User Interface & Operating System
The Apple iPhone 6 Plus runs on the iOS 8 smooth as silk. With the addition in screen property, Apple added the layout options for some of its core apps, like the Safari browser, Spring Board, Settings, Mail client and Messages, among others. The new layouts aim to reduce the screen transitions, taps, and utilize the additional screen size to the maximum advantage.
The new OS is very similar to the iOS 7, with all the apps populating the home screen, the folders present in the mix, the standard clock, the dock at the bottom featuring 4 shortcuts, transparency and themes. The lock screen is the same as the iOS 7, with the playback controls, the camera shortcut both present, as are the three unlock methods, the traditional options of the 4-digit passcode, the custom passcode and the TouchID. The home screen can be rotated, which shifts the display somewhat, with the docking bar going to the right side of the display. The swiping up takes users to the Control Center which has seen a minor redesign, while swiping down displays the Notifications area which now has no All or Missed tabs, both being merged into one Notification tab.
The notifications pop up has been upgraded with the option to respond to notifications through the pop up directly, and notifications can be discarded, tasks can be completed and likes can be posted on Facebook among others. Apple has also opened the Notification Center to developers, so we feel pretty soon, a lot of apps will have great and very interactive widgets on display.
The task switcher can be accessed by a double tapping the home key, with all open apps displayed as cards with app icons to display which app they represent, and an additional row on top to display the favorite contacts who have been recently contacted – the apps can be switched to or killed, and the contacts can be called or sent a message too, from this place.
Another big change is the Spotlight update, which now enables smart suggestions, and these suggestions can now be pulled from iMDb, Wikipedia and other such sources, App Store, iBooks, nearby places, and more – these suggestions now work within Safari also.
Files can now be opened into any app using the “Open In” option. Battery usage statistics finally appear in Apple too. The Siri assistant got an upgrade, with Shazam integration, and if you want song recognition, just letting Siri listen to it will help – Siri can recognize the name, song details and can provide an iTunes link to the same. Voice activation is present, and can be enabled by simply saying “Hey Siri”. Siri now has support for 24 different languages, and has command over actions affecting the iOS like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi control, reading voicemail, brightness controls, etc. Queries can also be answered using the internet connectivity at the back, which is always a big help.
Another option, greatly advertised in the iOS 8, is the Handoff option. This is similar to the tab sync option from Google Chrome in the sense that any task being done on one iOS 8 device can be continued onwards with any other iOS 8 device. For example, if a user is typing an email on his iPad, and has to be on the move, he can continue the remainder of his email from his iPhone. This feature is not just limited to messages and emails, with the sync feature available for Safari pages, Reminders, Contacts, Maps, Calendars, Keynote and Numbers among others. Calls can be taken from any Wi-Fi enabled iOS device, using this feature. Even Macs can make calls or send messages, bet it MMS, iMessages or SMS, using the iPhone via Handoff, and the core requirement other than iOS 8 devices is that all these devices should be on the same Wi-Fi network. A Hotspot option enables connectivity between the Macs, iPads and iPhones.
The TouchID introduced in the iPhone 5s has been improved, with a larger sensor, better recognition, and 360-degree reading, so that the fingerprint scan is taken effortlessly. It still does require the passcode being enabled as a prerequisite though. Apple allows users to be able to set up to five fingerprint scans for validation, so that users can allow their family to be able to use their device too. Apple does mention however, that with all the five slots filled, the performance might slightly get degraded. The TouchID is associated with purchases along with the simple unlock features, and the authorizations are for iTunes, App Store and the iBooks Store. The TouchID is available for developers too from iOS 8, though direct access is not allowed to the fingerprints, only approvals and denials are provided. Apple Pay also utilizes the TouchID, though it is supported via NFC only.
The iCloud gets an upgrade along with others, and has been taken to the levels of Dropbox and OneDrive, with instant sync of your images and videos, and the images are all readily available on the cloud, as well as other iOS devices that you may have. Like other cloud services, the sync feature is not just limited to videos, audio recordings and images – all files that are required to be synced can be synchronized in this way. The Handoff feature heavily is reliant on the iCloud for the sync and file availability across devices, and without iCloud, Handoff cannot work. The iCloud does provide options to select data from which apps gets to be synced automatically, and whether or not to use data options when there is no Wi-Fi. The iCloud has only 5GB free, and to increase this, you have to pay.
Another feature most definitely useful is the Family Share option, that has come out in iOS 8. Through this, up to six users can be connected together for purchases via a single card. The card owner can opt to either approve all transactions individually, or simply approve all transactions by the users. The sharing is made easier. The tracking for iPhones present on the Family Share is also helpful, with other iPhones available on a map like display.
The phonebook remains the same one we saw in the iPhone 5s, with the landscape mode enabled to it. The block option, as well as Facebook and Twitter integration are available here too. Different tone settings for different users is in place, and iMessage and FaceTime users will have their ID’s integrated automatically.
