Editor’s note: This review is part of our series on the top 10 smartphones released this year. The series was designed to explore how business users can be productive with these devices, and how they can take advantage of the devices’ features during the workday.
Updated Oct. 20, 2014 at 2 pm. EST: This is Part 1 of our review on the Apple iPhone 6, focusing on the phone’s hardware and design.
To read part 2, which focuses on the phone’s camera hardware, head on over here.
And for part 3, which looks at the phone’s operating system, iOS 8, go here.
The iPhone 6 is the latest version of one of the most successful smartphones ever. As an Apple device it is, of course, a step above most other smartphones when it comes to its design, build-quality and attention to detail. The big difference this year is that the 6, with its 4.7-inch screen, is the first ‘big’ iPhone, after years of Apple resisting the trend of smartphone screen sizes increasing.
There is also a bigger iPhone 6 Plus with a 5.5-inch screen, but we are not looking at it today, though much of the information presented here is applicable to it too. Other than the screen size and resolution, the 6 Plus is basically the same as the iPhone 6.
This size upgrade is definitely in response to those users who jumped from the iPhone ship to a bigger screened Android phone. We are sure Apple is hoping they’ll return to the flock when they see the 6. While we think there are many former iPhone users who are now happier in the comparatively freer (but not necessarily greener) pastures of Android, we are sure many are now going to go back to iOS.
The iPhone 6 runs iOS 8, which is not as much of an upgrade as iOS 7 was from iOS 6, but still contains new features business user will appreciate. Also, while now no longer numerically the most popular mobile OS, iOS still commands the mindshare of both consumer and business application developers, so that the latest apps will still always be on iOS first.
The iPhone 6 is available on almost every major Canadian carrier, and we were able to test out the Rogers version for a few weeks. You can read on for our thoughts about Apple’s latest and greatest.
|IPHONE 6 SPECIFICATIONS|
|Screen||4.7-inch Retina HD IPS LCD @ 1334 x 750 (326 PPI)|
|SoC||1.4 GHz Apple A8 w/64-bit architecture, M8 motion co-processor|
|Storage||16/64/128 GB with NO expansion|
|Battery||1,810 mAh (non-removable)|
|Rear Camera||8 MP iSight camera w/ 1.5 μ pixel BSI Sony Exmor RS sensor with phase detection AF, f/2.2, 29 mm, dual-LED flash, 1080p 30/60 fps FHD video|
|Front Camera||1.2 MP Sony sensor, f/2.2, HDR, 720p HD video|
|LTE Bands||Cat 4 (up to 150 Mbps), Bands 1 (2100 MHz), 2 (1900 MHz), 3 (1800 MHz), 4 (1700 MHz), 5 (850 MHz), 7 (2600 MHz), 8 (900 MHz), 13 (700c MHz), 17 (700b MHz), 18 (800 MHz), 19 (800 MHz), 20 (800 DD), 25 (1900 MHz), 26 (800 MHz), 28 (Asia-Pacific 700 MHz), 29 (700 de MHz)|
|Connectivity||Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC (for Apple Pay use only), Lightning Connector|
|Build Materials & Colour||Aluminum, available in Space Grey, Silver and Gold.|
|Dimensions & Weight||138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 in),|
129 g (4.55 oz)
|OS||iOS 8.1 (phone tested running 8.0.2)|
|Carriers||Bell, Fido, Koodo, MTS, Rogers, SaskTel, Tbaytel, Telus, Videotron, Virgin Mobile|
(2-year term/outright or unlocked model)
|16 GB – $265/$750|
64 GB – $375/$860
128 GB – $485/$970
Hardware and design
Our first impression of the iPhone 6 when compared to the iPhone 5S is, of course, that it is a lot bigger. However, the 6’s 4.7-inch screen would still be considered on the small side when compared to today’s current Android flagships. The 6 still has the characteristic large lower-bezel with room for a home button, and Apple’s insistence on symmetry means the top bezel is equally large.
This makes its overall dimensions closer in size to Android phones with bigger screens like the Nexus 5, which is the same height. It is a little bit narrower though, making it easier to hold in one hand – 67 mm for the iPhone 6 vs. 69 mm for the Nexus. The iPhone 6 is also very thin at 6.9 mm, only bested by some super-thin Chinese market phones. Of course, the difference between the 6 and its competition is as low as under a millimetre, but it does feel more svelte than any other smartphone we’ve used.
