".
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).
- The M8 turned out to be the least sturdy, followed by the iPhone 6, and then the 6 Plus.
- The HTC One (M8) deformed at 70 pounds (31kg) of pressure and separated rom the case at 90 pounds (40.8kg)
- iPhone 6 took 70lb (31.75kg) before coming apart at 100 pounds (45.36kg)
- iPhone 6 Plus deformed at 90 pounds (40.8kg) of applied force and came apart at 110 pounds (49.9kg)
- LG 3G deformed at 130 pounds (58.9kg) and separated from the case with the same pressure: 130 pounds (58.9kg)
- iPhone 5, was 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.
Even before Consumer Reports ran its tests, Square Trade had reported that the new iPhones performed impressively in their Breakability tests. However, that company has since said it will carry out further tests on the new handset.
"The new series of iPhones performed above expectations, scoring higher than both previous iPhone models and popular Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5. The iPhone 6's Breakability Score of 4 sets a new high mark with a slightly better performance than even Google/Motorola's Moto X and the HTC One. The much larger iPhone 6 Plus scored a 5, more than a full point better than the Samsung Galaxy S5, making it the most durable phone with a screen larger than five inches," according to Square Trade.
According to Square Trade: "The iPhone 6 Plus is not only more durable than most large screen phones, but it also outscored last generation's iPhone 5S; Both new iPhones performed very well in most tests, but the iPhone 6 Plus lost some points because some users may have a hard time gripping the phone due to its large but slim form; The screens on both new iPhones held up very well to Breakability testing, giving credence to Apple's promise of ion-strengthened glass." Square Trade offer a protection plan for mobile devices.
It should be noted that that kind of force would have the potential to break any phone. In fact, it's not really surprising that a 7.1mm-thick device made from aluminium would bend. This is exactly what the laws of physics would predict.
However, there have been criticisms that it's Apple's use of aluminium that is to blame, since this is a comparatively malleable metal. (Other smartphones include a magnesium alloy chassis on the inside for extra strength.)
Others suggest that rather than the use of aluminium being to blame, it's the design. One Reddit user noted that the bend is happening where the volume control buttons are located, because that is the weakest point: Apple drilled holes into the aluminium case to accomodate the volume buttons.
In our own evaluations we felt the iPhone 6 Plus was sufficiently sturdy. However, just as you would avoid sitting on your glasses, you should avoid sitting on a device that you have just spent a fortune on.
Of course, this isn't the first '-gate' scandal associated to afflict an iPhone launch. Back when the iPhone 4 launched everyone was talking about Antennagate; last year there were complaints that the iPhone 5c was too highly priced, and that the iPhone 5s was apparently hackable.
Apple products are not perfect, by any means - no mass-produced item can be. But you hear more about these particular issues because Apple makes good headlines, and also because a lot of people run out and buy Apple products 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.
One last theory that is perhaps worth mentioning: a Reddit user has compared an iPhone 6 Plus bought the day after launch, and one bought six week after launch, and claims they are physically different. It seems unlikely that Apple would have been able to redesign the iPhone 6 Plus, making it somehow sturdier without changing the exterior dimensions, test it, ship it and get it out to customers, all within the space of six weeks, but some Apple fans are hoping it's true.
We assess the plausibility of this theory (and look at the Bendgate issue in far more depth) in this article: Apple Bendgate latest.
iPhone 6 Plus review: Specs
Here are iPhone 6 Plus's specs, we'll look at each in more detail below.
Processor: as expected, an A8 chip with 64bit architecture, and a M8 co-processor. Said to offer approximately 25 percent higher speed - on paper - than the iPhone 5s's A7 chip, and 50 percent greater graphics performance. Obviously we would insert the usual caveat about current apps being quite comfortably handled by the A7 so that any actual performance improvements won't become noticeable until more demanding apps are written for the A8. More of a future-proofing component than a short-term benefit.
Screen: 5.5-inch 'Retina HD' screen with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and a pixel density of 401ppi; 1300:1 contrast ratio (typical)
Rear-facing camera ('iSight' camera): 8Mp photos; f/2.2;optical image stabilisation; 1080p video recording
Front-facing ('FaceTime' camera: 1.2Mp photos; ƒ/2.2; 720p video recording; burst mode
Storage: 16GB, 64GB and 128GB
Ports: Lightning connector and Touch ID fingerprint scanner
Dimensions: 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm
iPhone 6 Plus review: Screen
We've already mentioned that the display in the iPhone 6 Plus is huge: 5.5 inches from corner to corner. What is it like to actually look at?
