Review: Updated: iPhone 6 Plus

Review: Updated: iPhone 6 Plus

Introduction

A 5.5-inch iPhone. It’s something which will send a shudder down the spines of a collective of die-hard Apple fans, a handset some thought we’d never see from the Cupertino-based outfit.

Yet here I am, staring down the barrel of the biggest iPhone in history – the iPhone 6 Plus.

It arrived alongside the iPhone 6 – Apple’s new flagship smartphone – which measures 4.7 inches, making it more welcoming to a wider array of palms than the supersized iPhone 6 Plus.

Many of you, especially those of an Android persuasion, may be wondering what all the fuss is about. After all the Samsung Galaxy Note 2 turned up with a 5.5-inch display over two years ago.

Take a moment to glance at the history of the iPhone though, and you’ll see why the iPhone 6 Plus is such a big deal.

Previously Apple has only dealt in two screen sizes – a 3.5-inch display graced the first five generations of iPhone, and just three have had the pleasure of a larger 4-inch display.

iPhone 6 Plus review

5.5 inches then is a huge leap forward for Apple, moving its iPhone range into the uncharted waters of the phablet market currently dominated by Samsung and other Android devices.

Apple is looking to reach a previously untapped audience of smartphone users – those who demand a large screen, with ‘productivity’ the main buzzword being thrown around. A key market for the iPhone 6 Plus is Asia, where general consensus seems to be bigger = better when it comes to smartphone screens.

In terms of specs and design there isn’t a huge amount of difference between the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 6 – apart from the obvious size.

iPhone 6 Plus review

The iPhone 6 Plus does boast a couple of unique features however. It’s the first iPhone to pack a full HD display, plus its bigger body means it houses a larger battery than its 4.7-inch brother.

Both sport A8 64-bit processors, 1GB of RAM, M8 motion coprocessors and 8MP rear facing cameras – but the snapper on the iPhone 6 Plus benefits from OIS (optical image stabilisation) while the iPhone 6 makes do with EIS (electronic image stabilisation).

As with all Apple products the iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t come cheap, and you may want to brace yourself because it’s one of the most expensive handsets around.

iPhone 6 Plus review

SIM-free the 16GB iPhone 6 Plus carries a lofty price tag of $749, £619, AU$999 – and that’s just the start.

Apple has ditched the 32GB variant for both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, with the next storage level coming in at 64GB, and for the 5.5-inch iPhone that equals $849, £699, AU$1129.

The good news for storage fans is that Apple has finally introduced a 128GB model – which may quieten those whining about the lack of a microSD slot – but it will cost you a small fortune. $949, £789, AU$1249 to be exact.

iPhone 6 Plus review

That makes the iPhone 6 Plus comfortably more expensive than rival phablets including the LG G4, OnePlus One, Nokia Lumia 1520 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4.

It’s big, it’s expensive and it’s likely to play second fiddle to the iPhone 6 – so is the iPhone 6 Plus worth considering? Read on to find out.

Key features

Display

When it comes to key features on the iPhone 6 Plus there’s only one which you really need to know about – the screen.

It is after all, the whole point of the handset – offering Apple fans a supersized screen on their most mobile of devices.

At 5.5 inches the display on the iPhone 6 Plus is certainly sizable, but it’s not uncommon in a market where 6-inch monsters like the Nokia Lumia 1520 and Huawei Ascend Mate 7 exist.

iPhone 6 Plus review

It’s got plenty of company around the 5.5-inch remit too, but for Apple fans who have been desperate for a phablet-sized iOS handset, your time has finally come.

The 6 Plus is the first iPhone to boast a full HD, 1920 x 1080 display. The iPhone 6 only musters a still somewhat average 750 x 1334 resolution with a pixel density of 326PPI.

By contrast the iPhone 6 Plus boasts a 401PPi display, so there’s only one winner when it comes to clarity. Compare it to the 5.7-inch, QHD Super AMOLED Samsung Galaxy Note 4 (515ppi) though and the iPhone cannot match its Korean rival.

iPhone 6 Plus review

The LED-backlit display has impressive viewing angles thanks to Apple’s use of "dual-domain pixels", which makes for an excellent visual appearance – especially if there are a few of you crowded round the screen.

The IPS panel helps make colours bright and clear, and with a 1300:1 contrast ratio to boot, the new screen elements combine to make a noticeable improvement over the screen found inside the iPhone 5S.

The iPhone 6 has also been run through the expert DisplayMate battery of tests, which found in it shoot-out that "the iPhone 6 Plus [has] the best performing smartphone LCD display that we have ever tested".

This is quantified by stating that the records it breaks are in the day to day elements that need to work for consumers to enjoy a smartphone, especially in terms of removing reflection and being able to show off content on the screen in both bright and optimum conditions, as well as tilting the phone around.

