Three months ago we published our iPhone 6 review and iPhone 6 Plus review, diving deep into Apple's big and bigger new phones. We took our time and tested everything from the new screens to the new cameras to the new chipsets. But now we've lived with these phones for weeks at a time and we've gotten to know them better than any preliminary review would allow. So, just like with iOS 8 earlier this week, we're taking another look. We're going to tell you how both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are working for us now, three months later!
1. Design and durability
Ren: Okay, I'll say it! The iPhone 6 is a wee bit too big for me. I drop it on my face when I'm lying down, and one-handed typing is a pain. That said, I'm never going back to a 4-inch iPhone. The extra screen real estate is just too good to give up. I love the curved fit and finish — though I've had to get a case because it's a tad too slippery for my clumsy hands. I am a little bummed at how easily the front screen scratches — I've had to consciously put my keys separately from my iPhone for the first time since owning one. But from a big picture standpoint, it seems like a silly thing to get mad about. ("Oh no! My fragile glass-covered device is fragile!") It's overall one of the best phones I've owned: Big enough to do any important task, small enough to still fit in my pocket.
(6 Plus users, I respect you guys, but you're crazy. Too big for me.)
Peter: After using both for a while, I've settled on the iPhone 6 as my daily driver. I'm used to being able to do most of what I need to on my phone with one hand, and the smaller size of the iPhone 6 enables me to do that — the iPhone 6 Plus is simply too big to comfortably do a lot of one-handed thumb typing and the other stuff I've taken for granted with smaller iPhones. Having said that, I think Apple's done a tremendous job with its design of the iPhone 6 Plus. Compared to many phones of similar size, the iPhone 6 Plus feels really good in your hands, its weight is well balanced and the design and shape makes it feel more comfortable.
Ally: I pre-ordered both an iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Due to constraint and initial demand, I received my iPhone 6 first. The iPhone 6 Plus finally arrived a few weeks later. When I first unboxed it my gut instinct was that it was way too big and I'd never use it as a daily driver. For the first month or so, that was the case. Strangely I've been using the iPhone 6 Plus more and more often over the past few weeks and am starting to prefer it. I can attribute most of this to the battery life. After using both, there's no denying the iPhone 6 Plus puts the iPhone 6 to shame. However, it still irritates me that I can't fit it in my jeans pocket easily. Sometimes that still keeps me from carrying it around if my wardrobe doesn't allow. That alone makes me think if I could only have one, I'd still go for the iPhone 6. But then, two words come to mind: battery life.
Rene: I know some people complain that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are rounder and smoother and hence harder to hold onto, but I haven't found that to be a problem at all. I love the smoothness. It's like a riverstone and I just keep flipping it in my hand. Over and over again.
I've had my iPhone 6 Plus in the front pocket of my straight-cut jeans, without a case, for going on 3 months and it shows not a single sign of wear and tear. (I did scratch it slightly — ironically on the camera of an iPhone 6!) The gold still looks great, there are no chips on the casing, and no, there's not a single bend in sight.
Kevin: I bought 128GB versions of both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus at launch, switching back and forth a week at a time between the two until I could decide which one I truly preferred. While in the hand the iPhone 6 still retains that familiar iPhone feeling I've known since the original in 2007, the 6 Plus feels alien as far as iPhones go. It's too big to comfortably use with one hand. That said, I adapted and ultimately I settled on the 6 Plus. Compared to the iPhone 6, the larger screen is big enough for me to type on comfortably with two thumbs at fast speeds, which as a power communicator I appreciate a lot.
2. Retina HD Display
Peter: The Retina HD screens on both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are the best-looking iPhone screens Apple's installed to date. They're higher-contrast to produce more vibrant images. I use my phones outside a lot, and I almost always wear polarized sunglasses. In the past that's caused problems because of the polarization on the iPhone's screen. But they've improved the polarization on these phones to help reduce that issue.
