iPhone users have had it a little rough in the past few years, seeing all the large phones come out while Apple has pretty much kept the screen size at 4 inches. Apple has stated that they could have done a large phone years ago, but wanted to wait to do it right. They may have waited too long, as they ended up losing quite a bit of sales and market share to larger Android phones. Reportedly they worked for several years on this phone and many were excited when the rumors started circulating that Apple was finally making a large screen phone. I pre-ordered one immediately as soon as everyone was able to, the iPhone 6 Plus with the 5.5 inch screen.
I knew I would like a larger phone because two years ago I did a year with Android. I purchased several tablets, smaller handheld units and phones, specifically the Galaxy Note 2. I wanted to do a semi-scientific test to see how well Android stacked up against iOS. With the Note I really loved the screen, the size, and actually I thought the stylus was pretty handy. Samsung has a lot of bloatware (I much preferred the cleaner Google produced Nexus devices I purchased) but I could see myself really warming up to a larger device for daily use. At five inches and above, the phone becomes a computer that you can do a lot more on.
The year spent with Android left me liking the hardware but not really liking the software. Google created the Android operating system and the OS is very open, meaning you can really configure it in many different ways. Unfortunately being more open leaves the OS more vulnerable, Android has issues with malware and viruses, very similar to PCs. Added to this the fact that Google’s business model in general is eroding your privacy to collect more data on you, so it can serve you targeted ads. Much the same way that Facebook generates revenue.
They do this in many ways, some very obvious and some not. My concern was Android was built by a company who has this business model. The combination of virus/malware potential, privacy concerns and also the general wonkyness of the Android OS (crashes, flakiness, etc) ended my year of Android on a pretty sour note. Granted this was two years ago, and Android has been spiffed up quite a bit since, but most of my initial concerns are still valid. I sold all my Android devices and even my Galaxy Note, and continued using my Apple iOS devices. It is not worth arguing Apple vs. Android, both platforms have come a long way and both have a lot to love. I just gave Android a lot of testing and evaluation for the better part of a year and decided iOS was where I was going to stay.
So if Google’s business model is collecting information about you so it can target you with advertising, what is Apple’s business model? Apple’s is selling you expensive hardware. Apple’s devices are not cheap but they are well make and feature great design. They developed iOS 8 because they want the hardware to be more appealing and run as great as possible.
As much as Android is a very open and customizable operating system, iOS is quite the opposite, very closed and locked down. Some people see this as a negative, I see it as the main selling point. I don’t have to worry about viruses, malware or any other exploits. With iOS 7 you had limited ways to customize the phone, but now iOS 8 changed that. Now you can really alter things like installing new keyboards, flexible app extensions and dozens of other options, but it still remains a closed system. However now I do feel like I have the best of both worlds, the customization of Android and the security lock down of iOS, as well as the larger phone I have been wanting for so long. Finally!
Design, Screen and Camera
Structurally the phone feels great in your hands. A lot of larger phones are made of plastic but this one is made of an aluminum alloy that feels like metal but weighs a fraction of that. They finally ditched the sharp/hard lines of the iPhone 5 and 5s and went back to the curved edges of the original iPhone. Picking up the unit you can really feel how much bigger it is, especially if you are used to an iPhone 4 or 5. But because it is more slender and amazingly thin, it feels very solid and comfy. I thought it would take me a week or so to get used to, but literally 15 minutes after I unboxed it, it felt completely natural. The largeness started to fade away as I started running my favorite apps on the beautiful screen.
And what a screen it is. I can honestly say I have used dozens of devices of all different sizes and this is the best screen I have ever seen. It has stunning color accuracy and saturation (not cranked up to ridiculous levels like some other big phones), amazing viewing angles and everything is sharp and vibrant. The pixels are now closer to the screen below the surface, so you really feel like your finger is moving around stuff.
Touch ID allows me to lock the phone via a fingerprint and that feature works great. As great as it did on my iPhone 5s. I ended up putting several of my digits in there so no matter what orientation I am holding it in, I’ll have a finger close enough to get me in quick.