Apple also claims the screen has a fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating, and while I found the iPhone 6 Plus was much better than most at avoiding really obvious prints, it certainly wasn’t immune from my oily digits.

iPhone 6 Plus review

The colours don’t pop as much as they do on the Super AMOLED display of the Samsung Galaxy S5, and clarity isn’t as razor sharp as the QHD LG G4 – but the iPhone 6 Plus still has a very, very good display, and the more day-to-day elements, shown in the DisplayMate shoot-out, work very well as showing Apple has worked out what stops you being able to use your phone for general tasks.

If you’re upgrading from an iPhone 4S, 5 or 5S your eyes are in for a serious treat.

Reachability

As you may have already guessed, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus isn’t exactly a small handset, but Apple is determined that, when it comes to convincing users about usability, its iPhones are still perfectly usable in one hand.

For the vast majority of the iOS interface and iOS apps, navigation is located at the top of the screen – there are no back keys at the base as with Android and Windows Phone.

This wasn’t a problem on the 3.5-inch and 4-inch iPhones as their compact size meant you could easily reach all four corners of the screen with minimum fuss.

iPhone 6 Plus review

Things are different on the iPhone 6 Plus. Some serious hand shuffling is required to move up to the top of the screen – especially when exiting an app by clicking the home button below the screen and then reaching for an app icon on the top row.

To combat the this Apple has cooked up "Reachability" in iOS 8, which aims to reduce the amount you need to stretch your thumb to the very top of the screen.

It’s very simple to use, as you’d expect such implementation would be from Apple, although I found the execution rather less pleasing.

iPhone 6 Plus review

A double tap (not press) on the home key will see the screen jump down, bringing the top part of the display to the middle.

This works on any screen, from messaging and Safari to the notification bar and third party applications – what’s not to love? Well, it just doesn’t look very good, like the screen has got a bug. Which for Apple, is surprising.

Unless you’re enabling ‘reachability’ (and FYI, I already hate that term) from the home screen where your wallpaper remains in the same place, you just get a big black block in the empty space.

It makes the whole system feel like a bit of an afterthought, and to an extent it is.

iPhone 6 Plus review

You can’t scroll to the bottom of the screen in this reduced view, and the vacant space above feels ripe for a second app to be opened in it, but you can’t.

This would allow you to take advantage of the larger screen of the iPhone 6 Plus with two apps running side by side.

The use cases for this particular functionality are few and far between – even though Samsung tell us the opposite – so I can understand why Apple has shied away from it.

Design

There’s no getting away from the fact that the iPhone 6 Plus is a big phone – but that’s okay as it is, after all, the whole point of this handset.

If you’re looking to upgrade from a 4-inch iPhone – or heaven forbid, a 3.5-inch iPhone – there’s a good chance the 6 Plus will blow your palm to smithereens.

Even those who are accustomed to 5-inch Android devices will note the considerable width and height of Apple’s first phablet.

It measures 158.1mm x 77.8mm x 7.1mm and tips the scales at 172g. To put that into some perspective the iPhone 6 Plus is wider, taller and heavier than LG G4 and OnePlus One – both of which also sport 5.5-inch displays.

iPhone 6 Plus review

The weight difference is obvious – the iPhone 6 Plus has a premium metal body while the other two sport plastic finishes and to be fair it doesn’t feel overly demanding in the hand in this respect.

Where things start to fall apart a little for the iPhone 6 Plus is its width and height, which could be the sticking point for some prospective buyers.

iPhone’s have historically been the smartphone you can depend on to fit nicely into your hand and the pocket of your tightest jeans.

iPhone 6 Plus review

At just 7.1mm thick, the 6 Plus is almost impossibly thin – making a slide into a jeans pocket easy, although you may find it peeking out the top, but that’s one part ticked.

Slide it out and hold it in one hand though and it’s less inviting. I’ve been using the OnePlus One recently, so my hands have learned to live with a large smartphone, but I still found the iPhone 6 Plus tricky to hold on to.

The sizable bezels above and below the screen provide additional height, and while the extra width may only be minimal compared to its rivals it’s noticeable in the palm as the 6 Plus stretches your fingers.

iPhone 6 Plus review

It’s a very attractive looking handset, line it up alongside the competition and the iPhone 6 Plus is easily the best looking phablet available.

I had the pleasure of using the gold version during the review, and while it’s my least favourite of the three colour options Apple provides (space grey and silver being the other two), I still found it a pleasing device to look at, touch and play with.

There’s no doubting the fact that the iPhone 6 Plus is a premium device, it oozes class and style – and so it should considering its lofty price tag.

iPhone 6 Plus review

The smooth, flat, brushed metal rear of the 6 Plus offers little in the way of grip, and while it sports a surprisingly slender profile the fact it isn’t bulbous on its rear means it doesn’t fit as snugly into the palm as the LG G4.

