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Apple iPhone 6 Review

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iPhone 6 Specifications

→ 1.4GHz dual-core Apple A8 processor with 64-bit architecture and M8 coprocessor, 4.7in 1334x750 pixels Retina HD display
→ 16GB, 64GB or 128GB storage
→ 8MP rear-facing iSight rear camera with 1080p HD video recording at 60fps
→ 1.2MP front-facing camera with 720p HD video recording
→ GSM/EDGE/HSPA+/HSDPA/LTE 4G, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, GPS, Bluetooth 4.0
→ NFC, 8-pin charging port
→ 3.5mm headphone jack
→ Apple iOS 8 operating system, 138x67x6.9mm, 129g
→ built-in lithium-ion battery offering up to 14 hours of talk time over 3G quoted

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  • Design

WITH ITS LATEST iPhone releases, Apple has finally caved in to pressure from smartphone users and launched larger format devices. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus add larger screens and build sizes, along with a few other new features exclusive to the latest hardware.

We’ve been using the iPhone 6 for about a week now and, as a long-term iPhone user, have been very impressed with the new version. We were initially worried that the larger format wouldn’t suit the small-handed amongst us and would be awkward to type on, but the larger screen, long battery life, and other benefits more than make up for those concerns.

Design and build

The iPhone 6 has the standard high-quality build associated with Apple. The aluminum case gives the iPhone 6 a premium feel and the glass screen is integrated seamlessly into the phone’s casing. However, even in our short time using the phone we’ve found it prone to developing nicks and scratches to the screen, so investing in a clear screen protector or full protective case is a must.

The iPhone 6 is very comfortable to hold as it’s very thin and light, measuring 138x67x6.9mm and weighing 129g. The handset has rounded corners as well as is lightweight, meaning it’s comfortable to hold for long phone calls and while typing or viewing media, for example.

 iPhone 6 review

Apple iPhone 6 reachability via home buttonApple has also taken account of one-handed use in the longer design of the iPhone 6. Double-tapping the home button will now pull down the top of the screen (see image left), meaning it’s easier to use the phone with just one hand as the top area is accessible.

The iPhone 6 power/standby button is on the right-hand side of the device, along with the Nano-SIM slot. The ringer on/off switch and volume controls are on the left (the volume up button can also be used to take pictures from the camera app).

At the bottom are a 3.5mm headphone jack, microphone, Lightning charging port, and speaker. The home button with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor built-in is on the front, while on the back is a dual flash and camera lens.

The speakers and microphone are both of good quality. You can get a decent level of audio out of the speakers, meaning you don’t need to pack travel speakers for a bit of music or video playback on your next trip, and we found the mic performed very well at picking up sound for audio recordings, even when far away from the source.

The iPhone 6 model is available in three color choices: gold, silver, and space grey.

Display

The larger build size means iPhone 6 users are treated to a 4.7in screen, finally putting the device in the same league as popular handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the HTC One M8. The screen size makes the handset a good choice for any buyer looking for a great video or gaming experience squeezed into a lightweight, slimline phone.

Apple has packed the Retina HD display with 1334×750 pixels, at 326ppi. The screen is an LED-backlit widescreen display with multi-touch and in-plane switching, which offers impressive viewing angles whether looking down from the top, up from the bottom, front or side-on, or anywhere in between.

 iPhone 6 review

You can also pick between a standard or zoomed view for the iPhone 6 home screens, which both take full advantage of the 4.7in screen. Standard displays the icons in normal size, so you can fit six icons down each home screen, while zoomed displays the icons in a larger format. Both still fit four icons across the screens.

The zoomed view will also display text in a larger format, ideal for anyone with less than perfect eyesight, while standard displays more text on the screen when reading emails or messages, for example.

We found colors on web pages, games, and videos to be bright and vibrant, while the text was clean and crisp. It’s also easy to increase or decrease the size of the text in apps that support Dynamic Type, such as Apple’s own, via the Display menu.

