Bigger than better?

A slightly belated iPhone 6 Plus review




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The iPhone 6 Plus is a jumbo, comically huge smartphone. If Apple’s product portfolio were a clown outfit, the iPhone 6 Plus would be the bright red, obnoxious oversized shoes. It doesn’t fit in some front pockets, it sticks out of nearly everyone’s back pockets, and people will notice it and it will illicit reactions, at least while it’s still new and kind of foreign looking.

In fact, I would say that the iPhone 6 Plus is larger than I expected. I’m even one of those guys who went ahead and made scale paper cutouts of each size iPhone 6. It’s certainly a larger smartphone than I ever expected to own, and the size did come as a bit of a shock at first. But once you get past the sheer largeness of the 6 Plus, you can begin to evaluate it on better merits- ones not impeded by the initial “oh my God this is ridiculously large”. After a couple of weeks with the iPhone 6 Plus, I think I have enough familiarity to say some things with certainty. This is the official Haverzine iPhone 6 Plus review.

Read more to hear my take on Apple’s ginormous, huge iPhone 6 Plus.

While every iPhone since the 2010 iPhone 4 has featured a design with sharp, chamfered edges, the iPhone 6 series eschews this aesthetic for rounded sides. This is much more reminiscent to the original iPhone, complete with long “pill” shaped volume buttons and an aluminum back – though without the black plastic strip of the original. The new design language looks amazing, making the last couple of iPhones seem instantly dated by comparison. But like many things we’ll find in the iPhone 6 Plus, this is a compromise. The smooth, rounded sides may look amazing and feel impressive, which is highlighted by the way the glass seamlessly melts into the back aluminum of the phone, the new aesthetic does make the iPhone 6 series slippery to hold. This is especially apparent in the iPhone 6 Plus, where the sheer size and top-heavy nature of this phone makes holding it all the more difficult. I usually prefer using my iPhones without a case (although my klutzy nature has led to some disasters), but the iPhone 6 Plus really does feel best when paired with a case. I myself use a silicone Apple brand case to avoid dropping incidences, and paired with that, it feels really fantastic.

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The drawback to this is that you’re stuck hiding the potential beauty of your new iPhone behind a case. But then, maybe there are a few of you who might actually prefer that. While iPhones have traditionally been compared to works of art, the iPhone 6 series’ new design has garnered a more mixed reaction. Most of the criticism seems to be pointed at the iPhone 6’s “seams”, which are breaks in the aluminum body to allow for better cellular reception. While these seams fit into the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5, they do look somewhat of place on the iPhone 6, mostly because of their significant lighter color when compared to the rest of the body (this appears least pronounced on the Silver model). Apple could have solved this problem by filling the top and bottom parts of the back with glass, like they did on the iPhone 5 series, which may have looked better. I don’t really see this as a big deal; I would never describe the iPhone 6 Plus as ugly, I would just say that it’s not quite so beautiful – still a significant departure for Apple.

Then there’s that other controversy – you know the one. Let’s call it camera-bulge-gate. Yes, the iPhone 6 series’ camera bulges out of the back of the phone. Yes, it is annoying, and yes it does make using the iPhone flat on the table a bit more difficult. But this too is a compromise. The iPhone 6 Plus is incredibly thin, to the point where it’s almost hard to believe that there is an entire, powerful computer in there. But to achieve that thinness, Apple had three choices when it came to the camera. It could have sacrificed camera performance and made the camera sit flush with the iPhone – which, let’s be honest, would have satisfied no one. It could have made the iPhone’s body a bit thicker, which would have been an acceptable but not very Apple-like solution (it would have also added some bulk to the already large iPhone 6 Plus). Or, it could have included a vastly improved camera and made it bulge out of the body a little bit. Apple chose the last option. It wasn’t an easy choice, and I’m not sure if they made the right one. But the camera bulge isn’t horrible, and I’ve found that with a case on it’s a non-issue.

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Speaking of the camera (did someone say segway?), the 8-megapixel shooter on the iPhone 6 Plus is stunning. While some may lament that Apple has yet to upgrade into the double-digits when it comes to image resolution, every pixel on images captured by the iPhone 6 Plus is fantastic under “normal” operating conditions. Normal conditions mean dawn-to-dusk lighting or good artificial light, which isn’t always attainable. Once you start to loose that light source, the iPhone 6 Plus’s camera begins to struggle. The iPhone has not managed to completely get a hold on capturing photos in low-light conditions and that continues with the iPhone 6 Plus. Still, the iPhone 6 Plus’s camera is a marked improvement over the camera in the iPhone 5s in every way. Optical image stabilization, which is only found in the 6 Plus, is a nice benefit too – but without seeing photos snapped side to side by both a 6 and 6 Plus, it’s hard to get a good idea of how much it actually helps. For that, let me direct you to Austin Mann’s extraordinary review, “iPhone 6 Plus Camera Review: Iceland.” Definitely check out his mini-documentary, too. It’s a must watch.

Software wise, using the iPhone 6 Plus feels… well, like using any iPhone. Some people described the sensation that owning an iPad mini feels less “necessary” (as necessary as owning an iPad ever was) when they have an iPhone Plus. I can’t say that I completely agree with them. Applications do have more room to play with once they’ve been updated to the iPhone 6 Plus’s giant display resolution of 2208 x 1242. That’s nice, and it allows for some cool tricks – like some applications switching to an iPad UX when used in portrait mode, such as Mail, Safari, and even the home screen – but at the end of the day, it’s still not big enough to feel entirely immersive in the way that the iPad is. In short, using the iPhone 6 Plus still feels like a cell phone and the iPad and iPad mini both feel like using a computer. And on the topic of updated software design, if Apple or anyone else tells you that apps designed specifically for the iPhone 5 series form factor all look fine without update on the iPhone 6 Plus, do not believe them. Because that’s untrue and those apps look unquestionably terrible.

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With all these new software updates and design tweaks comes a few downsides, however. iOS 8 on the iPhone 6 Plus feels buggy- really buggy. It’s buggy in a way that iOS releases of years gone by haven’t been. UI elements sometimes get stuck while rotating the device, so I’ve been caught using my iPhone in landscape with some elements of the design “stuck” in Portrait mode, for lack of a better way of saying it, with the only fix being force closing the application and reopening it. And because the iPhone 6 Plus has a smaller bezel than previous iPhones, Apple has enabled accidental edge touch detection for the first time on the iPhone. This has been used for the last couple of years with the iPad minis and the iPad Air, and it works – but it also has the unfortunate side effect of causing the iPhone to ignore intended edge touches as well. So, sure, it stops a few accidental swipes and taps, but it also makes pulling up Control Center and down Notification Center that much more difficult, requiring you perform those swipes very deliberately and often more than once.

Using the iPhone 6 Plus is a lot like eating a pepperoni pizza when you’ve always eaten cheese. It’s still pizza; it’s just got a slightly different taste to it – just like the iPhone 6 Plus is still an iPhone, just with a slightly different feel. It’s bigger, and it has some design quirks, but there’s nothing you’ll need to relearn or figure out. If you’ve ever used an iPhone, you know exactly what you’re getting with the iPhone 6 Plus. It’s just another iPhone. Only bigger and, unfortunately for now, maybe a little bit buggier.

Bridget O’Brien contributed to this review.