Yes I know, I’m a little late on an iPhone 6 Plus review but what can you do? Our little website doesn’t get preferred treatment from Apple so I had to buy my own and wait for it to arrive to boot. What you are about to read is an honest review from someone who is using the iPhone 6 Plus as his daily driver. Some might find that reviewing a daily driver could be cause for a little bias. After all, no one wants to say they don’t like what they just spent big bucks on. But I’ve learned to tell it like it is, there are things I love about Apple and things I hate. There are things I love about Android and things I hate. Read on to see what I loved and what I hated about the iPhone 6 Plus.
iPhone 6 Plus Specs
- Storage Capacity – 16GB | 64GB | 128GB
- Pricing on contract- $299 | $399 | $499
- Dimensions: 6.22″ tall | 3.06″ wide | 0.28″ thick
- Display: 5.5″ Retina HD | 1920×1080 | 401 ppi | 1300:1 contrast ratio
- Processor: A8 Chip | 64 bit | M8 motion coprocessor
- Camera: 8-megapixel iSight camera with 1.5µ pixels | ƒ/2.2 aperture | 1.2-megapixel front camera
- Sensors: NFC for Apple Pay | Touch ID fingerprint scanner
- Battery: 2915 mAh
- Connectivity: 20-band LTE support | Dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi
Packaging and Hardware Design
Apple design is one of the things I have always loved about the company, they tend to make beautiful hardware that is both great to look at and use. Let’s start with the iPhone 6 Plus packaging, because I’m a stickler for packaging. I love well made, sturdy, quality and minimal packaging and Apple has been good at providing that. This time around though, it was a bit too minimal. The box, while sturdy and well built, felt like it belonged in a scene in Repo Man where everything is marked with generic branding.
content warning: Repo Man video clip below has some colorful language that is NSFW
It was just a bit too minimal and too underdone and underplayed; the embossed iPhone 6 Plus on the top was just cheezy. Otherwise the packaging was solid and felt like quality. Enough about the box, what about the phone? Apple has always impressed me with their design, they just know how to make great and solid devices. I was expecting the same from the iPhone 6 Plus and what I got was a mixed bag of reactions. The phone is beautiful to look at; the rolled aluminum chassis and the screen are beautiful. The way it feels in your hand is like silk – a wonderful device to hold and a little slippery. But then there’s the ugly antenna lines on the back that distract from the beauty of the chassis. There’s the protruding camera that just looks funky and breaks up the symmetry of the phone’s design.
I realize the antenna lines serve a purpose, so Apple didn’t have to deal with another #antennagate, but surely there could have been a way to make these less noticeable. The camera is another matter, it seems like they didn’t have time to find one small and thin enough to fit into the chassis so they tried to work the protrusion into the design and came up short. We know the iPhone 6 Plus is in the phablet category and in competition with Samsung, LG and others at 5.5″ and above. When putting the 6 Plus next to Samsung’s Note 3 or 4, you can see the 6 plus is considerably taller than Samsung’s large phablet. While it’s true the 6 Plus is also thinner than its competition, the tallness of the iPhone 6 Plus is a bit distracting and a bit unwieldy. I feel that Apple could have shorn up a bit off the top and bottom to at least come in at the same height as the Note 3 and 4. The rolled edges of the chassis are pretty but just not as nice as the 5s’s harder lines.
I really wanted to be able to give full positive praise to the iPhone 6 design because there are other areas where the phone is lacking, but I can’t. So for the first time I have to say the iPhone design doesn’t have the complete wow factor it used to. That doesn’t mean it’s not a beautiful phone, it still is one of the best on the market but it just doesn’t separate itself far enough from its competition in the design department and it’s ridiculously taller than it should be.
Software and Everyday Use
Let’s start off with the battery. The very first day on a full charge I put the iPhone 6 Plus through heavier than normal use for myself. Here’s a bullet point list of what I did that day. This is an unusual day of use for myself, normally I wouldn’t use 5 hours of hotspot time or 2 hours of streaming through Bluetooth.
