Apple iPhone 6 Plus full review
iPhone 5s or iPhone 6 Plus? If you're trying to decide whether to buy the flagship Apple smartphone from 2013 or 2014, you've come to the right place. In this article we compare the specs, features, design and performance of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6 Plus, as well as their price and value for money, and help you decide which iPhone is right for you.
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 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: Design and build quality
The iPhone 5s is much like all iPhones in the general reassuring air of quality that it exudes. It's beautifully designed and built, slim, reliable and comfortable in the hand.
…and you can say almost all the same things about the iPhone 6 Plus.
The iPhone 6 Plus (gold version, obviously)...
...and the iPhone 5s
But there are physical differences. Most obviously, of course, the iPhone 6 Plus is a lot bigger. With its 5.5-inch screen, compared to the iPhone 5s and its 4-inch screen, it's obviously far broader and longer - although, almost miraculously, Apple has managed to make the 6 Plus very slightly thinner (flatter) than the 5s: it's 7.1mm thick, compared to the 7.6mm-thick iPhone 5s. The 6 Plus is still a shade thicker than the iPhone 6, mind you, which is currently the slimmest iPhone around.
We'll discuss the implications of these differences in the Portability and Screen sections of this comparison.
The general aesthetics of the two phones are subtly different, too. Whereas the 5s continues the squared-off edges that Apple had pursued since the iPhone 4, the 6 Plus is far more rounded: some see in it echoes of the rounded-off lines of the old iPhone 3GS.
The rounded edges of the iPhone 6 Plus (and, above, iPhone 6)
...and the much sharper edges of the iPhone 5s
And, perhaps less thrillingly, there are some minor changes to the button layout.
The iPhone 5s has two little circular volume controls, which have been replaced on the 6 Plus by a pair of longer rounded-rectangle tabs, which are a bit easier to use.
And the sleep/wake button that sits on top of the iPhone 5s (and had sat upon the top of every iPhone since 2007) has been moved to the righthand side of the 6 Plus. We actually find that change very slightly annoying, because it's easy to accidentally press the volume buttons with your thumb while it's bracing against a press of the sleep/wake button with your fingers, and vice versa.
iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: 'Bendgate'
We said the 6 Plus is thinner than the 5s - and that always sounds good at a product announcement. But there could be consequences.
You may have heard about something called Bendgate. This is the minor scandal (complete with inevitable -gate name) that followed a series of complaints lodged by iPhone 6 Plus owners who say their devices have bent.
It's hard for us to say definitely whether this is something to worry about, since we can't check every bent device or speak to every aggrieved customer. So we'll confine our comments here to a few remarks:
- 1. Apple sells millions of iPhones, and it's almost inevitable that something will go wrong with some of them.
- 2. An Apple controversy can be enormously lucrative for whoever discovers it, and provide lots of web traffic for those who repeat the claims.
- 3. Some of the claims don't come with a lot of evidence…
- 4. …and when there is a video to show 'how easily the iPhone 6 Plus bends', the owners are obviously exerting a considerable amount of force.
- 5. Thin metal objects tend to bend when you apply lots of force to them.
- 6. Apple itself - and a number of independent organisations - have run tests to check that the iPhone 6 Plus is strong enough to withstand normal use.
- 7. Macworld's iPhone 6 Plus model hasn't bent at all in several months of use and seems perfectly robust.
You may want more reassurance than that before spending a fortune on a smartphone, however, so why not take a look at our in-depth report on the subject? See: iPhone 6 Plus Bendgate latest
iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: Portability
We said you can say almost all the same nice things about the iPhone 6 Plus that you could say about the 5s. But the one that doesn't apply is the one about sitting comfortably in the hand.
The 5s is a perfectly convenient one-handed device. You can hold and use it with one hand, reaching all the icons on the screen with your thumb while cradling it with your palm and fingers. But the 6 Plus, because it's so much bigger, is much less convenient in one hand: your thumb can reach only a fraction of the screen area.
Those with very large hands may find that this isn't a problem for them; those with very small hands may find it insurmountable. It's a personal thing. But we’d recommend that you get hold of a handset (borrowing from a friend, or picking one up in an Apple Store), or make up a fake from cardboard using the dimensions below, in order to see how it fits into your hand.
And there are solutions even if it is too big for you to easily use one-handed in the normal way. You can use the iPhone with two hands, holding it in one hand and tapping and swiping with the index finger of the other. Or you can continue to use the iPhone 6 Plus with one hand by using the new Reachability feature, which brings the top section of the screen down to within reach of your thumb when you double-touch the Home button.