That lack of grip can be a little troublesome as you’ll find yourself doing a fair bit of shuffling during one-handed operation as you move around different areas of the screen and aim to tackle the physical keys located on the sides and front of the 6 Plus.

The separated volume keys and rocker switch remain on the left side of the device – mirroring previous iPhone iterations – while the power key has been moved from its traditional position at the top to the side of the iPhone 6 Plus.

iPhone 6 Plus review

This makes a lot of sense, as it would be almost impossible to hit if it were located on top – and it’s a location we see the majority of supersized handsets harness these days.

The power/lock key could do with being moved down the side of the 6 Plus a little, making it easier to reach. Sony has the right idea with a centrally located key as it falls nicely under your thumb/finger – depending on which hand you’re holding it in.

It’s a minor point, but if Apple swapped the location of the nanoSIM tray and power/lock key round the iPhone 6 Plus would be easier to use.

iPhone 6 Plus review

One blip in the smooth curves of the iPhone 6 Plus is the protruding rear 8MP camera. This isn’t much of an issue and even though I feared it would make it more exposed to damage during my review I saw no evidence of any wear and tear.

It is, after all, protected by sapphire crystal glass making it super tough so you shouldn’t have any issues with breakages here.

There were rumours in the lead up to the iPhone announcement that Apple’s new handsets would come with dust- and water-resistant qualities. Sadly this isn’t the case on either the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus – not a huge loss by any means, but it would have been a nice additional touch.

iPhone 6 Plus review

The top edge of the 6 Plus is an uninterrupted curve of gold metal, while on the base you’ll find the 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone hole, lightning port and speaker grille.

I found the speaker wasn’t located in the best position, with my hand sometimes covering it when playing games or watching movies in landscape. The front facing speaker setup on the HTC One M8 and Sony Xperia Z3 are far better placed.

While it is just about possible to use the iPhone 6 Plus one handed, I found that most of the time I was employing both hands to ensure a firm grip and stable typing platform.

As far as phablets go the iPhone 6 Plus is in the same boat as the rest of them – many will find it simply too big to be practical, while those longing for a supersized iPhone will be over the moon with its sleek, premium chassis and elegant curves.

Interface, performance and health

Interface

The iPhone 6 Plus ships with the very latest version of Apple’s mobile platform – iOS 8 – which brings with it various enhancements and improvements as well as some new apps and features. The very latest version if iOS 8.1.1 which has seen a variety of bug fixes and Apple Pay arrive on the handset.

It carries on the fresh design ethos introduced by iOS 7 last year, providing a smart, slick and welcoming interface.

For those of you transitioning from older iPhone handsets you’ll feel very much at home on the iPhone 6 Plus, while any Android users considering the jump will find the two operating systems have more in common than ever before.

The familiar rows of apps are displayed on home screens on the iPhone 6 Plus and during initial step up you’re given the option of two icon and text sizes – I stuck with the default option which keeps things pretty much the same as the iPhone 5S.

iPhone 6 Plus review

The second option makes everything a bit bigger, reducing the free space surrounding the apps, filling the screen more and making everything a little easier to read.

I’d have liked an option to add an extra column of apps, as the 5.5-inch display of the iPhone 6 Plus could easily accommodate five columns, but unfortunately this isn’t available.

Apple’s simple drag and drop folder system still works wonderfully well, and Control Panel is present with a swipe up from the base of the display.

Options here remain the same from iOS 7, with quick settings for airplane mode, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, do not disturb and screen rotation, alongside screen brightness and music controls.

iPhone 6 Plus review

You can also jump to the torch, calculator, camera and timer apps from Control Centre – and it can be accessed at any point, no matter which app you’re currently using.

The notification bar has been given some tweaks in iOS 8 too. There are no longer three tabs (Today, All and Missed), but rather a more condensed two (Today and Notifications), providing a cleaner experience.

On the Today page you can select which widgets you have display by tapping "Edit" at the bottom of the page. Needless to say I made sure the "Stocks" widget was quickly hidden from view.

Another handy feature of iOS 8 is the ability to reply to a message from the notification alert at the top of screen, saving you from having to load up the messaging app every time.

iPhone 6 Plus review

Apple isn’t the first manufacturer to offer this functionality – I greatly enjoyed a similar feature on the LG G2 – but I’m glad to see it land on iOS and it’s arguably easier to use here.

When a message comes through you need to drag down on the notification to enter reply mode, where a keyboard will pop up allowing you to tap out a quick message and then return you to whatever you were doing.

If you’d rather ignore the message you can instead swipe sideways to remove it from view.

Double click the home key and you’ll be taken to the familiar multitasking menu, allowing you to quickly and easily skip between applications.

iPhone 6 Plus review

You’ll notice at the top of the screen there are some new additions to this area of the interface, in the form of shortcuts to your most popular contacts.