Apple is referring to the display on both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus as 'Retina HD'. This may be pushing the truth somewhat with the iPhone 6, which has exactly the same pixels per inch (326) as the iPhone 5, 5c and 5s - they aren't packed in any closer together.
The iPhone 6 Plus, on the other hand, offers 401 ppi. That's the highest pixel density ever seen on an Apple iOS device, and the same resolution as a full 1080p display, which is what your high-def TV offers.
Mind you, when Apple first introduced Retina display as a concept it said that the eye was unable to see any more pixels, so maybe it doesn't really make a difference. Except it does, as we know from looking at Android phones with more pixels. We weren't convinced that upping the screen resolution beyond standard Retina was worth the expense, since many experts had claimed that human eyes can't discern greater detail than that at standard smartphone distance. But our initial impressions were, well, pretty great. Every app we looked at was stunning on the 401 ppi screen. Read: What's a Retina display, what's a Retina HD display, and are they worth the money?
Apple says it offers wider viewing angles because of its dual-domain pixels. We certainly felt the most impressive aspect of the screen was the wide viewing angle and the extra clarity when compared to the iPhone 5s. When placed flat on the desk and viewed from the side we could see the colours and clearly make out the app icons. We also felt that the screen was a lot less reflective than the screen on the 5s, although being bigger meant that there was a lot more screen for reflections.
In order to make the most of the more detailed screen Apple is using scaling techniques so that more detail can fit on the screen, including extra keys on the keyboard.
Apple has also added a feature called Display Zoom so you could choose to view the screen like you would on a smaller iPhone, only zoomed in.
iPhone 6 Plus review: Camera
Another particularly noticeable change is to the camera - not just new photography features but the fact that the lens protrudes out in a way that some are suggesting is very un-Apple. So un-Apple in fact that the company seems to have gone to great lengths to ensure that the unsightly bump doesn’t show up in its promotional photography. The lens is surrounded by a thin metal ring. Apparently this was a trade-off made necessary by the fact that the iPhone is too thin for the camera mechanics. It may be preferable than the whole iPhone being a few millimetres thicker. If this is the reason though it does seem strange that both iPhones have the same protrusion. Surely the slightly thicker iPhone 6 Plus could have concealed more of the bulge.
As we mentioned above, there are some new camera features offered by the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 6, and some new features that can only be found on the iPhone 6 Plus. Only the iPhone 6 Plus offers Optical image stabilization while the iPhone 6 only 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 that this works well in low-light.
Both iPhones offer Focus Pixels for faster autofocus, this is useful when shooting video as these pixels automatically focus continuously as you are shooting. In his review Snell noted that: "The focus behavior in video is the feature I noticed the most - video focus has never been really been one of the iPhone's strong suits. But the focus in the test videos I shot with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were clear and smooth, never seeming robotic or jarring."
According to Apple, you no longer need to tap the screen to tell it to focus, either.
We tested this feature out and found it to be true. Filming a figure and placing something in and out of the frame caused the camera to change its focus between whatever happened to be in the foreground and the figure. It happened quickly. Running the same comparison on the iPhone 5s we found that the only way to get the camera to focus was to tap on the screen where we wanted the point of focus to be. It is an impressive feature.
We took some pictures: this one was taken with the iPhone 6 Plus.
The photo below was taken with the iPhone 5s:
There wasn't a huge difference, even when zoomed in, although it's clear that the colours look a little more washed out. There also seems to be more detail in the white edging near the windows.
Here's the iPhone 6 Plus:
And with the iPhone 5s:
There is also improved face detection on both the front and back facing cameras; Panorama shooting at up to 43 megapixels; and 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps or 60 fps (previously only 30 fps); Cinematic video stabilisation; and continuous autofocus video.
We tested the face detection. Here is the iPhone 6 Plus:
And with the iPhone 5s (which in this case we think took a better picture)
Below are some further examples of photos we've captured using the iPhone 6 Plus, and we're certainly impressed.
Cinematic video stabilisation coupled with Slo-mo video - which you can now record at super-detailed 240 fps as well as 120 fps - allows for smooth action running at one eighth the speed of normal video.