- Unplugged at 7am
- 5 hours used as T-mobile hotspot
- 2 hours of streaming Google Play Music through a Bluetooth device
- 3 hours of regular texting, phone calls, surfing web and social media
- Bluetooth on all day
- WiFi on all day
- Cellular on all day
- Screen set to 80% brightness
- Plugged back in at 10pm with 5% battery left
- Total amount of time off charger – 15 hours
- Hours used – 10 hours
- Hours on standby – 5 hours
iOS 8 has some neat new (to Apple) features built in, from widgets in the notification panel to a new predictive keyboard. First let me speak to what I do like about iOS 8. Apple continues to mildly improve iOS with a dash here and a dash there, such as notifications and responding to notifications like text messages that have vastly improved. There are now Widgets in the notification pane that you can interact with, although the apps are limited at the moment. You can add third party keyboards (more on this here), and the stock keyboard now has a predictive text feature which is actually really accurate and handy. The camera is improved with video stabilization on the iPhone 6 Plus. Family sharing is a huge deal, especially for those with multiple phones on one account. The double tap to make reaching the top of an app is also very handy and the double click to access favorite contacts is also a neat useful feature. There have already been a huge amount of articles on the web concerning iOS 8 features and what they do so I won’t get into details.
Now let’s talk a bit about where iOS 8 is lacking, at least for me. I love much of the improvements Apple has brought to iOS 8, improvements that have been on Android devices for some time now, but one area they just don’t seem to want to budge is user controllability. With as much real estate as the iPhone 6 Plus offers, Apple’s basic grid of icons approach has become mundane and in the way. How I long for the ability to use my screen as I see fit, moving and arranging things the way that fit my needs. Widgets that I can place on the homescreen, not just in the notifications pane, and icons that I can move around the grid and place where I see fit. Apple seems hellbent on keeping its “we know what’s best” attitude even in the face of users asking for these improvements. A grid of icons might work for many and keeping the standard UI for those while giving other users options doesn’t seem like it should be that complicated. For seasoned iPhone users this should pretty much be a comfortable familiar experience, but for Android users looking to make a jump, you might reconsider if you love the Android UI.
Multitasking is basic on the iPhone 6 Plus. It doesn’t have nearly half the multitasking abilities of the Note series from Samsung but that’s OK if you’re not particularly looking for multitasking or split-screen kinds of functionality. If you are looking for serious multitasking abilities then you should consider looking at the Note series instead.
The display on the iPhone 6 Plus is the best display I’ve seen on an iPhone so far, at full 1920×1080 movies, YouTube and games look brilliant! While other phones offer higher resolutions I don’t personally see much of a difference between the iPhone 6 Plus screen and the others. The IPS display will look much different when compared to AMOLED displays and there lies the personal preference of things. IPS and AMOLED technology is very different and concentrate on different user experiences. The iPhone 6 Plus as a media consuming device is awesome. The 6 Plus uses regular phone apps and not tablet apps and I did notice that many apps look out of scale on the bigger 6 plus screen. Native apps render nicely with crisp text and the correct size for the screen while some third party apps just look slightly blown up and not optimized for the brilliant screen. I’m sure that app developers will start compensating for the new screen sizes in due time but this was an issue I felt I needed to mention.
LTE Band Improvements
At the Apple Keynote, Tim Cook touted that the iPhone 6/6 Plus would have more LTE bands included as well as stronger LTE signal capability. I’m very happy to report that I have indeed experienced increased LTE coverage. In several places I go on a daily basis, most prevalent in my office, I now get LTE where I used to only get 3G or occasionally 4G. Even in areas where I drive where 4G was all I would get on my iPhone 5s I now get LTE, not strong 5 bars of LTE but still LTE. So the improved LTE bands and LTE connectivity is a huge plus for me.
