What is the iPhone 6 Plus?

Like the fashion industry in the 90's, it was once inconceivable that Apple could go for a plus size model. But the success of big Android phones like the Galaxy Note 3 and upcoming Note 4 has told. Apple has resolutely stuck to its guns for years, but now it has finally capitulated.

The iPhone 6 Plus is just like the iPhone 6, but really big. There are a few other small differences, but the main is its huge 5.5-inch screen. But why now? Yes, Samsung’s Galaxy Note series has something to do with it, but so does the companion device that Apple announced with the iPhones – the Apple Watch. With an Apple Watch on your wrist you won’t need to pull the iPhone 6 Plus out of your pocket or bag all the time.

Bottom line, the iPhone 6 Plus displays Apple’s key strengths once again. Quality fit and finish, outstanding screen fidelity and a great all round camera are all present, but there’s no escaping how big it is. iPhone 5S owners will likely baulk at its heft, but anyone concerned by its size shouldn't write it off. Read on to find out why.

Watch our iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus video


iPhone 6 Plus: Design

The iPhone 6 Plus looks huge compared to some other 5.5-inch phones like the LG G3. LG worked hard to make that _phone_ as compact as possible and achieved something of a miracle. Apple, on the other hand, has used the same design that the iPhone 6 possesses and it doesn’t work quite as well with the larger size.
iPhone 6 Plus 18

The main problem is the large top and bottom bezel. They’re big and they make the _phone_ look chunkier than it could be. The effect is offset by the fact that the iPhone 6 Plus is thin at just 7.1mm. It also comes with a typically accomplished design. The glass and aluminium back merge seamlessly together. The iPhone 6 Plus feels great in your hand, like a smooth pebble you can skip across a lake. If you are feeling particularly flush that is.

It’s well balanced and light too at just 172g. You’ll happily hold it for hours and that screen is perfect for browsing the internet or watching movies on the hoof.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 6 vs Galaxy S5

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The size means that you’ll struggle to reach the whole screen, though. You will need a crash course in hand yoga to get your thumbs across to some areas of the screen if you want to use the iPhone 6 Plus one-handed. Apple has thought of this issue and has added a feature to the iPhone 6 Plus that brings the top of the screen closer to your digits.
iPhone 6 Plus 8

Tap the home button twice and the active area of the screen drops, giving you access to address or search bars. Unlike on the iPhone 6, which is much slimmer, this doesn’t resolve all the issues caused by a big phone. You’ll still find it a bit of a stretch to get to the sides of the screen unless you’ve got big hands, particularly when texting where most people will need to use both hands to be comfortable. Still, it’s an elegant solution that makes using the iPhone 6 Plus easier.

Just as on the iPhone 6, the 6 Plus has the power button on the right hand side, about an inch and a half from the top. It’s reachable but it would have been better if it was a little lower down. It’s the same story with the volume buttons on the left.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 6 Plus vs Samsung Galaxy Note 4
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Despite the slightly awkward location of the side buttons the iPhone 6 Plus handles well even when you’re using it one handed. It feels like a premium product – no-one can quite match Apple’s superb build quality. The iPhone 6 Plus manages to feel both solid and soft at the same time.

There is one area where Apple couldn’t quite get everything to fit smoothly into the body of the 6 Plus. The camera juts out of the back so it can fit the sensor with the addition of optical image stabilisation. It only comes out slightly and the edges are chamfered, which means it doesn't snag on material as you put it in your pocket.
iPhone 6 Plus 4

They better be large pockets, though. The 158.1mm tall, 77.8mm wide and 7.1mm thick body fits into tight jeans, but not with much to spare. It’s more than a centimetre taller than the LG G3 but is almost 2mm thinner, which helps it slide into pockets, but it is larger than other phones with the same size screen.  

For that reason the iPhone 6 Plus isn’t quite the design triumph we’ve come to expect from Apple. It’s very well made and feels great in hand, but is just a bit too big. LG has shown with the LG G3 that a 5.5-inch screen can be fit into a body that feels more like a phone than a phablet. It feels as if Apple could have tried harder to make a design was bespoke to this size, rather than larger version of the iPhone 6. 
iPhone 6 Plus 7

So, if you’re happy with the size of your current iPhone, or if you struggle with larger phones, then you should go for the iPhone 6 as opposed to its bigger brother. It’s a lot more pocketable and decent step up from the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S.

