Introduction

Apple caved to market pressure and created a phablet. This may sound as blasphemy but it's not the first time Cupertino is seen reacting to rivals getting too confident, too aggressive - too close for comfort. The first iPad mini had to respond back in its time to the rise of the compact Android tablets. That was different though - and not in a way perhaps that Apple will like.

The iPad mini was very much in a league of its own, by virtue of its screen size and aspect ratio. The phablet, on the other hand, is dragged into a tougher game away from home. For the first time, Apple is playing by someone else's rules. They're in it to win though. Second year in a row, users will be choosing from a pair, but this time it's a pair that doesn't have a straightforward first choice this time around. It's an iPhone and a bigger - better? - version of it.

The iPhone 6 Plus marks the biggest leap in iPhones since the iPhone 4 and will have implications for the iPads as well. With a large 5.5" screen to straddle the difference between the iPhone and the iPad Air.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Apple iPhone 6 Plus official images

Apple abandoned scaling the original 320 x 480 resolution by various factors and jumped to an industry standard of 1080p. This means that for the first time the iPhone can show FullHD video at 1:1 and also represents the first jump in pixel density since the iPhone 4 (even the smaller iPhone 6 is still at 326ppi).

The screen is the defining feature of the iPhone 6 Plus but another important update is the addition of Optical Image Stabilization to the camera, which has otherwise only seen iterative updates for the last four years.

Key features:

  • Metal unibody, 7.1mm slim, 172g of weight
  • LTE connectivity (Cat. 5, 150Mbps downlink)
  • 5.5" 1,080 x 1,920 LED-backlit IPS LCD with 401 ppi pixel density
  • Apple iOS 8; iPad-like split-screen functionality
  • Dual-core 1.4 GHz Apple A8 chipset, M8 motion co-processor, PowerVR GX6450 GPU, 1GB of RAM
  • 8MP F/2.2 camera with True tone LED flash, Optical Image Stabilization, phase detection auto focus, 1080p@30fps and @60fps video recording, 720p@120fps and 240fps video recording, 1.2MP F/2.2 front-facing camera with BSI sensor and HDR mode.
  • 16/64/128GB of built-in storage
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor built into the Home button
  • 2,915mAh battery

Main disadvantages:

  • Hard to use single-handedly, unimpressive screen to body ratio (6" Androids fit in the same footprint)
  • No microSD slot
  • Pricey memory upgrades, 32GB version should be standard for such an expensive phone
  • No user-replaceable battery
  • Protruding camera lens makes the _phone_ wobble if you don't have a case on
  • Camera is still merely 8MP four years in a row (granted, it's getting better every with every new generation)
  • No 4K video and video sound is still mono
  • No enhanced resistance to liquids or dust
  • NFC functionality limited to Apple Pay
  • Rather pricey for a flagship (without carrier subsidies) that misses some of the extras of the competition, such as stereo speakers, wireless charging, an infrared port, or FM radio

The iPhone 6 Plus will require a big adjustment from longtime Apple faithfuls who have grown used to the iPhone's classic size. That said, it may eat into iPad mini sales as people get to carry a large, usable screen in a pocket.

Also, changes between generations are generally small, such is the Apple way. This means the camera kept its still and video resolution and it still can't record stereo. The chipset was sped up a bit, but only about 20%, not as nearly as big a jump as between last generations.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

The largest iPhone yet

Apple introduced a new design with the Sixes, an aluminum unibody with rounded sides and corners. Comparisons with the iPod touch are inescapable - the design isn't old (though not exactly new either) but it proved to have a weak point - causing it to bend in people's pockets.

The Tim Cook era is seeing Apple venture into new territories but with the iPhone 6 Plus it finds itself in a house built by Android, the house of phablets. Has the company changed enough to successfully upscale iOS to 5.5 inches? iPads certainly work great but there's more to it than that. Let's start exploring.

Unboxing the Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus came in a large white box with the usual accessories: a 1A charger, a detachable Lightning cable, a pair of EarPods and a SIM eject tool.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Big white box with the standard assortment of accessories

We read reports that using a more powerful charger can fill up the battery faster so we decided to investigate. We used a 2.4A iPad Air charger and a tool to measure the power draw. It showed that the iPhone 6 Plus takes in 1.25A from the iPad charger and 1A from its own and other chargers. Overall, that shaves off 25% of the charge time if you have an iPad charger at hand.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus 360-degree spin

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus measures 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm and weighs 172g. For comparison a 5.5" LG G3 measures 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm, while a 6" Huawei Ascend Mate7 measures 157 x 81 x 7.9mm. That's another way of saying that Apple's design is rather tall for the screen size.

Design and hardware

The original iPhone featured a rounded aluminum body and Apple returned to metal with the iPhone 4 design (but with a glass back). The iPhone 5 dropped the glass in favor of an aluminum unibody but kept the flat sides of the iPhone 4.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Original iPhone • iPhone 6 Plus

We've come almost a full circle now with an aluminum iPhone with rounded sides, though with years of improvements to the manufacturing process the iPhone 6 Plus and its smaller sibling appear closer to the iPod touch and the new iPads.

Even with all that, the new design is a cause for excitement - the iPhone 6 Plus is impressively thin for a device its size and doesn't feel heavy despite its all-metal body. What it does feel is large, though Apple expects a lot of Android converts who will feel right at home with the form factor.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Even big hands can struggle with the iPhone 6 Plus

It's long-time iPhone users that will have the toughest time to adjust. The Plus is too big for one-handed use but it's not an iPad mini 2 so it will feel cramped at first for two-handed use. As numerous large Androids have demonstrated users accustomed to it.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

iPhone 6 Plus size comparison with the LG G3 (left) and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (right)

The front of the device is Ion-strengthened glass, which is rounded at its edges. That design has proved beneficial when swiping gestures are involved. Since iOS puts the Back button in the top left (that was the standard until now) we suspect that the swipe Back gesture will see a lot more use, especially on the iPhone 6 Plus.

The iPhones are available in Space Gray, Silver and Gold and we have to say the Gray version look gorgeous, while the Silver (which has a white front) looks a bit cheap. As usual, Gold is an acquired taste.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Ion-strengthened glass with beveled sides

The curve of the screen's sides continues fairly smoothly down the aluminum sides of the device, which curve around to the flat back. This makes the handset feel a bit thinner than it is.

The 7.1mm thin chassis feels exquisite - slightly thinner than the iPad Air and mini 2 and perfectly machined, it feels worthy of the price tag (but we'll talk money for the conclusion).

That said the combination of a slim body and rounded sides make the device slippery - aluminum never offered the best grip, but we feel more comfortable holding the iPhone 5s. Of course, a large part of that is the massive size compared to the old model.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

iPhone in three sizes: 4" iPhone 5s, 4.7" iPhone 6 and 5.5" iPhone 6 Plus

A flaw that users discovered after owning the 6 Plus for barely a week is that it has a structural weak point where the volume buttons are - the drilling for the buttons weakens the aluminum chassis enough for the phablet to bend in pockets.

Below the screen is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which has improved slightly since its introduction last year but, true to self, Apple doesn't give away much detail. Touch ID finally comes into its own with the introduction of NFC-based Apple Pay but more on that later.

Above the screen is the earpiece, the ambient light and proximity sensors, plus an aging 1.2MP camera. Apple moved it to the side of the earpiece from its previous central position and widened the aperture to f/2.2 (from f/2.4) but we were hoping for 1080p videos and higher-resolution selfies.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

The new position of the front-facing camera • the improved Touch ID fingerprint sensor

As usual, the Mute switch is above the volume rocker on the left side of the phablet.

The right side of the iPhone 6 Plus is the new place for the Power button. With the new devices (especially the Plus) much taller than their predecessors this move makes complete sense. Below the power button is the nanoSIM card tray, which requires a tool (or at least a paper clip to open).

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Volume rocker and Mute switch • repositioned Power key and the nanoSIM card slot

This leaves the top bare, as the 3.5mm audio jack was moved several generations ago to the bottom of the device, near the Lightning port. Also is the loudspeaker grille and the main microphone.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

The bare top • 3.5mm audio jack, microphone, Lightning port and the loudspeaker

The back of the iPhone 6 Plus is made of a sheet of aluminum, plastic ridges splitting it at the top and bottom (for radio transmission reasons) but this time around the dividing lines are much thicker and more visible.

They proved a bit controversial but not nearly as the camera, which protrudes from the back for the first time in iPhone history. This raises practical concerns as the camera is more exposed to scratches (it is protected by sapphire glass though) and it makes the iPhone wobble on a level surface. It also puts the opposing corner of the device under bigger risk of getting scratched.

The big news about the camera is that it now features Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), exclusive to the 6 Plus in the iPhone family (though Windows _phone_ and Android got there first). We'll discuss the implications of OIS in the dedicated camera chapter.

