User Interface & Operating System
The Apple iPhone 6 runs on the iOS 8 perfectly. The new OS is close to the iOS 7, and as far as the UI goes, there are only minor touches provided, though there has been a major upgrade provided at the back end, with the new services getting the bulk of the changes. All the apps populate the home screen, with the folders present in the mix, along with the standard clock, the dock at the bottom featuring 4 shortcuts, the additional options of themes and transparency. The lock screen too is the same as its predecessor, with all the controls (playback controls, camera shortcut) present, along with the three unlock methods, the traditional options of the 4-digit passcode, the custom passcode and the TouchID. The Control Center has been given a minor upgrade, while the Notifications area now missing the All and Missed tabs, sees a more dominant Notification tab consisting of both the notifications from All and Missed, while the Today section can be edited from options present at the end.
The notifications pop up has been upgraded to better interact via the same pop up, and notifications can be discarded, responses posted, tasks can be completed and comments and likes can be posted on Facebook among others. Apple has opened up the Notification Center to developers, and 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, 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.
A very helpful addition is the “Open With” option, through which files can now be opened into any required app. Battery statistics and usage has finally arrived in Apple.
The Siri assistant received an upgrade, with Shazam integration, and song recognition – just by listening to a song, Siri can recognize the name, the details of the song and can provide an iTunes link for the song. Voice activation is added, and can be enabled by simply saying "Hey Siri". Siri now supports 24 different languages, and can perform actions affecting the iOS like Bluetooth and Wi-Fi control, reading voicemail, brightness controls, etc. Queries can be answered using the internet connectivity at the back, which is always a big help.
Another addition to the growing list of Apple features inspired by Google, is the greatly advertised iOS 8 feature, Handoff. This is very close to the tab sync option from Google Chrome, though it takes the concept to another level. Shifting between different iDevices while the task is at the same state is the basic functionality, and if you are looking for a location on the Maps app on your iPhone 6 and feel the screen is a bit small, you can go to the iPad nearest to you and continue from where you were on your iPhone 6. This feature works on messages and emails, Maps, Calendars, Safari pages, Contacts, Reminders, Keynote and Numbers among others. Even calls and messages can be fetched or sent from any Wi-Fi enabled iOS device, using this feature, like Macs. The core requirement other than iOS 8 devices is that all these be on the same Wi-Fi network, with connectivity enabled via the Hotspot option.
The TouchID sensor that was introduced in the iPhone 5s, is at the same place, i.e. with the Home button, has been improved, given a larger sensor, has better recognition, and takes a 360-degree reading, so that the fingerprint scan is effortless. Passcode is still required as a prerequisite, however. Up to five fingerprint scans are allowed for validation, so that family can be allowed to access too however, this will affect the performance. The TouchID can be used to not only unlock the iPhone, but also for purchases, and can be used for this purpose in iTunes, App Store and the iBooks Store. The TouchID is available for developers from iOS 8, though direct access is not allowed to the fingerprints, only approvals and denials are provided, and there will be a lot more apps coming that use this feature. Apple Pay also utilizes the TouchID, though it is supported via NFC only.
The iCloud has been given a much needed upgrade, evolving to the levels of Dropbox and OneDrive, with instant sync provided for 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 works on all files that are required to be synchronized. The Handoff feature is dependent on the iCloud for the sync and file availability across devices, and without iCloud, Handoff will not 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 useful is the Family Share option, introduced with iOS 8, using 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 tracking for iPhones present on the Family Share is very helpful, with other iPhones available on a map like display.
The phonebook is the same one that we had in the iPhone 5s. The Blacklist option, as well as Facebook and Twitter integration are available, with the addition of the option to link existing contacts with social contacts. Different tone settings for different users is in place, and iMessage and FaceTime users are identified and merged automatically.
The reception on the iPhone 6 has been taken up from where the iPhone 5s left, which was already pretty good. The multiple mics have been used very intelligently to provide an outstanding in-call experience. Call rejection provides the option to respond via SMS.
Location based reminders are included, and requires GPS which is a bit taxing on the battery. FaceTime comes pre-installed, and can use both Wi-Fi and data network.
Wi-Fi calling has been included in the mix, 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 with the connectivity speeds, and there are no bills.
Apple's Safari browser invites developers with access to extensions through contextual menus available, supporting things like form auto-fills, translation of web pages, and TouchID security use, among others. The Spotlight search is enabled in Safari, displaying suggestions from different information sources like Wikipedia, App Store and iTunes. The Private Browsing mode has greater intuitiveness and does not convert all open tabs to Private tabs, as before.