Performance

The iPhone 6 features Apple’s new A8 chip, based on the 64-bit ARM architecture, along with an updated M8 coprocessor looking after the sensors.

While Apple declines to give exact specifications for the processor, it is widely accepted to be a dual-core chip clocked at 1.4GHz. Apple said the A8 speeds up processing by up to 25 percent, with up to 50 percent faster graphics compared with the previous generation, meaning better support for intensive tasks like gaming at higher frame rates.

Performance on the device was certainly smooth and nippy. Web pages were quick to open, apps were easy to access, and video and games were easily handled by the A8 chip, so you can happily play games or watch your favorite cartoons in their full glory. You can scroll through your photos in milliseconds, and graphics such as maps render smoothly and quickly.

 iPhone 6 review

The M8 coprocessor measures motion data from three different points – the accelerometer, gyroscope, and compass – to support fitness apps and navigation systems, among other features. Read more on this in the apps section later.

The coprocessor also has an advantage around battery life for anyone using the iPhone 6 in remote areas where network signals aren’t easy to come by. The M8 reads data from the sensors that will tell the phone if it’s moving or not, so it won’t waste power searching desperately for a non-existent mobile signal if it’s sat on standby overnight.

Security

The major security feature of the iPhone 6 remains the Touch ID fingerprint scanner. You can either scan in a fingerprint when first accessing your iPhone 6 or via the General option in the Settings menu after entering your four-digit passcode.

Touch ID is a great feature for business users, as it means they can add an extra layer of security to their smartphone to protect sensitive data if it gets lost or stolen, giving IT managers a little extra reassurance regarding the whole BYOD phenomenon. Touch ID can also be used to restrict access to certain apps, as well as to the device as a whole.

It’s pretty easy to set up by gently tapping the home button until the phone has gathered enough data to save your fingerprint, and you can set up the sensor to recognize prints from different fingers on your own hands or someone else’s, which is handy if your partner or friends often check things on your phone for you. We found the fingerprint scanner easy to set up, although every now and again we found it would not recognize fingerprints, for example, if we had slightly damp fingers.

The Find My iPhone feature is also aimed at making it less likely that people will be able to access your data if your phone is lost or stolen. If you try to turn off the Find My iPhone feature or erase the iPhone’s content, you need to give your Apple ID and password, and even if the device is reset, it will still require your login details to access anything, in a move by Apple to combat the growing issue of iPhone theft.

For IT admins, Apple has also extended mobile device management support with a Device Enrollment Program, to let firms set up, configure, and supervise iPhones wirelessly. However, the iPhone 6 does not include a feature similar to Samsung’s Knox or BlackBerry Balance, which separates personal and corporate data, with the latter under the control of your employer’s IT team.

The built-in Calendar, Contacts, Notes, and Reminders apps are among those that store data in an encrypted format, while the Mail app now supports S/MIME on a per-message basis, as well as being able to flag external email addresses to ensure only colleagues receive sensitive data.

The iPhone 6 also features per-app VPN support for corporate rollouts, meaning that firms can secure access to any on-premise enterprise applications that workers access via iPhones.

iOS 8

The latest version of the iOS platform comes pre-installed on the iPhone 6, and it adds a few handy new features and several tweaks to current apps.

iOS 8 has brought support for third-party on-screen keyboards, a big deal for those who love alternative versions like SwiftKey. This lets you type by sliding your finger from letter to letter, and learning as you write. We tried this out for a while but found we preferred the in-built predictive QuickType keyboard, which Apple has also designed to learn your conversational style. We found the keyboard worked well and managed to predict what we wanted to type accurately after a few days of use.

The disappointing element of this is that as the iPhone keyboard has improved, there’s less opportunity for hilarious iPhone auto-correct examples.

One aspect we didn’t get on with so well is typing using the 4.7in the device. While it’s great that Apple has taken advantage of the extra screen size by including frequently used keys like the comma and smiley menu on the default keyboard display, those users with small hands will find it a struggle to type quickly as you’ll need to stretch your fingers.

