Apple’s latest iPhones are its fastest-selling smartphones to date — and there’s a great reason for that. They’re not only substantially bigger than all of their predecessors; they’re also better in almost every way. After using an iPhone 6 Plus for the past six months, I still think it’s one of the best smartphones money can buy.
But just like any other smartphone, the 6 Plus isn’t without its flaws. In this review, I’ll describe how I’ve lived with those, and why the 6 Plus continues to be the smartphone I carry most of the time.
While Steve Jobs may have hated the idea of super-sized smartphones, Apple had no choice but to make the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus much bigger. Users were fast switching to larger Android devices, and this was the only way to break that trend. And we’re glad it finally did.
There’s no denying the 6 Plus takes some getting used to — especially if you’re upgrading from an older iPhone. I was using an HTC One M8 with a 5-inch screen before I got mine, and yet it still felt huge when I first pulled it out of its box and slipped it into my pocket.
It only takes a couple of days to adjust to its size, however, and you soon start to appreciate that 5.5-inch Retina HD display. But as gorgeous as the 6 Plus is, the vast majority will want to keep theirs in a sturdy case most of the time.
This is an incredibly slippy phone, thanks to its slim and sleek aluminum form factor — and that makes it incredibly easy to drop — especially at 172 grams, which is almost 50 grams heavier than the iPhone 6, and exactly 60 grams heavier than the iPhone 5s.
I dropped my 6 Plus after two days of using it. I was pulling it out of my pocket to answer a call and it slipped right out of my fingers onto the floor. Fortunately, I was in a carpeted room and there was no damage, but I’ve been using a case almost every day ever since.
The case also eliminates one of my biggest complaints about the 6 Plus — and the iPhone 6, for that matter — which is its protruding camera. I understand why it had to stick out, and that a thinner camera module wouldn’t have been as good. But that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
I’m also not keen on its big bezels.
Rival smartphone makers like LG have managed to make 5.5-inch smartphones that are much more compact than the 6 Plus by reducing the bezels around the display as much as possible. The 6 Plus is bigger than the G3 in almost every way (except thickness), and only slightly narrower than the Galaxy Note 4, which has a larger 5.7-inch display.
I have no complaints about the rest of the 6 Plus’s design, though. Even with the gorgeous Galaxy S6 on the way, I still think the 6 Plus is the prettiest smartphone on the market right now — for lots of reasons.
At just 7.1mm, it’s crazy thin. It has beautifully rounded edges that wrap around to seamlessly meet its rounded display as if the two were all one piece. And if you do use it without a case, it’ll nestle comfortably in your palm like the old iPhone 3G or iPhone 3GS.
For a while many of us expected the iPhone 6 to look exactly like the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s, but with a larger display — and that’s exactly what I hoped it would be. After all, they were incredibly attractive devices.
But I don’t think their sharp edges would have suited a device as big as the 6 Plus.
The Retina HD display on the 6 Plus is the biggest and sharpest smartphone display Apple has made to date, and it’s absolutely stunning. Of course, it doesn’t have as many pixels as the Quad HD displays we’re seeing on other devices these days, but that doesn’t matter.
The 6 Plus has the best 1080p smartphone display I’ve ever used, and over past few years, I’ve used a lot, having owned devices from HTC, LG, Samsung, Motorola, and OnePlus. It’s incredibly bright and vibrant, and it has excellent color accuracy, which makes everything from playing games to watching movies a real treat.
Because that Retina HD display is laminated, it is impressively thin. When you put your finger against the glass, it almost feels like you’re touching the actual LCD panel — like there’s nothing between you and the pixels. Bright icons almost look like they’re popping out of the screen.
This also means the 6 Plus is great outdoors; you can snap photos and videos, read text messages and emails, and more under the sun and you’ll have no problem seeing any of it.
Don’t listen to those who criticize Apple for not giving the 6 Plus a Quad HD display, then, because it doesn’t need one. It’s perfectly good without one.
When I first began using the 6 Plus, it replaced my iPad almost entirely. I found its 5.5-inch display to be ideal for reading, playing games, browsing the web, and even catching up on my favorite TV shows. Six months on, that hasn’t changed much.
I still use my 6 Plus for tasks I used to use an iPad for. If I’m sat watching TV and I want to browse the web or check Twitter, the screen in my pocket is now big enough for those tasks, whereas the 4-inch iPhone 5s was just too small, and I ended up reaching for my iPad instead.
One of the great things about the 6 Plus’s display is that developers are taking advantage of its size with optimized landscape views. In Apple’s own Mail and Messages apps, for instance, you get to see your inbox while you’re reading a message.
Little things like this make the 6 Plus even better for being productive when you’re on the go.
There is one, albeit minor, downside to the 6 Plus’s display, however: even after six months on the market, there are still lots of iOS apps that aren’t yet optimized for it, which means they’re blown up and look strangely out of proportion.
Most iOS developers have been working to fix this, and you’ll find all of the big names are on top of it. But it is still a problem with a number of apps.
The specifications packed into the 6 Plus make it more than just a phone. It’s powered by Apple’s new A8 processor — its second chip built on desktop-class 64-bit architecture — and no matter what you throw at it, it’ll take it all in its stride.
Not only is general performance incredibly smooth, but the 6 Plus loads apps in a snap.
Take the camera, for example — which is one of the things you need to be fast; it’s ready to take a picture within 2 seconds of tapping its icon, which means you can grab your shot — or several of them using burst mode — before you miss the action.
The 6 Plus also plays the latest high-end games and streams HD video without so much as a stutter, and apps that are now optimized for its A8 chip tend to be noticeably snappier on the 6 Plus than they are on the iPhone 5s. Premium games also look better.
The 6 Plus also boots up several seconds faster than its predecessors, and loads apps and games slightly quicker. However, the difference in performance isn’t that significant unless you play a lot of high-end games.
