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Review of the Apple iPhone 6
With the iPhone 6, Apple has finally produced a decent-sized smartphone. If you own an iPhone 5 or even a 5s, the upgrade from a 4-inch to a 4.7-inch display alone makes the iPhone 6 worthy of consideration. But it’s not just the display that will make iPhone fans happy. You'll appreciate the incredibly sleek, rounded design, improvements in the camera and keyboard, NFC for tap-to-pay mobile payments and easier Bluetooth pairing.
Even with all these improvements, the iPhone 6 to just about on par with top-of-the-line 5-inch Android phones like the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5. There’s no killer feature to lure currently satisfied Android users to the iPhone 6. Still, the iPhone 6 is a beautiful smartphone that will delight iPhone fans and could draw some Android users who've stayed away from the iPhone purely because of its smaller display.
Look & feel
The iPhone 6 boasts the look and feel of a premium smartphone. The beautifully crafted, anodized aluminum and steel body is a scant 6.9mm thick, making it noticeably thinner than the Galaxy S5 (8.1mm), the HTC One M8 (9.35mm) and the iPhone 5s (7.6mm).
The iPhone 6’s rounded edges make it comfortable to hold without a case, unlike the iPhone 5s with its more angular edges that dig into your hand. In extended use, though, you'll find the iPhone 6 to be slippery—just as slippery as the iPhone 5s (and the HTC One M8). And with its larger size and more rounded edges, the iPhone 6 actually feels less secure in your hand than the iPhone 5s. That means you'll probably end up using a case, undoing much of the design aesthetic.
The iPhone 6's buttons feel solid and are well placed for easy access. The power button has moved from the top (on the iPhone 5s) to the side. The Home button doubles as a fingerprint reader, as it did with the iPhone 5s. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S5’s fingerprint reader, the iPhone 6’s reader is much easier to use.
Display & sound quality
The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch IPS LED-backlit, LCD Retina HD display. This gives it the same pixel density as the iPhone 5s (326ppi), but less than that of the HTC One M8 5-inch display (441ppi), the Galaxy S5 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display (432ppi) or even the Apple 6 Plus’s Retina HD display (401ppi).
Of course, comparing these two devices makes obvious that Samsung has been able to pack a 5.1-inch display into a body about the same size as the iPhone 6. The Galaxy S5 measures 142 x 72.5 x 8.1 mm while the iPhone 6 measures 138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm.
When viewed next to the HTC One M8 the iPhone 6 compares favorably in quality. Next to the Galaxy S5’s Super AMOLED display, the colors on the iPhone 6 pop less but look more accurate.
The iPhone 5 and 5s have a lower contrast ratio (800:1) than the iPhone 6 (1400:1). When viewed side by side, the iPhone 6 looks slightly warmer, but the difference in contrast was hardly perceptible.
Apple still has a mono speaker in the iPhone 6, the same as the iPhone 5s. The best sound quality can still be found on the HTC One M8, with its widely spaced stereo speakers.
Front & rear camera quality
Apple choose to stick with an 8-megapixel camera for the iPhone 6, lower than the 16 megapixels on the Galaxy S5 and the 13 megapixels on the LG G3. However, more pixels don't always (or even usually) make for a better camera. The iPhone 6 still has one of the best cameras found on a smartphone.
One of the most impressive new features of the iPhone 6 is phase detection autofocus, an ultra-fast type of autofocus usually found on high-end point-and-shoot and DSLR cameras. There's no more waiting for the camera to focus like you did with the iPhone 5s, which means faster photo shooting.
The iPhone 6 also includes what Apple calls “improved face detection” (as opposed to "regular" face detection on the 5s), as well as the best-shot and burst modes found on many Android smartphone cameras.
Photos taken with the iPhone 6 contain deeper blacks and brighter, truer colors than photos from the iPhone 5s. The iPhone 6 flash no longer bleaches out the center of photos like the 5s did, and the new phase detection focus does a better job keeping objects in focus in low-light situations.
The front-facing FaceTime camera gets a performance boost as well, with a faster f/2.2 lens for better low-light performance, improved face detection and a burst mode.
On the video side, Apple has bumped the iPhone 6’s features to include continuous autofocus and a slo-mo video mode at 240fps (twice as many frames per second as the iPhone 5s) and 1080p HD recording at 60fps and 30fps.
Apple claims a 25% boost in overall processing speed with the iPhone 6 and, in testing the iPhone 6 Plus (which has the same chip as the iPhone 6), everything does work faster than on the iPhone 5s. Depending on the app, boot times were 1 to 3 seconds faster, as were Web page loading speeds.
Keyboard & Touch ID
A couple of keyboard improvements come with iOS 8 for the iPhone 6. Next-word predictions appear at the top of the keyboard, so you don’t have to type every word. It works best for short, common sentences like “Where are you?” or “I’m running late.” Plus, the larger keyboard is easier to type on.
Even better, you finally have the option of replacing the default keyboard with a third-party option. I’m hoping for a Swype-style keyboard that lets me drag a finger from letter to letter or at least something with a number row at the top.
Touch ID, which is the best implementation of an integrated fingerprint reader to date, makes security simple, just as it did for the iPhone 5s. This time, it'll be used for Apple’s new mobile wallet, Apple Pay, which may revolutionize mobile payments when it’s released next month. Having already enjoyed using another NFC-based mobile wallet called Softcard on my Galaxy S5 for the last few months, I'm looking forward to trying Apple’s version.
For ore details on iOS 8 features and improvements, read our Need-to-Know Guide for Apple iOS 8.
Upgraded activity tracking
The next-generation M motion processor has also received a performance boost and a new sensor to measure elevation through changes in barometric pressure.
Apple delivers a nice bump in storage options with the iPhone 6. You'll still get 16BG with the entry-level model, which isn't much given that iOS 8 takes up about 4GB. But the mid-range model now comes with 64GB (up from 32GB for the iPhone 5s mid-range model) and there’s a whopping 128GB option for media junkies.
The iPhone 5s has notoriously bad battery life, so I was curious to see how the iPhone 6 would fare. This weekend I spent hours testing the phone, and when I wasn't using it, my sons were giving it a workout playing games. I was pleased to find that the battery lasted all day.
Price & availability
The iPhone 6 sells for:
• 16 GB $199 subsidized, $649 full price
• 64 GB $299 subsidized, $749 full price
• 128 GB $399 subsidized, $849 full price
Like the iPhone 5s, the iPhone 6 is available in space gray, silver and gold.
Carriers are offering great deals through September 30th for trading in your old iPhone that can cut the subsidized price to $0. As of now, carriers are citing shipment delays of one to eight weeks. Call ahead to make sure the store you select has them in stock, or order online.
Should you buy it?
Upgrading to the iPhone 6 is a no-brainer if you own an iPhone 4, 4S or 5. The larger display alone is well worth the upgrade. You'll also enjoy the new camera features that make the already-good iPhone camera even better, as well as the motion sensor for health tracking and much improved battery life. If you have an iPhone 5s, the choice is a harder call unless your phone is up for an upgrade.
If you've been happy with your Android phone, stick with Android. The iPhone 6 doesn't bring any killer features that you’ll be missing out on with a Galaxy S5 or other flagship Android phone.
Verdict: Highly Recommended for iPhone owners
Corrected speaker information on 9/23/2014