Apple Iphone 6 Plus Review
iPhone 6 Plus marks Apple’s entry into the phablet segment. It is the first device from the Cupertino giant’s stable to sport a giant 5.5-inch display offering the best of both tablet and smartphone form factors. Initially, Apple was hesitant to explore this category of devices and always stressed on how the iPhone was designed for one-hand use. Although Apple always maintained it will come out with a bigger phone when it can offer the best experience to its users, it’s surely late by a good few years.
Perhaps one of the reasons for the company’s new iPhones to sport larger screens is that it wants to retain users migrating to other platforms for want of a bigger display. But more than that it signifies Apple’s acknowledgement of the marked shift towards big screen phones as content consumption on mobile increases by the day. Is the iPhone 6 Plus the perfect, big-screen iPhone we’ve been waiting for? We try to find out in our review.
Build and design
At first glance, iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6 don’t look like phones designed by Apple. The design language is very different from what we’ve seen in the recent past. Upon closer inspection, you would see that Apple doesn’t disappoint when it comes to attention to small details. There are a few rough edges, though.
The iPhone 5/5S’ sharp form has given way to a more rounded and curved shape with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
The last-generation iPod touch is the closest to what you can get if you try to find a similar-looking device from Apple. However, the shiny chamfered edges have been replaced with rounded glass which looks subtle but feels smoother, though it makes the front a little more fragile. The edges and corners are all rounded.
Both iPhone 6 and 6 Plus sport the same design except that the latter is 0.2mm thicker and heavier by 43grams. To Apple’s credit, the 6 Plus is thinner compared to the iPhone 5S.
Apple launched its phablet after much deliberation and we expected nothing but the best going by Apple’s past record. However, for some in our office, iPhone 6 Plus out of the box did not evoke the same excitement that has been the hallmark of all gadgets that sport a bitten apple. The phablet is rather uncharacteristic Apple, they felt.
There is no doubt that the phone is really good to hold and exudes a premium feel thanks to the use of glass and aluminium materials. The dimensions-to-weight ratio is also optimal and the phone doesn’t feel flimsy.
Having said that, it is clearly not for one hand use and the metal back, although sporting a matte finish, is a bit slippery and doesn’t offer a good grip. You would be better off using a case.
At 158.1×77.8×7.1mm, iPhone 6 Plus is without doubt an unabashedly large phone. However, it looks a lot prettier than other brick-like phablet devices available in the market. Also, it doesn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable to hold while talking unlike devices like BlackBerry Passport.
The front panel of the phone, made from glass, is dominated by the 5.5-inch display and the side bezel is not very narrow. The glass smoothly curves around the edges giving the phone a very soft aura in contrast to the previous iPhone’s sharp edges and straight lines. This design also facilitates the ‘swipe at the edge’ to go back gesture incorporated in iOS and feels better in day to day use compared to other iPhones. This is the perfect example of how Apple designs hardware to complement its software.
The usual Home button is placed below the display, surrounded by a metal ring to facilitate the Touch ID fingerprint integrated with it. The FaceTime front camera and the proximity sensor sit above the display with the earpiece.
In a first, Apple has placed the Power/Screen lock button at the right edge instead of the top edge, right above the sim card tray. The button is not exactly located at the middle but the placement makes it less cumbersome to reach. The mute switch and two independent volume control buttons are at the left edge. All the buttons are made of metal, sport the same colour as that of the edges and offer great tactile feedback.
The bottom edge of the phone features the 3.5mm headset jack, a microphone and drilled holes for the speaker outlet along with the lightning connector port. The top one is devoid of any buttons or ports.
The back is made of metal and the ceramic leaves seen at the top and bottom of the iPhone 5S’ have also been replaced with metal ones. However, there are white coloured plastic inserts outlining those leaves acting as the antenna. While these inserts are functionally necessary, we have to say they are an eyesore, especially on the gold coloured variant of the iPhone 6 Plus that we received as our review unit. It’s mainly due to the contrast but the space grey version with dark grey inserts looks much better in our opinion. The edges and the back are of the same colour.
The top metal leaf houses the 8MP iSight camera lens that protrudes out slightly and is surrounded by a metal ring. While the protruding lens looks awkward, it’s likely that it had to be made this way to keep the phone thin. The TrueTone flash (now round and not pill shaped) and a secondary microphone sit next to it. The back also sports the familiar Apple logo and subtle iPhone branding.
There have been a series of videos and reports claiming that the iPhone 6 Plus buckles under stress and bends. People have also conducted stress tests to see if the phone bends. In our use, we did not experience any deformation. We carried the phone in the front pocket of our jeans (including skinny jeans) and used it like we would use any other phone. We don’t bend other phones to check if they deform and we treated the iPhone 6 Plus the same way.
The iPhone 6 Plus steers Apple’s design philosophy to a different direction. It’s certainly not new and we’ve seen phones that sport similar form factor and design elements (for instance, HTC One (M8)). However, Apple managed to silence critics who wanted to see a fresh iPhone design and yet offer a large phone that doesn’t disappoint when it comes to ergonomics and handling, retaining the premium look and feel.
iPhone 6 Plus comes with a full-HD (1920x1080p) IPS Retina display packing 401 pixels per inch of screen. We have to say it is one of the brightest and vivid displays we’ve seen. The display makes using the phone an extremely pleasant experience and it’s hard to see any signs of pixellation.
Images and text look crisp and sharp and under-sun legibility was very good. App icons appear as if they’re floating and HD videos look rich. The display also makes the device a great fit for reading e-books and comics.
Apple says it has incorporated dual-domain pixels for wider viewing angles and we felt that it does live upto expectations.
The display panel has a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating that makes it less prone to smudges.
It’s interesting to note that apps see and render content at 2208x1242p and the phone downsamples images to fit the actual 1920x1080p display. Even the screenshots are 2208x1242p.
So on the software side, the resolution is much higher but perhaps to prevent delays or save costs Apple chose a 1080p display. It’s likely that future iPhone(s) will have higher resolution screens. There’s no detrimental effect of downsampling on the quality of the display. Without doubt it’s one of the best displays we’ve seen.
Optimization for one hand use & iOS 8
iPhone 6 Plus comes with iOS 8, the latest iteration of the OS. We received the iOS 8.1 update last week, that offers some more features and fixes, in addition to stability improvements.
iPhone 6 Plus is the first large screen iPhone and we expected Apple to include software tweaks to allow users to leverage the extra screen real estate and also take care of situations requiring one hand usage. But that hasn’t happened.
iPhone 6 Plus features the same software features that are available to iPhone 5S users barring the landscape mode and reachability (the latter is available to iPhone 6 users though).