This means you can quickly make a call without having to navigate to the dialler app – just a double press of the home key and a tap on your friend’s face will launch you into a call.

Another new feature in iOS 8 (only for the iPhone 6 Plus) is the ability to rotate your homescreen (and multi-tasking menu), as you can on the iPad.

iPhone 6 Plus review

This allows you to remain in landscape mode for longer periods of time, perfect if you find yourself jumping between games and videos.

Apple has also adapted some of the stock apps to run a dual-pane layout landscape mode, again mirroring the apps on the iPad, and these include Calendar, Messages and Mail.

iPhone 6 Plus review

Performance

Providing the power behind the scenes on the iPhone 6 Plus is a 1.39GHz dual-core A8 processor with 64-bit architecture and 1GB of RAM.

That may not sound like a great deal of grunt, especially when you consider devices such as the Samsung Galaxy Alpha and Huawei Ascend Mate 7 sport octa-core chips, but Apple always does a good job of deeply integrating iOS with the internal components of its devices.

I ran Geekbench 3 a number of times on the iPhone 6 Plus and it averaged a score of 2911, beating the iPhone 5S (2540) as well as the older LG G3 (2561) and Sony Xperia Z2 (2765).

That’s a strong performance and puts it among there scores achieved by the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC One M8 and OnePlus One. In short, there’s more than enough power housed inside the iPhone 6 Plus.

During day to day usage I found the 6 Plus ran pretty smoothly, but it’s not quite as quick as some of the top Android handsets on the market. Every now and then the iPhone would pause for thought ever so briefly.

It wasn’t long enough to cause any issues, but it was long enough for me to notice from time to time. Early issues with app crashes and bugs appear to have been fixed with iOS 8.1.1, with everything now running far more smoothly.

Graphically intensive games loaded up in good time and gameplay was smooth throughout – and Real Racing 3 is now working correctly after early issues with the original software.

The iPhone 6 Plus (at 64GB capacities and above) comes pre-installed with a variety of Apple’s own apps, most of which you can actually delete, which is good as else it would have been annoying if you know you’ll never use them.

Among the applications here are some new and updated faces, including Health and Apple’s now free-of-charge productivity apps (all of which can be deleted, if you so wish); Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iTunes U, iMovie and GarageBand.

Health

The Health app is a new addition for iOS 8 and aims to bring together all your health and fitness data into one unified application for your immediate consumption.

For those out there who currently use a glut of different devices and applications to monitor various aspects of their lifestyle then Health could be a real blessing.

At the time of review few apps were actually enabled for iOS 8, meaning I couldn’t fully put it to the test.

The pedometer was active though, and I was able to keep track of my steps each day. The iPhone 6 Plus can even detect when you’re going up and down flights of stairs thanks to the inbuilt barometer in the M8 co-processor – although accuracy does vary and I found it missed a number of flights on various days.

iPhone 6 Plus review

It can also tell you how far you’ve walked/run each day, and the attractive graphs make it easy to monitor at your progress over weeks, months and eventually years.

I’m yet to see the true potential of the Health app, but as developers enable their various third party devices and applications to sync up with Apple’s offering it could well be an impressive offering.

The Watch

Let’s not forget about the Apple Watch, which will be reading your various vital statistics and beaming them straight back to the Health app from next year.

It’s already accessible on the iPhone 6 Plus thanks to the iOS 8.2 update which brought the Watch app to the mix.

And it will be a good accessory for the 6 Plus, as that second screen – letting you know whether it’s worth pulling the phone out of the pocket when walking down the road thanks to being able to know who that message / call is from – can help you needing to mess around with the larger phone.

Apple Watch

Don’t forget that the Watch isn’t going to be cheap though, as it’s going to cost $349 (£299) for the cheapest version, which, when combined with the $749 (£619) of the base model of the 6 Plus, it’s not going to be a cheap combination by an stretch of the imagination.

And that’s before you even get into the upgrades – a few thousand dollars / pounds for the rose gold variant, anyone?

Camera

The iPhone 6 Plus sports a new 8MP iSight camera on its rear and a 1.2MP front FaceTime HD snapper.

As already mentioned in this review, the camera on the back of the iPhone 6 Plus protrudes slightly from surface, as Apple attempted to make the handset as thin as possible.

You’re unlikely to really notice this, especially if you stick the 6 Plus straight into a case, so you needn’t worry. Plus the lens is covered with a panel of sapphire glass, giving it some seriously tough protection.

iPhone 6 Plus review

Reading the 8MP spec you may fear Apple has just stuck the same old snapper from the iPhone 5S into the 6 Plus, but thankfully that’s not the case.

It’s done some tinkering behind the scenes to improve the quality of your snaps, and the larger 5.5-inch, full HD display means you get a lovely viewfinder to frame your shots with.