Apple provides another feature on the Safari browser, the iCloud keychain, greatly helpful by storing all passwords and credit card info in one location, with a password generator on board. The sync option means all this information is available on all Apple devices on iOS 8. The sync also means tab related information can be synchronized across devices. The Reader mode too is on board.
The loudspeaker, one of the areas that required a lot of attention from Apple after the poor results in the iPhone 5s was not upgraded, and still managed the Average score, and enabling the vibrate option will be most helpful.
The Messaging app has had its interface upgraded, and has the ease of image and video attachment, with a view for most recent images and videos available for ready reference. The iMessage service is also precent, allowing instant messaging between iGadgets with iOS 5 onwards using 3G or Wi-Fi, supporting multimedia messages in addition to simple texts. The mic next to the text field on messaging in iMessage is used to send audio messages.
The Mail app has received additional gestures and features. The keyboard has been upgraded too in the iOS 8, with QuickType (predictive text) introduced, which learns automatically with typing patterns, regular vocabulary use, and people being texted, improving its suggestions. The keyboard has seen the addition of swype. Apple allows users to replace the default keyboard, by installing any third party keyboard, and there are quite a few very nice ones in the store.
The new Photos app, which was much talked about at the launch, has the Spotlight search feature added, with options to search based on location, people, dates, etc. The Moments view that was added in the iPhone 5s is present, along with the Year and the Collections views. Apple can store all recently deleted images in a temporary album for 30 days from the date of deletion before deleting them permanently, with the restore option present – we found this to be very helpful. A new image editor is added with a wide spectrum of features ranging from the basics like crop, rotate and filters to advanced controls like updating the exposure, light, colors, black & whites, etc. while the Auto Enhance feature improves the image quality automatically for the users, without the users having to go through the entire process.
Photo Stream is another new addition to the iPhone apps club, a sort of close-ended social network, with options to share images with friends, on which the friends can post comments or mark likes. If there is an iCloud account set up, the cloud gallery can be used for this.
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. This was extremely disappointing for us, as the default player has limited functionality and the codec support is limited, though the recent past has started to display some smartphones coming up with some decent features and codec support, while Apple has ignored this completely.
The music player is standard iOS 8, with minor additions like interface and font modifications. Playlists can now be made, songs can be directly deleted from here, and re-ordering can be done. The Now Playing screen is the same though, with no modifications.
The iTunes Radio tab starts appearing when logged in with an Apple ID supporting iTunes Radio, and is a streaming service with the complete iTunes content present to be streamed. The genre wise stations are very helpful, and once a station is in play, songs on the station can be toggled, while songs can be tagged for purchase or listening at a future time.
The audio quality of iPhones has been traditionally of the very good to outstanding range and we were expecting nothing less – the audio is slightly on the decline from the iPhone 5s, though. With external amplifiers connected, the audio quality is excellent, with the average amount of crosstalk being the only concern. With the headphones on, there is virtually unrecognizable decline in the quality, though a minor increase is felt in the crosstalk, though nothing drastic to concern us. The volume levels in both cases are pretty audible, which is always a good sign. In all, Apple may not be posting the best scores overall, but it still is pretty good in this area.
The complete iWorks suite is provided on all newly activated iPhone 6, including the word editor labeled Pages, spread sheet software Numbers, and presentation editor KeyNotes. All Microsoft files for the above are supported.
The standard apps like the Notes, Alarm, Calendar, Calculator and Weather are all standard, and the Compass, Stocks, Reminder, and Voice memo apps are now made part of the generic iOS 8 package.
The Tips, the iBooks and the PassBook apps that we saw in the iPhone 6 Plus are available here too courtesy of the iOS 8 the Tips app displays tips from Apple, for better utilization of iDevices. The PassBook, handles all kinds of e-tickets, like boarding passes, reservations, loyalty cards, coupons, etc. and was taken out to compete with the Google Wallet the PassBook can handle credit card info also, in case you are signed up for Apple Pay. The PassBook accessed the location sensor and provides the right coupon or card at the right time.
For maps, TomTom has been taken up to drop off Google, and Siri provides voice navigation. The navigation is fine, can work in the background or locked screen mode, with live traffic status a relief. The 3D Flyover option is pretty neat and displays the bird’s eye view of locations, rendered in real time.
A Health suite is presented in the iOS 8, along the lines of the Samsung Health apps, and collects data from third party apps and tracking apps, with partnerships done with the likes of Nike and some clinics. The app collects and stores all your health related information as a Medical ID card, with details like the emergency contacts, intolerances, doctor contacts and medication which prove to be very useful.
