Big vs. bigger: Which iPhone 6 deserves a place in your pocket?

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iPhone-6-vs-6-Plus

For the second consecutive year, Apple has delivered not one but two new iPhones. Unlike the iPhone 5c, however, the slightly cheaper model this time around isn’t just an old iPhone inside a new shell. The iPhone 6 has the same A8 processor, the same Touch ID fingerprint scanner, and the same improved iSight camera as the iPhone 6 Plus.

So, is size the only difference, and how do you choose which model is right for you? Our in-depth comparison below will help you compare each device — spec for spec, feature for feature — and decide which one most deserves a place in your pocket for the next 12 months.

iPhone 6 iPhone 6 Plus
OS iOS 8 iOS 8
Display
  • 4.7-inch Retina HD
  • 1334×750
  • 326 pixels-per-inch
  • 1400:1 contrast ratio
  • 500 cd/m2 max brightness
  • Dual-domain pixels
  • Display Zoom
  • Reachability
  • 5.5-inch Retina HD
  • 1920×1080
  • 401 pixels-per-inch
  • 1300:1 contrast ratio
  • 500 cd/m2 max brightness
  • Dual-domain pixels
  • Display Zoom
  • Reachability
CPU 2.4GHz A8 (64-bit) 2.4GHz A8 (64-bit)
RAM 1GB (TBC) 1GB (TBC)
Storage
  • 16GB
  • 64GB
  • 128GB
  • 16GB
  • 64GB
  • 128GB
Rear-facing camera
  • 8MP with 1.5µ pixels
  • f/2.2 aperture
  • True Tone flash
  • Focus Pixels
  • 1080p video at 60 fps
  • HDR for photos and video
  • Slo-mo video up to 240 fps
  • Time-lapse video
  • 8MP with 1.5µ pixels
  • Optical image stabilization
  • f/2.2 aperture
  • True Tone flash
  • Focus Pixels
  • 1080p video at 60 fps
  • HDR for photos and video
  • Slo-mo video up to 240 fps
  • Time-lapse video
Front-facing camera
  • 1.2MP
  • f/2.2 aperture
  • 720p video recording
  • HDR for photos and video
  • 1.2MP
  • f/2.2 aperture
  • 720p video
  • HDR for photos and video
Touch ID Yes Yes
Other
  • NFC
  • M8 motion coprocessor
  • Barometer
  • Apple Pay
  • NFC
  • M8 motion coprocessor
  • Barometer
  • Apple Pay
Size 138.1 x 67 x 6.9mm 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm
Weight 129g 172g
Battery
  • 14 hours talk time on 3G
  • 10 days standby time
  • 11 hours Wi-Fi browsing
  • 11 hours of video playback
  • 50 hours of audio playback
  • 24 hours talk time on 3G
  • 16 days standby time
  • 12 hours Wi-Fi browsing
  • 14 hours of video playback
  • 80 hours of audio playback

The chart above shows that when you discount the size differences, both iPhone 6 variants are incredibly similar. However, there are some important differences in key areas that may sway your decision. As you might expect, the larger, more expensive iPhone 6 Plus has the upper hand with the sharper display, slightly better camera, and better battery life — but that might not make it the best option for you.

Display

The iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t just have a bigger display, but a sharper one, too. It has the same resolution as a full HD television, which provides an impressive 401 pixels-per-inch. The smaller iPhone 6, however, has just 326 pixels-per-inch.

Bigger and even more beautiful. Photo: Apple.
Bigger and even more beautiful. Photo: Apple.

It’s not a massive difference, but it is one that your eyes will notice. Take a trip to your local Best Buy and find a 4.7-inch phone with a 720p display and another with a 1080p display, and the difference will be evident. Close up, you’ll be able to make out individual pixels on the 720p panel, while on the 1080p one they’ll be indistinguishable to the naked eye.

Having used lots of Android devices with 1080p displays, I feel the smaller iPhone’s display may be a slight disappointment. Let’s not forget, however, that it has the same pixel-per-inch count as previous iPhones, and for many, that is plenty sharp enough. If you’re upgrading from another iPhone with a Retina display, then, you won’t notice a difference.

The same can be said for the differences in contrast ratio between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. On paper, the larger model has a slightly better contract ratio, but the variance is so slight that it’s not one your eyes will notice. You’d have to put both devices side-by-side and really examine the screens closely to see the color differences.

Camera

There’s only one difference between the iSight camera in the iPhone 6 and the one in the iPhone 6 Plus, but it’s a big one. While the former does have software image stabilization, the latter has optical image stabilization — and that’s pretty big.

Working alongside the new A8 processor, the gyroscope, and the M8 motion coprocessor, optical image stabilization in the iPhone 6 Plus uses precise lens movement to compensate for your shaky hands and produce sharper images. It can also reduce subject motion and dramatically improve photos taken in low light.

The new iSight camera has Focus Pixels for rapid autofocus. Photo: Apple.
The new iSight camera has Focus Pixels for rapid autofocus. Photo: Apple.

Optical image stabilization is a feature that’s slowly making its way to flagship Android phones, and it’s one that a lot of people are excited for, because it can make a big difference. Whether it’s something you should care about all depends on how much you use your iPhone to take photos in low light conditions.

Whatever the case may be, if you think a 5.5-inch phone will be too big for you, optical image stabilization alone shouldn’t be enough to force you to buy the iPhone 6 Plus over its smaller sibling.

Apple has made improvements to the iSight camera in other areas that both devices will benefit from. Slo-mo recording is now available at up to 240 frames-per-second, and you can finally capture 1080p video at 60 frames-per-second. There’s also a new feature called Focus Pixels, which promises to provide rapid autofocus.

Battery life

A bigger phone means room for a bigger battery, so you can expect the iPhone 6 Plus to last longer in between charges. Exactly how much more use you’ll get all depends on how you use your device, of course, but the difference will be noticeable.

Apple promises up to 14 hours of 3G talk time on the iPhone 6, while the iPhone 6 Plus will give you another 10 hours on top of that. Movie buffs will also benefit from up to 14 hours of video playback on the larger device versus just 11 hours on the smaller one. As for standby time, the iPhone 6 offers up 10 days, while the iPhone 6 Plus offers an incredible 16 days.

The new iPhones are incredibly thin. Photo: Apple.
The new iPhones are incredibly thin. Photo: Apple.

Even if you choose the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, however, you can still expect battery life improvements over previous models. You’ll get as much as an extra hour of 3G talk time and video playback, and up to 10 hours of extra audio versus the iPhone 5s.

Size

The new couple. Photo: Apple.
The new couple. Photo: Apple.
Photo: Apple

All of these things might be insignificant to you if you believe the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus will be too big — and if you like your smartphone to be compact, it could just well be. Compared to previous iPhones it’s an absolute giant, and not everyone will be able to get used to carrying and using such a big phone.

Writing for Cult of Android, I’ve used devices of all shapes and sizes, and I like big phones. I’ve owned every Galaxy Note at some point or another and even the Galaxy Note 3 with its 5.7-inch display is easy to get used to after just a couple of days. But I don’t think I’ve ever been able to use one continuously for more than two or three months.

I always get tired of carrying a super-sized phone and feel the need to switch back to something a little more manageable. The iPhone 6 Plus will fit in your pocket — that won’t be an issue — but you’ll know it’s there. Stick it in a case and it gets even bigger.

This is something you should have in the front of your mind when splashing your cash on a new iPhone. If you’re still not sure which size to go for, wait until you can play with them in the Apple Store before deciding which is best for you.