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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  • akdj - Friday, October 3, 2014 - link

    I'm thinking you've NEVER used an iOS device in your lifetime. What s ridiculous comment. I use both and I'm a happy 'customer'. Half the RAM? Try a third. My Note 3 has 3GB. Cold boot to a fresh screen, within thirty seconds she's using 2.1-2.3GB of RAM. And my Note is a business tool without a bunch of apps, side loads or 'leaks' in software. Funny thing, happy customers make for healthy sales. VERY HAPPY People break RECORDS with each subsequent release
    ...which, in turn, you're correct. Makes happy stock holders. Breaking records year after year isn't because they're using 'cheap' components or 'holding back'. It would've been MORE profitable to maintian the same pricing scheme without the 128GB (only industry OEM offering this much storage at these read and write speeds) & WITH 2GB of RAM. Significantly cheaper. But there's a solid reason and Apple's engineers are s bit more intelligent than you Mr. danBob. Sorry, the truth hurts but these dudes blew minds releasing the first 64bit SoC. First to utilize the A8 instruction set and they're designing low level graphic (Metal) programming to eliminate overhead of GL-ES. A 4MB buffer on the SoC and incredible optimization to its own OS.
    Keep in mind ..,the development community is signficantly more active on iOS and they're making 85-90% of the defelopment 'money!' iOS users 'buy' apps. Spend money and enjoy their experience. Small display? 4;7" has been deemed perfect by MANY! And 5.5" is RIGHT there with. The largest available. Battery? Did you read the review? It's the Best of the Best. Period.

    Before commenting, a suggestion. READ the article, review or 'book' before looking 'silly' in public!
    Reply
  • Hemlocke - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    Simple BOM breakdowns are not actually indicative of "less/more expensive." Apple's economies of scale are the envy of the tech world, and buying in great quantities and using SKUs across multiple lines brings the prices down for components. However, this takes a tremendous amount of capital, money that is spent fa in advance of receiving your goods, and generally your returns have to be enough to offset the money all of that capital is not making invested in some money-making vehicle.

    In mobile, basically two companies sell enough phones and tablets to do that, Apple and Samsung. Samsung sells more devices, but that is across many lines each year, with almost no common components. Thus, they aren't able to leverage economies of scale in the same manner as Apple, who makes two main lines each year (The newest iPhone and iPad), with secondary sales on the previous models, which still employ the internals introduced the previous year.

    tl;dr: Samsung BOM is not the same as Apple BOM.
    Reply
  • danbob999 - Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - link

    Actually Samsung shares a lot of components between different phones. And they do have economies of scale on the same level as Apple. This is not enough to explain why Apple phones are cheaper to make according to iFixit estimates. Reply
  • cupholder - Wednesday, October 1, 2014 - link

    Still a cheaper phone. Quit deluding yourself. Reply
  • Jumangi - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    Yea their phones are so cheap that they are the best selling smartphones in the world. Go away hater. Reply
  • extide - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    You do know that they are actually NOT the best selling smartphones in the world... right..? Reply
  • Hemlocke - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    I'm pretty sure he meant the iPhone, which is the best-selling smartphone in the world, generation after generation. Reply
  • kirito - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    I like to see your comment once samsung would release an all aluminum phone. so many excuses. Reply
  • kirito - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    I like to see your comment once samsung would release an all aluminum phone. so many excuses. Reply
  • danbob999 - Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - link

    They have. It's the Galaxy Alpha. I don't like this phone. I hope Samsung goes back to plastic. Reply

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