iPhone 6 full review
Which new iPhone 6 handset is best? What are the pros and cons of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus?
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have been available to buy for almost a fortnight. But which new iPhone 6 smartphone model is right for you? Should you buy the iPhone 6 Plus and its bigger screen, sharper screen and longer battery life, or the iPhone 6 and its more portable body and lower price tag?
In this article we compare the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus for features, specs, design, build quality and visual appeal, and help you work out the best new iPhone for your needs. Updated, 2 October
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 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Design & build quality
Design-wise these two phones are virtually identical, with one exception: scale. The iPhone 6 Plus is like an iPhone 6 that's been stretched along two dimensions (and fractionally on a third - it's a tiny bit thicker, although still thinner than the iPhone 5s); if I scaled up a photo of an iPhone 6 you'd have to look fairly carefully to tell which one you were looking at. (One clue would be to look at the amount of space around the icons, by the way.)
Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have attractive rounded edges, slim bezels (the screens are almost edge-to-edge) and slim bodies - even thinner than the iPhone 5s. These are beautifully made, reliable pieces of hardware that won't let you down. Build quality is off the chart.
Being significantly bigger than any previous iPhones, however, the new iPhones may look ungainly (particularly in the hand) to long-time Apple fans.
iPhone 6 Plus build quality: Bendgate
A word here on 'Bendgate', however. In the days following the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus launch, an early buyer of the iPhone 6 Plus claimed his device had bent after sitting in his pocket for 13 hours. Then a video showing somebody bending an iPhone 6 Plus went viral.
So are the new iPhone 6-series handsets 'bendy'? Not really, no - at least, not significantly more so than smartphones of comparable dimensions by rival companies. Some rival smartphones do better in stress tests; others do worse. If you try really hard to bend a slender piece of computing hardware, you can probably do it some damage. This is not earth-shattering news.
But if you want further information, we've covered 'Bendgate' in a little more detail elsewhere. With the results of heavy-duty stress testing and updates and analysis of the original viral video, take a look at iPhone 6 Plus buying advice: Bendgate latest.
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Portability
The new iPhone 6 handsets sacrifice portability in order to increase screen space. The iPhone 6 is still pocketable but it's definitely a bit more of a squeeze than the 5s; the iPhone 6 Plus is more of a rucksack pocket than jeans pocket model, although your mileage may vary. (If you can, go to an Apple Store or mobile provider with units you can play with, and see for yourself how well these devices fit your hands and pockets. If that's not possible, you could always try assembling a cardboard dummy model, as some early adopters did before the iPhone 6 models hit the shops. We give the dimensions of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus below.)
The 'phablet' form factor that the iPhone 6 Plus follows is an opinion divider. Some feel that it falls between two stools, claiming it's not big enough to provide really immersive gaming or movies like tablets, but too big to slip easily in a pocket. Others reckon it actually overlaps both sweet spots. It's all a question of how mobile devices fit into your life - how big a screen you need, how much gaming and TV you'll be using the device for, how you carry the device around.
Here are some photos to give you an idea of the sizes we're talking about:
Above: iPhone 6 (left) and iPhone 6 Plus
Above: Comparison with the last generation. Here's the iPhone 6 Plus (right) compared to the iPhone 5s
Above: The iPhone 6 (left) and iPhone 6 Plus
Above: So you can compare the whole iPhone 6 series with the entire previous generation, here's the full range of iPhones currently available
If you're worried, by the way, that the new iPhone 6 series handsets are too big to be used one-handed... well, you're not alone. Apple itself has anticipated this concern by introducing a new feature called 'Reachability'.
Double-tap the Home button and the interface slides down so that it takes up far less of the screen space - and comes within easy reach - while remaining fully functional. Another double-tap returns everything to normal.
It's a clever idea, not to mention one that shows a little humility.
