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Apple iPhone 6 And iPhone 6 Plus Review

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are bigger and better than ever, but are they a worthy upgrade for existing iPhone users? What if you previously passed over the iPhone because of its small screen, does it now merit a second look?

iOS 8’s UI Moves To The Big Screen

iOS 8’s UI Moves to the Big Screen: Design Elements for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus

While application extensions are a big deal for iOS users and developers, there’s plenty of other tweaks and features to discover in iOS 8, like interactive notifications, predictive keyboard suggestions, Family Sharing, iCloud Drive, Continuity and Handoff, just to name a few. Since this isn’t meant to be a review of iOS 8, we’re going to focus on features specific to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

The new iPhones’ larger screens give iOS 8 room to spread out. The iPhone 6 has about 38% more screen area than the 5s, while the 6 Plus has 37% more than the iPhone 6 and almost 89% more than the little 5s. All of this extra space makes room for six rows of icons on the Home screen (up from five for the 4-inch iPhone 5s) and either larger or more content within apps.

Screen size comparison: iPhone 6 Plus (top), iPhone 6 (middle), iPhone 5s (bottom)

In the size comparison images above showing Tom’s Hardware, we see how Safari maintains the same amount of content on-screen, but scales it up based on screen size. Other apps (like the App Store), and even other websites in Safari (depending on how they’re coded), display more content by keeping content size the same.

Display Zoom is a new feature in iOS 8 that leverages the new iPhone’s bigger screens by increasing the size of everything on the display. This is a nice feature for those who struggle reading the small, thin font introduced in iOS 7. Display Zoom works by rendering the screen at 1136x640 pixels (the native resolution of the 4-inch screen in the iPhone 5 family) and then upscaling it to the native iPhone 6 resolution of 1334x750. This enlarges all screen content by a factor of ~1.17x. The downside is that less content fits, in this case the same amount shown on an iPhone 5. Display Zoom on the 6 Plus works the same way, but displays the same amount of content as the iPhone 6, just larger.

iOS 8 Display Zoom: Standard (left) vs. Zoomed (right) on iPhone 6

Larger screens make it more difficult to interact with a touch-based UI. People with smaller hands will find it difficult to reach the very top portion of the screen one-handed with the iPhone 6, and everyone will encounter this problem with the 6 Plus. To help alleviate this usability issue, iOS 8 includes a Reachability feature specifically for the new iPhones. Gently tapping on the Home button twice (but not pressing until it clicks—think capacitive button) slides the screen down halfway, bringing content on the top half of the screen within reach. This works everywhere, including the Home screen, Notification Center and all apps; it even works in games. Since this is an OS-level feature, apps do not need to be updated for this to work.

The keyboard in iOS 8 provides some extra keys for the iPhone 6 Plus when rotated in landscape mode, as shown in the picture below. Some of these extra keys are present on the iPhone 6, but with less room on-screen, the cut, copy, paste, bold, exclamation point and question mark keys are missing.

Responding to an interactive notification from the Home screen and the iPhone 6 Plus keyboard in landscape mode

Apps that haven’t been updated for iOS 8 still use the iOS 7-style keyboard, which isn’t scaled properly for the larger screens. This results in an overly large keyboard using up more than half of the vertical screen space.

iOS 7 style keyboard in the Pages app (before iOS 8 update) on the iPhone 6 Plus

The iPhone 6 Plus, thanks to its extra size, gets additional UI enhancements in landscape mode. For starters, the Home screen can now be rotated along with the multitasking interface, just like on the iPad. This eliminates the awkward screen rotation issues when closing a landscape app to get to the portrait Home screen to launch another landscape-oriented app. With the iPhone 6 Plus, everything stays in landscape view.

iPhone 6 Plus in landscape view

Another UI enhancement for the 6 Plus is a dual-pane view in landscape mode, just like on the iPad. Most of Apple’s apps already take advantage of the extra screen width to fit additional content. For example, the left pane in Contacts shows the contact list, while the right pane shows details about the selected contact. This efficient use of screen space makes the 6 Plus a more productive device.