On 9 September 2014, at a super exclusive event, Apple launched their first ever phablet, the iPhone 6 Plus. Boasting a massive 5.5″ full HD display, smooth new design and brand new features, the iPhone 6 Plus is Apple’s answer to a growing market of smartphones with large screens and powerful systems.
After spending a couple of weeks with the handset (which became available in SA on Friday, 24 October 2014) we would like to walk you through a few of the awesome new features, design elements, performance improvements, camera updates and more to help you decide whether this new phablet from Apple is the right choice for you.
This is the largest phone I’ve ever used and I was wary as to whether I would be able to handle the sheer size of the Plus. But even with the larger screen, the handset is easy to hold and handle. However, one handed usage is tricky and it is just easier to use both hands. But in exchange for the larger size, you get an iPad-like experience on a smaller device.
Aside from the obvious larger size, the iPhone 6 and Plus are almost identical in terms of design and performance. But, the Plus does boast some unique features like a better camera, full HD display and better battery life, which are elements you should take into consideration when you are choosing between the two.
In terms of the price, you are looking at forking out more than a few pretty pennies. The 16GB model (which is a complete waste of time in my opinion) will set you back R10 999, the 64GB has a R12 599 price tag and the 128GB will cost you R13 999. So we suggest you start saving or enter our competition to stand a chance to win an iPhone 6 Plus.
The iPhone 6 Plus is a big guy, but that’s the whole point of getting it. It is obviously a little heavy (172g) because it sports a premium metal body, but my tiny wrists didn’t take strain and you get used to it quickly. It measures 158.1mm x 77.8mm x 7.1mm so you will mostly have to use it with both of your hands and gone are the days of slipping it neatly into your pockets.
But, in my opinion, the iPhone 6 Plus is by far the best looking phablet on the market. Everyone notices this phone and loves it. Staying with its new continuity ethos, Apple ditched its usual square design for a more modern and rounded look. The glass curves down around the sides to meet with the aluminium cover and the design is smooth and simple.
This new design makes the handset feel like one infinite surface without a beginning or an end. The only bump in the continuous design, is the protruding camera. But don’t despair, the lens is covered with sapphire glass and after two weeks of rather rough use I haven’t noticed a single scratch or any sign of wear. I must note that the back cover gets tiny little scratches relatively fast so I would recommend that you pop it into a case immediately. Apparently the screen also has an oleophobic coating, which is suppose to make it less prone to fingerprints, but I didn’t notice much of an improvement.
The rocker switch and two volume buttons remain on the left side, like previous iPhones, but the major change is the power key which has been moved from the top to the right side of the new iPhone 6 range. It makes sense that the button had to be moved based on the sheer size of the handset.
The handset I am using is the silver variation and it looks so clean and simple, which I love. There are three options: silver, space grey and a new gold option, and all three colour options work beautifully. It looks and feels elegant and expensive (and so it should with its massive price tag) and everyone notices it and loves it.
The display is really where the iPhone 6 Plus out-shadows its smaller iPhone 6 twin. DisplayMate has run the Plus through its range of expert tests and found that:
The iPhone 6 Plus [has] the best performing smartphone LCD display that we have ever tested
Its 5.5″ display makes the iPhone 6 Plus the biggest iPhone yet. It boasts a screen resolution of 1 920 x 1 080, which also makes it the first iPhone to have a full HD display, compared to the somewhat average 750 x 1334 screen resolution of the iPhone 6. Apple’s use of dual-domain pixels makes the viewing angles excellent, which is especially useful when a bunch of people are hanging around one screen. The larger display and higher screen resolution is amazing for playing games, watching videos and taking photos.
From the moment I started using the handset I noticed the bright and clear display. The improved viewing angles and contrast ratio have significantly improved the display quality.
The sheer size of the screen might be a little intimidating and you might have some trouble reaching the corners of the display. But Apple has foreseen that this might be a problem and has introduced Display Zoom which allows you to make everything larger by zooming in and Reachability. Reachability allows you to slide the display down to a third of the screen so that you can scroll without straining your petite paws. To use this feature you just double-tap the home button, but don’t press down, just touch.
