You know the feeling – there is something that you like just fine, but there is one thing about it which just doesn’t sit well with you – and that stops you from having that ‘something’. Yeah, that feeling. That’s how I felt about the earlier generations of iPhones.
They are usually very fine devices – but something that never sat well with me was the size. They seemed small. Smaller than a lot of devices in the market. Smaller than my current phone. Then the iPhone 6 Plus was released. Big size & iPhone – it was a combination that was a bit hard to resist and I just had to give it a try.
iPhone 6 Plus Review
Look & Feel
The 6 Plus is large. I mean really large compared even to the iPhone 6. At 6.22 inches length and 3.06 inches wide, it is longer than Samsung’s flagship the Note 4 and almost as wide. The size is the first thing that you would notice when you hold it. The second things would be the smooth, rounded and deceptively slippery sides of the device. This phone is really not grip friendly.
The entire front side of the device is covered by a glass that seamlessly curves into the sides. The phone body is an aluminum unibody design with a completely flat back side.
The antenna lines on the back feel like plastic and mar the look of the almost mull-metal back. The camera is located at the top left corner along with the flash. The camera itself protrudes out of the device by just about a millimeter, and that means the phone does not completely rest on a flat surface and rocks a bit.
The iPhone 6 plus is extremely slim. With just 7.1 mm thickness, it is lesser than the Note 4 as well. The nano-sim slot is located just below the power button on the right side. With this new location, the iPhone 6 and 6 plus adopted the norm of placing the power button on the side rather than the top.
It makes complete sense from usability point-of-view as it would be a real stretch to reach the top of the larger sized new iPhones. This location of the power button is convenient for use with either hand.
On the left, the volume buttons now have an elongated shape rather than a circular one and give out a very distinct click with every press. The silent mode toggle switch is located at its usual location just above the volume rocker.
The design changes in this edition of the iPhone are significant, and not all of them are for the better. The location of the speaker and the microphone isn’t the best. The single row style of audio outlets for the speaker makes it vulnerable to accidental cover-up while using the device, especially while watching a video or playing games in landscape mode.
The speaker itself is quite loud, but you may find your palm or fingers blocking the speaker on more than one occasion.
Similarly, it is quite easy to cover up the microphone while talking on the phone. These ‘cover-ups’ happened to me so frequently that I had to change how I hold the phone while doing either of these activities.
The other design change from flat sides with chamfered edges (which offered an excellent grip, by the way) to rounded sides with curved edges does throw the grip factor out the window. Not that there is no grip whatsoever, but it is deceptively slippery. A case is quite mandatory for this one.
The iPhone 6 devices came with iOS 8, which has since been updated to 8.2. This release is significant given that it adds an Apple app by default to your phone – The Apple Watch app. This app will form the core of you experience with the Apple watch and also act as the app store for the watch apps. Be on the lookout for our review later this month.
A seasoned iOS user would notice several improvements in the OS. The user experience is enhanced by a better spotlight search, control center and improved notifications, while family share and the ability to use a third-party keyboard are very welcome features that add huge value to the appeal of iOS 8.
Swiping down anywhere on the screen brings up the spotlight search that is now capable of searching your phone, the web, the App Store and iTunes among other places. The web results are powered by Bing. Tap on a result, and it opens in its’ associated application.
Swiping up from the bottom edge of the screen brings up the Control Center with quick toggle options for features like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, airplane mode and screen orientation lock. You can also quickly control brightness and any playing media and launch the camera, flashlight or the calculator. It is a nifty little interface and is Apple’s version of quick toggle functions usually available in the pull-down notification shade on Android interfaces. Moving from Android to the iPhone for the first time meant a lot of re-training myself about how iOS does it.
The only obviously missing feature in the notification center on iOS is a ‘Clear all’ option to dismiss all the notifications in one go. Instead, you have to dismiss individual notifications, or all the notifications from one app, all at once. The notification center also houses the Today tab, which shows information about activities that are concerned with… today. This involves weather, stocks, calendar and other such activities.
