Size matters. Just ask Apple.
When it was locked in its latest round of litigation with Samsung, a leaked court document said it all. ‘Consumers want what we don’t have,' the tech giant admitted.
The Cupertino company was of course referring to larger smartphones. ‘Phablets,’ if you will.
Fast forward six months and Apple has two new capacious phones designed to wrest back control from ailing Samsung and reassert its dominance in the smartphone space.
But while the smaller 4.7–inch iPhone 6 is aimed at the broader market, the larger iPhone 6 Plus is more intriguing.
Steve Jobs said that ‘no one’s going to buy a big phone’. He was wrong.
Phablets made up more than a quarter of all smartphones sold in the first quarter of 2014 according to analyst firm Canalys. And that number continues to grow.
So, is Apple’s super size smartphone worth ditching your Galaxy Note 3 for? Read on and we’ll reveal all.
Don't want to read all the way through our comprehensive text review? Head to the foot of the page where you'll find our bite-size iPhone 6 Plus hands-on video
First impressions and design
Make no bones about it. The iPhone 6 Plus is huge. At 158.1mm high, 77.8mm wide and 7.1mm thin, it feels more like a tablet than a phone.
If you buy one, you’ll never need to get an iPad mini. That, though, is the point.
These larger handsets are in high demand, and while this reviewer’s personal preference would be for a slightly less widescreen device, the global love of phablets is undeniable.
Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 is slightly shorter and a touch chubbier.
But there’s no denying that the Apple device wins the design race.
This is once again another one of Jony Ive’s masterpieces.
The curved edges and slim profile, with no flaps or needless additional ports, are simply stunning.
Of course, there has had to be some rejigging of buttons in order to accommodate that 5.5–inch display.
The power button now sits on the right hand side of the device (rather than up top as on the iPhone 5S).
Our small hands found even this a bit of a stretch – perhaps it could do with being a few millimetres lower down the frame.
The slightly protruding camera lens also means the iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t sit flush on flat surfaces.
Not a deal breaker, but something you’d imagine Ive and his team pondered over long and hard before deciding on.
It’s a small quirk and one we’re willing to live with thanks to the overall slickness of the handset.
Apple’s iOS 8 has come in for some fair criticism since its launch.
Two updates have left users furious after mobile connectivity, Wi–Fi and Bluetooth signals were all lost, among other myriad failings.
The device we tested was running the first version of iOS 8 and thankfully gave us no issues.
Wi–Fi was strong and any network issues were down to the places we went rather than the phone itself struggling to connect.
We were particularly enamoured with Health, Apple’s new fitness tracking tool.
Its ability to bring together fitness data from a plethora of sources is a winner for anyone obsessed with looking after themselves or keeping an eye on how far they’ve run or cycled.
The potential here is exciting, especially with the upcoming Apple Watch due to dovetail with the device perfectly.
The sharing options with iTunes and iBooks are most welcome, even if other companies now serve up far better options for accessing music and literature (hello Spotify and Amazon).
And Reachability, the home button double-tap function, at least means that you can use the iPhone 6 Plus with one hand if needed.
The Photos app is thankfully getting its Camera Roll tool back, but ultimately regular users will notice little difference from iOS 7 here.
It all feels slick and easy to handle, with sharing options plentiful and images looking sharp on the Retina Display.
The screen really is the star on the iPhone 6 Plus and it’s hard not to emphasise just how good it looks.
We watched highlights of last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix via BBC iPlayer and were simply blown away by the detail.
The size means you’re not squinting, making it the perfect compromise solution if you don’t want a tablet but need something to keep you entertained on long journeys.
It’s great to finally see Apple’s excellent iOS on a larger phone display.
That’s not to say the screen doesn’t throw up some issues.
Using the keyboard in landscape mode is nigh on impossible unless you’ve got hands the size of hams.
Stretching across to the QWERTY board is not easy: you’re best off using it in portrait mode.
Predictive text is welcome, but for our money this was where Apple always beat Android.
Being offered words to add rarely works out well and is still an area where smartphone platforms don’t offer a decent solution.
The camera is what really sets this phablet apart from others though.
Forget the megapixel count. That has never been a real issue for photography buffs.
What makes this extra special are the time lapse and slo–mo modes.
These are a breeze to select from the swipe across menu and easy to get to grips with.
It’s what marks Apple’s software out from the crowd.
The results are superb too. We especially loved making time lapse clips.
They get to the heart of what this kind of tech is meant to be about: Having fun and using it to be creative.
As with all Apple kit, doing the basics is easy: it requires hardly any time at all to learn how to use an iPhone 6 Plus.
Setting up the excellent Touch ID security button is simple: Just follow the on screen instructions and tap the key to build up a profile of your fingerprint.
As mentioned, the screen can feel too big for some simple tasks.
But those used to more capacious phones from Samsung, LG and HTC will find this an easy phone to switch to.
For phablet first-timers, just be aware that you’ll need deep pockets (both literally and metaphorically).
The biggest deal for us though is the battery life.
We eked a day and a half from the device, watching YouTube clips, shows on iPlayer and browsing the web.
This is impressive for a modern day smartphone and puts it well ahead of key rivals.
The design may have changed, but the core iOS experience is the same.
Simple lines, easy to use native apps and home screens that aren’t cluttered with needless widgets and infuriating bloatware.
Apple’s first phablet can be seen as a qualified success.
Its size means there will always be some users who find it too cumbersome to use, but its bright display, superb camera and easy–on–the–eye design make it a winner overall.
If you can look past the price tag and fancy switching back to Apple now it’s finally seen the light when it comes to bigger devices, then this is the phone for you.
- Dimensions: 158.1 x 77..8 x 7.1 mm
- Weight: 172g
- Screen: 5.5–inch, 1920 x 1080, 401 pixels per inch
- Connectivity: Wi–Fi, 4G LTE
- Camera: 8 megapixels (rear–facing), 1.2 megapixels (front–facing), Full HD video at 60 fps
- Chip: Apple A8
- Colours: Grey, Silver, Gold