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Weight and dimensions
Let's talk numbers. If you, say, want to assemble cardboard dummy models of the new iPhones, here are the dimensions you need. Note that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are both impressively slim - slimmer than the iPhone 5s, even. Their weight, too, is pleasingly low (the iPhone 6 manages to be lighter than the smaller-screened iPhone 5c). It's the width and height that see the big increases.
- iPhone 6: 138.1mm (height) x 67mm (width) x 6.9mm (depth). Weight: 129g
- iPhone 6 Plus: 158.1mm (height) x 77.8mm (width) x 7.1mm (depth). Weight: 172g
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Screen
We've talked about the negatives, but there's one glorious positive reason why the iPhones have got bigger: screen space.
The iPhone 6 has a stunning 4.7-inch screen, whereas the iPhone 6 Plus goes all the way up to 5.5 inches (both figures are diagonal measurements, from corner to corner). This compares to the 4-inch screens of the iPhone 5 series, and the 3.5-inch screens of the iPhone 4s and earlier.
Read: iPhone 6 Plus rivals
More screen space is what everyone's been asking for, and opens up tremendous possibilities for gaming and media consumption on the go. (Even if, as I discussed in the Portability section, some will feel that these screens are a compromise point between the greater-still screen space of the iPad mini and the smaller screens but more portable chassis of the iPhone 5 series.)
The larger screens may cause some headaches for app developers, incidentally, who will presumably wish to optimise their wares for the iPhone 6 series, just as they did for iPhone 5 and its 4in screen (up from the iPhone 4s and its 3.5in screen) two years ago.
At the iPhone 6 launch event, Apple claimed that it will be a simple matter to scale apps for the new displays; we're not convinced it's as straightforward as all that, but it sounds like you should at least have access to the full range of iPhone apps, even if they're not initially engineered to take advantage of the higher number of pixels.
While we're on the subject of pixels, the iPhone 6 series handsets also have higher resolutions than any previous iPhone models: 1334x750 for the iPhone 6 and an eye-watering, desktop monitor-esque 1920x1080 for the iPhone 6 Plus.
To be clear, the latter figure isn't just proportionately more pixels to be spread over the extra area. While the iPhone 6 has the same pixel density as every iPhone since the iPhone 4 (326 pixels per inch), the iPhone 6 Plus really pushes the boat out: it's 401ppi, which rather weighs against previous claims that Retina-class screens represented the highest pixel density that the human eye could discern at a normal smartphone usage distance. (See: What is a Retina display, and are they worth the money?)
Indeed, Apple is now talking about Retina HD rather than simple Retina - yet it applies this term to both the 326ppi iPhone 6 and the 401ppi iPhone 6 Plus, suggesting that it doesn't refer to the iPhone 6 Plus's higher pixel density.
There are other changes in the iPhone 6 series screens that are presumably covered under the Retina HD classification: they have higher contrast ratios, for one thing (1300:1 for the iPhone 6 Plus and 1400:1 for the iPhone 6, compared with 800:1 for both iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c), along with a technical feature Apple calls "dual-domain pixels" and claims will provide wider viewing angles.
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Speed and graphics performance
Again, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus prove remarkably similar in their internal equipment despite the differences in the physical space available. Both models run the new A8 processor chip, together with its M8 motion co-processor.
On paper this works out at approximately 25 percent quicker in general performance than the iPhone 5s and 50 percent faster in graphical processing. But the reality is that current apps barely push even the iPhone 5s to its limits. As we always stress when new Apple mobile processors make their debut, this should be regarded as future-proofing, not an instant speed boost: gains will become apparent as more demanding apps are written to take advantage of the A8's power.
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Stills & video cameras
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have essentially the same cameras: the 8Mp 'new iSight camera' facing the rear and a 1.2Mp camera facing forwards and handling FaceTime and selfies.
The iPhone 6 Plus, however, does have an advantage over the iPhone 6 when it comes to the camera. The iPhone 6 Plus gets optical image stabilisation, while the iPhone 6 simply has auto image stabilisation. You can therefore expect slightly better results from the iPhone 6 Plus.
