We've now lived with Apple's big and bigger new iPhones for a half a year. We've taken a ton of pictures. We've pushed the Apple A8 processor and we've charged and discharged the battery over and over again. We've kept them in our pockets and we've dropped them on our floors. We've roamed with them. We've talked to and with them. And we've stared at their screens. A lot. As such, we've had time to evolve our initial thoughts and feelings. And that means it's time to take one more look at the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, iMore roundtable, six months later…
Design and durability
Derek: When the iPhone 6 first started to leak, I questioned the design. It seemed like it was losing the elegance associated with the refined iPhone 5 body. But that all faded once I saw it in person — the antenna lines on the back and neither does the camera hump don't bother me like I thought they would (though I don't spend much time looking at the back of phone). I've not had any issues with my phone bending, being overly scratch-prone, or anything else on the durability front. That said, the bending isn't a small issue — this is a phone that's made of a malleable metal with very tight tolerances.
Ren: The form-factor of the iPhone 6 is glorious — it's smooth, it's monolithic, and the edge-to-edge swiping is a daily delight. But that silky-smooth iPhone feeling has also unfortunately led to some poorly-timed drops on my part. This is the first iPhone whose screen I've broken twice, and I have to attribute some of that to how slippery it is in the hand. That said, I'm also a klutz, so...
Peter: I'm more satisfied with my iPhone 6's build quality than I have been on any iPhone that I've ever used. It's simply the best of the bunch. But I also really appreciate the feel of it in my hand. It's easy to carry and handle. Even the iPhone 6 Plus, as big as it is, doesn't feel that big in the hand.
Ally: Like Derek, I wasn't exactly sure what to make of the design when we saw part leaks. Then again, I felt the same way when the iPhone 5 leaked. I'm still not sure I 100% like the antenna breaks in the casing, but I get why they're there. I do love the form factor and how it feels in my hand better than any iPhone before it, and that's more important to me.
I seldom uses cases. If I do they're super thin ones. That being said, neither my iPhone 6 or 6 Plus show any signs of wear. I'm careful with them but I don't hold them with kid gloves either. And don't get me started on bendgate. Yes metal bends when you try hard enough. Go away.
Rene: The iPhone 6 was the next step in Apple's design language. It took everything that was great about iPhone 5s, iPod touch 5, and iPad mini, and added even more curves. It also added size. A lot of size. But since Apple made the iPhone 6 even thinner, the size stayed light, and that kept it much more usable than I ever imagined.
I'm almost exclusively carrying the iPhone 6 Plus these days, and I still don't find it slippery, I've learned to manage it one handed — though awkwardly. I have dropped it several times, and there's a slight, almost imperceptible nick to show for it, and I did scratch the screen, though you can't see it when it's lit up. I've also had it in my front jeans pocket for months and there's not the slightest bend. All in all, it's been tough.
Retina HD display
Derek: I have an iPhone 6, and its display has the same exact pixel density as the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 4. Which is to say that it's adequate and meets the "retina" threshold. But put it next to a 1080p phone like the iPhone 6 Plus and you see that there is "more" beyond retina that our eyes can perceive. Put it next to a QHD phone like the LG G3 or the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S6 and it just gets sad. "Retina" might be as small as our eyes can technically see, but we can sense the sharpness of denser displays beyond that.
Peter: I love the iPhone 6's screen, but I love the iPhone 6 Plus's screen more. It's gorgeous.
Ally: I have an iPhone 6 and an iPhone 6 Plus. While the iPhone 6's display is great, the iPhone 6 Plus display is amazing. I prefer the size of the iPhone 6 but the display and the battery life are what making me return to the iPhone 6 Plus. It's simply stunning. There's nothing more to really say.
Ren: I have to agree with both Peter and Derek here: The iPhone 6's screen is perfect — just so long as you never see an iPhone 6 Plus next to it. Hopefully that high-DPI magic makes its way into the 4-inch model next year, as I still have no desire to carry around a 4.7-inch monstrocity, even if its screen is gorgeous.
Rene: What they said. The iPhone 6 Plus screen is 1080p and it's gorgeous. There's so much tech in it that's beyond just Retina that it's beyond just Retina. It's also internally rendered @3x and scaled down to 1080p, so there's room for even more.
Still, staring at it all day, traveling with it, reading, watching videos, gaming, and the screen remains one of the best, most accurate, most pleasurable in the industry.
Ren: Apple, you can do better. My iPhone 6's battery life exceeded my 5s, but after 6 months with the thing, I still need a spare battery pack to make it through a heavy day of use. The 6 Plus is a great example of what a true workhorse battery can do — let's put some of that top-secret battery technology to use and shove it into the 4-inch 6.
Peter: Battery life on the iPhone 6 is acceptable compared to my iPhone 5S, but it's not spectacular. I remain very jealous of iPhone 6 Plus users because of its absolutely capacious battery life. I've resorted to using a battery case from PowerSkin for those days that I know I'll be out late and don't want to have to worry about dipping into the red.
