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


View All Comments

  • Morawka - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    mods please clean this junk up. I don't want to see anandtech ruined by people like this. it's like the floodgates just opened and all the gremlins got in. Reply
  • Aengland818 - Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - link

    Your blind hatred for someone with an opposing opinion is something worth examining. Why would you use such offensive language? What does it accomplish other than to make you look like a defensive, homophobic jerk! Reply
  • Kidster3001 - Thursday, October 2, 2014 - link

    said the Pot to the Kettle... Reply
  • akdj - Friday, October 3, 2014 - link

    Harsh language. Necessary?
    I think you've shown your IQ level. You're ignorant dude. Thank your computer for anonymity. Peeps like you aren't welcome in today's society
  • sonicmerlin - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    Uh, the power cost of constantly digging into the NAND flash page files because of a lack of RAM is far more than an extra gig of RAM. In reality power consumption by adding more RAM is almost negligible, and in general RAM consumes only a tiny fraction of overall power to begin with. Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    "In reality power consumption by adding more RAM is almost negligible, and in general RAM consumes only a tiny fraction of overall power to begin with." Numbers? Proof?

    The article http://arxiv.org/pdf/1401.4655.pdf states that running a variety of SPEC2K programs on a Galaxy S2, RAM power and CPU power are more or less equivalent --- for some programs CPU power usage is higher, for some RAM power usage is higher.

    This doesn't COMPLETELY answer the question, partly because that's older technology, partly because a large part of the issue is not how much power RAM uses when active but rather how much it uses when idle. Nonetheless it's a real data point suggesting that RAM is not free in terms of power, which is more than you're providing.

    It's also worth pointing out that before the OS will be "constantly digging into the NAND flash page files"
    (a) there is no paging file in iOS. There will be demand paging IN (most notably for instruction pages, probably also for at least some resource files that are marked read-only) and a small amount of paging OUT (as far as I can tell, the result of mmap'd filed) but there is no paging file.
    (b) remember that iOS (like Mavericks) provides compressed RAM which, at least for the Mavericks experience, provides the equivalent of about 50% more RAM across a wide variety of usage scenarios. On iOS there is almost certainly dedicated HW performing the compression/decompression, which means low power and which may mean the usage of more aggressive algorithms than are possible on x86, providing even better compression ratios. This compression mechanism will kick in before pages are discarded (even read-only pages) which will further reduce the need to reload from flash.

    I agree that the tabs situation for Safari is not ideal. However in real life, it is not a problem I actually ever encounter on my iPhone 5 (in Safari or otherwise). It's much more of a problem for iPad, and THERE I think Apple will really be screwing over its customers if it sticks with 1GB. On iPhone, I think this remains a theoretical, not a real problem. We can all invent stories about how it limits the future use of iOS 11, but that's pure guessing; it simply is not a real problem today for most users.
  • Kidster3001 - Thursday, October 2, 2014 - link

    iPhones haven't need more memory for several reasons. 1. Android apps run in a VM. 2. Android can actively multi-task. 3. Android cannot be as highly customized (pared down) because it has to support more hardware. 4. More, more more.

    NEEDING the extra memory is a negative. HAVING it is not necessarily a negative. Battery life is what matters. I'll put my Android phone against any iPhone for battery life.

    And seriously... "so lazy people don't have to close tabs". That like saying "I wish my OS was like DOS so I didn't have to close all these other Windows to do different things". It's not a good argument.
  • mrochester - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    It's a win for Apple, and neither a win or a lose for customers. The iPhone is still the best smartphone on the market, even with 1GB of RAM, so what is pushing that to 2GB going to achieve other than simply cutting into Apple's profit margin? Us customers aren't going to get anything from it. Reply
  • mrochester - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    Or is it that in your mind, Apple has some sort of moral obligation to put as much hardware in their devices as possible so as to justify their profit margin, even if it has no effect on the end user experience of the device. You essentially just want to know that the hardware is there for the sake of it and that Apple hasn't made quite so much money from your purchase? Reply
  • danbob999 - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    Apple has no moral obligations.
    To be taken seriously, we could say that users have a moral obligation not to say that Samsung devices are cheap when they are in fact more expensive to make than iPhones.

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