NetGuide NZ - Review: Kiwi hands on iPhone 6 plus

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Review: Kiwi hands on iPhone 6 plus

Its attracted a fair bit of controversy. Much of this is thanks the post-launch Bend gate saga, but Apples XXL-sized iPhone, the 6+ has finally arrived.

So is it worthy of all the fuss and bother that preceded its launch? The answer for IOS users is an emphatic yes. Die-hard Android fans may still be scratching their heads wondering what the big deal is.

Look and Feel
The review unit I received was a gold model. Its white glass front combines with a gold anodised alloy back to give the whole thing an air of upmarket bling. In short, its design is pretty impressive.

My first impression upon seeing the iPhone 6+ up close was that it was a 5th generation iPod touch with a serious steroid habit.

Contributing to this is the fact that the hard straight edges of the iPhone 5 are gone, replaced with curved edges. This mightn’t sound all that important, but the difference is that the 6+ is pretty comfy to hold.

Its slim design further adds to this. At a mere 6.9mm thin, the 6+ is definitely isn’t a chubber and is pretty pocketable. Its thin design had many wondering if Apple had sacrificed waistline for structural strength. As ever-funnier tweets started to appear and Bend gate hit full steam, many assumed that the iPhone 6+ was a bendy wee number.

I didn’t put this to the test (my review phone was a loan unit after all). It turns out that it takes at least 9 pounds of force before you’ll bend it like Beckham (probably voiding your warranty in the process).

This said, since taking receipt of the 6+ I’ve had it in my front jeans pocket. It's so big that I got comments like “hey is that an iPhone 6+ in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me???” After a few weeks I can report that the 6+ has shown no inclination for doing any impromptu in-pocket yoga lessons.

There’s plenty of clever design flourishes. One subtle touch is the front glass panel, which has curved edges that  meet the alloy sides of the 6+.

Clever designer stuff aside; it is a good-looking phone. It still sports distinctive apple touches including the round touch ID home button. There’s no mistaking it for anything but an XXL sized iPhone (or steroid crazed 5th gen iPod Touch).

In Use
The most noticeable thing with the 6+ is its 5.5” 1080 x 1920 LCD screen. It is stunning. Dual-domain pixel LCD technologies translate into near zero image distortion regardless of viewing angle.

Being an IPS panel, colours are vivid and clear. Add to this a 1300:1 contrast ratio and you have the makings of an impressive LCD display.

So is it the smartphone screen around? Not quite. The colours aren’t quite as vivid as the Galaxy S5’s Super AMOLED display. Nor is it as razor-sharp as LG G3’s QHD screen. This said, it is still an excellent display in it own right. Anyone moving up from an earlier iPhone model will appreciate the difference.

Perhaps the most noticeable thing with the 6”+’s display is its sheer size. At 5.5” it isn’t small. This raises the question of how usable it is for one-handed operation.

This is a biggie as most IOS apps often have navigation controls situated at the top of the screen. Unlike Android there's no back keys at the bottom of the screen either. Taking this into account, One-handed operation is a tad more complicated with the iPhone 6+. Commonplace tasks such as reaching for an app icon on the top row of the home screen can be a real chore if you have small hands.

This hasn’t escaped Apples attention. They've baked a "Reachability" feature into iOS 8 that can reduce thumb stretch aerobics .

It works by a simple double tap on the home key. Doing this see’s the screen jump down, bringing the top to the middle of the screen. In use Reachability has a few quirks such as not being able to scroll to the bottom of the screen when reachability is active.

While my thumb learned to cope and came to enjoy Reachability mode, there is one sage piece of advice I’d hand out to budding 6+ buyers:

Get a case.

In particular one that is both grippy on the back and that’ll protect your phone should you drop it.

You see the 6+ is bit of a slippery customer, particularly for one-handed use. There’s little dispute that its alloy rear makes it an attractive phablet, but it is slippery which isn’t ideal given its XXL size.

The 6+ isn’t just the latest hardware out of Apples stables, it’s also got their latest operating system (iOS 8) baked in. Looks-wise IOS8 keeps the flat design of IOS 7. Most existing  iPhone owners will most likely feel pretty much at home with it instantly.

As an Android user I found that the learning curve with IOS8 wasn’t all that steep owing to the many similarities between the both platforms.

As with android swiping the home-screen gives you access to notifications and simplified controls. In the control panel I could also access a torch, calculator, camera and timer.

Similarities aside, continued use revealed a bunch of handy features baked into IOS8. Messing is a great example. You can swipe downwards on text message notifications which lets you reply. Ignoring the message is as easy as swiping sideways which removes the notification.

The extra screen real estate of the 6+  also reveals extra keyboard functionality when in landscape mode. Having access to cursor keys might not sound like a big deal but for editing long emails, it made a big difference. Additionally rotating the 6+ screen when using the Calendar, Messages and Mail apps also showed extra functionality.

Under the Hood
The iPhone 6+ has a 1.39GHz dual-core A8 64-bit processor and 1GB of RAM. That struck me as being a tad underpowered given Samsung, HTC and Huawei all make use of quad or octa-core CPUs. In use this proved unfounded.

The 6+ was lag free the entire time I tested it - even when running several apps. This speaks volumes about the efficiencies of both IOS and Apples custom A8 CPU. Games, which are always a great stress test ran without a glitch too. I did find the one of the less demanding titles I use (bejeweled) refused to work.