Like the iPads, the springboard can now switch into landscape mode and Mail, Calendar and Messages now come with dual-panel windows. This gives you extra screen space and gives the Plus a productivity advantage over the iPhone 6. Typing isn’t great when in landscape because the added columns to the side of the keyboard make it difficult to reach the keys.
The iPhone 6 Plus has a new 8MP iSight rear camera and a 1.2MP HD FaceTime front camera. As I’ve already mentioned, the rear camera does jut out a little in Apple’s efforts to make the phone as thin and compact as possible.
Looking at the specs you might fear that Apple has simply slapped the old 5s camera into the Plus, but Apple claims that the new sensor, autofocus, advance face detection and digital stabilisation will improve the quality of the pictures. The handset also includes Focus Pixels, which improve the sensor causing auto-focus to work smoother and faster, giving you superior quality pictures.
Where the iPhone 6 Plus really shines is with its Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) functions, which the iPhone 6 doesn’t lacks. OIS reduces hand shaking significantly, especially in lower light, with the result that blurring is reduced even if the lighting is bad. OIS works with the gyroscope and the new A8 chip and M8 motion coprocessor to make photos more stable.
The bigger screen on the Plus makes taking the perfect panorama shot simple and if you hold the phone in landscape in this mode you can capture really mesmerising shots of your surroundings.
As expected, taking videos with the Plus is amazing. You can shoot videos in full HD at 60 frames per second producing clear, smooth and high quality videos. Slo-mo videos can be captured at up to 240 frames per second which gives you the ability to capture some pretty sick slo-mo footage.
Now you can up your selfie game with the new and improved FaceTime HD camera. The front-facing camera has been improved by adding a new sensor, Burst Mode and HDR. The improvements result in higher resolution images and better photos in bad lighting.
The camera app remains clean and simple, with the 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 and the camera roll, circular shutter button and effects along the bottom.
The iPhone 6 Plus ships with Apple’s new 64-bit A8 processor and 1G of RAM. The 1.39GHz dual-core A8 processor isn’t a major improvement on the previous A7 and Apple claims that the speed has been improved by a mere 25% and a reasonable 50% graphics improvement over the iPhone 5s (which has the A7 processor). That being said, I must admit that I have definitely noticed that the Plus is much faster than the 5s especially when it comes to opening and moving between apps. The whole experience just seems smoother and quicker and I have not experienced any bugs or frozen screens. With Apple’s new metal coding tool for game developers, iOS games perform amazingly well with the A8 processor. I also had a very smooth experience in using the handset to do day-to-day things like check my mail, browse the web, stream music, watch videos and play games.
In terms of connectivity Apple claims that the 6 series can reach LTE speeds of up to 150 Mbps and a welcome addition in 802.11ac (2.7x faster than N technology) Wi-Fi, for faster browsing on both Wi-Fi and LTE.
The 6 series comes with a variety of pre-installed apps, including Health, Pages, Numbers, Keynote and GarageBand. Most of the pre-installed apps can be deleted, which is useful for apps you will never use. With improved connectivity it has also become easier than ever to quickly download and instal new apps and games.
Apple claims that you can get up to 14 hours of life from a single charge during video playback, or up to 80 hours from music playback.
From using the Plus I noticed longer battery life since day one. By using the phone to snap photos, stream music, check my emails, browse the web as well as messaging and phone calls I was impressed with the battery performance and I was easily able to get through a full day (6am to 10pm) with a single charge. I did notice an increase in battery draining when watching HD videos, which, based on the size and higher resolution of the display, is understandable.
There is no no power-saving mode on the iPhone 6 Plus, but with iOS 8 you can check which apps are draining your battery and then close those apps to reduce batter draining. Check out here how to view your battery usage. You can also try turning down the screen brightness which will preserve some battery life.
The iPhone 6 Plus is the perfect phablet, smoothly combining elegance and high performance. The move into the larger screens is long overdue with many competitors already embracing the bigger-screen trend.
The Plus is obviously aimed at a very unique type of smartphone user and it will definitely be over-shadowed by the iPhone 6 in terms of sales. But if you are looking for a larger screened, HD iPhone with longer battery life and a better camera function all encased in a beautifully elegant and simple design, then the iPhone 6 Plus is the phone for you.