Technology

Apple iPhone 6 first impressions: Gadget Watch

Andrew Sadauskas /

At this point, you would probably have needed to be trekking through a particularly remote corner of the outback not to have heard about the latest iterations of Apple’s iPhone series.

This year’s range includes both a regular 4.7-inch flagship smartphone (the iPhone 6) and Apple’s first 5.5-inch phablet (a portmanteau of “phone” and “tablet” for devices with a screen larger than 5-inches diagonally, but less than 7-inches), the iPhone 6 Plus.

In purely technical terms, building a smartphone with a screen larger than 4-inches across diagonally is not a major breakthrough – most of the mobile phone industry has been making such devices for a number of years now.

Nonetheless, it would be an understatement to say Apple’s first attempts have drawn a lot of attention in the press.

Of course, all this raises the question: Is Apple’s first attempt at a phablet any good? It’s time to take a look at the iPhone 6 Plus.

Hardware and features

The iPhone 6 Plus comes in three colours (silver, gold or space grey), with either 16, 64 or 128 gigabytes of storage built in.

It measures 158mm by 77.8 mm, is 7.1 mm thick, and weighs 172 grams, featuring a 5.5-inch (diagonal) LED-backlit Retina HD display. The screen boasts a 401 pixel per inch resolution, at 1920-by-1080-pixels.

It is powered by the company’s 64-bit A8 processor, along with the M8 motion coprocessor, and runs iOS8.

In terms of a camera, the iPhone 6 Plus includes an 8-megapixel camera with optical image stabilisation, a feature not included in the iPhone 6.

It also uses a nano-SIM, and Apple warns that it is not compatible with micro-SIM cards used in some other phones.

What’s the consensus?

While generally praising the device, Mashable’s Lance Ulanoff was not quite as sold on the larger screen size:

When I hold the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 in my hand, I can easily reach to the far corner of the screen with my thumb. Not so with the iPhone 6 Plus. I either have to use two hands, find a way to stretch my thumb or, better yet, use Apple’s new Reachability feature, which is available in iOS 8 and therefore in both phones, to reach screen elements that might otherwise be out of reach.

Reachability works simply and well. I double-tap on the home button and the screen drops down halfway to put previously out-of-reach interface elements within reach. It’s a reasonable solution, though some people I showed it to called it clunky.

The Telegraph’s Matt Warman believes bigger is beautiful. That being said, he’s not as sold on images from the camera being as pretty as a picture, especially when compared to its rivals:

The camera is the weakest aspect of the iPhone, in the sense that it does not offer 4K, optical zoom or the kind of resolution widely available on rivals. That said, it is also the best camera of its class on the market, producing pictures that blow up to decent sizes, and improvements in the iPhone 6 mean that it focuses faster, detects faces better and offers more controls than previously. Only when zoomed in are its limitations revealed. Slo-mo movies now operate even more slowly thanks to capturing more information, and burst-selfie mode means the front-facing camera sees improvements too. All of these are iterative improvements, but they demonstrate that through remarkable picture processing, Apple is able to get decent pictures out of hardware that should really be better.

At Engadget, Brad Molen states the obvious in terms of this not being the most innovative device Apple has produced:

Even though this is Apple’s first attempt at building large phones, it’s not breaking new ground — in fact, it feels more like the company is catching up than innovating. To be fair, finding a fresh take is a difficult thing to do in this crowded space: Samsung’s Galaxy Note series, which started out at 5.3 inches and is now up to 5.7, is selling by the millions, and most competing flagships aren’t much smaller. Basically, Apple would be leaving money on the table if it didn’t address this segment of the market. So how did the company do on its first try at large phones? Pretty well – mostly

The iPhone 6 Plus is difficult to use one-handed, not to mention more uncomfortable than similar-sized phones. In exchange, though, you get more of an iPad-like user experience on a much smaller device. It also has better battery life than the smaller iPhone 6, as well as a better camera. Keep that in mind as you’re deciding between the two devices.

Finally, at The Verge, Nilay Patel says that with his big hands, he actually prefers the iPhone 6 Plus to either its smaller counterpart, or to his iPad Air. Unfortunately, he hears there’s a downside he noticed when compared to other flagship handsets:

But while the screen is terrific for videos, the speaker situation on the iPhone is starting to get a little silly. There’s still just the single mono speaker on the bottom, right where your hand goes when you’re holding the phone in landscape. The iPhone 6 Plus already demands that you contort your hands when you’re actually using it, but having to adjust your grip so you can hear the speaker when you’re watching a video or playing a game is asking a little too much. HTC and Motorola have solved this problem by putting stereo speakers on the front of their phones; it might be time for Apple to take that cue from the competition as well.

Should I get one?

In terms of whether or not to get an iPhone, I think at this point most people have made their decision already.

However, whether to go for the smaller iPhone 6 or the larger iPhone 6 Plus is a new dilemma to Apple users.

As Android and Windows Phone users have long known, whether you choose a 4.7-inch flagship smartphone or a 5.5-inch phablet is largely a matter of personal preference. Obviously, a larger phone does take some getting used to (especially, if you’re jumping straight from a 4-inch iPhone).

However, especially if you have larger hands, the larger screen size and improved battery life you get with a larger device are big benefits, and you’ll find you’ll use it in situations where you otherwise would have reached for an iPad.

That being said, especially if you have smaller hands, a large phone can feel uncomfortable to hold and more awkward to carry.

Hummers have their place in the world – but they aren’t for everyone.

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Andrew Sadauskas

Andrew Sadauskas is a former journalist at SmartCompany and a former editor of TechCompany.