Today was a big day for new products, even by Apple’s standards. Forget about the new Apple Watch for a moment, the iPhone announcements alone represented a major shift for the company and you. The post-event focus would normally shift to discussions regarding which color or storage size. Those will still remain hotly debated discussions, either internally, in forums or across social media. Even if you’ve decided pre-event on color and storage capacity, Apple now offers two models. I know, last year they offered two models, but that included the unapologetically plastic iPhone 5c. This year, we’re talking about two premium, flagship models. If you caught me before the event, I would have bet dollars to donuts that the iPhone 6 with its 4.7-inch display was my next phone. In typical Apple fashion, decisions of this magnitude are never easy and again, the decision whether to buy iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus isn’t easy. Let’s take a look at the differences between the two, advantages of each and what factors I’m using to help make my decision.
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Comparing Differences
Going Big, One-Handed Use and Reachability
If you’ve used iPhones, and nothing but iPhones, you’ve enjoyed the luxury of one-handed use. For a smartphone, that can be important. When you are on the go, there is a decided advantage to a phone that you can hold and operate with one hand. I’ve used a number of large phones spanning sizes up to 5.4-inches and they always felt uncomfortable as they got larger. Spending a fair amount of time with the 4.7-inch Moto X, I found this to be the sweet spot for large phones. It can still be slightly uncomfortable, as compared to the iPhone 5s, but with maneuvering of my hand, I can all of screen quadrants. The Moto X has a curved body, with portions of the back at 10.4mm depth. Compare this to the iPhone 6 (6.1mm) and iPhone 6 Plus (7.1mm), the thinness of the new iPhones should allow for a better grip and extended reach.
Both models are wicked thin. The 4.7-inch model has a shot at delivering the closest thing to one-handed use for a big phone. For the bigger of the two, Apple has a new software feature they’re calling “reachability”. Essentially, you tap twice on the Touch ID home button and it’ll bring whatever you are viewing within thumbs reach. The rest of the display goes black, until you leave this mode.
Either way, you have to know that you will be making concessions, at least related to one-handed use.
Display Resolution and Pixels
Apple has delivered a new display, it’s touting as the Retina HD, but there are differences between the two. The iPhone 6 has a resolution of 1334×750 at 326 pixels per inch, pushing 1 million pixels. The Plus double that with 2 million pixels at a resolution of 1920×1080 at 401 pixels per inch. Both of these displays will undoubtedly looking stunning. Regardless of which you choose, you’ll be enjoying a massive upgrade if jumping from an iPhone 5 or later. If you are moving from an iPhone 4/4S, it’s going to feel like turning on the lights.
Apps Will Working Differently
Regardless of the which one you choose, all of your apps will scale to your iOS device. There is however a difference in what you’ll see on the iPhone 6 Plus. To help make use of the added real estate, Apple is allowing developers to implement panes. For example, if you are holding your iPhone horizontally or in landscape mode, an app like Mail will show your inbox on one side and your messages on the other. Those of you with an iPad and have experience apps optimized for those displays will immediately see the advantage offered by the larger display. That’s not the end of the story. You’ll also be able to experience a new landscape home screen. When the iPad was introduced, apps that were optimized often were sold as new apps. By all appearances, developers who support the ‘Plus’, won’t be selling them as separate apps.
Camera: Optical Image Stabilization vs Digital Image Stabilization
The pair both use a new sensor with Focus Pixels (1.5-micron pixels) and a ƒ/2.2 aperture. The iSight camera on the back remains at 8 megapixels. There neat features built-in improved time-lapse video and Face Detection, something bound to appeal to selfie shooters.
The features are identical until you reach optimization, which also happens to be incredibly important. The smaller model provides digital image stabilization, which is no different from what we have with the 5s. The iPhone 6 Plus has optical image stabilization, something which is found in high-end DSLRs and even a few smartphones. Optical image stabilization is a mechanism within a phone or tablet (or camera) that stabilizes the recorded image by varying the optical path to the sensor. The technology is implemented in the lens itself. Electronic image stabilization or EIS, effectively tries to function in the same way, but does using complex software algorithms. Hardware trumps software, but it’s not clear to what extent.