If you do opt for iPhone 6 Plus, though, it’s worth also considering the leather case Apple sells. It adds a little bulk but provides a super grippy surface to ensure you don’t fumble your phone. The larger phone is little slippery thanks to its curved corners and greater width.
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Finally, we need to address the issue that has gone viral – the bendable iPhone. Apple has responded by claiming that there have only been nine cases so far and we believe it. We’ve had both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in tight jeans while cycling and for more than a week in day-to-day use. We’ve experienced no sign of bending at all.

Time will tell if this is a valid complaint or not but in our experience they appear as solid, if not more, than many other phones on the market. This has also been verified by independent tests.

iPhone 6 Plus: Screen

Apple is often accused of being behind the times when it comes to screen resolutions. The iPhone 6 Plus comes with the highest resolution display ever on an Apple phone. It’s a full HD screen – 1920 x 1080 – with 401 pixels per inch (ppi). Apple calls it Retina HD but in pure number terms it falls behind of the best Android phones. Both the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 come with QHD screens, which means a resolution of 2560 x 1440 and 534ppi / 515ppi respectively.

iPhone 6 Plus 1

That sounds like a big difference, but it isn't really. You don’t notice the extra pixels much. The Korean phones are sharper than the iPhone 6 Plus but you’ll have to zoom into text or pictures to notice any difference. In most other respects the iPhone 6 Plus has them beaten. The screen is bright and copes brilliantly in bright sunlight.

Colours are supremely accurate – they remain perfect at every angle and it has the best contrast and black level of any LCD-screened phone. It can’t compare with the perfect blacks that the AMOLED display on the Note 4 can muster, but the natural colours make up for it.

Screen experts DisplayMate also rate the screen on the iPhone 6 Plus, calling it the “best performing Smartphone LCD display that we have ever tested”. This is a very special screen indeed and you’ll love using the extra real estate to play games or watch videos. 

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The extra space means that the iPhone 6 Plus comes with a bigger and better speaker than the one on the iPhone 6. It is louder but more importantly it also comes with more depth and low end. It’s still mono, but you’ll happily watch your favourite Netflix series.

One issue that is more apparent with the speaker on the 6 Plus is that the grille is at the bottom right where your index finger is when holding it in landscape mode. The iPhone 6 is narrow enough to allow your finger to curve and not muffle the speaker, but this is more problematic on the iPhone 6 Plus. Considering the size of the top and bottom bezels it’s a shame that Apple didn’t choose to place front facing stereo speakers like the ones found on the HTC One M8.

iPhone 6 Plus: Connectivity

It’s been a while coming but the big news is that the iPhone 6 Plus has NFC (Near Field Communication). It’s limited to Apple Pay so you won’t be able to use it to pair with other NFC enabled devices you might have around the home, like wireless speakers, but Apple Pay has a huge amount of potential.

In other respects the 6 Plus has everything you’d expect from a top-of-the-range phone. You get Bluetooth 4.0, AirDrop (Apple’s feature that lets you easily share content from your phone with other Apple devices) and Wi-Fi 802.11ac. That's a lot faster than the Wi-Fi on the iPhone 5S although you will need an 802.11ac capable router to take advantage of this.

The iPhone 6 Plus also comes with a comprehensive 4G/LTE chip that covers 20 bands supports speeds up to 150Mbps. This means that it should work well on 4G networks around the world – a useful fact if you're planning on importing one or you travel widely.

iPhone 6 Plus: Performance

Apple's new A8 processor powers the iPhone 6 Plus. It’s an excellent system on a chip (SoC) that provides oodles of grunt for high definition 3D gaming and means that the iPhone 6 Plus is butter smooth in day-to-day operation.