Ally: The iPhone 6 Plus in particular has an amazing display and one of the best ones I've ever used. The iPhone 6 isn't far behind but due to the pixel count and sheer size, the iPhone 6 Plus is just more noticeable of a difference. Photos and text are more crisp than ever, even through polarized sunglasses, which I wear consistently. My favorite part of both displays however is the curved glass along the edges. It just makes gestures that much more amazing.
Ren: I agree with Ally: The ever-so-slight curvature of the display edges make this phone a joy to swipe and touch. And the display itself is gorgeous — I guess by this point it should surprise no one, but I'm happy to see improvements regardless.
Rene: When I first reviewed the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus I was impressed by the technology in the display. The dual-domain pixels, the photo alignment, the polarization, the full sRGB gamut, and the thinness that made the pixels look almost as if they were shooting up through the glass. Now I'm just impressed by the display. The blacks are black, the colors are rich and vibrant, and the viewing angles are outstanding. More like this, please.
Kevin: I really enjoy the screen real estate the 6 Plus offers, and I've found it has me doing more than I would otherwise on a smaller screened iPhone, such as shopping. Historically I might browse shopping websites on my phone, but run back to the computer when I actually wanted to complete a purchase and buy something. With the larger screen on the 6 Plus, somehow I feel like that barrier is gone. I did a good chunk of my Christmas shopping on my iPhone this year.
3. Battery life and performance
Peter: If there's one thing that makes the iPhone 6 Plus stand out more than anything, it's the absolutely humongous battery life. I can sometimes go for two days or longer without having to charge the iPhone 6 Plus, something I couldn't even dream of with any other iPhone.
Ally: Every time I pick up my iPhone 6 for the day, I'm longing for the iPhone 6 Plus' battery life after only a few short hours. Sure, it's improved over the iPhone 5s but after using the iPhone 6 Plus, it leaves a lot of room to argue that larger phones are worth the tradeoff in terms of battery life. At least at this point they are for me.
Rene: As much as I love the big, bright display on the iPhone 6 Plus, it's the battery life that keeps me coming back. I get 1.5 to 2 days typically, and that's under normal use. At events, where I typically have to walk around the battery packs strapped Rocketeer-like to my back, I can get away with almost a full day without charging.
And the Apple A8 system-on-a-chip? I haven't come close to taxing that monster. But I really, really want to.
Ren: Battery life is the only area in which I pine for an iPhone 6 Plus. My iPhone 6's battery life is acceptable — and in my tests, slightly better than my 5s — but nowhere near what I see my 6 Plus friends getting. And lacking a good battery case for the 6, I'm dreading my first big all-day excursion (CES, I'm looking at you). It's the area where the 6 Plus is clearly king.
Kevin: The battery life on the iPhone 6 Plus is stellar. Traveling is the true test, and I've traveled a lot with my 6 Plus in the time that I've had it. When you're roaming and off Wi-Fi, battery life gets eaten up quick, and while traveling I find myself using my phone a lot more than when I'm back at home or at the office. I have yet to not get through the day with my 6 Plus battery, and most days there is a lot of juice left in the proverbial tank.
4. iSight and FaceTime cameras
Ren: I'm glad the front-facing camera got some love with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and its low-light sensor is definitely better than any of its predecessors. But it's still not quite what I'd like to see from a front-facing camera. If we're going to take selfies and chat with relatives, let's at least bump up the sensor to the point where front-facing pictures aren't so grainy.
The back camera is a different story entirely: Its improvements are, honestly, a bit staggering. I thought my 5s camera was excellent; the 6 and 6 Plus build upon that in a wonderful way to offer better low-light signal, steadier pictures and video, and clearer images all-around. I've been using my iPhone 6 constantly since launch to take photographs and video, and I'm routinely stunned by the quality of the media coming from my device.
Peter: The iPhone 6 is the first iPhone I've had that doesn't feel like it's fighting me to take a good picture. Especially at concerts and other low light conditions, I've snapped some great shots I never could have managed with my 5S or previous iPhones.