The flash is circular but still comprises of two LEDs of different color, Apple's True tone flash. Between it and the camera is the secondary mic, as we complained earlier Apple still records only mono audio in videos.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

A protruding camera with Optical Image Stabilization

Display

The iPhone 6 Plus features Apple's first standard display on a mobile device, a unit of 1080p resolution. It has the 16:9 aspect ratio first adopted by the iPhone 5 but is sharper than the Retina displays standardized with the iPhone 4. It has a pixel density of 401ppi (Apple's first) though there's barely a perceptible difference between the two.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Another first for the iPhone is that the 6 Plus supports landscape mode and some apps offer split-screen in landscape, two things that were so far reserved for the iPads.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

The brilliant screen of the iPhone 6 Plus

Anyway, the screen is an IPS LCD with picture perfect viewing angles - you can tilt it in any direction and the image stays put as if printed on top of the screen.

Excellent color rendering and great contrast also help the overall image quality, the iPhone 6 Plus has one of the very best mobile displays on the market.

Display test 50% brightness 100% brightness
Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio Black, cd/m2 White, cd/m2 Contrast ratio
Apple iPhone 5s 0.14 163 1145 0.49 596 1219
Apple iPhone 6 0.17 207 1230 0.61 740 1213
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 0.17 208 1197 0.52 705 1361
LG G3 0.14 109 763 0.72 570 789
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 149 379
Samsung Galaxy S5 274 529
Oppo Find 7 0.22 248 1135 0.4 448 1123


The large 5.5" screen is almost as bright as the 4.7" iPhone 6 screen and one of the brightest LCDs we've tested. The reflectivity is slightly higher though, so sunlight legibility isn't quite as good but still among the best. There are few challengers in this screen size category, it's down to Samsung's Super AMOLED screens.

Sunlight contrast ratio

  • Nokia 808 PureView
    4.698
  • Apple iPhone 5
    3.997
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3
    3.997
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3.838
  • Samsung Galaxy K zoom
    3.675
  • Nokia Lumia 930
    3.567
  • Apple iPhone 5s
    3.565
  • Samsung Galaxy S5
    3.549
  • Alcatel Idol X+
    3.527
  • Apple iPhone 5c
    3.512
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3.509
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Neo
    3.487
  • Motorola RAZR MAXX
    3.42
  • Samsung I9300 Galaxy S III
    3.419
  • Nokia Lumia 925
    3.402
  • Gionee Elife S5.5
    3.386
  • Samsung I9505 Galaxy S4
    3.352
  • Samsung Omnia W
    3.301
  • Samsung Galaxy S5 mini
    3.174
  • Samsung I9000 Galaxy S
    3.155
  • Samsung Ativ S
    3.129
  • Samsung I9190 Galaxy S4 mini
    3.127
  • Samsung Galaxy S4 zoom
    3.118
  • Nokia N9
    3.069
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3.023
  • Samsung Galaxy Note
    2.97
  • Samsung Galaxy Premier
    2.958
  • Sony Xperia Z1
    2.95
  • HTC One S
    2.901
  • Samsung I8730 Galaxy Express
    2.861
  • BlackBerry Q10
    2.856
  • Samsung I9100 Galaxy S II
    2.832
  • Samsung Galaxy S II Plus
    2.801
  • BlackBerry Z30
    2.79
  • Sony Xperia ZR
    2.672
  • Huawei Ascend P1
    2.655
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2.616
  • Sony Xperia T3
    2.609
  • Nokia Lumia 900
    2.562
  • Motorola Moto G 4G
    2.546
  • HTC One Max
    2.537
  • Nokia Lumia 720
    2.512
  • HTC One
    2.504
  • Motorola Moto G
    2.477
  • Sony Xperia Z
    2.462
  • Xiaomi Mi 4
    2.424
  • Samsung Galaxy S III mini
    2.422
  • LG G Flex
    2.407
  • HTC One (M8)
    2.371
  • Motorola RAZR i
    2.366
  • Sony Xperia ZL
    2.352
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2.307
  • Oppo Find 7a
    2.279
  • Alcatel One Touch Hero
    2.272
  • Apple iPhone 4S
    2.269
  • HTC Desire 600 dual sim
    2.262
  • Nokia Asha 311
    2.25
  • LG Nexus 5
    2.228
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    2.193
  • HTC One (E8)
    2.185
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    2.17
  • HTC One X
    2.158
  • Nokia N8
    2.144
  • Nokia Lumia 620
    2.142
  • Nokia 515
    2.134
  • HTC Desire 500
    2.129
  • Sony Xperia acro S
    2.119
  • Nokia Lumia 1020
    2.103
  • Oppo Find 5
    2.088
  • Sony Xperia SL
    2.078
  • Nokia Lumia 630
    2.056
  • BlackBerry Z10
    2.051
  • Samsung I9295 Galaxy S4 Active
    2.022
  • Apple iPhone 4
    2.016
  • HTC One mini
    2.003
  • Xiaomi Mi 3
    2.001
  • Huawei Ascend P7
    1.992
  • LG G2
    1.976
  • OnePlus One
    1.961
  • Oppo R819
    1.957
  • Sony Ericsson Xperia ray
    1.955
  • Sony Xperia Z2
    1.944
  • Nokia Lumia 1320
    1.941
  • HTC One mini 2
    1.94
  • Samsung Galaxy Camera
    1.938
  • Sony Xperia J
    1.932
  • Acer CloudMobile S500
    1.931
  • LG Nexus 4
    1.926
  • LG G Pro 2
    1.922
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 6.3
    1.913
  • Nokia Asha 308
    1.911
  • Sony Xperia T
    1.894
  • HTC Desire X
    1.878
  • HTC Butterfly
    1.873
  • HTC Windows phone 8X
    1.873
  • HTC Butterfly S
    1.867
  • Huawei Ascend P6
    1.865
  • Huawei Ascend Mate
    1.845
  • LG G2 mini
    1.838
  • LG G3
    1.82
  • Nokia Lumia 1520
    1.813
  • HTC Desire 616 dual sim
    1.797
  • Sony Xperia V
    1.792
  • HTC Desire 816
    1.783
  • Sony Xperia Z1 Compact
    1.772
  • HTC Desire 700 dual sim
    1.769
  • Sony Xperia U
    1.758
  • Meizu MX3
    1.754
  • LG Optimus G
    1.753
  • Sony Xperia T2 Ultra
    1.74
  • Sony Xperia SP
    1.733
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1.691
  • Oppo Find 7
    1.691
  • HTC One V
    1.685
  • BlackBerry Q5
    1.682
  • LG Optimus Vu
    1.68
  • Xiaomi Mi Pad 7.9
    1.672
  • LG Optimus GJ
    1.666
  • LG Optimus 3D Max
    1.658
  • HTC Desire V
    1.646
  • Samsung Galaxy Xcover 2
    1.632
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 3
    1.622
  • Jolla Jolla
    1.605
  • Sony Xperia Z Ultra
    1.578
  • Sony Xperia go
    1.577
  • Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 I8160
    1.566
  • Samsung Galaxy Core
    1.563
  • LG Optimus G Pro
    1.552
  • Motorola Moto E
    1.545
  • LG Optimus 3D
    1.542
  • Nokia Asha 302
    1.537
  • BlackBerry Curve 9320
    1.488
  • Sony Xperia M
    1.473
  • Oppo N1
    1.47
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1.462
  • Nokia Lumia 610
    1.432
  • Samsung Galaxy S Duos
    1.4
  • Sony Xperia M2
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand Neo
    1.393
  • Samsung Galaxy Grand 2
    1.38
  • Sony Xperia E1
    1.372
  • Nokia Lumia 625
    1.371
  • Gigabyte GSmart G1355
    1.361
  • Sony Xperia L
    1.351
  • Xiaomi Redmi 1S
    1.35
  • Samsung Galaxy Mega 5.8
    1.35
  • Sony Xperia M2 Aqua
    1.331
  • Sony Xperia miro
    1.324
  • Samsung I9082 Galaxy Grand
    1.321
  • Samsung I8530 Galaxy Beam
    1.315
  • HTC Desire C
    1.3
  • Nokia X
    1.291
  • Sony Xperia C
    1.283
  • Nokia Asha 503
    1.281
  • Nokia Asha 501
    1.27
  • LG Optimus L7
    1.269
  • Nokia Lumia 510
    1.268
  • Samsung Galaxy Fame
    1.245
  • LG Optimus L9
    1.227
  • Meizu MX
    1.221
  • Samsung Galaxy Young
    1.22
  • Sony Xperia E
    1.215
  • Nokia XL
    1.204
  • Sony Xperia E dual
    1.203
  • Asus Memo Pad 7 ME176C
    1.198
  • Samsung Galaxy Pocket
    1.18
  • Nokia Asha 305
    1.178
  • Nokia Asha 306
    1.175
  • Sony Xperia neo L
    1.169
  • Sony Xperia tipo
    1.166
  • Nokia Lumia 520
    1.161
  • Samsung S6802 Galaxy Ace Duos
    1.148
  • Samsung Galaxy mini 2
    1.114

The iPhone 6 Plus screen is much larger than what Apple users are accustomed to, we made the table below to illustrate our point if the comparison shots above aren't clear enough. Using the 4" iPhone 5s screen as base, the iPhone 6 Plus screen offers nearly twice as much room. That dwarfs even the size increase offered by the iPhone 6 over its predecessor.