The iPhone 6 has received the upgraded A8 chipset like its counterpart, the iPhone 6 Plus, manufactured under the 20mm process, meaning reduced heat, smaller in size and of course less power consumption. The iPhone 6 possesses 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. Apple has brought the PowerVR GPU, the latest upgrade to the PowerVT GPU that was on the iPhone 5s, and it has four cores in place, working better than the PowerVT.
The CPU performed close to 20% improvement from the iPhone 5s, bringing it level with the Snapdragon 801 chipset smartphones, which is pretty great. In terms of overall CPU performance, keeping in mind the graphics, memory, web and system performance parameters, we found both the iPhone 6 and its partner iPhone 6 Plus to be on the top in terms of performance, which is again, awesome.
The GPU testing turned out excellent results as well, showcasing the iPhone 6 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 surprise to many of us, but with Apple there is always a class when it comes to materials and hardware, and so, in perspective it does make sense. However, we feel that Apple has just caught up with the competition, and if there are newer releases in the chipset area, we will soon see smartphones again outperforming Apple smartphones. For now, we, for one, are quite happy with the performance all the same, though in the future, it would do Apple some good to cross the competition at the time of the next release, so that this does not happen to them time and again.
The iPhone 6 has stuck with its 8MP camera resolution yet again, with the camera sensor of the same size since the iPhone 4S, though the hardware has improved, as has the software, contributing to better quality images. Improvements have been made at pixel level, improving focus time and refining autofocus. The same tech as in Samsung and LG flagship smartphones is in play, supported with the abler and faster chipset at the back.
With a better focus which is quicker, and an improved chipset, the camera is snappier, with lesser time between shots, camera app launch, HDR images, better face detection processing, which is more accurate than before, and the shots are clearer with reduced blur. With the Panorama shots slightly underperforming, Apple has given them a taken the resolution up to 43MP. The front facer has been modified in design to capture about 81% additional light, with the selfies benefitting greatly the front facer offers HDR image and video captures this time around.
With the iOS 8 there is more control in the camera interface, where user can adjust the exposure via a slider once touch focus is initiated to further improve the image. The selection of HDR mode, toggle between front and back cameras, and the option to apply timers to delay image snapping along with the flash options are all added to the UI. Swiping left and right shifts between the different images modes while swiping on the left, while video modes while swiping on the right, and if the shutter is pressed longer than normal, it automatically activates the Burst mode.
The snappy performance of the iPhone 6 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 images have good dynamic range, with perfect white balance, and slightly saturated colors though it is getting more and more common and does add a punchiness in the images, with no detail loss or discolored images. With great image quality, awesome sharpness and detail, this snapper is great in the 8MP league. The focus is better and quicker, the autofocus is very nice, and macro images perform pretty decently with great detail.
HDR mode performs the same generic way, taking two shots at a time and puts them together to provide a better shot with an improved dynamic range. The HDR mode, though, managed to put in very little to the images, leaving shadows and darker areas as they are, and working only in areas that are properly lit. We had hoped that Apple would work more in this area. The low light mode is enhanced with the OIS at least, which snaps at a reduced shutter speed to get the maximum exposure, though the camera has to be kept steadier than required by the normal shots for this mode. The performance for the low lit shots supported by OIS is very good, with great detail and much lighter 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 improves video recording by going FullHD 1080p at 30fps for normal videos, 1080p at 60fps for fast motion videos, while slow-mo has been raised up to 720p resolution at 120fps, with the option to capture at 240fps available, and the most impressive thing being that there is no degradation in quality.
The absence of the 4K videos is one of the few shockers from the iPhone 6, as it is now commonly present in most of the flagships. There is another design glitch, with the switch between rates for slow-mo video capture available on screen, though when switching between frame rates in normal video capture, the users have to go deep into settings. The video stabilization that was with the iPhone 5s has been taken one step ahead to Cinematic Stabilization, which promises to decrease shakiness that the videos seemed to possess. The field of vision, however, gets decreased due to this.
The FullHD videos are at 27Mbps was great, with great detail, and more frames resulting in smooth videos. Still, we cannot compare this with the 4K videos, but these still are much better than the normal videos.
The slow-mo is the most demanding video capture of all, a 240fps option coming out at 40Mbps and an alternate of 120fps for 27Mbps. This video type consumes a lot of space, with videos of only 20 seconds taking up around 90 MB for 120fps and about 115 MB at 240fps. The motion decrease is very impressive, with great quality on display. On computers though, the videos will play at the normal rate, so you will have to use your iPhone 6 to play the videos to view the slow motion effect.
