Apple’s iPhone 6 has been a long time coming, so how does it stack up to what’s out at the moment? We’ll look at the pieces of the puzzle and tell you.
Design and build
We’ll start with the area Apple knows best because seriously, Apple dominates here, and early reports are very, very good.
A brief talk with our very own Valens Quinn who was at the event tells me that Apple is unsurprisingly onto a winner at least as to how the new iPhone was designed, with a return to sleek and subtle curves, soft metal touches, and a look that will make the new iPhone come off like an oversized iPod Touch.
Materials used in the new phone’s construction are all premium, with metal and glass all the way, making its competition a little bit scattered.
Currently, the only smartphones released in Australia that use premium materials like this include models made by HTC, Huawei, and Sony, with this year’s and last year’s HTC One handsets set out in aluminium, particularly the new One M8 which has a body made mostly of aluminium; the Sony Xperia Z2 with a glass body and aluminium frame; and Huawei’s very recent Ascend P7 with aluminium and glass itself.
Samsung’s Galaxy S5 and LG’s G3 are both mostly plastic, but Samsung will have metal in its upcoming Galaxy Note 4, which was just announced last week.
We’ll go out on a limb and suggest the Apple build quality will probably trump most of its competitors, as Apple tends to be perfectionists in this area, so it’s unlikely to release anything that hasn’t been tested to death in its labs.
But design and build aren’t the only areas Apple has to compete in…
Processor is another area, and while Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 currently leads the benchmarks for flagship phones, Apple will be going with the latest version of its iPhone processors, with the 64-bit A8 ready for action.
We’re told it’s around 25 percent faster than the A7 in the iPhone 5S, and around 50 percent faster than the graphics in that phone, while also being more energy efficient.
It’s also still 64-bit, something virtually no Android phone has, though we’re told that will be coming to phones running Google’s operating system later in the year or early next year. HTC has one on the way, we’re told, and that means other manufacturers can’t be far behind.
Processor architecture is just one part of the equation, with software being the other part, and outside of a few games, there is very little taking advantage of that 64-bit architecture on the iPhone, so until more apps come along designed to take advantage of it, this doesn’t mean as much as you’d think.
Over to the screen, and for once, Apple’s job in playing catch-up hasn’t paid off in the way people expected.
On the one side, the Retina HD screen of the iPhone 6 at least matches up with Apple’s whole Retina philosophy that 300 pixels per inch is all you really need, with a custom panel displaying 1334×750 at 4.7 inches the likes of which we’ve never seen.
While this is a high definition panel, this does keep the Retina philosophy in tact, with an identical 326 pixels per inch in play.
Over on the iPhone 6 Plus, however, it appears Apple has more or less taken the Full HD panel idea from other phone makers and just thrown it onto a bigger iPhone 6, a move which does bring with it a higher pixel per inch count, but one that doesn’t quite match up with its regular 326ppi outlook.
We’re sure both panels are great, but we can’t help but wonder why Apple didn’t just bother putting at least Full HD screens in both instead of a custom resolution in the iPhone 6, especially if 4.7 inch Full HD displays aren’t anything new or unheard of.
Also of note is that Apple’s screen resolution and pixel count now puts it behind what Samsung’s upcoming Note 4 offers, and what Oppo and LG currently offer, with 2560×1440 panels coming from these rivals, all of which boast higher pixel per inch numbers which will look even sharper again.
That said, there’s more to a screen than merely pixels, and we’re sure Apple will have some special sauce in there making the new fandangled Retina screens all they can be.
Protection from the elements is one of those things we’re beginning to expect from a phone these days.
We have a degree of scratch protection on our phones in the form of solid and mineral resistant glass, so why not the rest of the phone?
In this year’s phones, we’ve seen both the Samsung Galaxy S5 and the Sony Xperia Z2 provide water and dust resistance, so what about the iPhone?
Unfortunately, water and dust proofing appears to be a feature neither the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have, giving case makers like Belkin, Otterbox, iLuv, and countless others the means to make a bit of cash from people who need that level of resistance.
We’d have like to have seen a degree of resistance, though, maybe some IP65 or 67 certification here. But no. Maybe next time.
Taking photos and videos have become a big part of why you buy a smartphone, and if not you, plenty of other people out there looking to replace a compact with a smartphone. We share images on social networks, email them to our friends, and rarely go out to print them, with most images these days coming from a phone of sorts.
That means decent cameras need to be included on smartphones, and should definitely be thought about on a flagship smartphone.
On the iPhone 6, the camera hasn’t undergone significant changes, not to the point that it includes a camera with more megapixels or any tangible amount of zoom, but given that the iPhone camera has long been considered one of the best smartphone cameras on the market, we don’t expect this to be an area where Apple hasn’t paid attention.