Screen diagonal Relative size PPI
iPhone 5s 4" 100% 326
iPhone 6 4.7" 138% 326
iPhone 6 Plus 5.5" 189% 401
LG G3 5.5" 189% 534
Galaxy Note 4 5.7" 203% 515

While we love the extra screen real estate we're not pleased with the screen bezels. The LG G3 has the same screen size (and with nearly 80% more pixels at that) and a much more compact body. We get it that Apple needs the Home key at the bottom for Touch ID but the bezel above the screen could have been smaller, especially since the front-facing camera is no longer stacked above the earpiece.

Faster connectivity

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus wireless connectivity is a dizzying array of GSM, CDMA and LTE. You'll have to consult your local carrier to check if the correct bands are supported by the version of the phablet you're buying but that's only if you're importing it.

The standard quad-band GSM and CDMA support ensures voice connectivity around the world. Then there's 3G GSM with up to 42Mbps downlink speeds and 3G CDAM (1xEV-DO) for a much slower 3.1Mbps.

The real speed for mobile Internet comes from the LTE connection though, which has been promoted to Cat. 4. That means the iPhone 6 Plus is theoretically capable of downloads of up to 150Mbps and uploads of up to 50Mbps. That's an improvement over the Cat. 3 LTE (100Mbps downlink) of the iPhone 5s and as fast as is practical today, carrier support for the faster category is lagging.

Note that Apple has enabled Voice-over-LTE (VoLTE), which includes support for high quality audio in calls with HD Voice. Keep in mind that to use these technologies your carrier must support it and so must the receiving phone.

Local connectivity has grown faster too, the new iPhones support Wi-Fi 802.11ac alongside the traditional a/b/g/n. If you have an Wi-Fi 802.11ac -capable router and a fast home connection you should feel a boost in speed. Apple has also added Wi-Fi calling to the list of chops the new iPhones possess. Of course, availability of the feature is carrier-dependent.

Bluetooth is at version 4.0 with Low Energy support, which is Apple's preferred connection for sports accessories.

The iPhone 6 Plus supports the short-range NFC standard but that's exclusively for use with the new Apple Pay system. It seeks to replace your credit cards with your phone but sharing files locally is still done via the Air Drop system, there's no tap to pair or tap to send functionality (yet).

Wired connectivity brings no surprises, it uses the ubiquitous (on Apple products) Lightning adapter. It's symmetrical so it can be plugged in regardless oforientation. It provides charge to the phone, carries data to a computer, does TV out (with the right adapter) and supports various accessories.

Battery life

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus has a 2,915mAh Li-Po battery, which stacks up very well against Android competition (for comparison the LG G3 has a 3,000mAh battery). The smaller iPhone 6 has just 1,810mAh in its tank and the previous iPhone 5s has about half of the 6 Plus' capacity.

We mentioned the charging rumors that you can fill up faster with an iPad charger in the unboxing chapter. There's a grain of truth to that, the iPhone 6 Plus does indeed charge about 25% faster on an iPad Air charger but it doesn't use anywhere near the full 2.4A capacity (it draws 1.25A).

The larger battery is a boon for talk time, helping the iPhone 6 Plus rebound from the disappointing time of its smaller sibling. The web browsing test lasted a bit over 9 hours, a solid performance though we've seen better, while the video playback test ran on for 11 hours. The new screen is the perfect resolution to watch FullHD videos but keep in mind we use an SD video for the video battery test.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Apple iPhone 6 Plus optimizes the iOS 8 UI for landscape view

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus, just like the iPhone6, runs buttery smooth with iOS 8. Apple knew the bigger screen would require some additional touches on the iOS and that's why the company has redesigned some of its core apps for landscape use. The entire Spring Board is rotatable, while the Safari web browser, the Mail client, the Messages app, the Calendar, Notes, Stocks, even the Settings menu - they all have been given new layouts in order to utilize better the bigger display estate.

Before we continue, here is a quick video demonstration of the new iOS 8 running on an iPhone 6 Plus:

Apple iOS 8 looks the same as its predecessor. All of your apps are on the homescreen, folders are available and there is the familiar dock that can take up to four shortcuts. System icons, color themes and transparency - everything is like we left it in iOS 7.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iOS 8 user interface

The lockscreen hasn't changed either - there is a camera shortcut, playback controls are available too if the Music app is active. If you think the lockscreen could use some shortcuts or widgets, your only hope is for Apple to open up the lockscreen to developers too - but that's not on the cards on this release.

There are three different unlock methods for you to choose from. TouchID (via your fingerprint), but there's also the classic 4-digit passcode. If that's too insecure for your taste, you can also opt for a custom passcode. This will bring you a text field where you can enter a virtually limitless security combination.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The lockscreen

The iPhone 6 Plus introduces a rotatable homescreen for the first time in iOS. It works pretty much as expected, though it's nice to see Apple finally decided to make this happen.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iOS 8 in landscape mode

The Control Center that's pulled up from the bottom of the screen, has been slightly redesigned though it keeps the same layout of toggles, shortcuts and media controls.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The iOS 8 Control Center

The Notification Center has changed a bit more sine iOS 7. The All and Missed tabs are now gone, replaced by a unified Notification tab. The Today section has been improved and you can jump to its editing options from the bottom of the page.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The Notification Center - Today tab • adding widgets • Notifications

The interaction with the pop-up notifications has been improved. Now you can quickly reply right inside the notification banner, discard calendar alarms, mark tasks as complete, comment and like on Facebook, among others.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Interacting with popup notifications

While the refined Notification Center might look insignificant, it is among the places expected to make a big difference, in terms of usability. It has been unlocked to developers and various apps already offer interactive widgets. Unfortunately those have a long way ahead before they turn out as useful as Apple had in mind in the first place.

With the new generation of bigger iPhones Apple has implemented an easier way to reach what's on top of your screen, including the status bar for notification access. All you need to do is tap (not click, tap) twice on the Home key and your entire UI will drop down at your fingertips. It isn't pretty, but it works.

This quick access works within all apps opened in portrait mode, too.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Reachability in action

The task-switcher interface is invoked with a double tap on the Home key. It looks a lot like the webOS cards of old and, more recently, the HTC Sense Task switcher - all apps are presented with cards that you can swipe up to close. Each card has the respective app icon so you can easily recognize what's what.

The Task Switcher got an extra row at the top - a list of your recently contacted Favorites followed by your recent contacts. A tap on a contact here will reveal additional options: call, message.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The new Task Switcher

Apple made a big deal of the Spotlight update - the unified search tool now supports smart suggestions. Spotlight is now capable of pulling suggestions from Wikipedia, IMDb, an assortment of news sources, nearby places, App Store and iTunes content, iBooks and more. This is indeed a tremendous usability boost. By the way, suggestions work within the Safari browser too.

Apple iOS 8 Preview
Apple iOS 8 Preview
Apple iOS 8 Preview
Apple iOS 8 Preview

Spotlight suggestions

Another notable improvement over the previous iOS version is enabling developers to add their own sharing options or actions in the iOS contextual menus. For example, if you have an app that sends files over Bluetooth, it can integrate with the iOS contextual menus and there you go - you get standard Bluetooth file sharing in just one click. You can edit the available sharing options and actions in these menus, so they don't get cluttered.

Open In option is available as well - you can redirect any file of unknown format from anywhere to any app you want. For example you open a document within your Dropbox and they you can choose Open In and open (a copy of) the file with an office editor of your choice.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

This is where the new sharing and action plugins appear • Open In

Apple has finally added battery usage stats in the Settings menu. There you can find which app drained your battery and how (low signal, background usage, etc.). You get daily and weekly stats.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Battery stats

The intelligent voice assistant Siri got better with iOS 8. Its most important new addition is the Shazam integration. There is no need to ask Siri to recognize a song - just open Siri and let it listen - then it will tell you the name of the song and will provide you with an iTunes link. Another new cool option is voice activation. If your iDevice is hooked up on a charger/cable you can summon Siri by saying "Hey, Siri".

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Siri UI

Siri can carry out commands affecting the iOS - it can turn Bluetooth or Wi-Fi on/off, increase brightness, play voicemails, check other people's social network status, play iTunes Radio stations, etc. It is a really powerful voice assistant capable of even POI search. Assistance with restaurant booking is part of Siri's set of skills. It will find you exactly the restaurant you are looking for and filter the results based on user reviews. You can run impressively detailed searches based on food type, location, outdoor, pool, price range, ratings, etc. This feature is not available in every country, though.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Siri in action

Siri also answer slots of questions and including game scores. History, stats, player bios, player comparison, teams, records, etc. Siri should be able to return most of the info right onto its own screen, without switching over to the browser. The same applies to movies. You will get all of your movie-related answers right inside the Siri window - anything about actors, directors, awards, movie stats, premieres and tickets, reviews, trailers, etc. Siri also comes with Wikipedia integration.

Finally, Siri in iOS 8 can take dictation in 24 new languages, which will spare lots of people some typing on the keyboard.

iOS 8 brings a very familiar user interface and logic of operations with minor improvements towards better customization. We've yet to see how this will turn out once the developers start offering various interactive widgets, sharing options and actions, but the platform should benefit a lot.

Performance

The iPhone 6 Plus, just like the iPhone 6, is running on the new generation Apple A8 chipset. It is manufactured by a new 20nm process, which means smaller parts, less heat and less power consumption.