Fortunately, we were impressed with the audio messaging function available in the Mail and Messages apps, with which we were able to dictate lengthy messages and managed to transcribe these largely correctly. This could prove a useful alternative if the wide keyboard is too problematic.

 iPhone 6 review

In the Mail app, if you swipe left on an email in your inbox view, this offers a list of options, including flag and archive, while the More button lets you request notification whenever someone responds to that particular email thread. You can also reply, forward, or delete it from the inbox menu.

Banner notifications are ‘actionable’ in iOS 8, which means you can respond to a text message straight from the banner by swiping it down, for example, or mark a spam email as read.

Apple has also tweaked its multitasking menu so when you double-tap on the home button, it will display your Favourite and Recent contacts in circles across the top as well as any open apps that you can scroll through. This is a novel feature, but we found ourselves still hitting the standard phone icon to locate recent contacts.

A major aspect of the iOS 8 update is the continuity element, available to anyone who has downloaded the OS X Yosemite beta on a Mac. This lets you answer calls to your iPhone using your Mac, or send SMS texts from your Mac rather than just via iMessage.

A similar feature, Handoff, will no doubt be one of the most useful features of iOS 8, letting you start writing an email or message on your iPhone or iPad, and then getting a prompt to finish it when turning on your Mac via a small icon in the bottom left-hand corner.

While we were unable to get the continuity or Handoff features working between our iPhone 6 and our MacBook Pro running Yosemite, and nor were our colleagues, we’ve seen both in action on an iPhone 6 Plus and it appears to work smoothly once set up.

Another point to note is that the combination of iOS 8 and the iPhone 6 has fixed the bug in Voice Memo, Apple’s pre-installed audio recording app, which we previously fell victim to. In the Voice Memo app on an iPhone 5S running iOS 7, audio files that had been saved in their full version lost much of the recording when reopened. We’re happy to report that we’ve just made full use of Voice Memo on the iPhone 6 over a week-long conference for hours of recording without any glitches.

Apps

Apple has included a couple of new noteworthy apps to iOS 8.

 iPhone 6 review

Apple iPhone 6 Health fitness app dashboard Health app is handy for fitness fanatics, allowing you to track your weight, calorie intake, and exercise and presenting the data in a dashboard. The iPhone 6 can also judge distance and elevation via its barometer, which senses air pressure to measure relative elevation, so the handset can tell if you’re moving upwards.

We also liked the Medical ID feature, which lets you input emergency contact numbers, your blood type, and organ donor preference. This data can then be accessed in an emergency by doctors or other third parties by clicking the Emergency button from the lock screen and clicking Medical ID.

The Tips app is a visual tutorial to getting the best out of your iPhone, and you can easily scroll through the latest tips. Current examples include how to get Siri to tell you what music you’re listening to, dragging a message bubble to the left to see the time of delivery, and how to add the suffix to internet addresses by holding down the full stop button.

As with previous versions of iOS, you can also get access to Apple’s Pages, Numbers, and Keynote productivity apps for free, useful for business users wanting to work on the go. And if the above isn’t enough, Apple chief Tim Cook was excited to point out at the iPhone 6 launch that there are now 1.3 million apps to choose from.

Camera

Apple has made some small improvements to the iPhone 6 iSight camera, although it still falls below some of the other smartphone cameras out there, for example on the Nokia Lumia 1020.

The 8MP camera features a new sensor with Focus Pixels to help the iPhone 6 focus faster and better, to go with its 1.5-micron pixels and ƒ/2.2 aperture. This is backed by an image signal processor in the A8 chip, which sorts out shaky hands and low light.

The dual-LED flash is designed to apply exactly the right color combination to your photo’s subject, and we’ve been impressed with the feature. The image below was taken in a dark room with no lighting, and as you can see, the colors are as natural as if they were taken in daylight, and it’s even managed to give a well-defined image of a black cat, which are notoriously difficult to photograph. iPhone 6 review

It’s easy to scroll through the six different shooting modes via the bottom of the screen in the camera app, picking from Photo, Square, Pano (as in panoramic shot) for stills, and Video, Slo-Mo, and a new Time-Lapse mode for video. Filters are accessible by clicking the three overlapping circles to the right.

