iPhone 6 Plus User Review

Preface

Before you start reading this review, I want to make clear; I'm a big Windows Phone fan and have never used an iPhone before. The closest thing would be a iPod touch a few years back, so do not expect this review to be like other iPhone reviews written by iPhone owners/users.

Like my other user reviews, I will not be diving into specs, etc. this review will focus on the aspects I liked & disliked about the iPhone 6 Plus from my usage point of view (your usage will most likely differ from mine); but it will give you an idea of some of the good points and bad points about the device.

Introduction

I am very grateful for the iPhone as it helped revolutionise the mobile industry. But I've never managed to find a reason to spend so much on a smartphone, especially when I could get an Android or Windows Phone that would provide me with same if not more features/functionality for a fraction of its price.

And no. I have not brought my first iPhone. The device I'm reviewing is a test device that has been loaned to me for carrying out testing and discovery of the accessibility features available on the iPhone 6 Plus. Therefore I have dedicated the first section of this article to outlining the accessibility features available on the iPhone 6 Plus.

Next I will run through all the features that I believe are important in a modern smartphone, followed by a summary overview of other things I liked and disliked about the iPhone 6 Plus, finally I end the article with my recommendations.

Accessibility Features

Accessibility has been built into the iOS platform since the original iPhone launched, but Apple has not used it as a marketing feature until recent years.

What are these accessibility features and what's the fuss you may ask. These accessibility features are not just about enabling people with impairments or disabled to use an iOS device, they can benefit anyone who knows about them. I, for one, love the VoiceOver (Screen Reader) feature.

Because this isn't a review of the accessibility features available in iOS, I'll just list the main ones available in iOS 8 and give them a brief summary.

The main accessibility features are:

  • VoiceOver/Speak Screen: an excellent screen reader, just like its OSX counterpart.
  • Siri/Dictation: digital personal assistant that can help carry out tasks you give it via voice commands.
  • Zoom/Magnify: allows you to enlarge a portion or the entire screen.
  • Font Adjustments: allows you to adjust font settings to the core apps, such as mail.
  • Invert Colours/Grayscale: allows you to alter the display colour, like turn the display to grayscale.
  • Braille Display support: iOS supports more than 40 bluetooth braille displays out-of-the-box.

You can find out about all the accessibility features available on the iOS platform including others not mentioned on the Apple Accessibility hub.

Speed/Performance

One of the main complaints about Windows Phone-based smartphones was their outdated hardware. Here, I'm going to say a similar thing about the iPhone 6 Plus. While the industry has moved onto quad-core CPUs, Apple has stuck to a dual-core solution for the iPhone 6 & 6 Plus.

It is true their in-house designed CPUs are superior, and I may go as far as saying the best in the industry. But the lack of the additional 2 cores can really be noticed when switching apps or having something that is CPU intensive running.

My guess is that Apple does not have a nice and easy to use API to handle multi-threading in apps for app developers to use, so there's not much point in having additional cores.

To the normal user, they wouldn't really notice this, as Apple has done a few very nifty things to hide this slowness:

  • They have dedicated/prioritised the OS over apps, therefore the OS is always responsive and when an app “seems” to be slow or hanging, it's the app misbehaving and not the fact that the device is slow.
  • They have purposely & carefully slowed down all the animations, effects, etc. so they run at the same/similar speed, therefore giving the user the impression that the device is running fast even when the device is actually running slow.
  • Updated to the ARMv8 architecture to improve the performance of the individual cores.

As with all Apple devices, once a newer one comes out, the performance difference between the two is quite noticeable, even for the normal user. So if you have a doubt about what I've just said, go into a store and have a play with a iPad Air 2, which has a Tri-core CPU, and see the difference for yourself.

In saying that, the performance of the iPhone 6 Plus is satisfactory in my books, not great, but acceptable.

If performance is your primary/most important decision making factor, I would recommend looking elsewhere.

Camera

For someone who is used to the amazing camera found on Nokia Lumia smartphones. It was a bit of a disappointment for me, especially after Apple made such a big fuss about it. Boasting about the capabilities of the “new” camera and Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) support (iPhone 6 Plus only).

