So here I go with my yearly review of the most amazing phone in the world ever! Or as a recent emailer (you know who you are) put it-
"Looking forward to your biased and stupidly positive review of the iPhone 6."
It does seem that there are many people out there who will not even consider an iPhone for a variety of reasons, some sensible and some based on a mindset that they have. While I rarely agree with not trying a device for non-practical reasons, it also appears that the recent reviews from the popular tech sites have not helped the situation.
Stephen Fry was rightly criticised for his article in The Guardian in which he made the following comments-
"Regarding the dimensions, many Android owners will point out how late the Cupertino company has come to the size game. But once again, Apple wanted to wait until it got the perfect merger of processor, battery life, resolution, materials and OS workarounds. Being first isn’t the point, being the best is."
"“We wanted to wait until we had the best smartphone multitasking system in the world,” Steve Jobs said on unveiling the iOS 4 operating system in 2010, and no one can doubt his team achieved that goal."
The article ended with this gem- "It only needs for me to leave with the confident prediction that these phones will prove through sales, as I believe them to be, the best and most beautiful mobile telecom technology ever yet produced. So sue me if if I’m proved wrong. Oh, and, of course, watch this space …"
It's cringeworthy to read and a real surprise from someone like Stephen who garners respect from so many quarters, and also from a man who has long had a fascination with all forms of mobile technology.
Gizmodo, surprisingly, summed up his article well- "His voice will be heard above many others when it comes to the perceived benefits of owning Apple's gear. Fry's entitled to an opinion just like anyone else, and I too consider myself a big Apple fan -- I'm typing this out on a Mac, with an iPhone 5 in my pocket and an iPad Air in my bag. But Fry's elevated soapbox means he has a responsibility to be as balanced as possible in his critique -- especially when published on a trusted publication like the Guardian. With anecdotes like this suggesting Apple wines and dines its favourites (of which Fry is certainly one), he'd do well in the future to make it clear his voice hasn't been outright bought."
So safe in the knowledge that Apple gives me nothing apart from the most unbelievably unreliable iCloud experience I could ask for, I will move forward with my first impressions of the iPhone 6.
The iPhone 6 arrived in a beautifully minimalist box and with all of the packaging up to the experience I have grown accustomed to from Apple. You may believe it is not important, but that 'moment' when you open a new Apple product is quite special and goes some way to easing the pain of the money you have just spent. It may be just fluff, but it is clever fluff that I still look forward to.
When I pulled the iPhone out of the box I was immediately impressed with how it felt in the hand. It is so thin and the curves help it sit just right in normal use. Strangely, I did not feel that it was too big for me to use which is unusual because I struggled with the Galaxy S4 and other devices with similar footprints. I have also struggled with the question of why the iPhone 6 does not feel too big when so many Android phones do. My first thought was that because it was iOS my mind was somehow tricking me into accepting a larger device because I want to stay on that platform, but then I started to use it for a variety of tasks and I realised that was no the case. Typing is much easier on the 6 and I find myself making almost no mistakes these days plus the sticky out camera lens somehow passed me by completely. I haven't even noticed it when the phone is used on a flat surface and I am not sure how.
There are times when I have to use it two-handed, but Apple has most certainly struck a balance here between size and practicality. For me, it is as large as a phone could get without becoming annoying and I can maybe accept Apple's reasoning to accept a lesser battery in preference to a thinner device.
Seriously, and without meaning to gush, it is a beautiful object to hold and to look at. The way the screen curves to meet the metal around the edges and the slab-like feel of the form is truly lovely in the hand. It offers very little to look at, but remains beautiful which is a very clever trick. The two horizontal lines on the back are a little weird on a device so devoid of markings, but I am left with the impression that I am using a new phone that still feels extremely familiar. Already, using the 5S feels cramped and the design somewhat jaded.
If the above sounds over the top, go to a store and play with the 6 for a while, and you may see what I mean.