If you just looked at the numbers you’d be forgiven for believing that the iPhone 6 Plus is a lot less powerful than the Android competition. The A8 is a dual-core processor running at 1.4GHz and is supported by just 1GB of RAM. It sounds paltry when compared to the quad-core 2.5GHz Snapdragon 801 and 2GB RAM of the Galaxy S5.

In fact, the iPhone 6 Plus performs better than the Samsung in some graphic intensive tasks like playing games. 
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Interestingly, the iPhone 6 Plus also performs a little better in our like-for-like processor tests when compared to its little brother. The wins are small though, just a few percent points.

In the 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark the 6 Plus scores a hefty 17,740 while it manages 2,871 on Geekbench 3. These are very high scores, on par with the Samsung Galaxy S5, which is the fastest of big-name Android flagship phones, and almost 30% faster than the iPhone 5S before it.

The biggest benefits of the A8 SoC, though, come from its graphical performance. The quad-core PowerVR GPU from Imagination Technologies is perfect for high intensity 3D gaming. Games look and perform brilliantly on the 5.5-inch HD screen.

The increased performance comes with some other benefits, too. Touch ID, Apple’s fingerprint recognition feature, unlocks your phone quicker than it does on the iPhone 5S.
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The iPhone 6 Plus also uses an M8 co-processor, a tiny processor that keeps track of all data created by the array of sensors. Apple has added a new measurement into the mix, a barometer. This means that the 6 Plus can also recognise altitude, so it knows if you’ve been climbing stairs or hills. Fitness tracking apps can now hook into this information to provide more accurate information about your exercise regime.

The clever thing about the M8 processor is that it’s energy efficient. Battery life would be compromised if sensor data was constantly processed by the main A8 processor. It means that when you’re not doing much with your phone your battery doesn’t drain as quickly. It restricts phone functions when it knows your phone hasn’t moved for a while and is in an area with no signal. Clever stuff.

One feature that some may find lacking from the iPhone 6 Plus is the digitiser stylus. The Galaxy Note series is famous for it and while some people find it useful many others rarely use it. It is a useful addition and if you like taking hand-written notes, drawing or using a pen rather than a keyboard you might want to wait for the Galaxy Note 4.

iPhone 6 Plus: Storage and Pricing

Apple has never provided the option of adding a microSD card into its phones and the iPhone 6 Plus is no exception. If you like to store loads of music, games or movies on your phone you’ll need to pay for the extra storage up front.

It comes in three capacities: 16GB, 64GB and 128GB and that final version costs a fortune. In fact at £789/$949 for the top model the iPhone 6 Plus is the most expensive major smartphone we’ve ever seen. Unfortunately, the 16GB model (£619/$749) only provides around 11GB of storage after iOS 8 takes its cut. This means the 64GB model is the one to get. At £699/$849 it’s not exactly cheap, but 64GB should be enough for all but the most avid mobile media hoarder.

iPhone 6 Plus: iOS 8

The iPhone 6 Plus is identical to the iPhone 6 in use with one noteworthy exception, it supports screen rotation, just like the iPad Air. This means that you can use it in landscape mode at all times, not just in apps.

You won’t notice many differences between iOS 7 and iOS 8 at first glance but there are many new features that add to the experience. No it’s not anywhere near as customisable as Android. But iOS has never been about customisation, it’s about doing the things iPhone owners do most with ease.

To find out every in and out of Apple’s new operating system read our exhaustive iOS 8 review or read on to find out about the key new features.

iOS 8

Interactive Notifications
iOS 8 lets control certain features of some apps from the lock screen. You can now control your music without having to go into the music app.

You can also respond to emails, invites, texts and more from certain apps like Facebook without having to leave the app.

Choice of Keyboard
Apple has opened up the keyboard on iOS 8 for the first time which means you can pick from third-party app makers. If you’re an Android user going to the iPhone you can now have your favourite keyboard on your new phone. 
iPhone 6 Plus Keyboard

Apple's own iOS keyboard is also a little different. The larger screen of the iPhone 6 Plus means you can get additional functions on screen and Apple has added cut, paste undo and bold keys when typing in landscape.

