Apple-Picking Season: A Look at the New iPhones

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The new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus (image courtesy of Apple)

By Fink Densford
BU News Service

Another year has passed and Apple has brought to market a new set of iPhones, with a promise of “bigger and better in every way.”  This time they’ve stretched it, flattened it out, made it faster, and for the first time, Apple is offering an even bigger version to compete with other phones and tablets.

Both versions, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, were released coinciding with a new release of Apple’s iOS operating system, bringing it up to iOS 8. And just like every other iPhone release before it, the iPhone 6 release broke sales records that are bound to be broken again in about 12 months.

The iPhone 6, the smallest version now at 4.7 inches, starts at $200 for 16 GB, $300 for 64 GB and $400 for 128 GB, all on two-year contracts. The new player, the iPhone 6 Plus, comes in with a larger 5.5 inch screen and prices set $100 higher than it’s smaller companion. The 6 plus rings in at $300 for 16 GB, $400 for 64 and $500 for 128 GB, all with two year contracts.

The new sizes put the iPhone twins more in line with its competition, but the changes to the shape and size have made it look and feel more like its Android and Windows competitors. Gone are the flat edges and stiff lines of the past four generations; the new iPhones sport subtly curved, smooth brushed anodized aluminum backs. The front feels familiar, but the corners are more curved, and it maintains its traditional appeal with a flat face and a single home button.

What about the feel? In my average sized hands the 4.7 inch iPhone 6 was comfortable, sturdy and nice, but did not live up to any hyperbole claiming that somehow its new design feels more luxurious. It still feels, for the most part, like a very well made phone.

The 5.5 inch iPhone 6 Plus was a different beast and would barely fit in one hand, totally eliminating any option of texting while frantically clinging to a subway pole. The real estate seemed nice, and I’m sure once apps are developing to take advantage of the extra inches it will feel even better.

The screens themselves were definitely worthy of praise. The iPhone 6 has a 1334×750 display, the 6 Plus 1920×1080 display. The new generation of display, which Apple is calling the “Retina HD,” gives the units 1 million and 2 million pixels respectively. The screen quality in person was noticeably refined and felt like at least a decent step forward from the iPhone 5s.

The iPhone 6 (Image courtesy of Apple)
The iPhone 6 (Image courtesy of Apple)

Under the hood, Apple has upgraded the tiny hamsters that run the phone, giving it a new processor, the A8, a new motion processor, the M8, and an improved camera sensor. The camera still rings in at 8 megapixels, but with improvements such as video stabilization and faster focusing times. The only noticeable issue was that the lens protrudes slightly, making a small bump on the otherwise smooth aluminum back.

The new features, though numerous enough to fill a page, didn’t add anything revolutionary to the package. The camera is great, fast and usable and is sure to produce a bevy of poorly focused, hastily taken selfies when dropped into the hands of the public.  And I’m sure either phone will run a mean game of Candy Crush.

Apple touts that the improved processor focuses more on energy efficiency than screaming speed, meaning battery life should be increased over older models. Other reviewers have found that the battery life is more similar to the previous generation than different, with only the 6 Plus having a reliably longer lifespan.

There have been horror stories associated with upgrades to iOS 8 on older devices, but the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus ran it smoothly, and definitely made the experience more engaging. It had the serene feel every new smartphone has before you clutter it up with a million apps you don’t need.

Additional features in iOS 8 include changes to messaging that allow you to include voice via text, sharing of apps across families, more iCloud integration for files and a health app to woefully shake its head at you when you pick up that candy bar on the way home. Also included is Apple Pay, which is designed to serve as a mobile credit card for in person or in app purchases.  Other reviews have said it works smoothly, but will take some time to catch on if it does.

For the hundreds of thousands of people whose two-year contracts are coming up or who have a few extra hundred bucks burning a hole in their pocket, the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus definitely make a strong argument for upgrade.  At least until the 6s or 7 shows up.

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Posted by: Fink Densford on