The front-facing FaceTime camera has also had some improvements. It now features a new sensor with a larger f/2.2 aperture that lets in 81 percent more light - perfect for low-light selfies and video calls This compares to the ƒ/2.4 aperture on iPhone 5s). There is also Auto HDR for photos and videos on FaceTime camera (previously that was only photos); and a Burst mode on the FaceTime camera. We haven't had a chance to fully test this camera yet.
Despite these new features for the camera, there will be disappointment for some. There is no improvement in terms of megapixels. The new iPhones still offer 8-megapixel cameras. Many rival smart phones offer many more megapixels. (However, as you will see from this article, more megapixels doesn't mean better photos.)
Read more about the new features in iOS 8 here, including new features in the camera and photos app: iOS 8 tips and tricks.
iPhone 6 Plus review: A8 Processor
The new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are powered by the new Apple A8 processor, although it's running at different clock speeds. The iPhone 6 Plus runs at 1.39GHz compared to the iPhone 6 at 1.2GHz.
This A8 processor is the successor to last years A7 chip, which was a giant leap by its own account offering a huge speed improvement thanks to its 64-bit capabilities. We're not going to see as big a leap with the A8 chip - but we're not sure that we really need to as unless you are playing high-powered games it's unlikely to make much of a difference to you. One way in which the new chip might make a difference is in power efficiency. The A8 uses a different manufacturing process that makes it more power efficient, and that may have an impact on battery life.
However, the A8 it is definitely faster than last year's A7, according to Macworld's tests.
We ran the GeekBench Single- and Multi-Core tests on the new iPhones. The results were as follows. Macworld US also ran Geekbench, and their scores were slightly different to ours.
- iPhone 6 Plus: 1626
- iPhone 6: 1517
- iPhone 5s: 1409
- iPhone 6 Plus: 2917
- iPhone 6: 2586
- iPhone 5s: 2549
iPhone 6 Plus review: M8 Processor
The Motion Co-Processor also gets an update. The M8 replaces the M7 from the iPhone 5s. This chip is used to collect sensor data – it is a clever way to save battery life as it bypasses the A8 (or A7) processor. The M8 also collects data from the new barometer sensor which is used to measure elevation changes so it can tell if you have been climbing steps and presumably guage your fitness levels from that.
iPhone 6 Plus review: Speed and graphics performance
While discussing the new A8 processor we said that performance gains from the iPhone 5s are unlikely to be noticeable for the foreseeable future, and sure enough our brief hands-on time with the iPhone 6 Plus didn't stun us with speed improvements. It's consummately slick and zippy in use, of course, but so was the 5s; high-powered games couldn't stretch its powers, but again, neither were they an issue for the previous generation of iPhone.
We ran the GFX Bench graphics benchmarking on the new iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 5s. We've been advised that the onscreen results are not currently representative of the native resolution of the new iPhone (developers are currently working on a GFXBench update to fix this), so we've only got off-screen results for now. The results were as follows:
Manhattan 1080p off-screen
- iPhone 6 Plus: 1152 (18.6 fps)
- iPhone 5s: 768 (12.7 fps)
T-Rex 1080p off-screen
- iPhone 6 Plus: 2252 (40.2 fps)
- iPhone 5s: 1474 (26.3.7 fps)
Apple showcased a new game called Vainglory - expect more on that subject in future - and as you would expect, the new iPhones handled its graphical fireworks with ease. Read: Best iPhone games.
iPhone 6 Plus review: RAM
Both phones appear to have the same 1GB RAM as the iPhone has since the iPhone 5 launched. Many iPhone rivals offer more RAM. While some suggest that it's unnecessary to add more RAM as Apple's iOS software manages memory sufficiently well. That's not necessarily our experience and we must admit to being disappointed that Apple hasn't added more RAM. Hopefully iOS 8 will manage memory better than iOS 7 did.
iPhone 6 Plus review: Battery life
Battery life has improved somewhat, made possible both by the fact that the bigger case can fit a bigger battery. Apple claims that the iPhone 6 Plus battery life is up to 24 hours of talk time on 3G; up to 16 days/384 hours of standby; up to 12 hours of internet use on 3G, up to 12 hours on LTE, and up to 11 hours on Wi-Fi; up to 14 hours of video playback; and up to 80 hours of audio playback. That sounds pretty impressive.
By contrast, Apple claims that iPhone 6 battery life is 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.
The iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c had identical battery life, according to Apple, which claimed, for those handsets: 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.
We found that the iPhone 6 Plus is indeed a step up from previous iPhones when it comes to battery life. If you use the smartphone for a mix of web browsing, phone calls, watching videos, playing games, taking and editing photos and sharing them on Facebook, you'll get up to a full two days out of one charge.