As well as fitting less easily into a hand, the iPhone 6 Plus is generally less portable than the iPhone 5s. The 5s slips into a trouser pocket and is barely noticeable; the 6 Plus is a squeeze, being far more suitable for a handbag or the front pocket of a rucksack.
- iPhone 5s: 123.8 mm x 58.6 mm x 7.6 mm; 112 grams
- iPhone 6 Plus: 158.1 mm x 77.8 mm x 7.1 mm; 172 grams
iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: Screen
The main reason why most of us would pick the iPhone 6 Plus over the 5s is the screen. You get almost twice as much screen space with the larger phone.
- iPhone 5s: 4-inch screen (diagonal). 50mm x 88mm (4,400 square millimetres) approx.
- iPhone 6 Plus: 5.5-inch screen (diagonal). 69 x 122mm (8,418 square millimetres) approx.
Again, this will be a question of personal preferences, but the 6 Plus is clearly a better device for watching films and TV shows, and for gaming. Work apps will also be easier on its larger screen.
If you're mainly going to be checking email and browsing (non-picture-heavy) websites, the 5s will be fine. And even if you feel that the extra screen space would be helpful, consider whether this extra space is worth the higher price tag and reduced portability.
Oh, and the iPhone 6 Plus also has a sharper screen - its resolution is so much higher than that of the 5s that, even spread over the larger area, the pixel density is still higher. It's got a pixel density of 401ppi (pixels per inch), compared to 326ppi on the 5s. This translates into a sharper, clearer display, but it's only noticeable at all on very high-detail images and text. The 5s has an extremely clear, sharp screen in its own right.
One last thing: thanks to a new feature that Apple calls 'dual-domain pixels', the 6 Plus has better viewing angles than 5-series handsets. (It's easier to view the screen at extreme angles - when the phone is flat on a desk and you’re almost side on to it, for instance.)
iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: Speed and performance
Unsurprisingly for a device that's a year younger, the iPhone 6 Plus is a faster device - in terms of raw processing speed and graphical processing - than the iPhone 5s. But not by a huge margin.
To give an idea of the respective speeds of the 5s and the 6 Plus, we put them through the single- and multi-core tests on the GeekBench 3 benchmark. The results (including the iPhone 6 for comparison) were as follows:
- iPhone 6 Plus: 1626
- iPhone 6: 1517
- iPhone 5s: 1409
- iPhone 6 Plus: 2917
- iPhone 6: 2586
- iPhone 5s: 2549
To translate this your real-world experience, you’ll find many apps a little faster with the 6 Plus - particularly so with very new, very processor-intensive apps and games. And the gap will become more noticeable as time goes by and more demanding apps are released.
But at present the 5s is still an impressively fast smartphone, and remains comfortably able to handle all of the apps out there. Think of the 6 Plus's extra speed more as a future-proofing measure than something that will produce radical speed gains in the short term.
iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: Camera
In terms of megapixels, you might think the cameras on these two iPhones are the same - but, as we've explained elsewhere, megapixels aren't the be all and end all.
The camera setup on the 6 Plus has two main advantages: the front-facing camera has a better aperture rating (ƒ/2.2, compared with ƒ/2.4), so your selfies are likely to be stronger. And you also get optical image stabilisation on the rear-facing camera, which is likely to produce better shots in low light.
Shots taken with the two phones' rear-facing cameras in normal light are about the same.
On top of these, the iPhone 6 Plus gets access to a slightly better set of features: it can capture slow-mo video at 240 frames per second as well as 120.
Here are the camera specs of the two phones:
- iPhone 5s: 8Mp front camera with ƒ/2.2 aperture; 1.2Mp FaceTime camera with ƒ/2.4 aperture; slo-mo (120 fps only)
- iPhone 6 Plus: 8Mp front camera with ƒ/2.2 aperture & optical image stabilisation; 1.2Mp FaceTime camera with ƒ/2.2 aperture; slo-mo (120fps and 240fps)
iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: Battery life
Apple claims to have improved battery life on its newest iPhones, and while battery life is a deeply subjective thing, our tests appear to back this up. Here's Apple's battery life claims for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6 Plus (along with, for comparison, the iPhone 6):
- iPhone 5s: 8 hours of 3G internet use
- iPhone 6: 10 hours of 3G internet use
- iPhone 6 Plus: 12 hours of 3G internet use
iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: Storage capacity options
Here's a small but potentially important factor to bear in mind: the iPhone 5s and 6 Plus, as is often the case with a brand-new and a year-old Apple smartphone, offer substantially different storage capacity options. The iPhone 5s has lost its 64GB and 128GB incarnations; the 6 Plus, by contrast, doesn’t even get a 32GB in the first place.