This feeling is partially down to the fact that the iPhone 6’s design language has changed a fair amount compared to the 5S. The 6 takes many of its design cues from the iPad Air, so gone are the flat metal sides with beveled edges of the 5S. The iPhone 6’s edges are now rounded off like the iPad. Even the edge of the front glass has an attractive curve, and it feels great, especially when swiping from the edge of the screen. The 6 is still an all-metal phone and a very attractive one at that, with a lovely matte finish in one of the three colours it is available in. Unfortunately, there are some unsightly overly-thick plastic bands on the top and bottom of the back of the phone that separate the metal antennas from the rest of the chassis. We wish Apple had found a way to make them less noticeable.
The iPhone 6 has redesigned volume and power buttons on the left side, different from the circular ones of the 5S – they are longer and pill-shaped, and are slightly recessed. A similar shaped power button is on the right side, a change from the top position of the power button on previous generation iPhones, making the button easier to reach. The 6 still has the handy switch on the side that turns on silent-mode, something we wish other phones would incorporate.
Port-wise, the iPhone 6 has a headphone jack and Lightning connector on the bottom. Of course, being an iPhone, there is no microSD slot. The mono speaker is also located on the bottom of the phone.
On the audio front, call quality was excellent on the iPhone 6, with good clarity and volume. The iPhone 6’s mono speaker is also quite loud, but sounds a little thin, as is to be expected from its design. While its downward-facing position means that the speaker’s sound is not muffled when lying on a table (great for conference calls), your hand can still potentially block it when holding the 6 in landscape mode.
One feature the 6 is still missing is a notification light on the front, which means as before, when the phone is sleeping, you have no way of knowing if you have any waiting notifications unless you wake it and look at the screen.
The iPhone 6 (and 6 Plus) also lack any kind of element protection. It is not water-resistant or waterproof, unlike a growing number of its competitors, such as the Sony Xperia Z3 and Galaxy S5. This is probably because Apple does not think that it is worth compromising its design vision to add a feature that isn’t massively in demand.
Apple’s quest for thinness has led to some of the issues we have with the iPhone 6’s design. Around the back of the phone, the 8 megapixel (MP) camera module actually sticks out (you can see this in the image above). This definitely looks a little odd, and it means the phone doesn’t lie flat on the table. Luckily, the camera’s lens uses scratch-proof sapphire glass, protecting it from this bizarre design decision.
The thin chassis also means a smaller battery. While the 1,810 mAh battery is quite a bit bigger than that of the 5S, which is 1,440 mAh, it is a lot smaller than the larger cells found in competing Android phones.
And then of course, there’s the infamous “Bendgate” controversy. While it has not been proven the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are any less durable than their competitors, at the end of the day, if you apply enough pressure to a thin piece of metal, there is a chance it could bend. Therefore, we recommend that you take a little more care with the iPhone 6 when putting it in your pocket to minimize the chance that you could bend it. And of course, you could always get a decent protective case.
It’s not full HD, but it still has a bright and accurate screen
Despite most of the Android competition having 1080p screens on nearly all their flagship phones with 4.7-inch or bigger screens, Apple chose to reserve this full HD resolution for the 6 Plus. The iPhone 6 does have the same 16:9 aspect ratio screen as its predecessor. However, like the 5S, Apple’s Retina HD resolution of 1334 x 750 is a non-standard size. That works out to a PPI of 326, so yes, when compared side-by-side with its Android competition, most of which have 1080p screens, the iPhone 6 is visibly not as crisp.
For example, the 5-inch Nexus has a considerably higher PPI of 445. However, in day-to-day use, this lower resolution is not as noticeable. When compared to the iPhone 5S’ screen, the 6 has the same PPI, so the larger iPhone’s screen is just as crisp.
In every other area, its IPS LCD screen is superior to nearly every other smartphone’s screen apart from perhaps the Super AMOLED display of the Samsung Galaxy S5. The iPhone 6’s screen has a maximum brightness of 550 nits, which makes it one of the brightest on the market, and that brightness helps immensely with reading the phone outdoors.
The 6’s screen is also very colour accurate and has been measured to display a near-perfect 99 per cent of the sRGB Colour Gamut. You can read more about how good the iPhone 6’s screen is in this detailed report on DisplayMate.com.
For connectivity, the iPhone 6 works on 16 different LTE bands. This means for business users who travel a lot, the iPhone 6 is an ideal device, since it will support LTE connectivity all over the world. If you buy an unlocked iPhone from Apple, you’ll also be able to use local carrier SIM cards (or a service like Roam Mobility) to save on roaming fees.
The 6 supports LTE Band 7, which means it can connect to Rogers’ and Bell’s 2600 MHz network, which allows for up to 150 Mbps download speeds. Of course, in real-world conditions, you should expect to achieve no more than 75 Mbps. The iPhone 6 also supports VoLTE (Voice over LTE) for even better call quality, but as of now, no Canadian carriers support this feature.