As such, while the 8 megapixel camera is still an 8 megapixel camera, there are some new technologies here, such as sharper focus from Apple’s “Focus Pixels,” improved exposure control based on minor adjustments made at the target level, and more accurate face detection.
Video also gets an update, with Full HD 1080p being shot at 60fps, while 720p HD can be recorded at a lovely slow-motion speed of 240fps, with the Focus Pixels from the stills able to keep continuous auto-focus running in video.
The front camera isn’t a huge change, though, with the 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera able to capture more light, but only at the 1.2 megapixels from last time.
Competition on the camera side of smartphones is fierce, though, with Apple now competing with 13, 16, and 20 megapixel standards for rear cameras, as well as that 40 megapixel shooter Nokia has in the Lumia 1020.
Likewise, the front-facing camera feels a little lacking for Apple, because while it will capture more light, it won’t do so at a higher megapixel amount, such as the 2 megapixel shooters found on most flagships, the 5 megapixel on a few, the 8 megapixel on a Huawei, and that flipping 13 megapixel shooter on Oppo’s N1 Mini.
With big screens come bigger batteries, and for Apple’s iPhone, that can only be a good thing, as its users are more vocal than ever that the iPhone runs down the juice in its smartphones.
We’re not sure precisely what the cells are rated for here, or rather, Apple hasn’t confirmed anything for us, but the suggestion right now is that the iPhone 6 will come with an 1810mAh battery, while the iPhone 6 Plus will support one closer to 2915 mAh.
If these specs are true, we anticipate that the 4.7 inch iPhone 6 will offer around a day battery life — maybe a little more — while the iPhone 6 Plus could achieve the full two day mark.
That’s if these battery numbers are right, and right now, we just can’t tell you.
Apple’s latest operating system will also play a part, though, with iOS 8 also likely including battery saving bits and bobs.
Like lots of storage? Good, because this year, the iPhone 6 is all about that, with three options available for you: 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB.
“Wait!” I hear you saying, “there’s a multiple of four missing from that list!”
You’d be right if you picked up on that, with 32GB missing in action in what we suspect is a push by Apple to get you to spend a little more on a 64GB phone.
The truth of the matter is 16GB won’t be enough for most, especially those planning on loading lots of music, videos, and taking oodles of photos, not to mention the rising size of apps and games — particularly games — so you’ll really want to focus on the 64GB mid-range model, which bugs us a bit, as 32GB should really be the starting point, not that piddly 16GB.
There is no microSD slot, however, so whichever storage amount you buy is the one you’re stuck with, different from most Android handsets with a microSD slot to easily expand this with up to 128GB of microSD card goodness.
In fact, earlier in the week, Lexar announced that a 128GB microSD was landing on the country’s doorstep for less than $128 locally in October, making this a cost effective upgrade for compatible phones.
Unfortunately, that’s not the iPhone 6. Not at all. It’s not the iPhone 6 Plus either, and it has never been a single iPhone. Apple doesn’t think this way.
We’d say upgradeable phones win the storage argument, though. We really would.
This is one area where the iPhone 6 falls flat for us. Not because it’s a poor product — far from it — but because it’s one of the most expensive smartphones we’ve ever seen, and we’re not sure it necessarily should be.
The starting price for the handset is $869, and that’s for a 16GB 4.7 inch phone without upgradeable storage.
Sure, it’s an iPhone, but it’s an expensive iPhone, and that’s the least expensive of the iPhones.
The iPhone 6 Plus is expensive again, with a starting price of just a buck under a grand, once again for a 16GB model that you’re going to fill up very quickly. Move to a more manageable 64GB — again, no 32GB version this year — and the price pushes above the thousand dollar mark.
While the new iPhone will undoubtedly be impressive hardware with an excellent operating system and usability experience, this is not a cheap device, not by a long shot, and these astronomical prices will allow competitors to really get in there offering better value for more dollar conscious individuals.
We’re expecting good things from the iPhone 6 and its 6 Plus brother, because past products have all been more or less excellent and without fault, except on the price part of the equation.
In the new model, that price is a concern, and this year, it’s a bigger concern than ever, especially as the competition heats up.
Android as an operating system is also tighter than ever, and Windows Phone is improving, so while Apple may have had a huge start on a solid operating experience, it doesn’t quite lead to the same degree anymore.
But we won’t know more until we’ve played with it properly, and while our man on the ground had some positive things to say, we won’t make up our minds until the review is ready, which should hopefully be when the phone makes its way out to customers next week.