Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review: Is Bigger Better?

Design and Hardware

Compared to prior iPhones, the 6 Plus is certifiably huge. It’s tall and it’s wide, but it’s also thin. If Apple pushes things much thinner, it’s going to have to figure out an alternative to the standard 3.5mm headphone jack. Compared to other phablets, the 6 Plus is pretty average in terms of overall size, but it is somewhat taller than most due to its larger top and bottom bezels. In other words, those moving over from a large-screen Android or Windows Phone device will likely feel right at home. Those moving up from a prior iPhone will definitely feel the difference. While the size is not unmanageable by any means, it’s a very different vibe versus previous-gen iPhones. Notably, one-handed usage is impractical. While it’s technically possible if you have larger-than-average hands, most users will need to cradle the 6 Plus with both hands to ensure that you retain a grip on it while in use. (To address this, Apple added a nifty software feature that we’ll touch on in the pages ahead.)

The 6 Plus feels quite light, although sturdy, given its form factor. Apple has historically nailed the balance between creating a phone that’s heavy enough to feel substantial, but lighter than the competition. As you’ve probably noticed from photos, the design has been overhauled as well. The iPhone 6 Plus looks more like the iPad mini and less like the iPhone 5s it replaces, with curved edges and a power button that has been yanked from the top and relocated to the side. Some would argue that the new iPhone looks less distinct (and in fact, actually looks similar to the Galaxy Note from Samsung). That said, the new design seems to harken back to the curved nature of the original iPhone from 2007, and all told, we’re fans of the new build. It’s rigid, sleek, and understated.

Of course, we must talk about the display--It’s huge, and it’s gorgeous. There’s a 1080p IPS panel that has curved edges to lead into the chassis surrounding it, and it is truly a sight to behold. Individual pixels are imperceptible, colors are tack-sharp, and its perfectly suited for content consumption. It’s a shame that Apple’s supply chain couldn’t pump out a sapphire display in time for shipment, but that aside, it’s still a market-leading panel.

Around the edges, you’ll find a clean top, a power switch and nanoSIM card slot on the right, a Lightning connector and 3.5mm headphone port on the bottom, and the volume rockers + mute switch on the left. Per usual, there’s just a single hardware button on the entire front, and that’s the TouchID home button. As with the iPhone 5s, this enables your fingerprint to unlock the phone, make purchases in the iTunes store, and new for iOS 8, authenticate third-party applications as well.

Internally, there’s a new 1.4GHz A8 processor paired with a more advanced M8 motion co-processor. Apple also threw in a barometer. We’ll touch more on the camera in a dedicated section, but it’s important to note that one of the key differentiating factors between the 6 Plus and the standard 6 is the addition of OIS (optical image stabilization). That enables the 6 Plus to take sharper photos with less blur when capturing things without a tripod and in dim lighting.

The other major hardware addition here is the embedded NFC module. While we bemoaned the lack of NFC in the iPhone 5s, Apple has finally come around to the fact that people do indeed want to ditch their physical wallet and pay for things using just their phone. Rather than hitching their wagon to an existing platform, Apple has engineered one of its own: Apple Pay. It works like every other tap-to-pay system already available to Android and Windows Phone users, but Apple’s proprietary terminals won’t be in stores until early next year. So, those buying a 6 or 6 Plus to pay for goods will sadly see their NFC chip go unused until the infrastructure is in place. The good news is that most major banks, credit cards, and large merchants are onboard, and Apple seems to have a great deal of pull when it comes to wrangling support for major initiatives. No other company or consortium has managed to corral mainstream support for a touch-to-pay solution, so perhaps it’ll be Apple that finally lands a sufficient amount of traction.

One quirk in the handling: you may have to scout new pants if you like to carry your phone in a pocket. Of course, existing phablet users won’t be surprised to hear that, but the truth is that some pants do not have pockets deep enough to swallow the entire iPhone 6 Plus. Beyond that, there have been a few reports of users sitting on their phones (which were camped out in a rear pocket) and cracking the display. With such a large device, that's also so thin, it’s easier to bend (and break) the panel, so be extra cautious. More so than with any other iPhone, we’d recommend a case of some sort with the iPhone 6 Plus.

Another odd decision was Apple's inclusion of just 16GB of internal storage for the base iPhone 6 Plus. That's a surprisingly meager amount of storage for such a pricey device, and we feel that 32GB really should be the minimum. For those looking to upgrade, a 64GB model can be had for an extra $100, while a 128GB model is an extra $200 over the base. Finally, we found ourselves yearning for a waterproof chassis. Samsung and Sony have already figured this out, so why not Apple? It's a missed opportunity, though we suspect the number of users taking underwater shots with their smartphones is quite small.

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