Processing power and storage
To recap the iPhone 6’s internal specs from the chart above, the 6 is powered by the latest generation of Apple’s A-series system on a chip (SoC), the A8. It is still only a 1.4 gigahertz (GHz) dual-core chip, which on paper should be less powerful than the 2.5 GHz + quad-core chips found in its Android competition. However, in practice, its more efficient 64-bit architecture means that it easily outperforms them.
The iPhone 6 still only comes with 1 gigabyte (GB) of RAM, which seems too small. Some high-end Android phones now have 3 GB of RAM. Despite that, iOS and its applications are coded to work perfectly within the 1 GB memory constraint, so it has no impact on performance.
On the storage front, one bone of contention with the iPhone is that Apple has dropped the 32 GB model from the line-up — the iPhone 6 now comes in 16, 32 and 64 GB flavours. This one aspect is one of the biggest frustrations we have with the new iPhone, since in today’s world, a 16 GB device is just not big enough. The next size up is 64 GB with a corresponding $110 price increase.
Apple really should have made the base model have 32 GB of storage and sell it for the current price of the 16 GB. As it stands, the lack of a 32 GB model seems purely to be a cash grab to ensure that most users will want to buy one of the more expensive higher-margin models.
|iPhone 6||iPhone 5S||Galaxy S5||Nexus 5|
|Overall System: Basemark OS II||1,264||995||1,086||1,170|
|CPU: Geekbench 3 Pro Multi-Core||2,888||2,570||2,942||2,863|
3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited
GFX Bench 3.0 Manhattan Offscreen
|17.7 fps||13 fps||11 fps||9.2 fps|
As you can see from the chart above, the iPhone 6’s A8 SoC allows it to outperform every other smartphone currently available. Even though it is only dual-core and runs at 1.4 GHz, it is simply a more efficient 64-bit design than the higher frequencies quad-core chips Android phones use. Only the Galaxy S5 can best it in a few tests, but in real-world performance, the iPhone 6 simply feels faster and snappier than any other phone we’ve tested. It is also around 20 per cent faster than the A7-powered iPhone 5S, which matches up to Apple’s performance improvement claims.
At its launch event, Apple claimed that the iPhone 6 would have comparable or better battery life than the 5S, despite its bigger, high-resolution screen and faster SoC. During our time with the iPhone 6 it did live up to Apple’s claims and we were able to get slightly better battery of life than the iPhone 5S. On average, we got around 10 hours of use from the phone, or a business day’s worth, but you’ll always be reaching for your charger by the early evening. If you push the phone further by doing more intensive tasks like using the camera a lot, or playing some games, that life will drop substantially.
Perhaps if Apple had willing to make the iPhone 6 just a few mm thicker, the company could have included a larger battery. Even a few hundred mAh more would add hours of extra run time. We guess Apple’s strategy is for you to move to the bigger iPhone 6 Plus if you want more run time.
The Touch ID fingerprint scanner and Apple Pay
Touch ID was first introduced on the iPhone 5S, and and is a biometric fingerprint scanner located under the home button of the iPhone. Unlike fingerprint readers found on notebooks and other phones, the Touch ID scanner does not work by having you swipe your finger across a small sensor. On the iPhone 6, like the iPhone 5S, the home button is covered in scratch-resistant sapphire crystal and when you hold your chosen finger to it, a sensor reads your fingerprint. Because of this method of reading your finger, logging into the iPhone 6 with Touch ID is a lot easier than the awkward swiping method used on other phones like the Galaxy S5.
When compared to the iPhone 5S, Touch ID now works better on the iPhone 6, being a lot less likely to misread your finger. It also now seems more tolerant reading your finger or thumb from multiple angles, so you do not have remember to hold it in exactly the same position every time.
At its most basic level, Touch ID can be used to log in to the iPhone, iTunes, and the App Store instead of using a PIN or password. Once you have it set up, Touch ID is a faster and more secure way to login into your phone. In fact, sometimes it works too well. To wake and login into the phone, you just push the home button then hold your finger on it, and it scans and logs you in almost instantly. However, we found that at times when taking the phone out of a pocket, that we pressed the home button with our thumb when grabbing onto it and logged in before we even got the phone out.
Of course, the other big use case for Touch ID is for authentication, when using Apple’s Apple Pay mobile payment solution, which also leverages the new near field communication (NFC) chip in the iPhone 6. Unfortunately, while Apple Pay is launching on Oct. 20 in the U.S. with the update to iOS 8.1, it is not going to be available to Canadians yet. While there’s no official word as to when it’ll land in Canada, we can expect it sometime in 2015.
For part 2 of this review, which focuses on the iPhone 6’s camera, head on over here.
For part 3, which looks at iOS 8 on the iPhone 6, head here.