Since 6 equals the sum of its proper divisors, 6 is the smallest perfect number. It may be no coincidence that the Apple iPhone 6 comes closest to the most perfect smartphone that I have used to date.  The sum of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, are far more than the individual parts. The iPhone 6 is not perfect, by any means, and it may not be everyone’s perfect phone. The question that everybody does ask, apart from do they bend, is which iPhone should they get, the 4.7” Apple iPhone 6 or the 5.5” Apple iPhone 6 Plus? Steven Ambrose spent three quality weeks with both phones trying to decide.

As the specs and technical details have been endlessly pored over by the tech press all over the globe, I don’t intent, in this review, to go into all the technical details. I will focus on the overall user experience and the similarities and differences between the two iPhone 6 models.

Smart Phones today are all rather irritatingly similar, large screens, with small to minimal surrounds, combined with plastic or metal frames. Overall fit and finish is now uniformly really good, and the internal specs could be a cut and paste from each other’s specification sheets.

How do you choose your next device? The world of mobile seems to have merged into two camps, those that favour Android and that ecosystem, pretty much dominated by Samsung; and those that favour iOS and Apple’s vison of a mobile future. There are other choices such as Microsoft’s Windows Phones and Blackberry’s latest offerings, these last two however are distant third and forth in the smartphone wars.

Android devices have come a huge way in the past two years. Android has matured and with the immanent release of Android 5 Lollipop, looks even more polished. Samsung, Sony, HTC, and LG, have done an amazing job of high tech mobile devices that are technically cutting edge and eminently usable, along with thousands of other manufacturers at all price points that do a very credible job.

This is however a review of the high end flagship, the Apple iPhone 6. In my opinion the new Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are the beginning of another sea change in the mobile connected universe. The size of the screen that was effectively used as a clear differentiator by Apples competitor, is no more. Apple delayed moving into the large screen universe for many years and their competitors convincingly blazed that trail,no longer. The modern smartphone screen is now around 5” with many reaching closer to 6” with the so called phablet. Apples iPhone range now fills at these niches.

iPhone 6 Trio

Apple lovers now have a choice of screen size, from 4” all the way to 5.5” all running Apple iOS, considered by most to be the most polished, user friendly operating system available in mobile today. iOS is now in its 8th incarnation and is intuitive and very easy to use. Many technology enthusiasts will immediately point out iOS 8’s obvious down side, the lack of openness and customisability.

Most people just want their phones to work, they don’t download endless apps, or customise their lock screen, home screen, and other screens, along with tweaking the processor speed and other arcane practises. The vast majority just want to get on with business. This is where iOS does a sterling job. iOS apps are often the most polished , best looking and most versatile apps available. The ecosystem is hugely comprehensive and although it’s changing, most apps come out first on the iOS platform.

What this means in reality, is that Apple users are more productive, faster. They spend less time fiddling around with their devices and more time doing what they wanted to do in the first place. That is why I keep coming back to iOS and my iPhone. The iPhone 5 was getting a bit slow, especially in comparison the Samsung Galaxy S5, HTC ONE M8 and the LG G3. The screen was positively pokey compared to these phones. The iPhone 6 changes all that.

The Apple iPhone 6 is marginally physically bigger than the iPhone 5, in both height and width, but is significantly thinner. The overall profile is round and smooth, with the screen curving down to meet the back, which is fully aluminium. I do not believe anyone who liked the iPhone 5 from a size perspective, will have any issue adapting to the iPhone 6. After a few days of use there is no way to go back to a 4” screen.

The new A8 processor is unbelievably fast and the iPhone 6 is much faster and smoother than the iPhone 5. Apps open instantly and even hard core games load fast and play seamlessly. The other standout features of the iPhone 6 is the camera. The iPhone 6 camera is exceptional, both in bright and low light conditions. There are sharper higher resolution smartphone cameras out there. Despite this I found that the iPhone 6 camera consistently took better pictures faster than almost any other phone I have used. The camera app is simple and powerful.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are extremely well built and put together and feel light and very comfortable in your hand. Apple have executed the construction in their typically excellent way. The only criticism is that the new iPhones don’t look particularly distinctive. I am not sure if that is a criticism or an observation as I cannot think of another way to present a large flat touchscreen phone. The new ion hardened screen does appears to shrug off minor scratches and scuffs. And the all-aluminium case is smooth and solid. I do recommend that you get a case in any event.

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus is identical in all respects to the iPhone 6 with two notable exceptions. The first is size. The iPhone 6 Plus has a huge 5.5” screen and combined with the classic Apple iPhone home button makes this a two handed phablet. Using the iPhone 6 plus one handed is a challenge and even with the clever double tap on the home button to bring the screen halfway down the phone, it remains best with two hands. Another significant improvement is the battery life, with one and a half days full use out of the iPhone 6 Plus. The iPhone 6 is about 25% better than the iPhone 5.

The other stand-out feature of the 6 Plus is the camera. The iPhone 6 Plus has OIS or optical image stabilisation. The sensor is the same as the iPhone 6. The addition of OIS takes a great camera and makes it even better. Pictures are noticeable better in low light and overall action pictures are sharper.

iOS 8 is the best version of iOS to date. Apple have opened up the platform and you can now use Swiftkey Keyboard to replace the one that comes with iOS8. There are far too many changes in iOS8 to mention in this review, however the iPhone 6 now has Apple Pay via NFC, though this will only work in the USA for now. Other key changes are the ability for apps to communicate with each other and the notification system has been improved with actions from the lock screen and live widgets.

Many Android enthusiast will correctly point out that these features are standard in Android and have been for a while. This is true but the Apple implementation is less fussy and with the careful attention to ecosystems that work with each new feature, such as Apple Pay, iOS may prove more successful than Android in taking these features mainstream. One area which iOS is clearly lacking compared to Android is the way notifications are presented and interacted with. You get used to the iOS way but I miss the Android notification system.

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus size was a challenge when I first started using it, but as time has passed I have become more and more used to the size. I love the camera, and the sheer screen real estate. I have also become used to the size and bulk and find the iPhone 6 a bit small in comparison.

iPhone 6 iPhone 6 Plus

 

In conclusion the new iPhones are a huge upgrade on the previous models. They are faster, smoother, with better bigger screens, cameras, and most importantly batteries. The Operating system iOS 8 is integrated, intuitive and the apps, as well as the ecosystem surrounding the apps, are very hard to beat.

Android continues to develop along with flagship devices from many top companies. The choice of ecosystem is not nearly as clear-cut as it once was. On balance, with iOS and the iPhone 6, the sum of the parts adds up to far more than the parts themselves. The new iPhones get much more right in a more consistent way than other devices on a hardware level and combined with the Apple App ecosystem and emerging platforms, such as Apple Pay, Apple Home, and the Health app and ecosystem, makes the iPhone the device to once again beat.

The choice is now up to you, a smaller sleeker Apple iPhone 6, or a larger screened Apple iPhone 6 plus. I am leaning more and more toward the 6 Plus. Both are exceptional at what they do, and compete head on with any other smartphone currently on the market. As always, try before you buy.

The new Apple iPhones are available from all the mobile operators and iStores in South African on various packages. The cash prices, range from R11 799 for the iPhone 6 16GB, to an eye watering R15 799 for the iPhone 6 Plus 128GB.

Steven Ambrose


 

UPDATE: We tweeted this article saying it was the first reviews iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in South Africa. It turns out we were beaten to the punch by André Schild from ITWeb! Here are his reviews: ITWeb’s iPhone 6 review: http://goo.gl/3H2Ddk – ITWeb’s iPhone 6 Plus review: http://goo.gl/OLNn1F

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