The camera app has been kept simple and clutter free, which also means the options you have at your disposal are limited.

iPhone 6 Plus review

What you do get is flash, HDR and timer controls along the top of the screen (when in portrait) along with a option to flick between the front and rear cameras.

At the base of the screen you get a link to the camera roll in one corner and a link to the effects overview in the other. The latter sports eight different effects and gives you a real time preview of all of them, including mono, fade, chrome and noir.

In the middle of these two is the large circular shutter button, but with the sheer size of the iPhone 6 Plus it can be a little tricky to hit.

iPhone 6 Plus review

Thankfully you can use the volume keys on the side of the handset to also snap your photos, and I found muyself using these far more than the on screen shutter.

Slide your finger from right to left over the shutter key and you can change the aspect ratio to square and also enter panorama mode.

Panorama mode only works in portrait, which may frustrate some users, but hold the iPhone 6 Plus in landscape in this mode and you’ll be able to take a great shot from the foot of a skyscraper all the way to the top.

iPhone 6 Plus review

If you slide the opposite direction you’ll come across the video modes. This first one is your straight forward video recorder, and with the iPhone 6 Plus you can shoot in full HD at 60fps.

Keeping going across and you’ll find slo-mo mode inherited from its predecessors, but as well as shooting at 120fps the iPhone 6 Plus can also capture footage at 240fps, giving you some really awesome slow motion results.

One of the ways Apple has improved its camera on the iPhone 6 Plus is by introducing ‘Focus Pixels’, which provides the sensor with more information allowing for a faster auto-focus, producing better results.

Face, blink and smile detection have all been improved, allowing the 6 Plus to recognise more faces, more quickly, from further away.

iPhone 6 Plus review

If you fancy fine tuning the lighting in your photo just hold down on the viewfinder and then slide your finger up or down to adjust the exposure of your shot.

It’s a simple yet effect way to control your photo, and the viewfinder gives you an instant preview of how your changes are effecting the shot.

Auto HDR (high dynamic range) is another handy feature brought over from the iPhone 5S, and it lets the iPhone do the work for you to ensure you get a generally well lit picture.

If you’re not a fan of HDR then there is the option to switch it off (or instead, turn it on permanently), but even when it’s set to auto you’ll get two images saved to your camera roll – one with HDR applied and another without.

This can cause some confusion, not to mention a picture backlog, in your camera roll, so I’d recommend checking your shot after taking it and deleting the copy you don’t wish to keep.

iPhone 6 Plus review

The iPhone 6 Plus also has a trump card up its sleeve, something not even the iPhone 6 can lay claim to: Optical Image Stabilisation (or OIS, for short).

It may be the first iPhone to sport OIS, but the technology is already widely available on a variety of Android and Windows Phone devices – nethertheless, it’s good to see Apple finally embrace the tech.

So what does it mean? In the 6 Plus, OIS works with the A8 chip, gyroscope, and M8 motion coprocessor to reduce hand shake in lower light. This means that you’ll get clear, sharper shots even when the lighting around isn’t as good.

I found that the iPhone 6 Plus performed okay in lowlight, but it didn’t exactly sparkle with some images still looking rather muddy.

iPhone 6 Plus review

There aren’t pages and pages of every camera setting under the sun on the iPhone 6 Plus, as Apple is keeping things simple and that’s exactly what the majority of smartphone photographers want. A camera which is simple and easy to use and takes great shots with minimum fuss.

For the more advanced snappers out there the additional enhancements Apple has added provide at least some level of control.

It’s the automatic settings such as Auto HDR, Focus Pixel and OIS which are the real winners for me here, allowing the 6 Plus to snap a decent photo pretty much anywhere.

Camera samples

iPhone 6 Plus review

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iPhone 6 Plus review

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iPhone 6 Plus review

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iPhone 6 Plus review

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iPhone 6 Plus review

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iPhone 6 Plus review

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iPhone 6 Plus review

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iPhone 6 Plus review

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iPhone 6 Plus review

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iPhone 6 Plus review

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iPhone 6 Plus review

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iPhone 6 Plus review

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Battery life

Battery life has been a bit of a sticking for previous iterations of the iPhone, but there’s good news with the iPhone 6 Plus.

Apple hasn’t revealed the exact size of the battery inside the 6 Plus (although we’ve now found out it’s 2915mAh, which is massive for Apple).

The quoted web browsing time over 4G or Wi-Fi is pegged at 12 hours, while Apple reckons you can get up to 14 hours of life from a single charge during video playback, or up to 80 hours from pure music playback.

These figures are always on the generous side of things, but I have to say I was impressed with the battery performance of the iPhone 6 Plus.

iPhone 6 Plus review

With standard usage I was easily able to get a full day from the 6 Plus (from 7am to around midnight) with some juice still left in the tank when it came to plugging it back in at night.