- iPhone 5s: 16/32GB
- iPhone 6 Plus: 16/64/128GB
In other words, if you're looking for more than 32GB of storage, the iPhone 5s - at least a brand-new iPhone 5s, since you could still pick up a second-hand 5s with the old storage configurations - is not for you.
To be honest, 32GB is enough for many users, and indeed is widely believed to be the 'sweet spot' for smartphone storage (which is why some people were annoyed that Apple phased this option out for the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3). Granted, moving up to 64GB means you can maintain a larger library of heavy-duty apps (this is a nice option for keen gamers) as well as carrying pretty much all your photo and music content around with you, but it’s possible to get by on 32GB without making too many sacrifices.
The 128GB option is only really necessary for those who are heavily into video, or want to carry around a library of films.
iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: Touch ID
Both 5s and 6 Plus come with Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanner. The difference is that, because it comes with NFC, the 6 Plus will be able to use its Touch ID scanner for Apple Pay when it launches in the UK.
iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: Price
The main reason why most buyers will go for the iPhone 5s over the iPhone 6 Plus is price: at the 16GB capacity point, the 6 Plus costs a full £160 more than the equivalent 5s. (Beyond that, it becomes harder to draw direct comparisons because the two phones are available in different storage capacities, as mentioned above.)
Here are the prices of the two devices, with the prices of the iPhone 5c and 6 for comparison:
- iPhone 5c: £319 (8GB)
- iPhone 5s: £459/£499 (16/32GB)
- iPhone 6: £539/£619/£699 (16/64/128GB)
- iPhone 6 Plus: £619/£699/£789 (16/64/128GB)
iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: What about the iPhone 6?
We've worked through the important differences between the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 5s, but don't forget about the other iPhones that Apple sells. The most obvious alternative to the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6 Plus is the iPhone 6, which sits neatly between them in Apple's smartphone lineup, and offers a solid compromise between the two devices.
Whereas the iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5-inch screen - which means the device itself may seem inconveniently large to some - and the iPhone 5s has a 4-inch screen - which some may find too small - the iPhone 6 settles on a sensible 4.7 inches. This is big enough to make gaming and mobile film and TV watching a pleasurable and immersive activity, but small enough to ensure that the iPhone 6 sits reasonably comfortably in a pocket.
(I will interject with a personal opinion at this point: in fact, I prefer the screen size and form factor of the 5s to either of the larger iPhones. But this is very much a matter of personal preference, and I know that a lot of people have been crying out for a screen that's bigger than 4 inches.)
The iPhone 6 has a battery life that's roughly midway between the iPhone 5s and the 6 Plus. In terms of processing power and performance, as we mentioned in the speed section above, the iPhone 6 is pretty much level with the 6 Plus, so you're not compromising on that front; and its camera is excellent too (although you do miss out on the 6 Plus’s optical image stabilisation). Yet the price tag is £80-£90 lower than the 6 Plus at each storage capacity.
iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 Plus comparison: And the rest of the iPhone range?
And your options don't end there. Apple currently sells four iPhones: as well as the iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6 and iPhone 5s already mentioned, it sells the cheaper and less powerful iPhone 5c (pictured below). But don't forget that by buying second-hand you can also go for iPhone models that are no longer on sale from Apple - or for storage capacities that are no longer available, such as the 64GB version of the iPhone 5s.
The iPhone 5 is very similar to the iPhone 5c, with just a couple of small internal changes and a different exterior (whereas the iPhone 5c has a plastic case that’s available in various bright colours, the 5 has a more standard brushed-metal-and-glass iPhone look). The iPhone 4 and 4s, on the other hand, are smaller than the 5-series phones, with 3.5-inch screens. The 4-series iPhones are starting to feel a bit slow, however - certainly when running the latest software - so you might want to give them a miss.
(Ordinarily when talking about second-hand options we would highlight Apple's excellent Refurbished store, where you can pick up pre-owned Apple products at a discount, safe in the knowledge that Apple has checked them and replaced any faulty components. But at present the Refurbished store offers Macs and iPads, not iPhones. Instead, you could try Macworld's own resale service, where you can buy and sell Apple products - including iPhones - or one of the many other second-hand sites.)
Here are reviews of the iPhone range:
And don't forget to read our iPhone buying guide for autumn/winter 2014.
iPhone comparison reviews
Finally, and by the way, we've been putting together comparisons of all Apple's iPhones. Also take a look at: