The iPhone 6 Plus debuted together with the iPhone 6 on September 9th, during a special Apple event. This is the very first Apple phablet and a 5.5 inch device that has been plagued by negative publicity on account of the Bendgate scandal. Leaving that aside, let’s proceed to the phablet’s review, right here, at Tablet-News.com.
We’re dealing with a smartphone priced at $299, in the 16 GB version, $399 for the 64 GB one or $499 for the 128 GB, obviously on a 2 year contract. The design of this device involves a 7.1 mm thin waistline, some would say too thin for its own good. The product weighs 172 grams and measures 5.5 inches in diagonal. This is a massive phablet, with a very long case and although it has the same diagonal as the LG G3, it’s much bigger.
The iPhone 6 Plus is much more rounded than its predecessors, particularly on the sides and it offers a comfy grip by not being straight edged. It’s also more slippery than before and it relies on aluminum as its main material. It adopts an unibody design and its camera slightly protrudes from the back, but not as bad as you’d think. There’s a purpose here actually: keeping the flash light away from entering the camera and creating a halo effect.
The phablet gives you the vibe of a smaller tablet and frankly speaking, I don’t quite like the plastic stripes at the back. This model has a premium design and I have to mention that it doesn’t have a risen frame, in order to protect the exposed glass from the sides. By the way, the iPhone 6 Plus is also pretty easy to scratch. The phablet has a well balanced weight and frankly speaking, it’s too big for one handed use.
At the front we’ve got ion strengthened glass, a front camera that has been moved from above the earpiece to its side. At the same front area we find the ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, the earpiece and the Touch ID – Home button combo. At the back we’ve got the main camera, dual tone flash and microphone, while on the right side there’s the On/Off button moved from the top, as well as the nano SIM tray. On the left there are the pill shaped volume buttons, as well as the mute switch. It appears that the problem with Bendgate is actually this area, made weak by the drilling for the volume buttons, but once again this is speculation and nothing is official on that front yet.
There’s nothing at the top, while at the bottom we find the audio jack, microphone, small speaker homes and the Lightning port. The handset comes in silver, gold or space gray and it offers a premium design, but with slight imperfections, unlike its predecessors. It’s too tall compared to other phablets and it has the above mentioned problems, sadly. Then we move over to the hardware specs, that include the Apple A8 dual core 64 bit processor, clocked at 1.4 GHz, accompanied by the Apple M8 coprocessor, the PowerVR GX6450 GPU and 1 GB of RAM.
The display on board of the iPhone 6 Plus is a 5.5 incher with a Retina HD panel. We’re dealing with a Full HD IPS LCD, that’s LED backlit and offers a 401 ppi density, as well as 1300:1 contrast ratio. The storage versions of this model are 16 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB. The back cam is an 8 MP iSight unit, with 1.5 micron pixels, OIS and Tru Tone flash, while upfront rests a 1.2 MP camera with F/2.2 aperture and BSI.
On the connectivity side there’s NFC for Apple Pay, LTE, Bluetooth 4.0, WiFi 801.11 a/b/g/n/ac, AGPS, Glonass, VoLTE, WiFi Calling and in the Others section we find the fingerprint scanner barometer, 3 axis gyroscope, accelerometer and proximity sensor. Finally, the battery on this model is a 2915 mAh unit, that provides 24 hours of 3G calling, or 12 hours of 3G, WiFi or LTE web browsing, or 14 hours of video playback. There’s also the ability, on paper to achieve 16 days of standby usage. Our test, involving HD video playback in a loop with WiFi on and brightness at 50% gave us 12 hours of functioning time, about the same as an iPad Mini.
Meanwhile, the Galaxy Note 3 offers 9 hours and a half of usage, so we beat that. The charging takes a pretty long time, 3 hours and 16 minutes. Other stats involving the battery are as follows: 40 minutes of Bioshock equals 25% battery, one hours of photo/video taking is 15% and on average you’ll get about 2 days of functioning time. This is a good battery overall and my biggest regret here is the lack of a power saving mode or at least special features in that area.
Apple also put two accelerometers inside, one a sixaxis for hardcore games and a 3 axis one for lesser power usage and lesser games. Moving on to acoustics, this model has 8 speaker holes drilled at the bottom and a singular speaker. It’s easy to muffle and cover with your hand during games and video watching, that’s for sure. The phablet is loud, but not as loud as the HTC One M8 and also below the Galaxy S5. The bass is good, but not fantastic, while the EarPods are pretty much the same as the last years, with a fantastic experience.
They’re comfy, offer great bass and volume, but they also let some sound escape to the exterior, so everyone knows what you’re listening to, which is not cool. The music player on iOS 8 is minimalistic and basically the same as on iOS 7. There’s still no EQ, but there’s one to be found in the Settings area, with options related to bass or instruments. Back to the music player, it’s split into tabs like playlists, artists, songs, albums or genres. We also used a decibelmeter on this model and achieved 83.8 dBA, which is just OK, being below the 87.4 dBA of the LG G3 or the 85 dBA of the LG G Pro 2. I’d say that overall acoustics are OK, because the sound is crisp and clear, but the volume is not that impressive.
As far as the screen is concerned, this one is a Retina HD 5.5 incher, that’s LED backlit and relies on an IPS panel. It has a 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution, a 401 ppi density and a 1300:1 contrast ratio. It uses the full sRGB standard and its pixels are of the dual domain kind, bringing wider view angles. The iPhone 6 Plus behaves in a so-so way in full sunlight, because of high reflectivity, but the contrast is decent.
The screen is a 16:9 one, that has perfect view angles and excellent colors. You can rely on landscape use, not only portrait and there’s an RGB Stripe pixel pattern here, plus a very, very high brightness. We achieved as high as 605 LUX units on a white background, which is the highest we’ve ever tested on any tablet or phone, ever. The white is clearly brighter than on the iPhone 6s and the text is very crisp on any web page.
This is basically the perfect display, even beating a Super AMOLED, if you ask me. In the Settings area you can select a special option, that allows you to view everything on the screen bigger, through a Zoomed In option. I would say this is the best screen in 2014, pretty close to the one of the Samsung Galaxy S5. And now let’s talk camera! The main sensor is an 8 megapixel iSight one, with 1.5 micron pixels, F/2.2 aperture, autofocus with focus pixels, that sense light quickly and there’s also a sort of phase detection focus.
This augments autofocus, skin tones, facial recognition and macros, among others. There’s optical image stabilization, put to the test below and a panorama feature, that creates images up to a resolution of 43 megapixels. The front camera now captures 81% more light than before and does a 10 FPS burst capture. We’ve got a Tru Tone flash in the mix, with a 5 element lens, BSI, a hybrid IR filter and a sapphire crystal lens to protect the protruding camera.
Capture is very fast and so is launching the Camera app. The UI is basic and includes the front cam shortcut on the left, a timer (3 or 10 seconds) and HDR (auto, on or off), plus a flash option. On the right side we find 8 filters, a shutter button and the gallery, together with the capture modes. Those include Photo, with a special yellow slider on the screen allowing you to adjust the exposure manually, then Video, Slow Motion Video (120 FPS or 240 FPS), Time Lapse, Panorama and Square.
In the Settings area you’ll find in the Photos + Camera section a special trigger to make this phone film in 60 FPS if you want it. The gallery has also received an upgrade and now has a new search mechanism, with places, dates and people to tag photos. There’s also a new option for Recently Deleted pictures, that are stored up to 30 days in sort of a recycle bin. Finally, we get a few new picture editing options, ranging from red eye, to auto enhance, crop, rotate, aspect changes, filters, light options (exposure, shadows, brightness, contrast, black point), color (saturation, contrast, cast) and finally B&W (tone, grain, intensity).
Now as far as the actual pictures are concerned, those taken during daylight are crisp, clear and well lit, plus they have a good level of detail, even when you zoom in. The panorama could have been wider and the macros look great, particularly ones of flowers. The colors are vivid, there’s no oversaturation and actually the colors are cooler than on previous iPhones. We also tested the zoom in a series of shots and the results were decent, not impressive.
The HDR is very discrete and doesn’t exaggerate with the level of white and we even messed around with some filters, as shown in the gallery from here. Focus is good and moving on to low light capture and night capture, I’d say this model manages to take some pretty good shots, even without a flash. With flash they become excellent and the lighting is perfect, without that layer of white that covers up some night time shots when you use a flash.
Pictures taken at night are fantastic and I’ve never seen the light reflecting on cars as good as in the iPhone 6 Plus pics. There’s no yellow-ish hue and this phablet manages to compete with the Xperia Z2, the crown prince of low light capture. On the video side of things, there’s Full HD at 30 or 60 FPS and the difference is clear, as the 60 FPS vid feels more like an action movie than a random amateur filming.
We’ve got good details when zooming in while filming and we obviously played around with the slow mo a bit. Such videos are taken in 720p at 240 FPS or 120 FPS and you can choose what area of the video to slow down. This iPhone has the best stabilization I’ve ever seen on a phone, as shown in the video below. It’s simply too good to be true and even the Pureviews may feel jealous right now.
Too bad for the mono sound it captures when filming instead of stereo. By the way, Full HD 30 FPS videos have a bitrate or 11 Mbps, while 60 FPS vids have a bitrate of 27 Mbps. At night the video capture catches some reflexes, but other than that it’s golden. There’s no yellow hue and we’re generations above the night videos of the Galaxy Note 3 for example. Noise is also pretty low considering the conditions. Overall I’d say that the iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t exactly impress with the day time shots, that are on par with the ones of the Galaxy Note 3, while the low light and stabilization blow everything out of the water. Video capture is also very good.