That included continuous background syncing of several email accounts throughout the day, around two hours of music playback, a couple of hours of gaming and various calls, messages and social media activity.

It’s not quite at the same level as the Samsung Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8, but Apple has closed the gap considerably between itself and its Android rivals.

The battery in the iPhone 6 Plus still suffers if you push it really hard. I ran the TechRadar 90 minute video test, which sees a HD movie played at full brightness with various accounts syncing over Wi-Fi in the background.

After the 90 minutes were up the battery level on the 6 Plus had dropped to 73% – a loss of 27%, which isn’t a particularly stellar performance.

iPhone 6 Plus review

The iPhone 5S only dropped 16% in the same test, but the iPhone 6 Plus does have a much larger, brighter and higher resolution display so the increased drain is understandable.

Of course turning the screen brightness down will help preserve battery life a little, but along with high intensity games the 6 Plus can drain pretty quickly.

If your battery does creep into the red then a quick trip to the easy access Control Centre lets you reduce screen brightness to its lowest level, allowing you to conserve some extra juice.

There’s no power saving mode on the iPhone 6 Plus though, so when you hit the dreaded 10% or 20% there’s little else you can do to reduce power drain without either switching on airplane mode or turning the handset off completely.

iPhone 6 Plus review

As with any iPhone the battery is firmly sealed inside the metal chassis of the 6 Plus, meaning there’s no option to swap out a flat battery for a fully charged one.

This is less of an issue on the iPhone 6 Plus though, as its battery performance is considerably improved.

With the iPhone 6 Plus you can go out for a full day and not have to worry about being away from a plug, and that simple pleasure will be a huge plus for many iPhone fans.

Music, movies and gaming

iPhones have always been pushed as media consumption devices thanks to their tie in with iTunes and the well stocked App Store, but up until now you had to make do with a small screen.

The iPhone 6 Plus opens up a whole new world for iPhone users, allowing you to properly enjoy full HD movies and graphically intense games on the move thanks to the 5.5-inch full HD display.

Apple has also included a new storage capacity – 128GB – with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, to really encourage users to get downloading films, TV shows, music, books, games and more.

As with all previous iPhone iterations, the iPhone 6 Plus does not offer any expandable storage, meaning you’ll have to make do with the inbuilt space. If you go for the cheapest 16GB 6 Plus model remember a chunk of it will be taken up by iOS 8.

Then again, if you fancy going for 64GB or 128GB you’ll be parting with quite a bit of extra cash.

Music

A mainstay for Apple and its iPhone range, music has changed very little over the years. The well stocked iTunes library provides access to a wealth of tracks and albums, while the intuitive Music app makes listening to your favourite songs a cinch.

Your whole iTunes library is stored in the cloud, and to save space you can select the particular albums and tracks you want to download on the iPhone 6 Plus – especially useful if you’re rocking the 16GB model.

iPhone 6 Plus review

Flip the iPhone 6 Plus into landscape and you’ll be greeted with an album art set of tiles depicting all the albums in your library. This provides an attractive way to navigate your tunes, and is a progression on the Cover Flow interface from previous versions of iOS.

You can access music controls from anywhere on the iPhone 6 Plus, even the lockscreen, by sliding up from the bottom of the display to access Control Centre.

From here you’ll be able to play/pause, skip and adjust the volume of your tracks – making for a super convenient way of managing playback.

iPhone 6 Plus review

Sound quality is good via a pair of headphones, and while you get Apple’s Earpods in the box with the iPhone 6 Plus their shape and design won’t be to everyone’s taste.

The single speaker located at the foot of the iPhone 6 Plus kicks out a decent volume, although like most internal speakers your tunes will get distorted at the highest levels.

Video

Apple hasn’t done anything new with the way the iPhone 6 Plus handles video (or music or gaming for that matter), it works in just the same way as previous iPhones.

The differences are the experience can now be enjoyed on a large 5.5-inch, full HD display and the fact the apps have been given a bit of iOS 8 polish.

There’s a dedicated videos app pre-installed on the iPhone 6 Plus, giving you quick and easy access to all the moving picture files you have store on the device.

iPhone 6 Plus review

If it’s looking rather empty you can head over to iTunes where a whole host of movies and TV shows are chomping at the bit to be purchased and downloaded to your phone.

It’s worth noting that HD movies tend to be about 3GB-4GB in size, so if you’ve got yourself the 16GB model you’ll run out of space pretty quickly after just a handful of films.

You’ve got the option to buy or rent, and prices reflective those in stores so be prepared to pay up.

iPhone 6 Plus review

For the first time on an iPhone you can actually enjoy your full HD purchases in all their glory. Not even the iPhone 6 can tout that feature with its 750 x 1334, 326ppi display, versus the 1080 x 1900, 401ppi display of the iPhone 6 Plus.

The player screen is uncluttered with just a few key controls including play/pause, scrub and subtitles toggle.