Time-Lapse takes a frame every few seconds, to give you a jerky video that speeds up time. This could be a handy feature for film or documentary makers, but we can’t see it having much value for business or general users.

Apple has also included a timer tool, which lets you take selfie group shots with a pause of either three or 10 seconds after setting up the shot and hitting the shutter button.

Slo-Mo lets you shoot video at 120 or 240 frames per second at 720p, then choose a section to slow down to a quarter or an eighth of the speed respectively. For example, you could film somebody jumping from a window, or running down the street, and slow down a section to highlight their movement, or a car driving towards you, and then slow it down to see the passengers in detail.

Burst mode lets you hold down the shutter button and take 10 shots per second, so you can then pick the best photo from the multiple shots grouped together as one in your Photos folder.

The iPhone camera is decent enough to use for work purposes, filming shots when out and about at conferences, or to document work meetings or events, and we’re sure those in marketing or digital departments will find good business use for the latest in-built camera tools.

Apple Pay

Apple has added a Near-Field Communications (NFC) controller to the iPhone 6 to support mobile payments. Rather than standardize on an existing mobile payments technology, the firm has created its own version with Apple Pay.

The Apple Pay virtual wallet allows contactless payments to be made via the iPhone 6 at retailers supporting the initiative, which currently include Subway, McDonald’s, and the Disney Store. However, this will only be available to Apple users in the US when the technology launches in October, so we’ve been unable to try out the payment aspect.

Apple Pay will let you add funds via iTunes cards or by taking a photo of your credit card using the handset’s camera. The NFC antenna also uses Secure Element technology to safely store this payment information on the device rather than on Apple’s servers or cloud services and combines with Touch ID and Passbook to enable secure contactless payments.

As impressed as we are with the iPhone 6 in its current format, we’re disappointed not to be able to try Apple Payout already, and there’s no mention yet from Apple of a UK rollout date. However, Visa has hinted that it will be coming next year.

Storage and pricing

The iPhone 6 comes in 16/64/128GB models, priced at £539, £619, and £699 SIM-free respectively. Apple has ditched the 32GB version and has instead introduced the larger 128GB model, a good move for those who need the extra onboard storage.

With each model costing less than the equivalent iPhone 5S when it first went on sale, buyers can have little complaint about getting more storage for a lower cost.

At the time of writing in early October, all of the iPhone 6 models, in all their various color and storage options, come with a delivery time of seven to 10 business days if you order a handset directly from Apple’s web store.

Battery

Apple quotes up to 14 hours of talk time over 3G, with up to 11 hours of online use over WiFi or video playback, and up to 250 hours on standby. While we didn’t have time to test the standby or talk time claims, we did test the battery life against the video playback claim and found that we got around 10.5 hours with the screen set to auto-brightness, which we were impressed with for a smartphone.

We were overall really impressed with the in-built battery, finding we could get pretty much two full days of light to medium use out of the iPhone 6, almost unheard of in these days of high-resolution screens and power-hungry apps. However, the battery remains unswappable, meaning you’ll need to carry around a charging pack if you’re a heavy-duty phone user.

iPhone 6 review

Connectivity

The iPhone 6 includes a few new features to improve connectivity. Once supported by mobile operators, you’ll be able to make calls over WiFi when on a wireless network, which will be useful when in areas of poor mobile signal.

The new handset also supports Voice over LTE for high-quality audio on voice calls. But while both these features are perks of the iPhone 6 on paper, in practice UK users are unable to take advantage of them due to a lack of operator support. So far, EE had said it will be supporting them, but no timescale has been given.

In Short

The larger screen, long battery life, and great performance more than make up for minor niggles like certain features not being available in the UK.

While the iPhone 6 isn’t the cheapest smartphone out there, Apple has reduced the cost compared with the iPhone 5S, so buyers get a better model for slightly less, and the pricing is comparable to other high-end flagship models from rivals.

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