There is an however here, however. The size is, for my hands at least, absolutely at the limit of what I find comfortable and adding a case makes a difference to one-handed usability. I mentioned the Spigen Neo Hybrid case last week which turned out to be a huge disappointment; it wobbles a little and there is absolutely no movement when pressing the power button. It is a real shame, but I found a solution in one of those dodgy shops that sell crappy Chinese cases for every phone. I found an extra slim gel case for £7.99 which adds virtually no footprint and which protects the phone adequately. It also makes all of the buttons highly accessible and so I have a solution which allows the iPhone 6 to retain the form and remain protected.
The power button move to the right has caused me no problems whatsoever which is a surprise as some have already mentioned that they have struggled to get used to that. Also, another surprise is that the speaker sounds as good, if not slightly better, than on the 5S. I didn't expect this because speakers usually require depth to perform, but the iPhone 6 effort is extremely competent.
The screen is fantastic. Viewing angles are incredible and I have had no problems at all in bright condition or in the dark. Sadly the backlight remains too bright even at the lowest setting for my eyes, but this has been common throughout all modern iPhones. I would like to see Apple do something with this because it is a common complaint.
The camera is without doubt an improvement over the 5S and the exposure tool in iOS 8 is genuinely useful and quite addictive once you start fiddling with it. I won't go into great detail about the camera because I haven't got a clue what I am talking about on this subject so will just leave the photos below as example of what the 6 camera can do.
Performance is excellent. Then again, the performance was excellent on my 5S and is still very good on my son's iPhone 5. My wife's 4S is starting slow a little, but it is hard to judge performance when all of the recent iPhone fly in terms of speed anyway. I haven't noticed any slow downs, any blips, just smooth and fast performance in every activity. That's all I need.
The battery life has proved to be, wait for it, very very good so far. It is hard for me to write such words about any iPhone, but I have noticed a serious improvement over the 5S in this regard and despite some fairly heavy usage am seeing 60-70% by lunchtime. Hooray! Has Apple finally made an iPhone that I won't continually moan about in terms of the battery? Maybe, just maybe.
Ultimately the iPhone 6 is merely a bigger extension of the 5S and all of the other iPhones that came before it. I have thought deeply about the merits of such a scenario and once I had everything set up I could finally enjoy the experience. I will detail the iCloud / iTunes backup experience I went through moving my data and apps later in the week, but needless to say it was not pleasant at all. Anyway, the phone itself is simply stunning and everything I wanted from a new iPhone. Better battery, better screen, double the memory and a better camera.
It is very easy to compare the iPhone 6 and the advances in iOS 8 to what Android has had for some time, but it is not easy to compare the experience and explain what makes the iPhone 6 feel so much better to me. I cannot explain why the Galaxy S4 felt too big to use and why the iPhone 6 does not. I can explain why the Galaxy Note 3 felt too big because the iPhone 6 Plus also feels far too big to me and in exactly the same league of being a form that is impractical in day to day use.
Apple has created a form in the iPhone 6 that is simply wonderful to use and which offers enhancements throughout without losing any of the iPhone-ness of the previous model. It felt natural from the first moment I picked it up and any annoyances with the greater size were so small as to be easily overcome with very little effort.
I try to look at things objectively and that is not always easy to do, but it did not take much thought to realise just how cleverly created this phone is and how much thought has gone into the little details that make such a big difference. From the superb quality speaker to the natural feel in the hand to the improved screen and camera, this is without doubt the best phone Apple has created to date. It is also the best phone I have used by some distance. It may not have top of the range specifications and add-ons that make the LG G3 and Galaxy Note so revered, but in my opinion it has something almost no other phone has. A design that simply works in the real world and one that will fit into your life. You don't have to compromise much at all to use the iPhone 6 for so many tasks and this is why I am so impressed with it.
It is familiar, but also feels like a different and natural upgrade from the iPhone 5S (starting to sound like Jonny Ive here) and it sits well between the huge Android devices and the various budget phones available. As I consider the LG G3, the Galaxy Note 3, Lumia 1020 and so many other phones that I have used for extended periods over the past 12 months, the iPhone remains by far the best phone in the world to me. And it just got a lot better.