Unsurprisingly then the 6 Plus is great for watching movies on. Turn the brightness up on the screen and you’ll have a thoroughly enjoyable time – although you’ll want to keep an eye on battery life.

iPhone 6 Plus review

Slightly annoyingly the single speaker is located at the base of the iPhone 6 Plus, which means I was regularly covering it with my hand and muffling the sound.

Cupping your hand round the speaker when held in landscape does force the sound towards your face, but I’d much prefer a front facing setup like the HTC One M8 and Sony Xperia Z3.

Considering the sizeable bezels above and below the screen on the 6 Plus you’d think Apple would be able to squeeze in from front facers, but clearly that’s not in Jony Ive’s design manual.

Gaming

Another area where benefits greatly from the 5.5-inch full HD display of the iPhone 6 Plus is gaming, which more space for controls and better graphics.

Real Racing 3 looks excellent on the 6 Plus, and Apple’s A8 processor does a good job of keeping everything ticking over nicely.

iPhone 6 Plus review

I played a range of games on the iPhone 6 Plus and I didn’t experience any issues when it came to graphics, load times or controls.

If you love gaming on the go and are in the market for the new iPhone this is certainly your best bet.

The essentials

Keyboard

What’s better than the iPhone 6 for typing on? The iPhone 6 Plus! Well, as long as you’ve got wide enough palms, of course.

Most people won’t, meaning this phone was one serious flaw in that department: you’ll need to grip it with both paws in order to type on it.

I wasn’t enamored with the idea of typing in landscape, simply because it’s a phone that’s too wide to do such a thing.

While I’m a big fan of the fact the keyboard has updated so well in iOS 8 (the word predictions etc are much, much better and the general ability to swipe around it is much improved) there are some apps that still don’t take full use of it as they’ve not upgraded to the latest version of the OS.

iPhone 6 Plus review

This makes for a slightly jarring user experience as the keyboard chops and changes between applications, although many more developers have updated their offerings since I first reviewed the 6 Plus.

It’s also easy to think word prediction has turned off, when in reality you just need to swipe upwards from the top of the keyboard.

Another leap forward in iOS 8 is the ability to finally ditch Apple’s own keyboard for a third party alternative. If you really don’t get on with the stock input method you can take to the app store where the likes of SwiftKey are ready to download.

Messaging

Messaging is superbly handled on the iPhone 6 Plus though, as not only is every chat client going available, the inbuilt mail app is very strong indeed (although could do better with Google Mail archiving) and the on screen notifications, even being able to respond to messages when in another app, is an excellent choice.

Calling

While I’m not going to lambast the iPhone 6 Plus too heavily here for a poor contacts menu, I will say that you’ll find it undernourished if you’re coming from an Android phone.

If you’re moving from a Nexus, it’s less of an issue, but the HD pictures aren’t there and there’s no smart dialling. If you’re coming from an HTC or Samsung, you’ve no hope of being able to sync in Facebook or Twitter pics.

The calling element is fine though. With the larger screen, the virtual buttons in call are very smart, even down to being able to remember if you prefer to use the phone speaker or your Bluetooth headphones when taking a call wirelessly connected.

The sound is strong, and the overall call quality improved further by being able to support HD sound now too.

Safari and Chrome

The final part to talk about is the web browser. Which do you choose? The inbuilt option is good, but Google Chrome will have access to a wider array of services.

Safari seems to be a teeny bit zippier on the phone, but there’s very little between the two. I wish more people would use the reader mode on this browser, as it’s a nice feature. But a few lines in the URL bar isn’t enough to convince me to tap when I’m about to read a long article.

I do prefer Chrome though, as while Safari snaps through more quickly, Chrome renders the page more smartly, which means I’m spending less time waiting for the words to appear. Also, being able to request desktop mode is handy pretty regularly.

The wider, more expansive screen lends itself well to such browsing capabilities – in short, I’m saying choose either and the experience is pretty good.

Competition

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is probably the biggest rival to the iPhone 6 Plus. The Korean firm’s supersized smartphones lead the way in the phablet market, and they always come jam packed full of the latest tech.

You’ll find an impressive 5.7-inch QHD display slapped on the front of the Note 4, trumping the full HD screen on the iPhone.

Samsung has updated its design language to include a metal frame running round the outside of the handset giving it a more premium look and feel.

There’s still a sheet of polycarbonate on the rear though, and overall the iPhone 6 Plus still offers the best in terms of design and premium appeal.

Take a look at the spec sheet for the Note 4 and it reads a lot better than the iPhone’s, with a 2.7GHz quad-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, 16MP rear camera and 3.7MP front facing snapper.

