With every launch of the iPhone, Apple seems to have everything to lose and not much to gain. Apple’s iPhone line accounts for the majority of profits in the smartphone space, and as the smartphone market marches towards maturity it seems inevitable that companies like Xiaomi will be able to deliver largely similar experiences at much lower prices. The same once happened with Apple in the days of the PC industry where Apple approached irrelevance. Yet generation after generation, Apple seems to be able to hold on to a majority of profit share, and they’ve managed to tenaciously hold on to their first-mover advantage.

This brings us to the iPhone 6. This is now the eighth generation of the iPhone, and the fifth generation of the iPhone’s industrial and material design. We should note right now that this review is specifically for the iPhone 6; for the iPhone 6 Plus, please see our iPhone 6 Plus companion review. At this point, it’s not really possible to revolutionize the smartphone, and on the surface, the iPhone 6 seems to be directly inspired by the iPod Touch. However, instead of the chamfered edge where the display meets the metal unibody we see a continuous curve from the sloping glass to the metal unibody that looks and feels great. While the M8 was one of the best phones for in-hand feel, the iPhone 6 goes a step further due to the reduced weight and rounded side. I've always felt like the HTC 8X had one of the most compelling shapes for a phone, and the incredibly thin feel of the iPhone 6 definitely reminds me of that.

Along the left side, we see the standard volume buttons and mute switch that continue to have the same solid feel and clean clicking action. As I discuss in the iPhone 6 Plus review, going by Consumer Reports' data it seems that there is a weak point near the bottom of the volume rocker, although it's far less likely to be an issue on the iPhone 6 due to its smaller size. Along the top, there isn’t a power button because it’s been moved to the right side of the phone so there’s nothing notable on the top.

On the right side, we see the previously mentioned power button and also the SIM tray, which is ejected by inserting a pin into the eject hole. Similarly to the volume buttons, the power button has a solid feel that gives a distinct click when triggered and continues to be quite unique when compared to phones other than recent iPhones.

The bottom has the Lightning connector, speaker, a microphone, and 3.5mm headset jack. The placement and design of all these elements are largely similar if not shared directly with the iPod Touch.

The back of the phone continues to share elements from the iPod Touch. The camera, microphone, and LED flash are almost identical in their appearance, even down to the camera hump’s design. The LED flash does look different to accommodate the second amber flash, but the shape is identical. The only real difference is that the antennas of the iPhone 6 are the metal pieces on the top and bottom, with the associated plastic lines instead of a plastic RF window.

The front of the phone is decidedly more similar to the iPhone 5s though, with the Touch ID home button. While the earpiece hasn’t moved, it seems that the front facing camera has been moved back to the left side of the earpiece, and the sensors for light and proximity are now above the earpiece. For the most part, there’s not much to comment on here but after using the iPhone 6 for an extended amount of time I’m definitely sure that the home button is relatively closer to the surface of the display glass than before. In addition, the home button has a dramatically improved feel, with short travel, clean actuation, and a reassuring click in most cases.

Overall, while I was undecided at the launch of the iPhone 6 I definitely think the look of the new iPhone has grown on me. The camera hump’s accent serves as an interesting design touch, and the feel of the design is definitely much more comfortable and ergonomic than before. I’m not really sure that the extra reduction in thickness was necessary, but it does make for a better first impression. In the launch article I was a bit surprised that Apple chose to have a camera hump but given the fact that the iPod Touch has the same design it seems that there is precedent for such a move. I personally feel that the design wouldn’t be worse by increasing thickness to eliminate the hump and improve battery life as a result.

Apple has also introduced a new silicone case, which brings a lower price point than the leather cases. Surprisingly, this is a rather high quality case, and as far as I can tell it doesn’t carry any of the issues that silicone cases traditionally have. There’s a nice lip to make sure that the display glass doesn’t touch a surface if the phone is put face down, and the material doesn’t seem to stretch or attract pocket lint the way most silicone cases do.

There’s definitely a lot more to talk about though, and to get a sense of the major differences I’ve put together our usual spec table below.