Notification Centre "Widgets"
A light form of the widget feature that Android has had for ages is now available on iOS 8. Instead of appearing on the home screens, widgets are set up in the Notification Centre where they bring up some information without having to go into the app. 

Recently Called Shortcut
Press the Home button twice and the currently open apps appear so you can scroll through them. This existed on iOS 7 but Apple has now added bubbles with your most recently called contacts at the top so you can get to them with ease.

iOS 8 review 3

Health
Health is a hub for all the data relating to your body and health -- it can store everything from your blood type to your diet. It’s more of a repository of information you have to input yourself at the moment, but the most recent iOS 8 update has seen apps begin to add Health app support. We'll be exploring this in greater detail soon.


Battery Monitor
The battery life of the iPhone 6 Plus is great, but you can find out which apps are causing it to go down quickly. If you want to find out more tips about keeping you iPhone’s battery tip top then read: iOS 8 Battery Problems: Extend your iPhone’s Battery.

Apple Pay
As we’ve already mentioned, Apple has finally added NFC to the iPhone 6 Plus. Apple Pay adds the ability to pay for products using contactless technology and Touch ID. We’ve not been able to test this feature yet as it won’t be coming out until October and even then it will initially be limited to the US.

Continuity
Continuity lets you take calls from your iPhone 6 Plus to any other Apple product running iOS 8 or OS X Yosemite as long as they’re on the same Wi-Fi network.

Hey Siri
You can now activate Siri by voice alone. As long as your iPhone 6 Plus is plugged in you can shout ‘Hey Siri’ and ask your question. Siri has now also been integrated with Shazam so it can tell you which song is playing and make it easy for you to buy it via the iTunes store.

Family Sharing
You can now share apps, video, audio and books can  among the family. Parents can create Apple IDs for their children and they can include the option to send an approval request for purchases so big.

This is just a selection of the most important and useful features in iOS 8, but (one or two early bugs aside) it's an excellent update that adds some powerful new features. You need to be an Apple user through and through to get the most of all of them, particularly the Continuity feature, but if you are then iOS 8 connects your devices in a more meaningful way then ever before.

iPhone 6 Plus: Camera

The iPhone 6 Plus has an 8-megapixel rear camera similar to the camera found on the iPhone 6. It comes with the same new phase detection feature for faster focussing that Apple calls 'Focus Pixels' and allows you to change the light balance on the fly. Focus pixels help the iPhone 6 Plus focus a lot more quickly than the iPhone 5S before it.

There is one important difference between the iPhone 6 Plus and the 6 – it includes optical image stabilisation. It's by no means the first phone camera to use it, we've seen it in Nokia phones in the past and the Nexus 5 last year, but it's the first Apple phone to have it.
iPhone 6 Plus Test Shots 4

What is Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS)?
Optical image stabilisation helps you take good quality photos by using a gyroscope to keep the lenses stable. This comes with some major benefits when you’re shooting. The most important is that you can get sharp, blur-free images even in low light conditions.

To get the most amount of light possible the shutter speed of a camera is slower in dark conditions. This means that any slight hand movements while taking the picture are exacerbated, leading to out of focus images. OIS particularly helps eliminates some of issues associated with taking phone pictures one-handed, where you're less stable.  
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The OIS on the iPhone 6 Plus (right) means less noise and better colours compared to the iPhone 6 (left)

In our test shot in low light conditions (above) the iPhone 6 Plus provides pictures with less noise than the iPhone 6. Those big pixels also mean it’s streets ahead of the Samsung Galaxy S5 in dingy lighting.  

In our test shot on an overcast Sunday afternoon you will notice that the iPhone 6 Plus’s shot is a little brighter and the colours more authentic.
iPhone 6 Plus Test Shots

However on a bright and sunny day the differences between the iPhone 6 Plus and its little brother are negligible. In these conditions the extra pixels of the Samsung Galaxy S5’s camera makes it shine, providing more detail than the iPhones can muster.
iPhone 6 Plus Test Shots 1
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From left to right: iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung Galaxy S5

In terms of video the iPhone 6 Plus shoots full HD, so it doesn’t quite match the 4K shooting that some other flagship phones offer. It does, however, come with sensational slow motion video capture that now captures 720p video at 240FPS. It’s easy as pie to use and results look fantastic.