Moving on to the performance, we achieved a temperature of 36.4 degrees Celsius after playing 15 minutes of the game Riptide GP2, so this model doesn’t suffer from overheating. The browser is fast and the Private mode is now more intuitive in Safari, while the tabs look fancy now. The telephony experience was odd, because it may be loud and clear and the signal may be good, but it also gives out a robotic voice and background hissing, which is totally not OK.
In the meantime, FaceTime has improved and everything is more lit up. And now we enter the benchmark area, with the results listed below. We compared the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 6s, Galaxy Note 3, iPad Mini Retina and the LG G3:
As you can see, the iPhone 6 Plus beats all of its rivals, except for 3DMark, but that’s easily forgeable anyway. Games run perfectly, from Bioshock to Goat Simulator, although I’ve witnessed the occasional lack of support for the device’s resolution. There’s landscape use on this model, in apps like the email, with the screen split into two panes, the notes, stocks, calendar and even Settings. And now let’s discuss iOS 8!
iOS 8 is very much like iOS 7, with the apps all on the homescreen, folders available to create and a dock area with 4 main apps. The lockscreen still doesn’t get much love, only showing the camera shortcut and that’s it, no widgets or shortcuts on it. The Control Center shows toggles related to connectivity, Do Not Disturb and other such features and it’s now uglier than before, with an exaggerately minimalistic UI.
The Notification Center is the one that probably changed the most, with the All and Missed Tabs gone, being unified under the Notifications Tab. There’s also a Today tab included. You can edit the Today area and include widgets from the apps that support such features. We’ve got weather widgets, plain ticket app widgets, one for Vice News and one from Dropbox, for example.
Now you can reply to a message straight from the notification banner at the top of the screen and from the same area you can like or comment on Facebook, or mark tasks as done. There’s reachability feature useful on this tall iPhone: you double tap the Home button gently, like you would a screen and the top part of the display will descend to your fingers ‘ reach. The multitasking area has also been changed, so after you double press the Home button, you’ll not only see tabs of currently running apps, but also their icons and your recently used Contacts and Favorites.
Spotlight has been updated, now with smart suggestions and info taken from Wikipedia, IMDB, App Store and iTunes. Siri now comes with Shazam integration and can be opened up by saying “Hey Siri”, when connected to a power source. You can use Siri to turn connectivity on or off, increase brightness, read voicemail, find out movie info and do dictation in 24 new languages.
iOS 8 also brings a feature called Hand Off, that allows you to start something on the Mac and continue on the iPhone and viceversa. This includes email, calling, Safari, Pages, Numbers and Keynote, for example and applies to all iOS 8 devices, as well as Mac OS X Yosemite Macs. Touch ID stores up to 5 prints and allows you to buy stuff from the App Store, iTunes, iBooks and Apple Pay. Touch ID seems to function faster than the previous iteration.
iCloud Drive is a new concept, allowing us to store any files in the cloud and choose what apps to sync with this solution, including documents and stuff. There’s also Family Sharing, with up to 6 people using the same credit card, with the holder of the card authorizing the purchases. There’s WiFi Calling, audio iMessages and finally new gestures for the Mail app (swipe right to mark as read and swipe left for more/flag/archive). The keyboard comes with the Quicktype feature, that is basically predictive input, that learns your pattern and quickly adapts to your experience.
There’s also support for third party keyboards, which is a good thing. As far as the preinstalled apps are concerned, we’ve got Calendar, Weather, now with more days and hours, Apple Maps with Tom Tom as the provider of maps instead of Google. There’s also turn by turn navigation with the aid of Siri. We’ve got Notes, Reminders, Stocks, Game Center and Newsstand, as well as iBooks.
There’s also Health, that gathers the data regarding your weight, BMI, calories, nutrition, glucose, O2 sat, alcohol level in blood, sleep, blood pressure and heart rate. The app gathers info from a variety of apps and tracking devices. Finally, there’s Passbook and in the end of the review, I must mention this aspect: it may be the fault of the unit I’m testing, but this model is very slow when it comes to game installs and downloads, which is very disappointing.
And now off to the conclusions.
Here are the Pros:
-good tablet replacement
-good night time capture
-best optical image stabilization on modern devices
-great gaming device
-better front cam
-nice slow mo capture
-nice landscape use
And the Cons:
-too tall for easy use
-no power saving
-speaker is unimpressive
-day time pictures aren’t impressive
-poor phone calling (hissing and robot voice)
-ugly control center
-we’re tired of the same old UI
-no lockscreen action
iPhone 6 Plus gets from us an 8.6 out of 10 for design, a 9.7 out of 10 for hardware and a 9 out of 10 for OS and UI. The final grade is 9.1 out of 10 and this is a great phablet, but one with unforgivable flaws. Still, it has the best screen on the market, great night time capture, excellent gaming and great battery. If only the design was better…