The reception that was on the iPhone 5s was pretty decent – Apple has taken that one step further, and the reception has been taken up a notch too, and the best possible use of the multiple mics has been done to provide an outstanding in-call experience. Rejecting calls can also provide the option to send an SMS in response.
Location based reminders are part of the package, though this uses GPS which is a bit taxing on the battery. This time around, FaceTime is also a system app, comes pre-installed, and can use both Wi-Fi and data network.
The Wi-Fi calling is being added, so that if both devices support this, the calls will be placed via Wi-Fi instead of cellular networks. Of course, this means the audio quality improves in direct proportion with the connectivity speeds, and the bills don’t come your way.
Apple’s Safari browser is open to developers, with access to extensions through contextual menus available, supporting the likes of form auto-fills, TouchID security use, and translation of web pages, among others. The Spotlight search is present, with suggestions appearing from different default information sources like iTunes and Wikipedia. The developers can bring in the creativity, and their extensions will come into use. The Private Browsing mode has been enhanced with increased intuitiveness and will not convert all open tabs to Private tabs, as was the case previously. The landscape mode support has been provided, making it very close to the iPad Safari experience, with tabs constantly visible, always helpful for tab switching.
Apple provides another feature on the Safari browser, the iCloud keychain, which is helpful to store all passwords and credit card info in one location, with a password generator on board to help out. The sync option means all this information is available on all Apple devices on iOS 8. The Reader mode is on board too.
The loudspeaker still managed to extremely disappoint us with substandard audio quality, with distortions, missing higher frequencies and the sound while gaming or watching movies will really upset.
The Messaging app has received the landscape support too, along with the ease of image and video attachment, with a view for most recent images and videos available readily. The iMessage service is also present, allowing instant messages exchange between iGadgets on iOS 5 onwards via 3G or Wi-Fi, which supports simple text as well as multimedia messages. The mic next to the text field on messaging, when tapped will allow for recording, and swiping up will send the audio message.
The Mail app has received landscape support too, as well as some additional gestures and features. The keyboard has been upgraded too in the iOS 8, with QuickType introduced, which features predictive text, learning automatically thru regular vocabulary use, typing patterns, and people being texted, improving its suggestions. The addition screen property allowed Apple to add the basic features like Cut, Copy, Paste, Navigation, punctuation and other options on the keyboard.
Onwards to the image gallery, the Spotlight search feature has been added to the gallery, with options to search based on location, people, dates, etc. The view that was added in the iPhone 5s, Moments, is still in place, as are the Collections and the Year views. Apple now stores all recently deleted images in an album of the same name, keeping them in this state for 30 days from the date of deletion, before deleting them permanently – this is sort of similar to the recycle bin, with the restore option present. The Photo Editor is integrated, and allows for basic options like crop, rotate and filters to advanced controls like updating the exposure, light, colors, black & whites, etc. An Auto Enhance feature improves the image quality by itself.
Another option is the Photo Stream, a sort of social network which is close-ended, with options to share images with friends, on which the friends can post comments or mark likes. The cloud gallery can be used for this too if there is an iCloud account set up.
The video player has remained the same that was in the iOS 6 and 7, with only supported formats allowed for uploads via iTunes, and the support for formats is also meager.
The music player is standard iOS 8, with minor additions. Playlists can now be made, songs can be directly deleted from here, and re-ordering can be done. The Albums view is provided in the Landscape mode. The Now Playing screen is the same though, with no modifications.
The iTunes Radio tab appears when users are logged in with accounts that support iTunes Radio. The genre wise stations are helpful, and songs can be tagged for future listening or purchases at a future time.
The audio quality is slightly on the decline from the iPhone 5s, though when external amplifiers are connected the audio quality is excellent, the crosstalk being the only issue. Surprisingly, when headphones are put on, there is almost no further decline in the quality, which is contrary to the norm, with only minor addition in crosstalk, that this area seems to work wonders for the iPhone 6 Plus. The volume levels in both cases are pretty audible, which is always a good sign.
The complete iWorks suite is present on every newly activated iPhone 6 Plus, including the Microsoft Word competitor labeled Pages, Excel competitor Numbers, and PowerPoint competitor KeyNotes. All Microsoft files for the above are supported.
Another additional app is the Tips, newly available with the iOS 8, displaying tips from Apple to use your iDevice in a better way. The iBooks is available by default from iOS 8 onwards. Another addition is the PassBook, an app to handle all kinds of e-tickets, be it boarding passes, reservations, coupons, loyalty cards, etc. This app was released as something of a counter to the Google Wallet, and can handle credit card info also, is Apple Pay is signed up for. The PassBook can access the location sensor to provide the right coupon or card at the right time.