It really depends on how much you're using it, though. Doing those aforementioned activities all day is going to reduce the battery life, and if you're streaming video over 4G at maximum brightness, for example, you'll find that the battery depletes significantly faster.
iFixIt has torn down the iPhone 6 Plus and reports that the battery is listed at 2915mAh at 3.82 volts: which means the 6 Plus has double the battery capacity of the iPhone 5s, which had a 1560mAh battery. It is also larger than the iPhone 6's 1810mAh battery.
iFixIt also concluded that the new iPhones will be easier to repair than previous models and the battery easier to replace (although not considered user replaceable).
iPhone 6 Plus review: NFC & Apple Pay
The iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6 both support Near Field Communications, the standard that lends itself to Apple Pay, Apple's new mobile payment service. This won't mean much to anyone in the UK yet as we don't know when Apple Pay will come to the UK. It launched in the US in October.
Apple Pay is really exciting to us as a concept: it's a mobile payment system that will allow you to pay for stuff using your iPhone's Touch ID fingerprint scanner. Very convenient, rather cool, and in principle more secure than current credit-card systems, although we'll be watching closely to see how the security side of things works out.
Apple Pay is based on the NFC wireless protocol so requires an NFC antenna - which the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6, but no other iPhones, have. So it's restricted to the latest generation of iPhone (and, in more limited implementations, the Apple Watch, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3).
Read more about Apple Pay in our dedicated FAQs article: Apple Pay FAQs: Will Apple Pay work in the UK, is Apple Pay secure and more questions answered
iPhone 6 Plus review: Software
As we mentioned earlier, the extra screen real-estate can be used to add features to apps, like additional keyboard keys. The most noticeable change is that when you rotate the iPhone 6 Plus home screen the icons switch to landscape mode, as per the iPad. There's a slight difference compared to the iPad, though: the dock stays in the same place, on the right of the screen.
Apple has also updated various apps to take advantage of the bigger screen, including Mail and Notes. There is a wide-screen view for landscape mode for example. Both apps can use a two-column view with a list of items on the left and a preview or area for editing on the right. This is similar to the way things work on the iPad.
Much as if you were using Calendar, Mail or a similar app on an iPad, the iPhone 6 Plus lets you view many default apps in landscape mode with two columns. And the Home screen itself can flip to a landscape mode - an omission which we always found a little odd. (The dock doesn't flip to the bottom of the screen, though. It sits rather nattily on the side of the screen.)
The iPhone 6 Plus comes with Apple's iOS 8 software preinstalled; take a look at our iOS 8 review to see how that appeals. Obviously you can supplement the default features of this operating system by buying and downloading additional apps, which Apple says now number more than 1.3 million. (You'll also be able to update to iOS 9 for free when it launches next year. This will add some new features to the iPhone 6 Plus's arsenal.)
We cover the various aspects of iOS 8 in the following articles. You can also read our iOS 8 tutorials in our iOS 8 zone.
iPhone 6 Plus review: UK price
The iPhone 6 Plus starts at £619. That's not cheap, is it? Here are the full range of pricing options:
- 16GB iPhone 6 Plus: £619
- 64GB iPhone 6 Plus: £699
- 128GB iPhone 6 Plus: £789 (this is more than the 11in MacBook Air!)
Each of these phones costs £80-£90 more than the same-capacity iPhone 6. It's a lot to ask for a smartphone, even one as beautiful as the iPhone 6 Plus, and likely to put off all but the most committed (or large-handed) of Apple fans.
By the way, read about why it's not a good idea to buy the 16GB version: The problem with Apple's 16GB iPhones and iPads
And it's worth pointing out that we've not missed one out - Apple has indeed craftily removed the mid-ranking 32GB model, which gives the average buyer a big nudge up towards the 64GB. We're not sure we could manage with 16GB, although those who store most of their media in the cloud and rarely download large apps might well be fine.
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.
Of course you may not need to pay the up-front price that Apple asks. Many of the UK networks will offer the iPhone 6 Plus for less than Apple's price, you will just make up the difference in the monthly contract price. We have more information on iPhone 6 Plus UK network contracts here.
That's it for our iPhone 6 Plus review. But if you're interested to read our pre-announcement preview of the iPhone 6 Plus - and see how much we got right and how we got wrong - carry on to the next page, where we've kept the original preview article.