If you want a glut of power, features and spec then the Note 4 is king, while the iPhone 6 Plus offers a more refined, premium take on the now popular phablet.

iPhone 6

iPhone 6

Apple has muddied the water at the top of its mobile tree – while the iPhone 5S was clearly the flagship over the iPhone 5C, things aren’t so clear cut between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Both sport the same processor, RAM, M8 motion co-processor, new design and iOS 8 operating system.

The obvious difference is the size of the handsets, and at 4.7 inches the iPhone 6 has positioned itself more as a top-end flagship smartphone, while the iPhone 6 Plus sneaks into phablet territory.

That said, the 6 Plus can boast a full HD display, while the iPhone 6 is stuck with a less than impressive 750 x 1334 resolution.

The iPhone 6 is far more manageable in the hand (and the pocket), allowing you to really appreciate the new rounded design Apple has employed and it’s still likely to be the headliner for Cupertino based firm.

LG G4

LG G4

LG’s G4 is a phone that brings the best the brand has to offer – and then encases it in leather.

It’s a great phone in a number of ways: the 5.5-inch screen might put this phone squarely in phablet territory, but it’s a lot more compact than the iPhone 6 Plus and has a much sharper and clearer screen as well as improved colour reproduction.

The price is a lot more palatable, even before the inevitable cost plummeting that we see from LG phones, and the camera offers so many modes that even the most seasoned photographer will want to take a look – although the ‘auto’ mode rivals Apple for simplicity too.

The UI is a little more complex and the overall construction nowhere near as good – but this is easily the best phone LG has ever created and well worth a look.

OnePlus One

OnePlus One

At the opposite end of the pricing scale you’ll find the 5.5-inch OnePlus One, costing less than half the price of the iPhone 6 Plus – but that doesn’t mean you miss out on vital features.

It still manages to pack in a full HD resolution to match the iPhone 6 Plus, plus you get a 2.5GHz quad-core processor, 3GB of RAM, 13MP rear snapper and 5MP front camera.

Like Apple, OnePlus has opted not to include a microSD card in the One, offering it in 16GB and 64GB variants at low, low prices.

Once again the 6 Plus wins out easily when it comes to design, plus the OnePlus One is a little tricky to come by – although the new iPhones will be selling out regularly during the early weeks they’re on sale too.

Verdict

The iPhone 6 Plus is a handset aimed at a very particular client base. For many it’ll be too big, too expensive and quite simply not even a consideration in their smartphone buying journey.

For a select audience though the iPhone 6 Plus answers the ever growing demand for a larger screened, high definition iPhone – something we’ve been waiting for, for years.

iPhone 6 Plus review

We liked

The iPhone 6 Plus is the best looking phablet on the market. If you want a big screen wrapped in a premium body then look no further.

It’s good to see Apple finally embrace a full HD display, and the offering on the 6 Plus doesn’t disappoint with vivid colours and crystal clear text.

At 5.5 inches the screen is also great for watching movies and playing games – finally an iPhone that can really take advantage of the great content housed in iTunes and the App Store. You’ll wonder how you ever coped with the teeny Retina display of the 4-inch iPhone 5S, 5C or 5.

The 6 Plus ships with iOS 8, Apple’s latest iteration of its software platform and among the headliners here is the new health app which will keep track of your fitness and lifestyle with relative ease.

There’s good news in the battery department too, as it looks like Apple has really turned a corner when it comes to power consumption with the iPhone 6 Plus easily lasting a whole day on a single charge. You will still have to be careful if you hit it hard with movies or games though.

iPhone 6 Plus review

We disliked

The iPhone 6 Plus may look and feel fantastic, but its size does make it a little unwieldy in the hand.

It’s taller and wider than other 5.5-inch smartphones such as the LG G4 and OnePlus One, and its flat rear means it’s tricky to grip and it really stretches the fingers in the palm.

I found that one handed usage had to be kept to a minimum and while Apple’s ‘Reachability’ is easy to use, it does feel a little half-baked.

Another sticking point with the iPhone 6 Plus is its price. Sure the 16GB model is likely to only be slightly more than its main phablet rival, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, but while you can stick a cheap microSD card into the Samsung, if you want more storage on the 6 Plus you’ll need to hand over a lot more money.

iPhone 6 Plus review

Verdict

Combining premium design and Apple’s high level of finesse the iPhone 6 Plus is a highly accomplished smartphone which will hit all the right marks for anyone desperate for a big screened iPhone.

Android fans hell-bent on a phablet sized smartphone full to the brim with the latest tech and monster power are unlikely to favour the iPhone 6 Plus, which on paper doesn’t stack up in terms of raw specs.

But that won’t matter to Apple, or to those who part with a princely sum of money to own an iPhone 6 Plus.

The iPhone 6 Plus brings together excellently Apple’s tried and tested design, craftsmanship and interface into the larger form factor – providing the perfect smartphone for those who require a bigger display while also revelling in the simplicity and intuition that an Apple handset continues to bring.

First reviewed: September 2014

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