240FPS Slo-mo video


Optical image stabilisation improves the video capture on the iPhone 6 Plus, too. It smooths some of the movements that occur when videoing on the move, but not as much as we expected. The iPhone 6’s software stabilisation does a good job of keeping video from juddering too much and you’ll be quite happy with shooting video on it. The iPhone 6 Plus’s OIS helps eliminate these movements even more.

Watch a video comparing image stablisation of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus



The iPhone 6 Plus does not manage well with large, sharp movement during video recording. The stabilisation tries to overcompensate and results in video that is over processed. A video we took with it strapped to a bike's handlebars looks like it's been shot underwater.

The front facing camera has also had a boost. The aperture has been increased to f/2.2, which means more light gets to the sensor and better selfies can be taken in low light conditions.

Time lapse is the final new feature that Apple has added to the camera app on iOS 8. It's a fun feature to play around with if you have a little patience.

iPhone 6 Plus: Battery Life

If there’s one area where the iPhone 6 Plus stands out, and is streets ahead of the iPhone 6, it is battery life. The 2,915mAh battery packs enough juice to let the iPhone 6 Plus last two full days of reasonable use with the screen set to 50% brightness. Whack the brightness up though and that big, bright 5.5-inch screen will start sucking up the juice.

That’s far longer than the LG G3’s 3,000mAh battery can last and it bests the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, too.
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But how did it fare in our tests? Apple quotes 14 hours of video playback and 80 hours of music. We managed more than three hours and 45 minutes of high intensity 3D gaming, which is exactly the same as the Galaxy S5, but is a full hour more than the iPhone 6. We also found ourselves leaving the office with more than 75% battery left on occasion, which never happened when using the iPhone 6.

In our standard video test where we play a standard definition video on loop until the battery dies, the iPhone 6 Plus’s battery managed just under 12 hours before shutting down. That’s two hours more than the iPhone 6 and almost an hour more than the Galaxy S5.

The iPhone 6 Plus has a lot of staying power – in fact it is close to having the longest battery life of any smartphone we’ve tested. It’s slightly better in some respects to the HTC One M8 and Samsung Galaxy S5, two recent smartphones that boast great stamina.

If battery life is a key factor for you then you won’t go wrong Apple’s biggest phone yet.

iPhone 6 Plus: Call Quality

iPhones have good call quality and the iPhone 6 Plus is no different. It comes with a noise cancelling microphone that manages to moderate external noise enough for you to hear the person on the other line, even in noisy conditions.

The iPhone 6 Plus suffers from some poor quality sound in locations where your connection to the network is poor. This isn’t a problem limited to the iPhone 6 Plus by any stretch but Apple has included VoLTE (Voice over LTE) , which should help matters once networks start using it.

Some Samsung phones also carry this feature but you’ll have to check with your network provider to find out when they’ll be enabling it in your
area.
 

From left to right: iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, iPhone 5S

Should I buy the iPhone 6 Plus?

It’s all a question of size. Can you live with such a big phone? If the answer is yes then there are some clear benefits to getting the big iPhone. Battery life is one, optical image stabilisation the other and that magnificent screen the third.

If size is an issue though, and you really want an Apple phone then you should look to the iPhone 6. It is also a great phone.

The LG G3 is a good, and more pocketable, 5.5-inch phone that doesn’t quite reach the build quality of the 6 Plus but comes in at half the price. We haven’t yet had enough time with the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 to compare it to the iPhone 6 Plus quite yet. It’s the most obvious competitor so we’ll update this section with our finding once we’ve put it through its paces.

Fundamentally, though, this is an excellent phone. Some people will prefer one thing or the other depending on their needs and preferences, but if you do buy an iPhone 6 Plus then you won't be disappointed. 

Verdict

The iPhone 6 Plus is a great phone if you can deal with its size and price. It’s blisteringly fast, lasts for ages and comes with one of the best screens we’ve ever seen. The optical image stabilisation takes the good camera on the iPhone 6 and makes it even better.