For maps, Google has been dropped in favor of TomTom, and voice navigation is provided by Siri. The navigation works fine, running in the background or locked screen mode too, with live traffic status to help. The 3D Flyover option displays the bird’s eye view of locations, rendered in real time.
A Health suite is offered as of iOS 8, something on the lines of the Samsung Health apps, and this collects all data from tracking and third party apps, with partners including the likes of Nike and some clinics. The app collects and stores all your health related information as a Medical ID card, with emergency contacts, intolerances, doctor contacts and medication details. The intake and burnouts in terms of calories is also stored, as is the sleeping duration, with other information.
The iPhone 6 Plus has an A8 chipset, which uses the 20mm process, meaning less power consumption, reduced heat and of course, smaller in size. The iPhone 6 Plus has a dual-core 64-bit Cyclone processor at 1.4GHz, which is faster than the A7 that was on board the iPhone 5s, and has lesser power consumption, and the PowerVR GPU with four cores is in place, and this GPU is the most recent upgrade to the GPU that was on board the iPhone 5s.
The CPU performed around 20% improvement from the iPhone 5s, which is a decent jump, and is on par with the Snapdragon 801 chipset, which is pretty good. This was both in terms of raw CPU performance, as well as the graphics, memory, web and system performance parameters.
The GPU testing turned out excellent results as well, showcasing the iPhone 6 Plus to be the powerhouse that it is. And this was further cemented when the testing for browsing came out with flying colors too.
The results may be a bit surprising, but we can still say that with Apple using premium hardware on the iPhone 6 Plus, it really comes out in these tests. Still, with Apple just catching up to the competition in terms of the CPU performance, we will have to see what the newer versions of CPU and GPU employed on Android smartphones come out with. We, for one, are quite happy with the performance all the same.
The iPhone 6 Plus has stuck to 8MP camera resolution again, though there is a difference in the camera from yesteryear – Optic Image Stabilization has finally arrived. Pixel level improvement has been made for focus, which improves focus time while also improving autofocus. This is the same thing that we have already seen in Samsung and LG flagship smartphones released recently, and this is supported with the faster and more powerful chipset at the back.
With the boost in the chipset, the camera performance becomes snappier, improving the shot to shot time, the HDR image processing, camera launching, all are better. With the Panorama shots slightly under fire, Apple has given them a resolution boost to take them up to 43MP. The front facer has been slightly redesigned to capture almost double the amount of light it used to capture, improving the selfies in a huge way, with HDR image and video captures both available for the front facer.
The iOS 8 gives more control in the camera interface, where once user initiates touch focus, he can also adjust the exposure via a slider to further improve the image. The toggle between cameras, the HDR mode access, the timers to delay image snapping and flash options are all added to the UI. Swipe controls shift between the normal images, square and panorama mode, slow-mo and time lapses, while pressing the shutter longer will activate the Burst mode. In the camera interface too, the two-hand use improves the experience while properly utilizing the screen size.
The snappy performance of the iPhone 6 Plus makes the snapping that much quicker, with almost no time between shots, and HDR mode taking under a second too, which is simply amazing. The colors have the added punch, and slightly on the warmer side, and the white balance was great. The image quality is perfect, and we could find no comparison for this snapper in the 8MP league, with sharpness and detail is awesome, with more improvement in the dynamic range.
Still, the HDR mode takes very little addition to the images, leaving shadows and darker areas as they are, and an aggressive modification in this area would have been a big boost. The low light mode, though, is boosted with the OIS, which captures images at a slower shutter speed to get the maximum in terms of capturing. The performance in this area is great, with a lot more detail and light to the shot than offered by its predecessors. The Panorama mode is the strength of iPhones, and this time is no different with seamless stitching, and dynamic exposure further enhancing the capture.
The iPhone 6 Plus improves video capture by taking FullHD 1080p recordings at 30fps, fast motion videos at the same resolution at 60fps, and the slow-mo have been taken up to 720p resolution at 120fps, with the optional 240fps available too for slow-mo, and there is no reduction in quality, which makes it all the more impressive.
The absence of the 4K videos is still a surprise as it is now available in almost all the flagships. There is another design issue that we found, with the switch between rates available on screen when in slow-mo video capture, though for switching between frame rates in normal mode, the users have to go deep into settings. The video stabilization that was already taken up in the iPhone 5s has been taken one step higher to the Cinematic Stabilization, which further reduces the shakiness that the videos seemed to possess. The field of vision, though, gets reduced for this.
The FullHD at 27Mbps was great, with perfect exposure, very good focus, great sharpness, handling the bright and low lit areas admirably. On the other hand, the normal videos at only 11Mbps didn’t impress us, either in the frame rate or the audio quality, though the audio quality itself is not too bad. The audio is the same for FullHD also, but with the great capture, we can neglect the audio.