Reported Quality Issues
I would have an incomplete review here if I didn’t mention the few reported problems the iPhone 6 Plus has been reported to have. The biggest of course being that the phone is prone to bending. I’ve had my iPhone 6 Plus for a week now and I have not experienced any bending whatsoever. It is being housed in a Ballistic case and I rarely put it in my pocket. My fellow writer here at Techaris, Greg Morris, has had issues with his iPhone 6 bending and he wrote an editorial on the matter you can read here. The other issue that has come up is Bluetooth connectivity issues in iOS 8.0.2. I am running 8.0.2 and I use Bluetooth everyday to stream music from my iPhone to my car and also take phone calls and use navigation. I have had no issues with Bluetooth and all has worked well. This is not to say that the reports are untrue, this is just to say I have yet to experience these issues myself but be aware they are being reported by other users.
The iPhone 6 Plus has some issues, yes, but it’s still an amazing phone and still a flagship phone that you should consider purchasing. There are a few things that will make it a choice device for some and some things that will make it a no go for others. If you’re looking for a high level of multitasking then I suggest you compare Samsung’s Note 4 to the iPhone 6 Plus in person and use them both before making a choice. If you’re looking for high-quality apps and a tightly integrated Apple ecosystem then you can’t go wrong with the iPhone 6 Plus. If you’re looking for media consumption and gaming the iPhone 6 Plus is a great choice but don’t rule out LG’s G3 as well, you might take a look at them side by side before deciding.
Then there are the quality issues plaguing the device. Consider the fact that it may bend leaving you to deal with warranty matters and redtape. Of course there is a chance it won’t bend at all and you’ll be just fine. If that’s a chance you’re willing to take then the iPhone 6 Plus is an excellent choice.
Consider iOS 8 as well. If you’re an Android user thinking of jumping to the iPhone 6 Plus because of the bigger screen, think about what you’ll be leaving behind in the Android UI. The bigger screen is amazing and brilliant, right up there with some of the best Android flagships, but iOS 8 is not Android and you’ll be losing a level of user control that is a big plus on Android.
Consider the size if you’re a current iPhone user thinking of going from a 4s or 5s to the 6 Plus. The appeal of a bigger screen might be strong and you might be thinking, “yeah I can do the iPhone 6 Plus,” but do yourself a favor and go put your paws on one before jumping in with two feet. The 6 Plus is a beast compared to the 4s or 5s and you will be in for a shock if you’ve never used a large phone before. Don’t set yourself up for buyers remorse. The smaller 4.7″ iPhone 6 is probably a safer jump for current iPhone users who’ve never used a big screen.
Finally, jumping from the iPhone 5s to the 6 Plus for me was an easy transition. Having used the Galaxy Note series of phones I’m very happy having a large screen again. I have issues with the design and build of the iPhone 6 Plus, as it doesn’t WOW me like other iPhone designs, but it’s also not ugly. I feel like Apple could have made the device less tall and maybe slightly more narrow. The LG G3 has the same size screen but is considerably shorter and I wish Apple could have given us that. This is the first iPhone I actually feel good about putting a case on, covering up the design isn’t a huge deal to me so long as the case I put on is good looking. iOS 8 has improvements I like but is still stale in its design and needs to desperately be more user controllable. Apple, let me use that big screen the way I want to. The display is gorgeous and the LTE band improvements are most welcome. The bending issue is concerning but for now I am unaffected but will keep my eyes open and report if my unit does happen to get bent.
Rating the iPhone 6 Plus on the five scale was difficult for me. It is above a 3.5 but not a solid 4, it’s kind of more in the 3.90 range so since it’s closer to the 4 that’s the rating I shall give it using our ratings graphic below. My suggestion to any would-be phone buyer is to weigh all the choices out there before committing. Android has certainly caught up to Apple and there are a good handful of phones to compare against the iPhone lineup. Right now I’m sticking with the iPhone in hopes of possible UI improvements. I mean, they did finally go with bigger screens, so maybe they’ll cave in on user controllability. Maybe.