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Colour options
Both new iPhone models come in the same colour options (the same options as each other, that is, but also the same as the iPhone 5s): silver, Space Grey and gold. We're still not convinced by gold iPhones, by the way (their slight garishness does seem to go against the whole 'understated elegance' thing that Apple is so good at), but they have grown on us a little.
If you want really bright colours, of course, you need to go for the iPhone 5c - available in yellow, red, green and blue, as well as white - or buy a decorative case.
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Storage options
Even though the iPhone 6 Plus has more chassis space to cram in extra components, you get the same storage options regardless of whether you go for iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus: you can plump for 16GB, 64GB or the new iPad-esque 128GB option. The 32GB middle option has been removed.
We would recommend 64GB or more unless you keep most of your media in the cloud and rarely install big, space-hogging apps. (Games tend to be particularly big files, so keen gamers should aim for a decent amount of storage space.)
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Software & interface
Both iPhone 6 series handsets come with iOS 8 preinstalled, and have access to all of its features.
Thanks to the larger screens, they are able to squeeze an extra row of icons on to each page of the home screen; whereas the iPhone 4 and 4s had four rows plus the dock, and the iPhone 5 series had five rows plus the dock, the 6 and 6 plus both have the ability to fit six rows of icons above the dock. (The larger iPhone 6 Plus has icons that are the same size as those of the iPhone 6, which means they are a bit more spread out, as previously mentioned.)
More on iOS 8:
iOS 8 vs iOS 7 comparison review
What's new in Calendar in iOS 8 & Yosemite
Using QuickType & Swype keyboards in iOS 8
Alternative keyboards in iOS 8
iOS 8 vs Android L comparison preview
iOS 8 extensions wishlist
How to join the iOS 8 beta
The best of iOS 8
iOS 8 FAQ
Will my iPad or iPhone be able to run iOS 8?
10 cool new features in Photos for iOS 8 & Yosemite
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Apple Pay
One of the new features in iOS 8 is Apple Pay. But it's perhaps better understood as a hardware rather than software upgrade, because it depends on two hardware features: the Touch ID fingerprint scanner (which both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus have, along with the iPhone 5s) and an NFC antenna (which is built into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus and the Apple Watch, and no other Apple device at present).
Apple Pay lets you pay for goods and services with a touch and single tap on your phone, which is all very appealing. The cloud to this silver lining is that it won't launch in Europe until next year. Read more about Apple Pay here: Apple Pay FAQs: Will Apple Pay work in the UK, is Apple Pay secure and more questions answered
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Battery life
This is a big surprise. We (or at least I) expected both new iPhones to conform to Apple's historical sweet spot for battery life: 10 hours of typical use. But while the iPhone 6 does so, the iPhone 6 Plus is capable, we are told, of 12 hours. It has room for a bigger battery, of course, but we expected Apple to upgrade this only enough to compensate for the higher power requirements of the bigger screen. Apparently not.
We must stress that battery tests require long-term use of a review model, and we haven't had that yet - so these remain Apple claims only. Our long-term review samples arrived this morning, however, so we'll have battery test results very soon indeed.
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 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Price
As you would probably expect, the iPhone 6 Plus is a more expensive option. It starts at £619 for the 16GB model, and progresses upwards to £699 for 64GB and a scary £789 for the 128GB handset.
The iPhone 6 is £80 to £90 cheaper at each price point. It's £539 (16GB), £619 (64GB) and £699 (128GB).
iPhone 6: Specs
- Apple A8 processor
- 16/64/128 GB storage
- 1 GB RAM
- iOS 8
- 8 MP, 3264 x 2448 pixels, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash
- 1.2 MP secondary camera
- 750 x 1334 pixels, 4.7 inches LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors
- 138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm
- 129 g