Common apps like Twitter, Facebook, Messages, and even Camera usually load just as fast on the iPhone 5s as they do on the 6 Plus. With that said, if you’re only interested in performance, and the bigger screens and better cameras aren’t important, you probably don’t need to upgrade yet.
In comparison with the Galaxy Note 4, the 6 Plus tends to be smoother and snappier overall, which I blame on Samsung’s TouchWiz user interface, which is notoriously sluggish.
Once the Note 4 has booted apps and games, it has no problems running them on its quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor. But initial loading times for things like games and the camera app are slower than the 6 Plus, as is switching between apps and even getting around the OS.
I’ve also found connectivity and networking to be excellent on the 6 Plus. I can’t remember the last time I had a dropped call, and my 6 Plus is capable of reaching roughly the same Wi-Fi speeds — if not greater — than my Mac and a Galaxy Note 4 on my home network.
You may run into some issues when multitasking, however. While the 6 Plus can switch apps quickly, you may notice that they often need to be reloaded before you can use them. A similar thing happens when you switch between multiple tabs in Safari or Chrome.
That’s not the processor’s fault; that’s because the 6 Plus — just like the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 5s — has just 1GB of RAM.
iOS has long been great at managing just 1GB of RAM, and for years, it hasn’t been too much of a problem. But with iOS software advancing all the time, it is now noticeable — at least for heavy users.
Apple did provide 2GB of RAM with the iPad Air 2, however, so perhaps the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus will get a RAM upgrade later this year.
For me, battery life is the biggest reason to choose a 6 Plus over the regular iPhone 6 — and any other smartphone, for that matter. It really is outstanding.
When the new iPhones launched last September, I pre-ordered both. I couldn’t decide which one I wanted, so I thought I’d try them for a week each and return the one I didn’t want. More than anything else, it was battery life that made me decide the 6 Plus was my favorite.
My 6 Plus never dies on me before the end of the day — no matter how much I use it. That’s not an exaggeration. Even if I’m addicted to a game and play it a lot, or watch a lot of Netflix or YouTube, I can get at least a day’s use out of it.
If I don’t use it heavily, I’ll get more than a day. In fact, I often charge my 6 Plus every other night, rather than every night like previous iPhones — or the many Androids I’ve used.
When it’s in standby, the 6 Plus uses hardly any power. I tend to have Do Not Disturb turn on automatically from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m., so I don’t get any notifications through the night, but it rarely uses my than 1 or 2 percent battery while I’m sleeping.
Apple has long been producing terrific smartphone cameras, and it only gets better with the 6 Plus. The Cupertino company decided to stick with an 8-megapixel sensor again this year, but it has made improvements to it again that make it one of the best smartphone cameras on the market.
I’ve used — for at least two weeks — almost every flagship device released in 2014 (with the exception of those running Windows Phone), including the HTC One M8, the Galaxy S5 and Note 4, the Motorola Moto X, the OnePlus One, and the LG G3. Not one of them takes pictures as good as the 6 Plus.
Photos taken on the iPhone are incredibly clear and crisp, and they boast beautiful colors without being over-saturated. 1080p video looks just as good, and it’s smoother than ever thanks to optical image stabilization.
I’ve included some sample shots taken on the 6 Plus in the gallery below, which show what it’s capable of in different situations. Bear in mind that none of these have been edited, but they have been resized.
It’s not just the photos themselves that are great; it’s the software, too. I can snap a photo on my iPhone in a few seconds, and thanks to its fast shutter speed, I can capture moving objects with good results. Other phones don’t allow me to do that.
iOS 8’s Extensions means that editing photos is also much-improved, with the ability to apply effects from third-party apps right inside the built-in Photos app. Here’s a few more samples that have been edited.
The camera is one of the things I miss most about my iPhone when I switch over to Android. I love Android itself, but I take a lot of pictures with my phone, and they never look as good when I’m not using an iPhone.
The other thing I miss when I switch is Touch ID. It makes securing your iPhone so much easier, and with the 6 Plus, it’s more reliable than ever. When Touch ID made its debut last year, I had to reset my fingerprint every few months because it would stop recognizing it.
But with my 6 Plus, I’m still using the same one I set up back in September. There’s no good reason not to use Touch ID now — especially now that is supports third-party apps, too.
It’s impossible to talk about the 6 Plus these days without mentioning “bendgate” — it’s the first thing non-iPhone users ask about when they notice you’re using a 6 Plus. But I haven’t had any bending issues with my device in six months.
While I do keep it in a case most of the time, there have been plenty of days when I’ve used it without one — and kept the device in the front pocket of my jeans. And yet, it’s still as flat today as it was when I bought it. So long as you don’t sit on it, you will be fine.
I’ve also read reports about iPhone 6 and 6 Plus displays scratching easily, and again, I’ve not experience this problem at all.
I’ve never used a screen protector on my 6 Plus — or my iPhone 5 and 5s, either, in fact — and I don’t have a single scratch on the glass. Apple uses super strong Gorilla Glass, so unless you intend to scratch it, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Of course, if you’re worried, you can always apply a screen protector, which can be picked up on eBay these days for less than a dollar.
For a short time, I felt like I was missing out when I used an iPhone. The tiny, 4-inch display on the iPhone 5s became more and more frustrating, and for about six months before the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus made their debut, I used Android exclusively.
But that’s no longer the case. I almost always use my 6 Plus now unless I’m reviewing another device, and when I do, I feel like I’m using one of the best smartphones money can buy. It has it all — great looks, excellent software, and terrific specifications.
After six months of use, I have no reservations about recommending this device to anybody; you just cannot be disappointed by it. And if you’re an ex-iPhone user who switched for a bigger display, it’s time to switch back.