Ally: The iPhone 6 battery life could be better. When I use it instead of my iPhone 6 Plus, the difference is staggering, but that's to be expected. But to put it in perspective, I can go a complete day and a half with my iPhone 6 Plus while my iPhone 6 typically dies under heavy usage before 7pm. Is it better than my iPhone 5s was? Sure. But not by much since it's driving a larger display.
If you want a workhorse, get the iPhone 6 Plus. If you can handle having to charge mid-day or top off before a late evening, the iPhone 6 gets the job done. And for a smaller iPhone, it's a trade-off many people will be happy to make.
Rene: I used to charge my iPhone 5s every night. Many nights I don't bother to charge my iPhone 6 Plus and I'm still fine the next day. I used to go through battery packs like nobody's business while traveling or at shows, now I seldom connect them. The iPhone 6 Plus battery life is just that good.
Derek: Another iPhone, another excellent camera that's better than the one before, and better than practically every other smartphone out there. I'm okay with it being "just" 8MP, though I wouldn't mind more. What kills me is that the iPhone 6 Plus got OIS but the iPhone 6 did not. I'm sure there's some sort of engineering reason that Apple could offer, but as a customer it makes no sense. That said, it still takes great shots. There's serious competition coming very soon from the Samsung Galaxy S6 — it's too soon to make an judgements, but all signs point to Samsung finally having figured out how to move their cameras from great to excellent.
Ren: The iPhone 6 is the first iPhone camera that's allowed me to leave the DSLR at home when I'm traveling. It may not have the same lens magic or low-light capability as my Canon, but its portability (and instant connection to the Internet) outweighs both of those factors in 90 percent of my activities.
Peter: The iPhone 6 is genuinely the first iPhone I've used that I don't feel like I'm fighting to take a good picture. It's especially good in low light conditions. The iPhone 6's use of optical image stabilization makes it even better. I hope OIS will make it to the next revision of the smaller iPhone.
Ally: Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have great cameras. But as the iPhones before it, Apple's onboard ISP and all the software magic behind the camera is what makes them both great everyday cameras. And for those weighing their options between the 6 and 6 Plus, the OIS in the 6 Plus doesn't make a big enough difference in my opinion to sway your purchase decision one way or the other.
Rene: Apple designs its own chipsets, which is why they not only recognized the benefits of 64-bit before anyone else in mobile, but got there first. It's also why their image signal processor (ISP) produces "everyday" photo results that often beat what other camera phones manage even with much bigger lenses. And that's the important thing for me. Day in, day out, I can pull my iPhone 6 Plus from my pocket, snap a picture with nary a second thought, and almost always get a really good result. If anything, the intervening months have simply made me trust it more.
Derek: I love Apple Pay. I've had the option to use contactless NFC payments before on a variety of Android phones I've owned, but never felt inclined to do so. The hurdles it presented — entering a PIN, for instance — without offering any additional security just didn't make it any more convenient than using a credit card. But Apple Pay makes it stupid easy with just your thumb on Touch ID and spits out a one-time-use tokenized card number. I use it every time I can, but sadly the number of places I frequent that take NFC payments are few. The popularity of Apple Pay, at least, has me hopeful that more institutions will as they slowly upgrade their payment systems. At the very least the customer adoption of Apple Pay, the impending arrival of Samsung Pay, the eventual release of Android Pay, and the US finally adopting a chip-and-PIN credit card payment system will all help to motivate retailers to upgrade their systems.
Ren: Apple Pay is so easy, so delightful, and so much fun to use. I'm only hoping we see it appear in more stores, cities, and countries ASAP.
Peter: I love Apple Pay, but I hardly ever use it. Most of the places I shop at regularly that have some sort of NFC-based pay terminal don't support it. Yet. I anticipate that will change with time, but right now it feels like a waiting game.
Ally: I use Apple Pay wherever I can, but that isn't many places in my home area. When out and out, that's a different story. I do find myself enjoying Apple Pay integration for online purchases through several apps though. And I haven't yet decided if being able to reload my Starbucks card in less than 5 seconds in a good or a bad thing?
Derek: They work as expected. It's still a little awkward when I fire up an app that inexplicably hasn't been updated for the larger screens (looking at you, Google Voice), but they all work just as I'd like. I suppose it's not so jarring since I'm using an iPhone 6 and not a 6 Plus.
Ren: 99 percent of the apps I have on my iPhone have been updated for iOS 8 and the 6 and 6 Plus, and they're glorious for it. I haven't seen any great innovative screen space uses when it comes to the iPhone 6, but I know that there are some smart development decisions happening in 6 Plus apps: Side shelves and landscape modes, oh my!