Just like the past few years Apple didn't specify the A8 specifications, but thanks reverse engineering of the chip the details are no longer a secret. Apple A8 inside the iPhone 6 Plus packs a dual-core 64-bit Cyclone processor clocked at 1.4GHz. It is 100MHz faster than the processor inside the A7 (iPhone 5s), but it requires less power to run. There are suggestions that L1 and L2 CPU caches are larger and the L2 isn't shared as before, but this is yet to be confirmed.

The other more prominent upgrade in the Apple A8 is the new generation GPU - the PowerVR GX6450 with four GPU cores. The A7 chip used a quad-core PowerVT GX6350, which was quite the performer, but Apple needed something even better for the higher resolution iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The GX6450 within the Apple A8 also uses four GPU cores, but the newer generation should be enough to provide the necessary graphic boost.

So, there is no better way to illustrate the actual Apple A8 performance than with some synthetic benchmarks.

We start with the Geekbech 3 test to see how the overclocked CPU and memory are doing. The iPhone 6 Plus did great, providing 20% performance boost over the iPhone 5s predecessor and on par with the current crop of Snapdragon 801 flagships. The octa-core Galaxy Alpha isn't that far ahead either.

GeekBench 3

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    3214
  • Oppo Find 7
    3178
  • Oppo Find 7a
    3093
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 S800
    2937
  • Apple iPhone 6
    2924
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    2884
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    2860
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    2856
  • LG G3 - EU version
    2563
  • Apple iPhone 5s (iOS 8)
    2552
  • Apple iPhone 5
    1296

The Basemark OS II gives an overall device score based on CPU, graphics, system performance, memory, web, among others. Surprisingly, the new iPhone 6 duo climbs on top of our chart beating every device we've tested so far and on par with the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and Note Edge phablets powered by the latest Snapdragon 805 chipset.

Basemark OS II

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note Edge
    1260
  • Apple iPhone 6
    1252
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 4
    1235
  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    1222
  • Oppo Find 7
    1212
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    1167
  • LG G3 - EU version
    1126
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    1109
  • Apple iPhone 5s (iOS 8)
    1077
  • Oppo Find 7a
    1057
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 S800
    1003
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    915
  • Apple iPhone 5
    589

As we mentioned before, the Apple iPhone 6 Plus comes with a brand new PowerVR GX6450 GPU. It uses four GPU cores for both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but its clock is quite possibly higher on the Plus model because it has an even better performance despite its higher resolution. First we ran the Basemark X graphic benchmark and we were surprised to find the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to be the best phones we've tested to date. This made us suspicious and we found out that Basemark X, as well as the GFX Benchmark, on the iPhone 6 Plus (and possibly the iPhone 6) use upscaled graphics for the on-screen tests due to the lack of proper support for the new devices, hence the surprisingly good score.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

GFX 3.0 Manhattan 1080p on-screen test: Galaxy S5 vs iPhone 6 Plus

So the on-screen benchmarks are obsolete for now, but we can still check how the new PowerVR GX6450 stacks up against the competition thanks to the off-screen 1080p torture tests.

The offscreen raw performance of the PowerVR GX6450 in the iPhone 6 Plus turned out great, topping our all-time charts. Apparently the PowerVR GX66450 GPU is a real beast, handling heavy graphics with ease. It's obvious that in terms of hardware the new iPhone is not behind the curve but just on the contrary - it's ahead of it.

GFX 2.7 T-Rex (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    44.6
  • Apple iPhone 6
    42.6
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    31.3
  • Apple iPhone 5s (iOS 8)
    28.7
  • Oppo Find 7a
    28.4
  • Oppo Find 7
    28
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    27.7
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    27.4
  • LG G3 - EU version
    27.2
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 S800
    26.3
  • Apple iPhone 5
    6.9

GFX 3.0 Manhattan (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    18.6
  • Apple iPhone 6
    17.7
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    13.4
  • Apple iPhone 5s (iOS 8)
    12.9
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    12
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    11.8
  • LG G3 - EU version
    11.4
  • Oppo Find 7a
    11.4
  • Oppo Find 7
    11.1
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 3 S800
    9.9

If the great CPU and GPU scores on the benchmarks didn't convince you enough the new iPhone 6 Plus is a real powerhouse featuring flagship hardware and software, then here come the web browser tests. Both the JavaScript-centric Kraken and the compound BrowserMark 2.1 confirm the iPhone 6 is among the best performers on the market and the device newcomers have to beat.

Kraken 1.1

Lower is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    4650
  • Apple iPhone 6
    4710
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    4911
  • Apple iPhone 5s (iOS 8)
    5396
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    6355
  • Oppo Find 7
    6363
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    6480
  • Oppo Find 7a
    6660
  • LG G3 - EU version
    6987
  • Apple iPhone 5
    14171

BrowserMark 2.1

Higher is better

  • Apple iPhone 6 Plus
    3389
  • Apple iPhone 6
    3153
  • Sony Xperia Z3
    1533
  • Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
    1500
  • LG G3 - EU version
    1474
  • Oppo Find 7
    1452
  • Samsung Galaxy Alpha
    1364
  • Oppo Find 7a
    1327
  • Apple iPhone 5
    900

These benchmark results might come shocking for some, but they really aren't. The new GPU is better in every way against the current crop of flagships, but we are yet to see what the Adreno 420 with the Snapdragon 805 and the Nvidia Kepler in the Tegra K1 will bring on the market. The upgraded dual-core Cyclone processor seems to be handling things way better than expected providing similar performance as a quad-core Krait 400 CPU.

Judging by the raw performance in the benchmarks and the snappier than ever user experience with the iOS 8 and its apps, the new iPhone 6 Plus is a flagship device in every way - beating everything the competition has to offer to date.

Handoff and continuity

The new Handoff option is probably the most advertised iOS 8 feature. It allows you to start something on one Apple device and continue working on it on another. For example, you can start writing an email on your iPhone, get close to your Mac or iPad and you will be able to continue what you are working on from there. This works between iOS 8 running iPhones, iPods and iPads and Max OS X Yosemite powered Macs.

Apple iOS 8

And it goes beyond emails and messages. The continuity feature is available for Safari, Maps, Reminders, Calendars, Contacts, Pages, Numbers and Keynote.

Any Wi-Fi enabled iOS 8-running iPad or a Mac OS X Yosemite is also capable of picking your iOS 8 iPhone calls up. You can answer and make calls on your iPad or Mac via your iPhone thanks to the Handoff feature - the only other requirement besides the OS version is that all devices need to be on the same Wi-Fi network.

Apple iOS 8

Apple guessed that anyone making calls via Handoff will eventually need to send SMS/MMS/iMessages the same way, so the functionality has been implemented. Just open your Messaging app on your iPad or Mac and you can send whatever message you want thanks to your iPhone connection.

Finally, there is a new Hotspot feature that once enabled will automatically set up a mobile connection for your iPads and Macs. You don't need to do anything! Your iPhone will know when your iPad or Mac stop using the hotspot and will automatically turn it off.

Touch ID and Apple Pay work together

Apple iPhone 6 Plus also features Touch ID - a security service with fingerprint recognition. Just like on the iPhone 5s, the iPhone 6 Plus has its fingerprint scanner on the Home key. It isn't faster, but it seems like the sensor is bigger and recognizes your finger easier.

The Touch ID sensor offers 360-degree readability translating into effortless scanning of your fingerprint. Apple has integrated Touch ID as an added security measure, but it'll still allow you to use your passcode as a backup form of validation. Enabling passcode is also a mandatory requirement in order to use Touch ID.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Touch ID settings

You can commit up to five fingerprint samples (yours or those of family and friends), which is cool for setting a limited list of people with access to your device. Apple warns that with all five fingerprint slots filled in, the Touch ID sensor operation may take a slight performance hit.

Touch ID can be used for more than just unlocking your phone. Apple has integrated the feature into the digital goods purchasing experience. You can use Touch ID for making authorizations in the App Store, iTunes Store as well as iBooks Store. You can decide which one of them has access to the Touch ID sensor in the Fingerprints settings menu.

As of iOS 8 the Touch ID is available to developers and they can used it for third-party security layers and authorizations. The developers can't gain access to your actual fingerprints, nobody can. They just can use the Touch ID confirmation or denial services.

The Touch ID is also heavily used by the newly introduced Apple Pay service. It is available only on the NFC-enabled iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. You input your credit card information and then you will pay contactless with your phone. The confirmation is done via the Touch ID. It's very simple but we are yet to see if Apple will manage to attract enough merchants to the idea.

iCloud Drive and Family Sharing

Another upgrade that was well overdue is iCloud Drive. Apple has taken steps to evolve your iCloud Storage to a competitive cloud service to match Dropbox or OneDrive. Besides backing up your entire camera roll, it is instantly synced in the cloud and accessible from anywhere - your other iOS devices, Macs and PCs.

You can store any file on the iCloud Drive, not just pictures and videos, as any other services would allow you to. The Handoff feature relies heavily on the iCloud Drive - this is a document you've opened on your iPhone would be handed over to your iPad or Mac. If you don't use iCloud Drive this file continuity wouldn't be possible.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

iCloud Drive options

Naturally you can choose what files and app data gets synced in your iCloud Drive. There is an option to choose cellular data where a Wi-Fi connection isn't available.

