Hands on: iPhone 6 review

Now THIS is what we've been waiting for

 

Hands on: iPhone 6 review 

For
  • Great design
  • Improved camera
  • Better battery?
Against
  • Still pricey
  • Low-res screen compared

 

For some, the attraction of the masses to Apple devices is almost unfathomable. The iPhone has never been one of the most powerful handsets in the world, nor the smallest, nor largest, and yet seven years later it has retained (and grown) its unshakeable following.
However, in the last 18 months, the death knells have started quietly sounding, ringing in the distance as the best Android phones - once only a rival on spec or price - became genuine challengers and then out-and-out better handsets.
iPhone 6 review
Tim Cook knew the brand needed to do something, and quickly - and that's just what's happened. The iPhone 6 represents one of the most comprehensive overhauls of the iPhone range since the iPhone 4, and actually goes one step further in a lot of ways.

The processor is obviously uprated, the camera quicker and more capable than ever before, and the battery has been enlarged significantly to quell the disquiet at the power use of previous models.

But there's so much more here that represents a seismic shift for Apple: the increased resolution on the screen is really helpful (and badly needed) and the payments mechanism, while limited to the US only at the moment, will be the boost that the smartphone payment industry needed.

And of course the larger screen will stop those locked into the iOS ecosystem from casting admiring glances at phones such as the HTC One M8 and Sony Xperia Z3.

Check out the new iPhone 6 in our hands on video direct from Apple's event:



Design

Apple'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.
iPhone 6 review
Say what you like about Apple, it's a brand that's always put design at the forefront of its new handsets. Even the iPhone 5S, probably the most unimaginative of all of Cupertino's handsets, had a strong build that screamed quality in the hand, giving the user the instant feeling of something worth spending a lot on.

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.

It's one of those phones that I'm actually sad feels so nice in the hand - when reviewing phones, proving oneself agnostic to whichever brand is critical, but Apple consistently shows it knows how to make a well put-together handset, and it's done it again here.

It just feels premium the moment you pick it up, from the vibrant and clear screen to the subtle curve of the display into the rounded frame.
iPhone 6 review
There is a worry that this is a slippier handset than before thanks to the more rounded nature of the design, but then again with Apple (apparently) upgrading the glass in the screen to something that can withstand many, many more bumps and bruises before shattering, that might not be the horrid experience it might once have been.

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.
iPhone 6 review
If it wasn't, then why would Sony have launched the Xperia Z3 compact and Samsung the Galaxy Alpha, both within 0.1-inch of the iPhone 6's screen size? The issue with the iPhone 5S, with the cramped screen making it almost impossible to peck out the letters on the keyboard, has now definitely been alleviated.

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.
iPhone 6 review
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 review
Having said all that, and while I do think the upgraded resolution is a good jump for Apple, its not quite enough really for the spec fans. While I think the brand had it right a few years ago when it launched the Retina display, times have moved on.

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.
iPhone 6 review
It must be tremendously frustrating to create a quality, well-selling app and then find the resolution you coded for is now old news. The good news is that while you're spending hours making an iPhone 6 version, the phone will properly scale old apps to still work.

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have been confirmed to pack upscalers within the device, and combined with the improved iOS 8 developer tools to play with, there's no chance of unsightly black bars showing up.
Everything rejigs itself to fit the screen - while there will be some apps that are dubbed 'iPhone 6 ready', they'll be because the developer chose to upgrade them to make use of the new designs, not because they were forced to.
iPhone 6 review
It's not going to be a perfect experience, but it's another example of Apple's decent ecosystem - it can now manage to keep all apps in line without an effort from a developer while still managing to offer good abilities to devs to update when they want to.

Disclaimer: I've erroneously stated that resolution is the reason that Android devices can't show some apps, when Android does in fact upscale apps automatically. This has now been rectified.

In terms of the performance advantage Apple has given itself, the new A8 processor certainly seems up to the task. While (as usual) we've not heard much in the way of specs for it, save to say it's the same 64-bit architecture that Apple added into the mix last year.

However, if we're not looking at the power, there is some really rather good news: the A8 chip is capable of a 50% power reduction, meaning there's a strong chance Apple has gone some way to solving its power-management woes that have so plagued previous devices.

As such, the same snappiness is there in terms of camera processing, general browsing and app use, but it will only be with some serious use that the power of the new A8 chip will show itself.
And while we've not been told the RAM inside the iPhone 6, there's a feeling that Apple will have doubled it at least to 2GB in order to facilitate more powerful and impressive apps, as well as allowing the phone to function better under duress.

Apple Pay

One of the big changes here, along with the newly announced iPhone Plus, is the new Apple Pay system. It means the iPhone finally packs NFC technology inside, which means the tech is finally here to stay as all the top vendors are now using it by default.
There's not a lot of surprise here, but the NFC element syncs with Passbook to allow you to pay simply with a tap of the phone. Apple Pay is essentially the same as most contactless methods of payment, and uses the current readers to let you pay with your phone (or even your Apple Watch).
Apple Pay review
Check out my in-depth look at this new service to see what it really brings - although if you want a spoiler: touch phone, use TouchID, beep on reader, pay.

M8 co-processor

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-publicised 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.
iPhone 6 review
The current Health app certainly benefits, allowing you to visualise 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.

iOS 8

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.
iPhone 6 review
This action isn't as easy as it once was, thanks to the larger screen, but that's worth it for the greater real estate to play with.

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

The camera on the iPhone 6 isn't much of a change... from the outside. It's still 8MP, and still doesn't record in 4K.

It does protrude out from the top of the iPhone in order to pack in greater optics while keeping the slender frame, but will only annoy you if you rock the iPhone when placed down on a table.
iPhone 6 review
I assume the sapphire glass is used in the cover again - otherwise it seems odd to leave something protruding to get so scratched.
iPhone 6 review
But that would miss some of the big changes: the f/2.2 aperture, the new iSight camera with superfast autofocus thanks to 'Focus Pixels' and the same trick repeated with the video, for smooth shooting even if you're moving around.
iPhone 6 review
The iPhone 6 has digital image stabilisation, unlike its larger iPhone 6 Plus brother, which packs optical image stabilisation for a likely slightly crisper picture.

There's an algorithmic update too, allowing you to smooth video on the fly. Yes, it's not much of an update, but combined with the crisp video images Apple is packing into the iPhone 6, I can see it being something of a big selling point.

You can also now shoot time lapse videos right from the app, edit your snaps with more aplomb thanks to clever tool updates and this is all with a greater degree of sharpness and colour thanks to the improved Retina HD screen.
iPhone 6 review
But the cool thing (if you like slo-mo video) is the phone can now shoot at 240fps, which is a fantastically sharp way of looking at what people are doing really, really slowly.

Early verdict

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About Doru Somcutean

Hello, my name is Somcutean Doru and I'm from Romania.

I really like to read reviews and see what's new about technology, on D-BLOG I share with you articles/reviews that I find interesting. I also write some reviews in romanian...

My second blog is D-NEWS , here are some movie reviews , my favorite songs or clips that I like...is more like a personal blog...so please don't get in because you'll get really bored.

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