Peter: App developers who commit to best practices have been able to jump on the changes Apple's made with iOS 8 and with the iPhone 6 with few problems. What becomes more of an issue is app makers who treat the new devices like an afterthought. Like Derek, I find it very jarring when I find apps that clearly aren't optimized for the new devices. I usually look for alternatives at that point.
Ally: Apps that haven't been updated to support the native resolution of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are slightly awkward, but not as awkward as the iPhone 4s to iPhone 5 transition period was. Still, that's no excuse and developers have had more than enough time to update apps. And by this point, if an app hasn't been updated, I'm probably going to find a better app to it with.
Rene: When it comes to iOS 8, apps are fantastic. As I wrote earlier this week, they've transformed my workflow from pull to push. When it comes to iPhone 6 Plus, however, developers still haven't embraced things like the split view controller in landscape to the extent I'd like, and I'm still waiting for some of the better iPad-only apps to make the leap down. Procreate did it, so there's really no excuse now.
Derek: The accessories I use have not changed with the iPhone 6. I don't use a case or a screen protector, so I didn't need anything new there. It's still a standard Lightning port and headphone jack on the bottom, so my chargers and headphones didn't have to change. Heck, the Elevation Dock I got for my iPhone 4S still fits the iPhone 6. Nothing's really changed here.
Ren: Thank you, Apple, for not changing the Dock connector with the iPhone 6. That said, I'm actually surprised that my main accessory uses with my iPhone have been Bluetooth-related, not case or cord: I love my cheap pair of Mpow wireless headphones, and have been loving testing the Fugoo Sport Bluetooth speaker.
Peter: My favorite accessory so far has to be Twelve South's HiRise Deluxe, an elegant and adjustable stand that works with both iPhone and iPad, even in cases.
Ally: Since I don't really use cases or screen protectors, I haven't found myself using many accessories. I am however a huge fan of the EverDockDuo by Fuz Designs, and it works wonderfully.
Rene: Most of the accessories I've played around with have got iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus versions out now, including Olloclip, mophie, and more. It took a while, given the new body design, but we should be good going forward.
The bottom line
Derek: The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are the best iPhones Apple has ever made. The iPhone line has been pushing, and dragging, the rest of the smartphone industry forward for years now. Additions like Apple Pay took a feature present on older Android phones and put it in the spotlight with an implementation that's so obvious in retrospect that I don't get how it was so complicated before. They also delivered a major feature that iPhone buyers have been clamoring for for years: bigger screens.
It doesn't matter that other companies did big screens or mobile payments first — what matters is who does it right. I'd say that Apple was definitely the first to get mobile payments right, but the size of the bezels on the top and bottom of the latest iPhones says there's still work to be done on getting large screens right. But I'm still quite satisfied with my iPhone 6 and find myself wondering what I'm going to want out of an iPhone 6s. Then again, I didn't know I wanted mobile payments tied to my fingerprint until I got Apple Pay, so what do I know?
Ren: The iPhone keeps on wowing us. It takes a certain kind of company to throw out designs and forms that people have loved throughout the years in pursuit of greatness, but Apple does it: The iPhone 6 makes me look at my 5s and earlier iPhones like ancient relics. They still feel fashionable, but horrifically dated — kind of crazy, considering how recently these phones were produced. I'm loving my time with the iPhone 6, but I can't wait to see what Apple does to top itself in September.
Peter: Apple long ago established that it doesn't need to be the first to market with new features; it prefers to get it right when it finally comes. So the lamentation of many iPhone users for years that Apple didn't make bigger iPhones was finally answered, and answered in spectacular fashion: The iPhone 6 is bigger and better than iPhones before it, but it doesn't feel bigger; the iPhone 6 Plus is a phablet but doesn't feel like a phablet. More than that, though, iOS 8 and Yosemite establish a continuum that makes it more effortless than ever to just get things done. I like it and I look forward to Apple continuing to improve it, both with changes to future phones and to the operating system.
Ally: Hardware wise, I'd really like to see in the next generation iPhone get an increase in RAM. There are some noticeable issues with iOS 8 and I think the larger screens combined with a more memory intensive version of iOS is pushing what Apple's currently offering right to the edge. That issue aside..
I still go back and forth on whether I prefer the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. And I think my internal debate with that will go on for a little while still. However, there's no denying that these two devices are Apple's best iPhones yet.
Rene: Six months later and the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have withstood the test of time. The hardware has proven itself as durable as it is well designed, the services have solidified to the point where I'm beginning to forget where local ends and cloud begins, and the software, huge functional leap forward that it is, has begun to stabilize.
Yes, more RAM would be great, as would true 3x, and like others I'm already dreaming of the rumored Force Touch future of the iPhone 6s, but there's no denying that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are both examples of Apple at the top of the phone game. Half a year in, and they're not only still competitive with the latest and the greatest from other vendors, in many ways, they're still better.
Like I said back in September, for most people, most of the time, the iPhone 6 is simply the phone to get, ditto the iPhone 6 Plus for those who want more than a phone.