Unfortunately, Apple is still only giving 5GB of cloud storage for free and some of it is already used by your iCloud backups. If you want more, you'll have to pay extra.

Another major addition in the new iOS 8 is the Family Share setup and features. It allows up to six users to make iTunes, iBooks, and App Store purchases with a single credit card. Family photos, calendar entries and locations can also be shared.

Apple iOS 8 Preview
Apple iOS 8 Preview
Apple iOS 8 Preview

Family sharing in action

The credit card owner and group admin may opt to authorize each purchase requested by other members in the group - i.e. your kids. Thus you have full control over the purchased content - same goes for sharing requests.

If Family Sharing enabled on a range of devices, you will be able to find each one of them on a map - handy if you want to know where your kids (or spouse) are at any time.

Phonebook

The iOS 8 phonebook and dialer interface are untouched, though now you can opt not to show the contact photos in your Favorite tab. Updated landscape view is available - your contacts appear on the left, while their information is on the right.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Phonebook in landscape view

The logic behind the phonebook app is completely the same though, Blacklist is available too.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The phonebook • Favorites • the dialer

As usual the phonebook offers Facebook and Twitter integration. After you set up your accounts the phonebook will automatically ask you to link your existing contacts with their social ones (if available).

The phonebook can search via the dedicated Search field at the top of the list of contacts or you can use the alphabetical scroll at the right.

Editing a contact is intuitive and gives you the option to include lots of additional fields, like several addresses, related people, web, email, birthdays, etc.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Editing a contact

You can set different ringtones, message tones and vibration to your favorite contacts.

Since iOS 6 your iMessage and FaceTime ID is joined and the phonebook will automatically detect if either service is available with each contact.

Telephony with Wi-Fi calling

The iPhone 6 Plus better reception than iPhone 5s and pretty much the same as on the iPhone 6. The in-call quality is great as well - this is where the multi-mic setup works quite splendidly.

The dialpad is virtually the same and smart dial is still missing.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The incoming call screen

You can reject calls via SMS since the last iOS update.

You can set the iPhone 6 Plus to remind you to call back a person at a location or when you're leaving the current one, which is a nifty trick. Keep in mind that doing so will invoke constant use of GPS, which could in turn lead to a significantly reduced battery life but the phone would probably still last a day.

FaceTime comes as a system app in iOS 8 and looks just like the phone app. It works both over a cellular data or Wi-Fi. The service offers voice calls too, in addition to video conference. FaceTime now supports Call Waiting, too. On the iPhone 6 Plus Facetime can make use of the H.265 codec, which allows better quality at a lower overall bitrate thus saving precious data traffic.

Apple is also offering a new feature called Wi-Fi calling. If both parties support this service and it is on, the call won't be placed through the cellular network but the internet. This improves the audio quality and won't count against your allotted monthly minutes.

As usual we've tested the loudspeaker performance of the new iPhone 6 Plus. It is quite a disappointment - performing worse than the iPhone 6. Not to mention that the sound quality is really poor missing the higher frequencies, it only got an overall rating of Below Average and you may miss some calls and notifications. We doubt you will be happy with the sound experience through the loudspeaker while gaming or watching a movie.

Speakerphone test Voice, dB Pink noise/ Music, dB Ringing phone, dB Overall score
Apple iPhone 6 Plus 67.3 65.7 66.5 Below Average
Apple iPhone 5s 68.7 66.3 69.2 Average
Apple iPhone 6 66.6 65.7 72.8 Average
HTC One (M8) 65.8 64.7 75.7 Average
Samsung Galaxy S5 66.9 66.6 75.7 Good
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 N9005 70.5 66.6 78.0 Good
Oppo Find 7 69.8 70.3 75.8 Good
LG G3 70.2 66.6 80.2 Good
Samsung Galaxy S5 mini 73.5 67.7 78.7 Very Good
OnePlus One 74.8 73.5 80.2 Excellent


Messaging

The Messaging app comes with a refined interface too. It features the two-page layout in landscape view, just like many other core apps. Now it's easier to attach pictures or video with the newly introduced recent row. It has about 20 of your latest images/videos in the gallery.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The Messaging app

Naturally, the iMessage service is onboard. It lets you exchange instant messages between iOS 5 or later running iGadgets over Wi-Fi or 3G. You can send plain text as well as multimedia (pictures, sounds, videos) messages.

If you are texting someone with iMessage activated, you'll see a new Mic icon on the right. A tap and hold on the Mic will record a voice message and an upwards swipe will send it. If the person on the other end is on an older iOS version they will receive it as an .amr attachment and still be able to play it.

The Mail app got a subtly refreshed interface too with some extra useful functions and gestures. Landscape two-page layout is available as well, just like on the iPad.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The Mail app

Keyboard

The iOS 8 keyboard looks the same though it has been upgraded with predictive input called QuickType. Over time, the iOS will learn from your typing pattern, vocabulary, people you write often to and topics. It will eventually understand the subject of each thread and base suggestions on whether the communication is formal or casual.

The bigger screen allows for even more keys in landscape mode, so Apple snuck a few more options on there - navigation keys, cut, copy, paste, punctuation, among others.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Keyboard predictions

Apple says the algorithm is really smart and understands everything and suggests prompt responses. Many competitive keyboards on other platforms are already doing similar things plus they are swype-enabled.

We are happy with Apple's decision to allow replacing the default keyboard. There are already quite a few third-party keyboards available including the popular SwiftKey and Swype. If you are unhappy with the iOS default keyboard, you can opt for whatever app suits you best.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

SwiftKey keyboard

Photos

One of the highlights of the WWDC keynote earlier this year where we first saw iOS 8 was the new Photos app.

Apple has upgraded the default gallery with a new Search option. The smart suggestions implemented within the new Spotlight and Safari browser work here too. You can search by place, date, people, nearby location, etc.

Just like before, images are organized by date and location, for those that have been geo-tagged. This view is called Moments. You can go a step back, to Collections view where you can better view your sorted photos into groups with labels and much smaller thumbs. Finally, there is the Year view. It squeezes your collection into tight grids for each year.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The Photos app

There is a new default album called Recently Deleted. It stores your recently erased photos for 30 days before deletes them for good. Each photo shows the days remaining until deletion. It works like a recycle bin and, of course, you can restore the files you want.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Viewing a single image • Recently Deleted

One of the major new additions to the Photos app is the new integrated image editor. It supports standard features such as crop, rotate and filters, but it also offers advanced settings allowing full control over light (exposure, highlights, shadows, brightness, contrast, black point), color (saturation, contrast, cast), black & white (intensity, neutrals, tone, grain). In case you aren't into meddling with your photos, you can use the new intelligent Auto Enhance feature, which will do things automatically for you.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The integrated image editor

Shared photos are available - the tab has all your Photo streams. Photo Stream, which acts like a social sub-network, works really well and is very simple to set up. You choose what pictures to share and which people to share with. Your buddies on the receiving end will be able to like them and post comments. You can invite users you want to share your Photo Streams with via email or get invited. If you are using the new Family Sharing options you can easily configure Photo Streams shared between your homegroup.

If your iCloud Drive is active you can gain access to your cloud gallery and browse it on your iDevice without the need of storing it locally. If you have opted to store everything in your iCloud Drive, you can save precious space (those with 16GB of storage on their iPhones should know best) and still have access to your images and videos. You'll need a working internet connection, of course, and the iDrive free quota is only 5GB.

Thanks to the new third-party access to the Photos SKD, now developers are able to add their own editing settings, filters, sharing options, among others.

Limited video player

Many things have changed in iOS 7 and iOS 8 but the video player is definitely not one of them. You can upload only supported formats via iTunes or purchase videos from the iTunes store. This is an extremely disappointing showing by a platform that is supposed to excel at multimedia consumption.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The video player

The lack of extra functionality is bad enough, but having to use just an extremely limited number of media format or resorting to converting files, which is both slow and inconvenient is a real deal-breaker.

Music and iTunes Radio

The iOS 8 music player is exactly the same as the one in iOS 8 with minor UI and font improvements. You can create playlists, delete songs right from within the player and reorder tabs whichever way you like.

Album view is available too - you access it by flipping the device landscape. It lists all the covers to the albums you have in your library. Tapping on an album thumb lists all the tracks in it.

The Now Playing screen hasn't changed in functionality neither is the settings. Even in its seventh major iteration iOS still fails to offer configurable equalizers.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Music player

If you are logged in with an Apple ID that supports iTunes Radio, your iOS 8 music player will get an additional iTunes Radio tab. It's a music streaming service with the entire iTunes content available for streaming.

The stations are divided by genres, but once you add a station, you can choose to remove artists or add more songs from an artist/group. You can preview a station before adding it to your list.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

iTunes Radio

In case you like a particular song, you can buy it with just one tap. History is available and you can always return to buy songs later. A Wish List is available as well.

iTunes Radio is ad-free if you are using iTunes Match. Otherwise, every 7 to 10 songs are interrupted by about 15sec worth of commercials.

Excellent audio quality

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus audio output is in line with its non-Plus relative and slightly behind what the iPhone 5s pulled off.