Ally: Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have great cameras in them, but so did their predecessor, the iPhone 5s. That being said, there are obvious improvements in the sensor itself and the OIS in the iPhone 6 Plus produces brighter night time photos with less noise. However, the front facing camera doesn't fare as well in low light and I'd still like to see some improvements in that area next year.
Rene: Because Apple designs their own chips, they can design their own image signal processor (ISP). And thanks to the ISP, I can pull my iPhone 6 Plus from my pocket, snap a picture, and 9 times out of 10, get something automatically focused, balanced, and exposed pretty much perfectly. It remains Apple's biggest strength, and the reason they still own the "everyday" photography market. Add the manual camera controls from iOS 8, and a good thing really got better this year.
Kevin: The iSight camera is awesome. It's fast. Photos are top notch. I only wish the front facing camera handled low light conditions better - the night time selfies are still grainier than I'd like (Pro Tip: Buy FaceTune for $4 if you're a selfie addict. It 30 seconds of editing you can make yourself look amazing!).
5. Apple Pay
Peter: Apple Pay is picking up steam — Apple keeps signing up new banks and retailers to accept it. But will the momentum continue and how does the competition muddy the waters? It isn't yet accepted at most of the retailers I do business with. Once Apple Pay gets ubiquitous enough, it'll be fantastic. Until then, it's a novelty.
Ally: The only places in my area that accept Apple Pay right now are Meijer, Walgreens, and Panera. However, I have lots of cards in Passbook that support payments too via bar code, such as my Starbucks card. This covers about 80% of where I visit on a daily basis. Now if only I could have a digital license. Then I wouldn't have to worry about carrying my wallet most of the time.
Ren: Boston is actually pretty inundated with retailers who accept (unofficially or officially) Apple Pay, and I've really enjoyed attempting to wave my phone at any and all retailers that have wireless tap-to-pay machines. At the official Apple Pay merchants, it works like a charm — practically like magic. Unofficial merchants are a bit hit and miss: CVS worked on the first day of Apple Pay's launch, but has since shut down; others sometimes work, sometimes don't. I'd like to see those wafflers solidify, but it's a really promising start in an otherwise deeply entrenched field.
Rene: Hurry up and launch in Canada already!
Peter: Under the hood of both iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus is the A8 processor, which runs all software better, including games. Paired with the new Metal technology introduced in iOS 8, it's a much better gaming experience. Take a look at games like Vainglory, Asphalt 8 Airborne, or Modern Combat 5: Blackout to get a sense of just how awesome a mobile game can look on an iPhone.
Ren: I got the 64GB version of the iPhone 6 and oh boy, is it glorious. The extra storage space, combined with iOS 8's new features and the A8 chip, allows me to pick up just about any app under the sun to try it out. That's especially important in this profession — I get about 30-40 app pitches a day — and I absolutely love what developers are coming up with.
Ally: I remember when the iPhone 5 came out and I instantly felt Hulk rage the minute I launched an app and saw black bars along the top and the bottom. I haven't felt that way with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Scaling is usable but I still opt for optimized apps when I can. I also love how some apps have chosen to take advantage of the iPhone 6 Plus' landscape orientation and offer something special. I just hope we see more of this as time goes on. However, I'm not really a fan of the iPhone 6 Plus' keyboard in landscape mode. The arrow keys throw me off. Perhaps in time I'll grow used to them.
Rene: With the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus come two new display sizes for apps to target. Apple's built-in apps really take advantage of them, especially on the iPhone 6 Plus, and especially in landscape mode where we now get an iPad-style split column view. Would that more apps took advantage of it. Would that apps like Paper by 53 target the iPhone 6 Plus as well.
The apps are as good as they've ever been, but the potential remains for them to be even better than ever.