Do not take it the wrong way, the camera is nice – it is a Sony Sensor and has OIS after all; but due to the lack of manual controls available in the camera app and only being 8 Megapixel. I find the performance to be slightly inferrior to the camera on the Nokia Lumia 925, mostly due to the lack of manual controls provided by the camera app.

For general everyday use, it's a big step up from the camera included in the previous iPhones, but Apple still has a long way to go before they can compete with the competition in this department.

Let's hope Apple will use the same camera module as found in the Sony flagships in the iPhone 6S/ iPhone 7.

Design

The iPhone 6 Plus is a very nicely designed & very well built smartphone. Coupled with the faux-leather case, the smartphone is very nice to hold albeit a bit big for my hands.

For the price you pay for it, I wouldn't have expected anything less. I hear some people say they liked the square edges of the previous iPhones, I beg to differ. I much prefer the rounded edges, it's much more hand-friendly – if there's such a word.

However, I don't like the placement of the buttons on the left and right edges of smartphone; they are placed in very counter-intuitive places.

The power button is far too high up and should be better placed in the middle (like on the Nokia Lumia and Sony Xperia smartphones).

Much the same with the volume buttons, they should be placed on the top right edge where the power button currently sits. Reason being, you do not want to be pressing in the opposite direct to your power button, as you will run into the risk of your other hand accidentally pressing the power button.

Regardless of whether you're a photographer or have a passion for photography or not. One of the functions we use our smartphone for these days is a camera. As discussed earlier, Apple overhauled the camera sensor and included OIS to the iPhone 6 Plus camera, but why they left out a dedicated camera button is a bit strange.

Other things I liked

  • Selection of apps, Android may have more, but the quality is not there in Android apps though that is slowly changing with the push of Material Design
  • Consistent. It may not be as fast as Quad-core powered smartphones, but it provides a consistent and stable feeling.
  • Gestures. E.g swipe from left edge to go back.
  • Core apps work reliably. E.g. Message, Phone, iMessage, FaceTime, and VoiceOver
  • Best looking icons, not the outdated homescreen icons, but the newly flat design inspired icons.

Other things I didn't like

  • Apps are single threaded. i.e. once you tell an app to do something, the UI for that app hangs until the task you have asked it to do is completed.
  • Is too big for my little hands, gets a bit tiring after holding for about 5 minutes or so. And you really need two hands to operate it.
  • Requires a SIM before it will function.
  • Default settings are not user-friendly. e.g. allowing the OS updates to be downloaded via mobile data.
  • The descriptions of settings is poorly worded. e.g. Mobile Data: Turn off mobile data to restrict all data to Wi-Fi, including email, web browsing and push notifications.
  • The letters on the virtual keyboard keys are always uppercase regardless of what the input case is.
  • Only way to exit/close an app is via the running apps screen (reached by double-clicking the home button)
  • Multimedia is restricted to iTunes. i.e. drag and dropped MP3 files will not be picked up by music app.
  • Proprietary lightening cable.
  • Outdated User Interface, even with the updated icons.

Conclusion

The iPhone 6 Plus is a solid upgrade for all iPhone fans, especially those looking for the larger screen, phablet size.

But for those who aren't so dedicated fans and are open to other platforms, I would recommend looking elsewhere. That is, you aren't deeply tied to the iOS app store (i.e. made a lot of purchases) and do not require the accessibility features offered by the iOS platform.

Finally, for those who are deeply tied to the iOS ecosystem and not fussed if you upgraded or not. I would recommend holding out for the next generation, which would see either a Tri-core or a Quad-core CPU and hopefully an even better camera. Unless you upgrade every 12 months, then there is no reason to not upgrade.

Product Photos

Figure 1. Front of iPhone 6 Plus showing default screen lock.
Figure 2. Right edge of iPhone 6 Plus showing power button & nan-SIM card slot.
Figure 3. Left edge of iPhone 6 Plus showing sound-lock switch, volume up & down buttons.
Figure 4. Bottom edge iPhone 6 Plus showing headphone jack, lightening socket, & grill.
Figure 5. Back of iPhone 6 Plus showing camera, camera flashlight, Apple logo, & miscellaneous small print.