When plugged into an active external amplifier, the Apple iPhone 6 Plus posted excellent scores with the rather mediocre stereo crosstalk reading being the solitary exception. Since the less than stellar stereo is a common trait of the two iPhone 6 variants, we guess it has something to do with the new slimmer profiles of the two phones.

Apple had a similar problem when it went from the iPhone 4s to the iPhone 5, only to address them with the iPhone 5s and its slightly modified internals.

Rather impressively, there's virtually no degradation when you plug in a pair of headphones. The spike in stereo crosstalk is so limited that in comparison, the iPhone 6 Plus fares way better here than in the first test. Granted, there are phones out there that do even better, but that will only matter to the most extreme audiophiles.

In both cases, volume levels were pretty high - about on par with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 and just slightly behind the likes of the HTC One Max or One (M8). Come to think of it, that’s about the same thing we can say about the overall performance of Apple's first phablet.

Test Frequency response Noise level Dynamic range THD IMD + Noise Stereo crosstalk
Apple iPhone 6 Plus +0.04, -0.04 -94.0 94.0 0.0013 0.0064 -72.0
Apple iPhone 6 Plus (headphones attached) +0.10, -0.04 -94.0 93.9 0.0016 0.087 -64.1
Apple iPhone 6 +0.06, -0.02 -94.0 93.9 0.0012 0.0065 -73.4
Apple iPhone 6 (headphones attached) +0.11, -0.06 -93.8 93.8 0.0022 0.099 -65.1
Apple iPhone 5s +0.02, -0.05 -93.6 93.7 0.0013 0.0068 -90.3
Apple iPhone 5s (headphones attached) +0.12, -0.00 -93.4 93.3 0.0016 0.060 -76.1
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 +0.02, -0.07 -96.5 92.8 0.0035 0.0099 -96.3
Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (headphones attached) +0.01, -0.09 -96.2 92.7 0.017 0.017 -62.1
HTC One Max +0.14, -0.14 -93.8 93.8 0.0009 0.015 -94.1
HTC One Max (headphones attached) +0.26, -0.02 -93.6 93.6 0.026 0.080 -80.4
LG G Pro 2 +0.02, -0.23 -93.8 94.2 0.0040 0.029 -93.3
LG G Pro 2 (headphones attached) +0.07, -0.02 -93.7 93.4 0.050 0.039 -73.5

Apple iPhone 6 Plus frequency response

Apple iPhone 6 Plus frequency response

You can learn more about the tested parameters and the whole testing process here.

8MP camera with phase detect autofocus and OIS

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus marks the biggest camera improvement in this year's Apple lineup. It uses the same 8MP sensor as the smaller iPhone 6 but adds optical image stabilization to boost low light photography.

Apple has added what they call focus pixels to the sensor which should make the autofocusing way faster. This is the phase detection pixel technology that we've seen in higher-grade cameras for a while now and the same focusing technology that Samsung showed off in the Galaxy S5 and LG in their G3 (along with an infrared focusing unit).

The more powerful chipset and the new faster focus has enabled Apple to improve the face detection making it faster and more accurate. The panoramas got their resolution boosted and can now be up to 43MP. The new Apple A8 chipset also helps speed the whole thing up - from shot to shot times through HDR images to launching the camera app itself - it's all slightly snappier.

Lastly, the front-facing camera is improved as well. Apple claims it captures 81% more light and it will even do 10fps burst capture. The front-facing camera even offers HDR video capture, aside from HDR photo capture.

The camera interface is improved, courtesy of iOS 8. If you tap to focus the phone will give you control over exposure through an up and down slider. This way you can cleverly add exposure compensation depending on the scene. You can lock the focus and exposure as well but that isn't new.

Along the left side of the camera viewfinder Apple has added controls for switching to the front-facing camera, setting up a timer (either 3s or 10s), choosing the HDR mode (Auto will choose when to apply the effect, off and on) and finally a settings for the flash (Auto, on or off).

On the right side on each side of the virtual shutter button you get swipe controls that will take you into the photo, square and pano mode on one side and video, slow-mo and time-lapse. To activate the Burst mode you just need to press the camera shutter longer.

Some things are hard to reach on the huge screen estate but two hands for operation is the name of the game with the iPhone 6 Plus.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus camera

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus is a truly fast cameraphone. While the iPhone 5s was quite snappy already, the A8 chip in the Apple iPhone 6 Plus adds a whole new experience to taking pictures. Shot to shot time was practically unperceivable and taking an HDR shot takes less than a second.

We've already commented heavily on the quality of the Apple iPhone 6 shots in our review and see the same tendencies here. The level of resolved detail is most impressive for and we dare say it has no match in the 8MP league. Images come out very sharp and the detail rendering looks as if from dedicated high-end camera and not a smartphone with a small sensor. There's no oversharpening either - overall, a very mature processing algorithm.

Colors are a little warmer and punchier than what purists will consider sane but we like them this way. The white balance was spot on in each shot.

What has been improved over last year's 8MP sensor is the dynamic range. The iPhone 6 Plus has a wider dynamic range and covers more of the light spectrum in the shot without resorting to its Auto HDR function.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus camera samples

Taking detailed images of things closer in the frame was a breeze with the iPhone 6 Plus. It can get very close to the subject and allows for some decent separation between subject and background. Focusing from up close felt snappy as well.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus macro samples

The HDR mode on the Apple iPhone 6 Plus captures two images and stacks them together in order to obtain a well-exposed shot with the best dynamic range possible. The Apple iPhone 6 Plus started off with an impressive dynamic range to boot but the HDR samples didn't really help with exposing the difficult scene.

It seems that like its smaller counterpart the iPhone 6 Plus leaves the shadows as they are and tries to recover some of the detail in the highlights, just like its predecessor. The HDR effect is very subtle and we would've liked it to be a little more aggressive.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

HDR Off • HDR On

Low light is where the optically-stabilized iPhone 6 Plus should really excel over both its predecessor and smaller counterpart. OIS allows the Apple phablet to shoot at lower shutter speeds with a reduced chance of blurring. That way there can be more light in the scene at a lower ISO and as a result less noise.

OIS is expertly handled on the Apple iPhone 6 Plus. Whereas the iPhone 6 defaulted to ISOs between 200 and 320 the iPhone 6 Plus handles low light shots at ISO 100 which leads to a great noise performance. The shutter speed at which the iPhone 6 Plus captured the images below was an incredible 1/4s. Detail is superb for this light scenario and there's plenty of light in the frame.

If you are shooting moving objects at this sort of slow shutter speed, you will all but her certainly get a blurry mess. A solution is to use another photo app that would let you set a minimum shutter speed at the expense of either a darker exposure or higher ISO.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Low light samples

Apple iPhones have for some time now rules as probably the best panorama takers in the mobile world. The stitching is great with no visible tearing in the picture and the dynamic exposure helps to avoid blown-out parts of the scene.

The iPhone 6 Plus can capture panoramas with a maximum resolution of 43MP bringing a huge improvement over the already-great iPhone 5s panoramas. Here go two samples.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Panorama samples

We've enrolled the Apple iPhone 6 Plus in our photo quality comparison tool. You can compare samples with any camera in our database and see how the new Apple flagship fares in sharpness, resolution, color reproduction and detail.

Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool
Photo Compare Tool

Apple iPhone 6 Plus in our photo compare tool

240fps slow-mo in place of 4K

Apple's first phablet brings forth an improved video camera. In addition to capturing FullHD 1080p videos at 30fps the iPhone 6 Plus can also capture fast-motion 1080p videos at 60fps. Slow motion videos have also seen an improvement - alongside the year-old 720p@120fps videos Apple has added even higher-framerate (twice as high, in fact) 720p@240fps videos. That's an impressive feat considering there isn't any loss to resolution.

Sadly UHD (or 4K) video capture isn't featured in the Apple iPhone 6 Plus and has probably been reserved for the iPhone 6s Plus (or whatever Apple will call it). As is the 8MP 4:3 sensor doesn't have enough horizontal resolution for UHD video capture.

Once you enter slow-mo capture mode in the camera app you have an indicator of the frames per second - you can tap to change between 120fps and 240fps. Oddly the video mode in the camera app captures 1080p@30fps by default and you need to go into Settings-General-Photos and Camera and enable 60fps video capture at 1080p. But then the video app captures only in 60fps without giving you the option to choose between fps modes.

Apple has upgraded the already spectacular digital video stabilization we've seen on the iPhone 5s and calls the new one Cinematic Stabilization, promising cancel out even more of the shakiness during video capture. Indeed, our tests showed a noticeable decrease of shakiness and much smoother videos. You can see the stabilization in action on the Apple iPhone 6.

Looking at the field of view of the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6 it's evident that Apple is not tasking the OIS unit to stabilize the video capture, relying instead completely on the digital Cinematic Video Stabilization.

The quality of the FullHD videos captured by the Apple iPhone 6 Plus is great. Everything is sharp and detailed and the exposure was spot on. As you can see the scene at which we shot the video is very challenging with both dark and light parts but the phablet handled it nicely.

Focusing was right on the money in each video we captured and we're happy to say the phone didn't hunt too much for focus. There were no skipped frames at 30fps capture allowing everything to look smooth as it went on.

