Review: iPhone 6 Plus slays its giant Android rivals

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The iPhone 6s is selling like hotcakes.
The iPhone 6s is selling like hotcakes.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Design

When I pre-ordered the iPhone 6 Plus, I was adamant that I’d be returning it for a regular iPhone 6 within two weeks. I’ve owned “phablets” before — including the first three iterations of the Galaxy Note — and while their massive displays are great at first, I end up wanting something a little more compact and pocketable once the novelty wears off.

iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
How big is bigger? iPhone 6 versus 6 Plus. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew

But the more I use the 6 Plus, the more I love it. Its size isn’t the burden I expected it to be, and despite its giant 5.5-inch display, it’s unbelievably thin. It measures just 7.1 mm thick, which is 0.5 mm thinner than the iPhone 5s. Although that doesn’t sound like a lot, it’s noticeable — and you appreciate it with a smartphone this big.

The more I use the iPhone 6 Plus, the more I love it.

Apple has gone to great lengths to make this sleek profile possible. Its new A8 processor is smaller than last year’s A7, and other chips have been shrunk, too. The company has also made its batteries slimmer without sacrificing battery life, while the LCD panel, backlight and digitizer that make up the Retina HD display are Apple’s thinnest ever.

When you combine that slim profile with beautifully rounded edges, you have an aluminum unibody that’s a joy to hold in your palm. The sharper edges of the iPhone 5s wouldn’t have suited a device this big, but the 6 Plus nestles comfortably in your hand, whether you’re using it in portrait to browse the web or read an iBook, or in landscape to play a game or watch a movie.

At 6.07 ounces (172 grams), the 6 Plus isn’t as light as the iPhone 5 and 5s, but it’s certainly not heavy, either. You can use it for long periods of time quite comfortably, and because the weight is distributed evenly throughout the device, you don’t feel like you’re going to drop it — no matter which way you hold it.

The 6 Plus is unbelievably thin. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
The 6 Plus is unbelievably thin. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Apple has relocated the sleep/wake button for its new iPhones. This was essential for the 6 Plus, because it would have been too difficult to reach up top. I got used to this instantly — perhaps because I’ve used a lot of Android devices that have power buttons on their sides — but my wife (who has always used an iPhone) kept reaching for the top edge to put the device to sleep.

It may take you a day or two to get used to this change, then, but you’ll appreciate it once you do. When you hold the 6 Plus in your hand, the sleep/wake button is super-easy to reach with your thumb or index finger (depending on whether you’re right- or left-handed), and you don’t need to shuffle the device around in your hand to put it to sleep.

By far the best thing about the design of the 6 Plus, however, is its rounded cover glass. It curves around at the edges to meet the aluminum enclosure and form a near-seamless structure — like one continuous surface that just wraps around to meet itself.

It really is quite incredible, and it’s a perfect demonstration of the effort Apple puts into designing its devices to make them the finest there is. Every year the Cupertino company raises the bar, and its competitors simply cannot reach these heights.

HTC has come close. It’s one of the few Android handset manufacturers that cares as much about the look and feel of its devices as it does the specifications and software that go into it. Its high-end flagships like the One M7 and One M8 have won numerous awards for their designs, but when you sit them side-by-side with the latest iPhones, even they look a little outdated.

Some reviews have suggested that the designs of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are almost asking to be put inside a case, but I think that’s insane. It’s an immense shame to cover up design this good, so unless you’re prone to dropping your phone or you prefer to play it safe, I recommend carrying it naked and showing off its dazzling form factor.

I wouldn’t say the design of the iPhone 6 Plus was perfect.

I wouldn’t say the latest iPhone designs are perfect, however. Personally, I don’t think the antennas that are integrated into its unibody look as nice as the ceramic glass windows of the iPhone 5 and 5s — though they’re not as hideous as numerous rumors and leaks suggested prior to the phone’s unveiling.

I also would have liked to see thinner bezels around the edges of the display. Despite a slightly smaller screen, the 6 Plus is taller than Samsung’s 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4 due to the size of the bezels above and below its display. It’s also taller and wider than the 5.5-inch LG G3 and OnePlus One. But I’d take the 6 Plus’ stunning aluminum form factor with fatter bezels over the others any day of the week.

I really don't like the protruding camera. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
I really don’t like the protruding camera. Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

My only other criticism of the 6 Plus’ design is its protruding camera. I’ve finally accepted it now, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.

I know it’s a compromise Apple had to make. It wanted to make its latest iPhones as thin as it possibly could, but it’s impossible to do that to a camera module without sacrificing quality, so it has to stick out like that. But I suppose I’m just not used to such compromises when buying Apple devices.

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