You can choose what is seen in this view and sequence the apps in order of your preference. Now, apps can optionally create widgets that can be seen in this section. The functionality enabled by these widgets, and their usefulness is hindered by the fact that their scope is just limited to the notification shade.
Given the bigger size of both the models of iPhone 6, Apple has introduced a feature of double tapping on the home button that pulls down the top half of the screen to the mid of the screen. With an apt and unimaginative name of ‘Reachability’, this feature Apple’s way of making the difficult to reach corner of the iPhone 6 plus slightly more reachable. The opposite corner of the interface may still be difficult to reach though. I haven’t found it to be very useful and rarely use it.
As usual, double pressing the home button brings up the recent apps carousel, with the option to quickly contact your recent five contacts via message, call or Facetime. You can also quickly switch apps or kill any previously used one by swiping it upwards.
The huge display of the iPhone places it squarely in the phablet territory, and with it there are some changes that come in OS behavior. Some of the apps take advantage of the big screen and present an iPad-like interface. The home screen can be used in a horizontal orientation as well. Amusingly, the home screen can have a completely reverse orientation as well. Though this is true for the home screen, it is not true for all apps. Some apps work in this reverse orientation, some do not. Not only is this reverse orientation unnecessary, its behavior is inconsistent. The way things work here – it is messy, and totally uncharacteristic of an Apple device experience. I see this reverse orientation fading away in future updates.
Though this is true for the home screen, it is not true for all apps. Some apps work in this reverse orientation, some do not. Not only is this reverse orientation unnecessary, its behavior is inconsistent. The way things work here – it is messy, and totally uncharacteristic of an Apple device experience. I see this reverse orientation fading away in future updates.
Display, Performance, and Battery Life
The 6 plus has a gorgeous 5.5 inch screen with a 1080p HD resolution which rounds up to 401 pixels per inch. The display itself plus is very nice, with colors appearing vibrant but not overly saturated. I had no problem using it in bright sunlight or even in darkness. The browsing experience is wonderful – the text looks sharp and it is a pleasure to read on the big screen.
Games run smoothly and look wonderful. Looking at the performance, you would be surprised to know that the phone has just 1 GB of RAM. Not that it depreciates the performance but does limit how many apps can be held in memory. As you use multiple apps, the data for the older ones is flushed from the memory and needs a fresh load. The other components are top-notch. The Dual-core 1.4 GHz A8 chipset with a 64-bit architecture and a quad-core graphics processor churn out performance to meet any of your demands.
The 6 plus comes with a massive 2915 milli ampere hour battery that lasts for over two days for me in a single charge. I spend most of my day on a Wi-Fi connection, but even with a lot of cellular network usage you should have a good percentage of battery left at the end of the day.
The camera on the iPhone has always been a prime feature, and the 6 plus maintains the tradition. It does one better than even the iPhone 6 by leveraging the extra available space to accommodate a physical Optical Image Stabilization module. It is super fast when it comes to taking photos. The interface is extremely simple and you can change modes just by swiping up and down.
The 6 plus comes with auto HDR for getting clearer, more detailed photos in difficult lighting conditions. The photos come out to be sharp and with very vibrant colors. The camera is just 8 mega pixel, which may seem less compared to some of the other flagship phones, but the photo quality is awesome.
Would I buy the iPhone 6 Plus?
Actually, I have bought it already. I have no regrets – but there are a few areas of improvement for the device, especially on the software side. True on-screen multi-tasking can be done on this phone, mainly due to its size. If that means taking a cue from the interface of the Note series of phones and the extreme use cases it supports, so be it.
There is a lot that Apple can do to take real advantage of the size of the 6 plus and I am quite excited to how it shapes up going ahead. Till then, I will keep a tight hold on the iPhone, and my fingers crossed against an accidental slip that can send my 6 Plus to a shattering death.