  Apple iPhone 5s Apple iPhone 6 Apple iPhone 6 Plus
SoC Apple A7 Apple A8 Apple A8
Display 4-inch 1136 x 640 LCD 4.7-inch 1334 x 750 LCD 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 LCD
WiFi 2.4/5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0 2.4/5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, single stream, BT 4.0, NFC
Storage 16GB/32GB/64GB 16GB/64GB/128GB 16GB/64GB/128GB
I/O Lightning connector, 3.5mm headset
Size / Mass 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm, 112 grams 138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm, 129 grams 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1 mm, 172 grams
Camera 8MP iSight with 1.5µm pixels Rear Facing + True Tone Flash
1.2MP f/2.4 Front Facing
8MP iSight with 1.5µm pixels Rear Facing + True Tone Flash
1.2MP f/2.2 Front Facing
8MP iSight with 1.5µm pixels Rear Facing + True Tone Flash + OIS
1.2MP f/2.2 Front Facing
Price $99 (16GB), $149 (32GB) on 2 year contract $199 (16GB), $299 (64GB), $399 (128GB) on 2 year contract $299 (16GB), $399 (64GB), $499 (128GB) on 2 year contract

As you can see, this is a major release even at a high level. While the design might take some inspiration from the iPod Touch, the hardware is a completely different beast. There’s a new SoC, the A8; the iPhone 6 also includes a bigger and better display, newer WiFi module, bigger battery, and a better camera. Of course, there’s a lot more to the story of the iPhone 6 than a spec sheet. The first major difference that we’ll talk about is the SoC.

A8: Apple’s First 20nm SoC
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  • Oxford Guy - Saturday, October 4, 2014 - link

    "With Cyclone Apple hit on a very solid design: use a wide, high-IPC design with great latency in order to reach high performance levels at low clock speeds. By keeping the CPU wide and the clock speed low, Apple was able to hit their performance goals without having to push the envelope on power consumption, as lower clock speeds help keep CPU power use in check. It’s all very Intel Core-like, all things considered."

    The G4 and G5 processors were wide when Intel was doing its lame NetBurst thing. The "wide and shallow" G4 in particular had low clock speeds. The "wide and deep" G5 bumped them up a bit. The "narrow and deep" NetBurst was the high clock speed awful performance per watt Intel brainchild.
    Reply
  • Coup27 - Saturday, October 4, 2014 - link

    "Fortunately, based on the USB device information for the phones, both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus support charging with power adapters like the iPad charging block that can provide up to 2.1 amps at five volts. Using one of these chargers will dramatically reduce charge time on the new iPhones, and it's a very worthwhile investment (assuming you don't already have an iPad) for the iPhone 6 Plus in particular."

    If this was any other phone manufacturer they would have been lambasted for taking the cheaper route and not providing a charger which charges the battery in the most optimal time. However, with this being Apple and all, it's perfectly acceptable to ship a 1A charger and it's a "worthwhile investment" for the user to buy another charger (if they don't already have one) with a higher current to charge their phone faster.

    Simply not acceptable. As much as I love this site, this review is no more than the typical Apple fodder which is trotted out all over the web. The fact that one German publication was recently struck off the media list by Apple for posting a bending video of the 6 Plus vs Note 3 shows what happens when the media dare say something negative and it's quite clear they would rather stay on Apple's good side than be truly honest in their reviews.

    There was no mention in this review about half the hardware choices made here. The screen ppi was very lightly glossed over. No mention of the lack of stereo speakers or waterproofing to name but a few. Someone suggested that waterproofing adds a lot of bulk to the phone. On the S5 I would agree, however the Xperia Z3 is only 0.4mm thicker than the iPhone 6 so it can be done whilst still looking stylish.

    Apple produced marketing photos where they photo shopped out the camera bump. Yet here it is described as an "interesting design choice". No mention of it wobbling all over the place when placed on a flat surface. Let's look at PDAF. Given virtually no time on the S5 review but a full explanation given here. The S5 review was also 10 pages long written by 2 people, this is 14 pages written by 4 people.

    Sometimes you can't move on the home page on this site for articles about Apple, yet there has been nothing so far, not even a pipeline story about the disastrous bugs coming out of iOS 8.

    Add to this the badly managed silent departures of Anand and Brian to Apple, I don't think there's much point reading Apple reviews any more.
    Reply
  • tralalalalalala40 - Sunday, October 5, 2014 - link

    1) Everyone charges overnight, no difference to user experience.

    2) No proof that german media site was struck off some magical list.