The Apple iPhone 6 has a variety of connectivity options, with the LTE Category 4 available on board with 150Mbps down and 50Mbps uplink – the basic 2G and 3G is also on board. The iPhone 6 offers Voice over LTE, as well as Wi-Fi calling and HD Voice, though these have to be supported by the carrier first.
Wi-Fi performance has been improved, using the ac version of the technology. The AirPlay is currently the only method to throw the screen display onto a TV, though this requires an Apple TV first. The Bluetooth 4.0 is present and supports the Low Energy mode. NFC is present, though exclusively for the payment system from Apple, dubbed the Apply Pay.
The connectivity via the USB cable is nothing new, used for charging, data transfer, and though there is no USB OTG or USB host, Bluetooth connectivity can be used to pair sports equipment or keyboards, in case required.
The battery inside the iPhone 6 is again non-replaceable, and is only a minor increase that on the iPhone 5s to 1,810 mAh. Though the screen property has increased pretty noticeably, the minor raise did confuse us, though our experience did manage to somewhat alleviate this.
Of course the battery increase did raise the static rating, which came out to be about 160 hours (Apple claims it to be 250 hours, incidentally), which is a good raise from the iPhone 5s. The actual endurance came out to be 61 hours, which is also decent, and should be the case when average use is done on the smartphone. The remaining tests, though, managed to show us a similar picture to that of the iPhone 5s – the video playback goes down from 10:30 hours to 9:30 hours, the browsing goes up from 10 to 10:30 hours, though the calls did impress us, going up from the very average 8 hours of the iPhone 5s to a very decent 12 hours.
Though we were not at all in awe of the battery, we were a bit surprised to see a better performance with such a minor raise in battery size.
The Apple iPhone 6, with all its classiness, still does possess a decent amount of shortcomings, a few of which are listed below:
- Screen size could have been raised to fit in the same body
- The price difference is very large to purchase better memory versions
- Battery cannot be replaced
- The protruding camera lens gives an awkward look and wobbly on the surface
- Camera resolution has to be raised from 8MP
- 4K videos and stereo sound are absent
- The OIS present in the iPhone 6 Plus is not available
- Water resistance and dust resistance is still a dream
- NFC is only limited to Apple Play
- Too expensive for a flagship smartphone missing some important features like infrared, wireless charging, FM radio
Should I Have to Buy the Apple iPhone 6?
With our skepticism for the iPhone 6 coming out in more force due to the parallel release of the more feature-rich iPhone 6 Plus, we found the iPhone 6 actually grow on us with time. Still, with the hardware not fully supporting the iOS 8 potential, we are still left to feel that a better hardware would have made for an extremely exciting experience. There is some part of us that feels Apple may be keeping some options in its back pocket for desperate times’ sake.
The iPhone 6 on its own is a great product, with material quality, capability, speed, and overall impressive in different ways. With the list of upgrades that we were thinking would be a part of the iPhone 6 but are not, one would think that with every release a chunk of those will be coming out and for users will be buying each release for the upgrades it will have on offer.
Still, the review that we have done above, paints a quite decent picture for this smartphone, and with the impressive build quality, as always, featuring a very bright and legible display, which has been a strength of Apple in the past, the impressive battery packed despite the size increase, the iPhone 6 is a serious player. The speaker quality is just on par though, and we would have liked for a much solid performance than this from Apple – the video player is also limited in codec support, and the camera bulge at the back is discomforting for the phone itself, as it is for users.
In this range, there are no few players in the competition, and Apple will be facing stiff cross examination from competitors like Samsung, Huawei, LG, Sony and others. The hardware will be given the stern test, as the new iOS 8 has been improved to a level that it does not fear any competition. With Apple now opening up a lot of previously restricted areas of the iOS to the developers, there are bound to be a lot of apps coming very swiftly in the market.
Still, the thunder might be stolen from the iPhone 6 by a unique competitor altogether – Apple’s very own iPhone 6 Plus, released in parallel with the iPhone 6. The increase in screen property as well as the quality of the display make for an appealing alternate to the iPhone 6, though the iPhone 6 Plus will be difficult to carry around in a pocket. Many current iPhone 5s users may decide to skip the purchase altogether, with the iPhone 6 offering the same camera, similar battery life, very similar display, and with a pretty decent processor too – the important jump to iOS 8 can easily be made and there are no limitations for usage on the iPhone 5s.
With Apple coming out with the iPhone 6, there will be those who will be looking forward to the jump, waiting in lines, or dreaming of receiving this as a gift still, if you are looking for the best smartphone on offer feature and hardware wise, and in the same price set, we believe you will be looking elsewhere this time around, and there will be no one to blame you.