The 1080p@30fps videos of the Apple iPhone 6 Plus don't shine in either bitrate (around 11Mbps) or audio, at least on paper. Apple seems to dislike stereo sound and has included only mono (as is with every high-end phone the company has released so far) but the audio itself isn't too bad.

The 1080p@60fps videos have a much higher bitrate (27Mbps) but the same audio quality. The double amount of frames per second allows a very smooth video and the loss in detail isn't too perceptible.

Cinematic Video Stabilization on the iPhone 6 Plus acts the same as that on the iPhone 6. Looking at the video below you can clearly see that the optical image stabilization doesn't work during video and the iPhone 6 Plus relies on digital one. Bear in mind that we're slightly overdoing it in the video below just so we check how these two fare in comparison.

Moving onto to slow motion videos - they are by far the most demanding of files coming from the iPhone 6 Plus camcorder. The 120fps videos have around the same bitrate as the 1080p@60fps videos while the 240fps ones have close to twice and will run you quite a bit of memory - some 20s of slow-motion capture at 120fps will cost you 90MB and around 115MB for a 240fps video.

The detail is actually pretty good and the quality of motion reduction is impressive. The videos are fun to watch at the regular 120fps setting and get even better (twice as better) when you go up to 240fps. There isn't a dip in quality when you move from slow to super slow but it isn't too bad.

Looking at 720p clips on a pixel-packed monitor is no great pleasure, even if they are slow motion. But on the 750p display of the iPhone 6 these videos are really fun to watch and edit. The software allows you to select which parts of the clip you want fast and which one part slow.

Here are untouched samples of the 1080p@30fps (0:15s, 30.7MB), 1080p@60fps (0:14s, 45.6MB) files.

And here's our video quality comparison tool. You can choose whichever phone we've tested from our ample database.

Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool
Video Compare Tool

Apple iPhone 6 Plus in our video compare tool

Safari supports plugins, suggestions

The Safari web browser welcomes third-party developers too. It now supports extension access via its contextual menu. They will be able to auto-fill forms, use the Touch ID security features and translate webpages. It's up to the developers to come up with creative uses and hopefully we'll get a lot of those at launch.

Other than the Safari extensions, Apple has improved its Private Browsing. It's more intuitive now and won't make you convert all of your currently opened tabs into Private ones.

Landscape view is available too and it looks similar to the iPad's Safari. The tabs in this view mode are always visible as opposed to the iPhone, which makes moving between them easier. You can also rearrange the tabs, you can add new ones or switch to private browsing.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Safari

As we mentioned in the user interface chapter, the smart suggestions from Wikipedia and the App Store/iTunes Store work within the Safari browser, too.

Apple iOS 8 Preview
Apple iOS 8 Preview
Apple iOS 8 Preview

Safari search suggestions

Safari supports the iCloud keychain where you can store all of your passwords and credit card info (sans the security code). There is also a password generator available, in case you are out of ideas. What's good about this setup is that all your save content from the computer version of Safari is now available straight on your phone as well.

In much the same way, iCloud syncs your opened tabs, along with offline reading. Safari also allows you access to your multimedia content without exiting the browser.

Much like before, if a page is compatible with the integrated Reader (most of the article pages out there are) you get a Reader button right into the address bar as soon as the page loads. The Reader strips the webpage of ads and makes the layout and font size more suited to a smaller phone screen.

Other apps

With every newly activated iPhone 6 Plus you also get the complete iWorks suite including Pages (viewing, editing docs), Numbers (viewing, editing excel files), and Keynote (viewing, editing presentations).

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Pages • Numbers • Keynote

Apps such as Calendar, Notes, Weather, Calculator and Alarm are available, but they received very few upgrades, if any. The Calendar and Notes received the new landscape optimization upgrades, while the Notes app is now capable of rich text editing.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Calendar • Weather • Rich Text editing in Notes

There is a new app coming with iOS 8 - Tips. It will show new tips from Apple in your notification area each week, helping you make better use your iDevice better with intuitive demos and suggestions.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Tips app

The iBooks is now part of the iOS package and will be pre-installed once you upgrade to iOS 8. Its interface mimics that of the App Store, but the first tab is still your virtual bookshelf.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

iBooks

Reminders, Compass app, Stocks and Voice memos are available as part of the default iOS 8 package.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Reminders • Stocks

The PassBook is an e-ticket app that handles all kinds of electronic tickets and reservations (including boarding passes), loyalty cards, coupons, etc. It's Apple's answer to apps like Google Wallet. Now it also handles your credit card info if you sign up for Apple Pay.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Passbook • Voice memos

The location-aware app makes the right coupon available in the right place and at the right time. The PassBook will report the balance on coupons and cards, let you check your ticket seats and can even show you relevant notifications (e.g. gate or terminal change for a flight).

Apple has replaced Google with TomTom as map provider for the iOS native Maps application. It also offers voice-guided navigation courtesy of Siri. The navigation will work even on the lockscreen or in the background. Real-time traffic reports are available and Apple is also crowdsourcing the live traffic info anonymously from iOS users on the road. Turn-by-turn walking directions are available as well.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Maps UI

The 3D Flyover mode is a great bonus for your viewing pleasure. When you enable the 3D view (outside navigation) you will be able to explore cityscapes from birds-eye view. The currently available selection is quite limited, but more and more areas are joining Flyover in time. You can zoom, tilt and rotate using two-finger gestures to explore 3D landmarks rendered in real time.

As of its 8th version, iOS features a Health suite which gathers all data collected from the device's tracking apps and various third-party accessories. Apple has teamed up with a number of partners on the health suite including Nike and the Mayo clinic.

Apple iOS 8 Preview
Apple iOS 8 Preview
Apple iOS 8 Preview
Apple iOS 8 Preview

Health app

The app offers a Medical ID card that lists all of your health-related data, emergency contacts, medication, intolerances and doctors' contacts.

The Health app will store and track stuff like calorie burnout, periods of sleep and activity, among others. Its dashboard is where you are supposed to find all important data at a glance.

During the iOS 8 announcement, Apple unveiled several new features for its App Store. Better and smarter search with a new interface, App Bundles offered by devs, embedded videos in the app descriptions a la Google Play Store, and devs will be able to invite users to closed beta testing of future versions of their apps.

We've yet to see a beta section in the App Store making an appearance and how the beta app seeding will work. The promised App Bundles are already available though and many developers are now offering app bundles on discounted prices.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus
Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The App Store

Final words

Apple said they will never make a small tablet, or a large phone. Maybe some of you know better than to trust such claims, but we're surprised with the results - a mixture of pleasant surprise and some disappointment.

It was clear that the 4" screen of the iPhone was too limiting for the modern market but Apple played it safe with both a 4.7" base model and a phablet-sized 5.5" version, the iPhone 6 Plus. Atypically, Apple used a standard resolution for the screen, 1080p, which is great for content creators but doesn't help app developers for now as it's just another resolution they need to support.

Apple tried to give the iPhone 6 Plus a slight edge with true Optical Image Stabilization (its first) and landscape mode with split-screen and other interface options borrowed from the iPads.

In the end, the size of the device is both its biggest strength and weakness. Long-time Apple faithfuls may reject it, but it may bring Android converts. On a less positive note, it may also eat into iPad mini sales.

We call their strategy "safe" but Apple is coming out of its shell bit by bit - the one iPhone a year strategy is no more and this time around Cupertino was adventurous enough to try more than just a plastic reskin of its old device.

This makes the iPhone 6 Plus a bit of a gamble - it's entering a well-established market, meaning it has the advantage of hindsight but also has to battle an entrenched enemy. Here's what we found in our tests.

Key test findings:

  • Premium build quality but you need to take extra care of it - aluminum dents and bends are not uncommon it seems
  • Display is bright, with excellent contrast and sunlight legibility
  • Connectivity options are good but all-purpose NFC would have been nice
  • Battery life is on the better end of the phablet scale but talk time could have been better
  • iOS 8 on the iPhone 6 Plus adds some limited split-screen functions but feature-wise iOS 8 trails behind what some manufacturers have been doing with Android (multi-app split-screen, eye tracking, etc.)
  • Benchmark performance is stellar, among the best we've seen this year
  • Loudspeaker is below average, and doesn't sound as good as the speaker on the smaller device
  • Audio quality is excellent, with only a single minor exception
  • Video player is quite limited in the supported video and audio decoders
  • The best 8MP/1080p camera yet, but 8MP is the midrange of competing platforms. UHD video will become mainstream before your 2-year contract ends. Mono audio is a big issue, and one that could have been easily corrected by Apple.
  • The protruding camera is not up to Apple's perfectionism, but practically a non-issue if you use a case.

The hardware execution is great - every bit feels of the same premium quality as the corresponding component in the iPhone 6. We don't think the bending issues will be widespread enough to cause panic, but still the iPhone 6 Plus as a sum of its parts is a rather large device. There are 5.7 to 6-inch droids that fit in the same footprint.

One-hand use is a challenge for them as it is a challenge for the iPhone 6 Plus. Apple capitalized on the screen size with landscape and split-screen features, which will excite iOS owners but these are well-familiar features to Android users. Since all iPhone apps until now were developed for a small screen we guess it will take a while before third-party apps get the same level of polish as Apple's native apps.