The slow-mo is the most taxing video capture of all, with the 120fps videos of only 20 seconds taking up around 90 MB for 120fps and about 115 MB at 240fps, with great quality and the motion decrease is very impressive. These videos, though, when watching on the 1080p display, is not too much fun but is better on the iPhone 6 display.
The Apple iPhone 6 Plus has a huge bulk of connectivity options, starting from the GSM, CDMA, LTE, with the CDAM and GSM ensuring the set is compliant with voice standards across the globe, while the GSM flavor of 3G providing 42Mbps downlink and CDMA flavor of the same providing a very reduced speed of only 3.1 Mbps. The LTE is up there with 150Mbps down and 50Mbps uplink. The iPhone 6 Plus offers Voice over LTE for premier audio quality, though this has to be supported by the carrier first.
Wi-Fi performance has been improved, using the ac version of the technology, and Wi-Fi calling has been added to the mix – this again, is dependent on your carrier. The Bluetooth 4.0 is present and supports the mode of Low Energy, which is mainly utilized for pairing with sports equipment. NFC is present, though exclusively for the Apple Play, the file sharing still utilizing the AirDrop feature.
The connectivity via the USB cable is nothing new, used for charging, data transfer, and has the TV out option, of course via the right adapter.
The battery inside the iPhone 6 Plus is very good, taken up to 2,915mAh, comparing very well against the likes of its Android competitors which are usually in the range of 2,000 to 3,000mAh, and the raise is substantial, given that the iPhone 5s had only 1560mAh in store.
Surprisingly, the iPad Air charger charges the battery around 25% quicker than the charger provided, though it can still be improved with a charger throwing more power to the iPhone. Still, the raise in the battery capacity means more in terms of all three – talk time, playback and browsing. The device came out with flying colors in terms of 23 hours talk time on 3G, 79 hours of stand-by, though we were still disappointed with the 9 hours of browsing on 3G, and 11 hours on LTE and Wi-Fi.
The Apple iPhone 6 Plus, with all its classiness, still does possess a decent amount of shortcomings, a few of which are listed below:
- Single hand use is very difficult, and the screen size could be raised to fit in the same body
- Memory cannot be expanded, typical of Apple, but becoming irritating for consumers
- The price difference is very large to purchase versions with an increased memory
- Battery cannot be replaced
- Camera lens is protruding, which makes the phone feel awkward when kept on a surface
- Camera resolution needs desperate improvements to go up from the generic 8MP
- Still waiting for 4K videos and stereo sound
- Water resistance and dust resistance is still wishful thinking for Apple devices
- NFC is limited to Apple Play
- Pretty expensive for flagship smartphones which does not have some important features like infrared, wireless charging, FM radio
Should I Have to Buy the Apple iPhone 6 Plus?
For many years, Apple was clear in their commitment to make either a large phone or a smaller tablet, so it was a breath of fresh air to see Apple go for the increase in size, taking the iPhone up from 4 inches to 4.7 inches for the iPhone 6 and 5.5 inches for the iPhone 6 Plus, an offering for all including a decent raise in the screen property, and additionally, the 1080p display resolution is brought forward.
The iPhone 6 Plus comes out with Optic Image Stabilization, the first time in an iPhone, and the landscape turns to a split screen (very similar to the iPad design), with the options and interface change effected by this. Still we felt that the interface itself was the best friend and the worst enemy for Apple, as some Android lovers may move on to Apple, but longtime Apple faithful may very well reject this, while it may also cut into the sales of iPad mini. For the second year in a row, we have seen Apple come out with more than one smartphone, and this time around, the changes are bolder than just a change of skin. Still, with a very well-entertained market, coming out at this time is a bit tricky. We just hope Apple got it right.
On the whole, the iPhone 6 Plus is a very large smartphone to carry around, and in the same footprint, a smartphone of even 5.7 to 6 inches could have fit in, though as far as the hardware is concerned, its execution is very good, even great – hopefully the bending issues will be at a minimum and not cause too much headaches for Apple though. With the size comes the issue of the single hand usage, though Apple tried to one-up this by adding the split screens – the only thing here is, while Android users are already familiar to this, this option is a bit new for third-party app manufacturers even if it is perfectly clear to Apple team, and it will take time for third parties to produce polished apps.
Another interesting thing is that, the price range is a confusion for many, since the increase in memory costs a decent amount, and with the top tier of the iPhone 6, with only a few minor shortcomings, on offer against the other low memory options of the iPhone 6 Plus means there will be many, who will be stuck between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus.
Still, with Apple even being a little late to the phablet segment, the attention to detail, and the typical quality complex, we feel that Apple may be up and coming in this area. Also, the distance between the Android and iPhone is further reduced by the iOS 8, and the screen size helping, there will be some who might be considering the leap from Android to Apple, though one major concern that remains is the dent in the expenses that will have to be considered before going for the iPhone.