While 1GB of RAM sounds a tad stingy, there’s either 16GB, 64GB or 128GB of storage on tap. This is a good thing as the 6+ lacks micro SD card memory expansion.

The 6+ Plus also comes with several pre-installed apps. These include Health which will plays nice with selected smart watches and fitness trackers. Other productivity apps include Pages, Numbers, Keynote, plus iTunes U, iMovie and GarageBand.

When it launched, the iPhone 5 set a new benchmark with its camera. I was curious to see how the 6+ fared. It turns out that its 8MP iSight camera on its rear and 1.2MP front FaceTime cameras are not too shabby at all.

The iPhone 6 and 6+ both copped some stick because camera optics stick out 1-2mm out the back of the phone. There were concerns that this could see the lens assembly getting scratched up.

What the pundits didn’t factor into their thinking was that the iPhone 6 and 6+ use a sapphire lens which is pretty tough. Additionally, the same technique works fine on the iPod touch. Also if you buy a case, it’ll be a non-issue anyhow.

Checking the iPhone 6 and 6+ specs, I wondered if the rear 8MP image sensor was the same one recycled from the iPhone 5S. It isn’t.

Some subtle tweaks have crept into the iPhone 6+ camera set up. The iPhone 6+ camera app is still simple and clutter free. Flash, HDR and timer controls are situated along the top of the screen in portrait mode.

Along the bottom of the camera app screen is a link to the camera roll and filters overview. There are also 8 different effects with real time previews. Shooting a photo is still a matter of hitting the large circular shutter button or you can use the volume control.

Like their predecessors, you can also choose different shooting modes. Ranging from a square photo through to panoramas. There’s also a bunch of video modes. These range from full HD at 60fps, slo-mo (which can now capture video at 240fps).

One of the biggest and most subtle tweaks made to the 6+ camera is what Apple has branded 'Focus Pixels'. In a nutshell, auto-focus is now a whole lot faster and smoother. Face, blink and smile detection are still there too and worked just fine.

One discovery I made by accident was exposure tweaking. This works by pressing down anywhere on the viewfinder and sliding my finger up or down.  I used it a lot as its simple and effective.

The killer photography and video feature of the 6+ is Optical Image Stabilisation (otherwise known as OIS). OIS makes use of a tweaked image-processing unit on the A8 motion co-processor chip. In use it reduces hand movement, reducing camera shake caused motion blur in low light conditions.

As with most other flagship handsets, the 6+ isn’t lacking when it comes to connectivity options. As well as 20 band 4G support, the 6+ also supports dual band Wi-Fi 802.11ac. Bluetooth 4.0 LE is also present and accounted for which saw the 6+ playing nice with my pebble smart watch. I didn't get a chance to test NFC, but it is there too.
Battery life is likely to be a question mark on the 6+ for many. While I was unable to get battery specs, I'd hoped that the larger chassis is accommodated a bigger battery. When combined with newer, more energy efficient silicon, I'd hoped that it'd compensate for the 6+'s XXL sized screen.

In use it impressed. Apple specs say that for web browsing the 6+ delivers about 12 hours of use. This increases to 14 hours for video playback, and 80 hours for music playback.

I usually find manufacturer quoted battery figures to be overly optimistic, yet the 6+ kept soldiering on. After several charging cycles I found I was averaging a day and a half with typical use. Making less phone calls or not checking emails saw it extend to almost 2 days.

Unfortunately the one thing lacking is a power saving mode. This means there’s little a user can do to reduce battery drain short of switching on airplane mode or powering down the 6+.

There’s a lot to like with the iPhone 6+. From a design standpoint it looks and feels great. Its screen is gorgeous and there are acres of storage. This is helped along by the fact that it is no slouch in the performance department or when it comes to battery life either.

Its size does make it a handful. Its slippery back and large form factor makes for tricky one-handed operation. This makes a protective grippy case a must have item. Its camera and Solid battery life also impressed.

For many iPhone users, the 6+ finally answers the demand for a larger. HD capable screen. For others, the extra cost or the sheer size of the 6+ may be off-putting.

For existing IOS users who are prepared to pay a slight premium for a larger HD screen, The 6+ is a great buy. Existing Android phablet users are probably still wondering what all the fuss is about. This said, the design and the sheer craftsmanship of the 6+ make it a classic.

Tech Specs
RRP: (16GB) $1,149 $1,299 (64GB) $1,449(128GB)
Network: (2G) GSM 850/900/1800/1900 (3G) HSDPA 850/900/1700/1900/ 2100 (4G) LTE 700/800/850/900/1700/1800/1900/2100/2600
Dimensions: 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1 mm
Weight: 172 g (6.07 oz)
Display: LED-backlit IPS LCD, 1080 x 1920, 5.5” (401 ppi)
MEMORY: 1GB RAM/64/128GB Storage
WLAN: Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, dual-band, Wi-Fi hotspot. Bluetooth v4.0, A2DP, LE
NFC: Yes (Apple Pay only)
Camera: (Rear) 8 MP, 1080p, optical image stabilization, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, (Front) 1.2 MP, 720p@30fps
OS: iOS 8.0.2
CPU: Dual-core 1.4 GHz Cyclone (ARM v8-based)
GPU: PowerVR GX6450 (quad-core graphics)
Sensors: Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer

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