iPhone 6 review: Is it really better in every way?

iPhone 6 - cover

Introduction

Finally, the new iPhone is out. And if you’ve been looking over your shoulder at people with a Samsung Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8 and envying the bigger screens on them, Apple has come up with something to cheer you up. It’s called the iPhone 6 and it has a 4.7-inch display. That’s bigger than any previous phone from Apple – though there’s a bigger one, too, the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

 

Design

iPhone 6 - designApple’s design overhaul is much-needed and as much as many could have hoped for – taking a number of cues from the iPad Air to bring a metallic, almost ceramic, shell that feels simply brilliant in the hand.The iPhone 6 pushes that idea to the next level, losing the sharp edges in favour of sleek and rounded sides that make the device much more pleasing in the palm. It just feels so thin, but doesn’t have the overly-lightweight feeling of the iPhone 5S.The larger screen is certainly an improvement on the previous models – while I think 4.7-inches is going to be a tiny bit small for those that have lusted after their friends’ Galaxy S5 devices with the 5.2-inch screen, it’s still a very good size for one hand.It’s not got a great resolution, at only 1334 x 750 it’s essentially 720p, but the new Retina HD screen looks brilliant. So much so that I thought I was picking up a dummy model to play with. It’s another point that Apple fans will leap upon in the interminable Android vs iOS debate: if the screen looks good enough, then it’s good enough.There’s more here than resolution too: the iPhone 6 packs wider viewing angles, deeper colours and a richer colour reproduction than anything else before it in the iPantheon, and that instantly brings an impressive feel when you pick it up.And if you’re so desperate for the larger resolution, there’s always the iPhone 6 Plus to be looking at, despite that being more of a phablet / Note 4 rival.

iPhone 6 - design 2

 

Display

The screen is called Retina display HD, although the pixel per inch count is the same as on the iPhone 5S. Never mind, that was pretty spiffy and this screen looks rich, detailed and highly attractive.Apple points out that the new screen has 38 per cent more viewing area than last time, which is useful, especially in a handset that really doesn’t feel as huge as you might expect . Unoptimized apps will scale automatically, and Apple claims that they will do so without any blurriness. All the same, app developers are bound to customize their apps to this larger screen given time.Some people say that the Full HD / QHD displays on offer today from Sony, Samsung and LG are overkill, but there’s no way that you won’t see the difference in sharpness if you put the iPhone 5S and LG G3 next to one another.However, it’s the same PPI as the iPhone 5S, so the iPhone 6 might not stand up to sharpness tests next to the best the Android world has to offer.

 

Apple Pay and NFC

iPhone 6 - payAfter resisting NFC, or near-field communication, for years, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus not only add the short-range communications protocol to the phone, but also build an entire mobile payment system around it, with partners galore already waiting in the wings.Apple Pay, a US-only system at launch, works with the Passbook app on your phone, and independently as well, to let you buy goods and services with a single touch of the phone. Like other mobile-payment systems, the merchant never sees your credit card details, and a handy feature incorporating the camera will add new credit card details to Passbook, which saves you some typing.Starting in US with Visa, MasterCard, and American Express, Apple Pay is backed by six major banks, with more to come. Right out of the gate, you’ll be able to use the service at 220,000 merchants that accept it, including Macy’s, Walgreens and Duane Reed drug stores, Whole Foods, and McDonald’s at all their store locations, drive-through included.

 

Specs and Features

Another big change for Apple is the update to the companion CPU – the M7 co-processor which tracks movement has been upgraded to include things like a barometer so it knows how many steps you’ve climbed, how many flights of stairs and just general elevation too.It’s not something that’s been super-publicized by Apple, possibly because I think the M7 was under-used in the last 12 months. It could have been a real boon, but if this version, combined with the health chops of the Apple Watch, starts to really integrate with Health, then it seems Apple has made the right move.The current Health app certainly benefits, allowing you to visualize more information and more accurately too. It will be interesting to see if new apps start to properly use the power of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, or if they just treat it as something of a novelty.

iPhone 6 - specs

The new operating system that was debuted at WWDC earlier in the year has the expected poster boy in the iPhone 6 – while it’s not a massive overhaul of the platform, it brings with it some nifty tweaks.For instance, the updated notifications center is imbued with better powers than before, allowing you to see more relevant information from a simple pull down from the top of the screen.The new OS brings with it other big upgrades, such as the ability to use other keyboards in the future – the thought of Swiftkey on an iPhone, and one without such cramped conditions for typing is an appealing one – which shows that Apple knows it needs to do something big to keep up with the smartphone competition amid eroding market share.It will also play much better with Mac OS X than ever before thanks to the new powers Yosemite brings while this will work with any iOS 8-powered phone, the new abilities to make calls or get SMS from the computer will be a big draw for those that like their new phone to be integrated with their laptop.

 

Camera

Apple’s 8-megapixel iPhone 6 iSight camera may not have had the pixel boost that fans might want, but it gets a refresh with a new sensor all the same. Focus time is down, Apple says, colors look more lifelike when the flash is engaged, and the imaging chip has better ways to battle noise. HDR is now automatically applied as well, something we’re starting to see on other phones, too.Panorama mode will capture up to 43 megapixels in its five-element lens, and there’s face detection, as well as blink and smile detection. As with some rival phones, the burst mode auto-pick feature uses algorithms to select the best from a string of similar photos.The iPhone 6 has digital image stabilization, but if you want the optical image stabilization that many more premium phones are incorporating, you’ll need to upgrade to the iPhone 6 Plus.On the video front, you’ll be capturing 1080p HD video at either 30 or 60fps, with slow motion coming in at 120 or 240fps. Continuous auto-focus while you’re shooting video means that the camera will adjust as the subjects move around — or as you do. You can shoot video in HDR mode as well.Apple has also made improvements to the 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera, or the FaceTime camera, as the company likes to call it. The iPhone 6 tweaks face detection and focus to aim for better accuracy, and now weaves in HDR. Video capture here remains steady at 720p HD, and the front-facer also gets a burst mode.

iPhone 6 - camera