Ren: Until Mophie gets its act together and releases a battery case for the iPhone 6, my main accessory of choice is either the Apple leather case or a Casetify designed case. The leather case looks professional and provides an extra bit of grip; the Casetify model is transparent, however, with a custom design, and I love that you can see the gold coat of my phone shining underneath.
Peter: I've been trying out a lot of different cases on my iPhone 6, and I like the feel of Apple's leather case the best. Though it doesn't wear well. It got scuffed almost instantly after I put it my pocket. Regardless of which case I'm using, though, it'll fit in my dock: I use Twelve South's HiRise Deluxe, which can customize the height of the Lightning cable and the depth of the stand to accommodate different case sizes.
Ally: I rarely use a case on my iPhone to begin with. However, I have found that the Apple Leather cases add just enough coverage when and if I need it. I prefer the feel of them on the iPhone 6 Plus over the iPhone 6, yet I'm not quite sure why. Perhaps the surface area makes it less obvious I'm using a case, but it just feels slightly more bulky on the iPhone 6 than the 6 Plus. The only other accessory I use on a regular basis is the Everdock Duo by Fuz Designs. This dock uses air suction and does a great job of sitting on my desk and charging two devices simultaneously. If you have a case on, you can even remove the spacers in order to fit almost anything.
Kevin: In terms of the essential accessories, I tried a half dozen cases on my iPhone 6 Plus before I settled on the one - the Spigen Air Skin Case in Champagne. The 6 Plus is a slippery phone, so having a case on it helps with the finger traction. The only issue is, it's such a big phone you don't want to add any bulk. The Air Skin case is SUPER THIN - only .4mm. People don't even realize that there's a case on the phone when they ask to hold the 6 Plus. The Champagne color is semi-transparent as well, which works perfect retaining the gold look of a gold iPhone. The case is too thin to help protect much from drops, but it will keep scratches off your phone and it provides that extra grip.
When it comes to smart accessories, the iPhone 6 Plus is top notch. I've really embraced the connected lifestyle, and the iPhone just plays so well in that space. I have 8 Sonos speakers, 18 Philips Hue lightbulbs, a Nest thermostat, August doorlock, two Dropcams and more - and the 6 Plus simply runs flawless managing all of it.
8. The bottom line
Ren: The iPhone 6 has some flaws, to be sure — I'd love better battery life, a slightly more durable screen, and a wee bit less slip in the hand — but despite those, it remains my favorite iPhone I've ever owned. Touch ID and Apple Pay are a huge win, as is the rear camera and its processing software. I was skeptical about the 4.7-inch size, but it absolutely won me over, and I encourage anyone with a 5s to take the 6 for a test drive at an Apple Store — yes, it's a little bit big, but those tradeoffs are worth the value you're getting.
I can't speak to the 6 Plus, however, so I'll let my colleagues do the talking on that front.
Peter: The iPhone 6 Plus is too much phone for me. The iPhone 6 is in my Goldilocks zone: It's just the right size. If it just had the iPhone 6 Plus's battery life, it'd be almost perfect.
Ally: I'm still battling internally over whether or not I like the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus more. However, for most people, most of the time, the iPhone 6 is going to be the more sensible choice. But if you're in the bigger is better camp, you'll be amazed by the iPhone 6 Plus' wonderful design, amazing battery life, and blazingly fast performance.
Kevin: While it's not the most comfortable iPhone nor my favorite looking, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are undoubtedly the best iPhones ever made.
Rene: Three hours into using my iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 5 felt small and the iPhone 4 felt like a toy. What had been my window into internet and apps suddenly felt cramped and claustrophobic. Three months and I know I'm never going back. I like the iPhone 6 a lot. It feels like the perfect size for a modern mobile communications device. I like the iPhone 6 Plus a lot too. It feels like the perfect size for a modern mobile computing device. And thanks to iOS 8 improvements like Extensibility, they're not only more powerful than ever, but more capable. Three months later, and I'm happier with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus than ever.