Apple likes to ease into new technologies and form factors and so do many of its customers. The iPhone 6 already represents a big enough screen bump over previous generations and has most of the same new tricks as the 6 Plus (sans OIS and some UI features). It's cheaper too, meaning it's easier to get the 64GB version now (a must in our opinion).

Apple iPhone 6

Apple iPhone 6

Androids have been waiting for a fight with iOS on phablet ground for years now. So many years that we've taken to calling 5.5" devices "phones" rather than "phablets." The culprit responsible for this is the LG G3 - it's nearly a centimeter shorter than the iPhone but has a 5.5" screen with a sizable (if difficult to see) advantage in pixel density.

The LG monster also has optical image stabilization, with a higher resolution still (13MP) and video (2160p) camera to boot. Also, it sees Apple's phase-detection and raises laser-assisted focus. The G3's metal-looking back feels good enough to the touch and keeps the handset lighter, plus you can pop it open to cheaply add more storage or put in a fresh battery.

LG G3

LG G3

The Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is also smaller than the iPhone 6 Plus but has a bigger screen, 5.7". It has the same QHD resolution as the LG G3 and comes with the trademark S Pen stylus, which proves helpful in quite a few situations. The fingerprint sensor on the front is open to all apps, while Apple is still holding back on that front.

The Galaxy Note 4 also has phase-detection and OIS functionality on its 16MP/2160p camera, but its sensor has a 16:9 aspect ratio making it fit widescreens (both on mobiles and TVs) like a glove. Samsung has had a split-screen interface running two apps for a few generations now (LG now has its own implementation), making sure you get the most out of that large screen.

An exposed metal frame classes up the Galaxy top dog, even if not quite to aluminum unibody levels.

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

Samsung Galaxy Note 4

The Oppo Find 7 is another entry into the 5.5"/QHD market and is more affordable (but harder to find) than its better-known rivals. It has a 13MP camera with no OIS but it does record 2160p, plus there's a 5MP front-facing camera to cater to the selfie craze.

Unlike the other flagships listed here, this one has stereo speakers. The custom Color OS interface that's draped over Android 4.3 takes heavy inspiration from iOS but that's a double-edged sword - good for new users and iOS converts, not so good for veteran Android users.

Oppo Find 7

Oppo Find 7

Huawei execs are quite proud of the Ascend Mate7 fitting a 6" screen in nearly the same footprint as the iPhone 6 Plus. The latest Ascend phablet has bezels that will make even the LG take note and real metal at the back. On it is a fingerprint sensor that works even when the screen is off, making it one of the most hassle-free solutions yet.

Unlike the high-profile Android phablets, the Ascend Mate7 is fairly modest with a 1080p screen and a 13MP/1080p camera. It does have a 5MP/720p selfie camera though and an absolutely massive 4,100mAh battery. It's not in the midrange price bracket as previous Ascend Mates but it's still a good deal cheaper than the iPhone.

Huawei Ascend Mate7

Huawei Ascend Mate7

Speaking of "cheap," all these Androids have card slots so you don't have to play Apple's game of having to pay the extra 100 for a meaningful built-in storage (we don't think 16GB is enough these days).

Apple has to take some well-deserved criticism for being late to the phablet party and charging a high admission price. That said, the execution of the iPhone 6 Plus is typical Apple - attention to detail and quality, a strong stance on what the user can and can't do (what they do and don't need).

If you were part of Apple's ecosystem and briefly flirted with Android because of the big screen appeal, then Cupertino is welcoming you back. And it's expecting you bring your new Android friends who said they'll never get an iPhone because of screen size or because this or that missing.

The iPhone 6 Plus has the screen, a small but appealing package of upgrades over the previous generation and iOS 8 has narrowed the feature gap that Android managed to open in the last couple of years. The sole remaining excuse to stay away (and it's a big one) is the rather hefty price tag.

Unboxing the Apple iPhone 6 Plus

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus came in a large white box with the usual accessories: a 1A charger, a detachable Lightning cable, a pair of EarPods and a SIM eject tool.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Big white box with the standard assortment of accessories

We read reports that using a more powerful charger can fill up the battery faster so we decided to investigate. We used a 2.4A iPad Air charger and a tool to measure the power draw. It showed that the iPhone 6 Plus takes in 1.25A from the iPad charger and 1A from its own and other chargers. Overall, that shaves off 25% of the charge time if you have an iPad charger at hand.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus 360-degree spin

The Apple iPhone 6 Plus measures 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm and weighs 172g. For comparison a 5.5" LG G3 measures 146.3 x 74.6 x 8.9mm, while a 6" Huawei Ascend Mate7 measures 157 x 81 x 7.9mm. That's another way of saying that Apple's design is rather tall for the screen size.

Design and hardware

The original iPhone featured a rounded aluminum body and Apple returned to metal with the iPhone 4 design (but with a glass back). The iPhone 5 dropped the glass in favor of an aluminum unibody but kept the flat sides of the iPhone 4.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Original iPhone • iPhone 6 Plus

We've come almost a full circle now with an aluminum iPhone with rounded sides, though with years of improvements to the manufacturing process the iPhone 6 Plus and its smaller sibling appear closer to the iPod touch and the new iPads.

Even with all that, the new design is a cause for excitement - the iPhone 6 Plus is impressively thin for a device its size and doesn't feel heavy despite its all-metal body. What it does feel is large, though Apple expects a lot of Android converts who will feel right at home with the form factor.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Even big hands can struggle with the iPhone 6 Plus

It's long-time iPhone users that will have the toughest time to adjust. The Plus is too big for one-handed use but it's not an iPad mini 2 so it will feel cramped at first for two-handed use. As numerous large Androids have demonstrated users accustomed to it.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

iPhone 6 Plus size comparison with the LG G3 (left) and Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (right)

The front of the device is Ion-strengthened glass, which is rounded at its edges. That design has proved beneficial when swiping gestures are involved. Since iOS puts the Back button in the top left (that was the standard until now) we suspect that the swipe Back gesture will see a lot more use, especially on the iPhone 6 Plus.

The iPhones are available in Space Gray, Silver and Gold and we have to say the Gray version look gorgeous, while the Silver (which has a white front) looks a bit cheap. As usual, Gold is an acquired taste.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Ion-strengthened glass with beveled sides

The curve of the screen's sides continues fairly smoothly down the aluminum sides of the device, which curve around to the flat back. This makes the handset feel a bit thinner than it is.

The 7.1mm thin chassis feels exquisite - slightly thinner than the iPad Air and mini 2 and perfectly machined, it feels worthy of the price tag (but we'll talk money for the conclusion).

That said the combination of a slim body and rounded sides make the device slippery - aluminum never offered the best grip, but we feel more comfortable holding the iPhone 5s. Of course, a large part of that is the massive size compared to the old model.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

iPhone in three sizes: 4" iPhone 5s, 4.7" iPhone 6 and 5.5" iPhone 6 Plus

A flaw that users discovered after owning the 6 Plus for barely a week is that it has a structural weak point where the volume buttons are - the drilling for the buttons weakens the aluminum chassis enough for the phablet to bend in pockets.

Below the screen is the Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which has improved slightly since its introduction last year but, true to self, Apple doesn't give away much detail. Touch ID finally comes into its own with the introduction of NFC-based Apple Pay but more on that later.

Above the screen is the earpiece, the ambient light and proximity sensors, plus an aging 1.2MP camera. Apple moved it to the side of the earpiece from its previous central position and widened the aperture to f/2.2 (from f/2.4) but we were hoping for 1080p videos and higher-resolution selfies.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

The new position of the front-facing camera • the improved Touch ID fingerprint sensor

As usual, the Mute switch is above the volume rocker on the left side of the phablet.

The right side of the iPhone 6 Plus is the new place for the Power button. With the new devices (especially the Plus) much taller than their predecessors this move makes complete sense. Below the power button is the nanoSIM card tray, which requires a tool (or at least a paper clip to open).

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

Volume rocker and Mute switch • repositioned Power key and the nanoSIM card slot

This leaves the top bare, as the 3.5mm audio jack was moved several generations ago to the bottom of the device, near the Lightning port. Also is the loudspeaker grille and the main microphone.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

The bare top • 3.5mm audio jack, microphone, Lightning port and the loudspeaker

The back of the iPhone 6 Plus is made of a sheet of aluminum, plastic ridges splitting it at the top and bottom (for radio transmission reasons) but this time around the dividing lines are much thicker and more visible.

They proved a bit controversial but not nearly as the camera, which protrudes from the back for the first time in iPhone history. This raises practical concerns as the camera is more exposed to scratches (it is protected by sapphire glass though) and it makes the iPhone wobble on a level surface. It also puts the opposing corner of the device under bigger risk of getting scratched.

The big news about the camera is that it now features Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), exclusive to the 6 Plus in the iPhone family (though Windows phone and Android got there first). We'll discuss the implications of OIS in the dedicated camera chapter.

The flash is circular but still comprises of two LEDs of different color, Apple's True tone flash. Between it and the camera is the secondary mic, as we complained earlier Apple still records only mono audio in videos.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review
Apple iPhone 6 Plus Review

A protruding camera with Optical Image Stabilization