    3) ppi does not equal quality. (Unless you believe more MP is better, then please just go buy a lumia)

    4) no phone is water proof, it's a range of water resistance.

    5) no proof that apple photoshopped their own marketing material to change the camera design

    6) no one uses their phone with the back flat on the table

    7) every OS has bugs, the issue is that apple actually gives out upgrades (que the majority of android users still stuck with a massively susceptible default browser). You won't hear about android L issues because it will take 2+ years to be on 20% of android phones.

    8) employees change jobs. everyone knows about it, do you want a NYTs editorial about it?

    9) if you want non-scientific reviews go to cnet.
    Reply
  • Coup27 - Sunday, October 5, 2014 - link

    I can't decide which is worse. The answers in post, or the arrogance.

    1. Not true. People's lives are all different. To suggest everyone's phone can last until they go to bed is a massive generalisation. The supplied charger should charge the phone in the most optimal time, regardless when the phone is charged.

    2. http://blog.gsmarena.com/apple-completely-loses-pl...

    3. Why are you talking about two different things? ppi is clearly directly related to quality. You could have the best panel money could buy but if the ppi was 96 on a 5" screen it would look terrible. It is now widely accepted, and even mentioned in this review that ~450 ppi is a perfect balance between resolution and battery life. MP has no relevance in this discussion.

    4. There are many IP67 phones which are immersion proof up to 1M for 30 minutes. There are now IP68 phones which are immersion proof beyond 1M for 30 minutes. If they phone can be dunked under water, that's water proof.

    5. http://blog.gsmarena.com/apple-iphone-6-features-c...

    6. Do you speak for everybody in the world?

    7. KitKat and Jelly Bean account for over 75% of Android devices. (Google it if you want the source). Yes, budget phones are often left behind in software, but that's because they are budget phones. People sign up for that experience when they pay a fraction of the cost of an iPhone or Android flagship.

    8. Anand moving to Apple should have broke on this site, not every other tech site. Anand has gone on for years about openness and honesty. Where was it then? Brian disappeared completely and despite multiple requests, nobody would say where he had gone. That news was also broken by other tech sites. It was like AT had something to hide. Nobody would have really cared if they had gone to Apple, so why do it in the shadows.
    Reply
  • tralalalalalala40 - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    1) If you need a phone to last an inordinate amount of time get the charging cases.

    2) Hoax, they are invited to the ipad air 2 event: https://twitter.com/CB_Telzerow

    3) false, if samsung released a 5000 ppi phone that was slow as hell (like the note 4 is http://appleinsider.com/articles/14/10/04/samsung-... ) how is that high quality? iPhone 6 was proven to have the best color which is more important than pixels you can't see.

    4) yep, you can get a case for this if this is your thing. there is more choice with apple here since there are 1000x as many cases to suit your need. (with android you are locked in to what the device maker makes since there aren't that many niche cases)

    5) thanks for the proof. no photoshop just choice of angles. go look at the apple website for many angles of the bulge if that is your thing.

    6) in this case yes, it's not ergonomic to use the phone that way. it's why droid makers gave up on the kickstand

    7) that number is for those that use google play (which accounts for <8% of all android phones, lol)

    8) name another news site that had a going away article by one of the employees. especially one going to work for a company that requires employees to not bring attention to themselves (think non-compete)

    thanks
    Reply
  • gonsolo - Monday, October 6, 2014 - link

    I'd like to see a benchmark of app startup times since this is where I have to wait most of the time nowadays. Reply
  • tralalalalalala40 - Wednesday, October 8, 2014 - link

    http://www.cultofandroid.com/69538/iphone-6-multit...

    iphone 6 is blazing fast. note 4 needs 32 cores to compete.
    Reply
  • falc0ne - Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - link

    "In battery life, once again Apple has managed to successfully maintain good battery life despite a relatively small battery capacity". Seriously? Since when iPhone has a good battery life. You can never go through the day with one. Everyone knows that. Sorry guys but ain't buying that. If this is good, then what does that make Xperia Z3? Good of Thunder in battery? :) Reply
  • falc0ne - Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - link

    **God of thunder:) autocorrect dictionary typo . anyway...you get my point Reply
  • Hook Em14 - Tuesday, October 7, 2014 - link

    Wow...hardcore Android fanboys have to be some of the most ignorant, illogical, and pathetic people around. Reply

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