Apps need to be tweaked for the bigger screen and new apps need to be written to take advantage of the 1080p display, also older apps are scaled up. However everything I have run looks stunning and performs great. Maybe I am just running apps that have been upgraded to work with iOS 8 and the larger screen, but everything works and looks great.
Games especially pop and taking photos and shooting video is a joy with the larger screen. The camera has been upgraded and the quality and performance under low light is fantastic. The iPhones have continued to be known for having the best phone cameras out there, even while other phones have desperately been trying everything from raising megapixels, to adding tons of software photo features, to increasing saturation into not-normal levels to blasting up the sharpness.
Take a few pics with the iPhone 6 Plus and you will become a believer.
The biggest feature with phone cameras is called dynamic range. It’s the level of grays in your images. For example, with most phones you can zoom in to a darker area, say under a shrub or in someone’s hair, and you see the blacks being “crushed”. Instead of subtle shades you see more blocks of black darkness. The good cameras, if you zoom in, you see lots of subtle shades and fine detail. This is how your eyes see, and a good camera recreates that. So other vendors try to ramp up megapixels and do all kinds of tricks with filters, but I can take one pic, zoom in, and immediately see the deficiencies in dynamic range. The iPhone 6 Plus has amazing dynamic range and hundreds of levels of greyscale. Long story short, it takes very impressive pictures in all kinds of light and stunning video.
The iPhone 6 Plus does have a few areas I need to get used to. First of all the power button is now on the side. I keep reaching for it at the top, where it has been on the last several iPhones. Also talking on the phone. With my iPhone 5s, it was so small that I put it up to my ear and I was right at the speaker. I could judge where to put it because I knew where it should be positioned. The larger iPhone 6 Plus, when I put it up to my ear, I typically have to tweak the position a little because I am not yet used to where the phone should be pertaining to the speaker. It’s the only odd dilemma I have faced, and I find that at the beginning of a call I am sliding the phone slightly to where the sound is the loudest. Not an issue when using earbuds, but it is something I did not expect. I am sure in another week I’ll find that sweet spot automatically. Other than that, using a large phone to make calls is not the odd scenario I envisioned.
Also because the sides are rounded now, and with the larger phone, I feel like the potential for dropping is higher. I got a case for it on day one and have yet to drop it, but while the phone feels amazing in the hand, some people would be better off with a case for a better grip.
Signal wise the phone just rocks. It uses faster wi-fi and locks to a signal in seconds. This past week I had LTE in many places where I would get 4G or no signal with previous phones. I had LTE in a movie theater! I know they have like a dozen antennas intertwining externally via bands around the back, but I have to say getting a strong signal, and keeping a strong signal, the iPhone 6 Plus does this without breaking a sweat. Both LTE and wi-fi are dramatically improved.
Battery life is a lot better as well. It is a much bigger battery of course because of the large size, and while I charge it nightly I could probably charge it every other day. This phone packs some serious juice.
The biggest surprise was how much my wife loves her iPhone 6 Plus. I assumed male geeks would gravitate towards the larger 5.5 inch phone, while females would choose the more understated, smaller 4.7 inch unit. Guess not. She loves the larger screen and probably has not put the phone down since she got it. Also at the Apple Store on launch day I saw many females walking out with the Plus. So I guess I will not assume in the future.
Did I ever consider getting the iPhone 6 4.7? Briefly. But after holding them I discovered that, for me, the 4.7 was a little too big for one handed use and a bit small for two handed use. So I would have stuck with my iPhone 5s for one handed stuff and my iPad for two handed. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I did not do that much phone stuff one handed anyway.
What has happened now with the 5.5 is I have basically replaced my phone and iPad with one device. Actually maybe 3, because I don’t use a Kindle anymore, because the iPhone 6 Plus 5.5 makes a perfect reading device.
Should You Get One?
Yes! If you want a new iPhone, I suggest this one over the regular iPhone 6 with the 4.7 screen. The 4.7 is not that much of an increase and while it is a great phone, the 5.5 Plus is the one to get. Apple allows a 2 week return policy if it does not work out. Anyone who “loves their iPhone” should spend a week with the iPhone 6 Plus and see what true love really is. Highly recommended.