If you are taking photos where OIS will impact your images, the Plus has a decided advantage. Remember, the current iPhones take wonderful pictures and either 6 will improve upon that, with the addition of the new sensor.
A new year, two new sizes, both radically different. No one can tell, myself included, that either will be in your comfort zone. Apple’s website and commercials are produced so that both look like a ‘perfect fit’. Neither will allow for the kung-fu grip you’ve been able to employ with current generation iPhones. As I write this article, I’ve switched been the 4-inch iPhone, 4.7-inch Moto X and the 5.2-inch Moto X (2014). The larger Moto X isn’t terribly easy to grip. That said, the display is beautiful and vast upgrade over the original Moto X. The differences between the new iPhones won’t be as significant. The Plus is also slightly thicker at 7.1mm vs 6.1mm. Those will smaller hands might find the large model a burden to carry around.I say this as it’s getting expensive to replace a display in iPhones. At last check, it was $269. A bigger display could mean a more costly repair. Not being able to get a substantial grip could lead to possible damage.
If size matters to you, I’d recommend a quick trip to your local carrier. Look at some of the competitor phones, take note of the depth and how it feels. If you find a size that’s comfortable, know that the iPhone will be thinner and the curved edges should make it even more comfortable to hold.
Phil Schiller says both will offer on par or better battery life than the iPhone 5s. The larger display of the Plus allows for a bigger battery, offering some nice batter life advantages. If you look at this slide from the event, you should be most concerned with WiFi browsing, LTE browsing, Audio and Video. These are the most common-use numbers. Those extra hours will come in handy, so advantage iPhone 6 Plus in the battery category.
Price and Storage
The storage choices are the same, with a $100 difference in the base models. A 16GB iPhone 6 retails for $199, with the Plus version offered at $299. Pricing assumes a new 2-year contract. Storage upgrades are $100 for 64GB and $200 additional for 128GB. Unless you hold a ton of media, the 64GB is the absolute sweet spot. Apple caved to pressures to increase storage, but failed to upgrade the base model, which is often the best seller. If you want the most value, opt for more storage.
This one is simple. Is the bigger display worth $100? If storage is more important to you, you could use that same $100 to heed my advice, jumping to the 64GB model or doubling down on the 128GB model.
Giant Phone and Convergence
At the end of the day, the iPhone is used to make calls. How often you make calls and whether you go hands-free should impact your decision. The phablet sized iPhone is perfect for light computing and can act as a tablet/laptop replacement. Most folks seem to be going in this direction. The iPhone 6 Plus will be a productivity beast. Spreadsheets, email and productivity apps will seem at home on the larger display. The same goes for fun value. Movies, gaming and browsing are always fantastic on larger displays. But if you use your iPhone as a phone, I’m not so certain the Plus is ideal, unless you’re comfortable with a Bluetooth headset. Holding what is a giant phone up to your head will likely remain a bit awkward, despite what Apple tells you. I haven’t had a chance to look, but be sure to tell me if you see any marketing shots on Apple’s site of people holding up the 5.5-inch model up to their ear.
This is an amazing year as we’ve got two fantastic new iPhones. Unlike in previous years, the choice is no longer a matter of color and storage capacity. Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are drastically different sizes, both being a major departure from any past phone from Apple. While there are a great number of similarities between the two, there are a number of differences. The iPhone 6 Plus offers OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) and support for panes, delivering an iPad-like software experience on an iPhone. It’s also $100 for the bigger, more pixel-dense display. Both offer similar upgrade pricing when you jump up in storage. You’ll also find it has improved battery life. When you look at specs alone, the Plus wins out, but that’s only half of the story. Bigger phones can more difficult to hold and drops are costly with current generation screen replacements priced at $269. If you use it primarily as a phone, it might awkward to hold for long periods of time. When deciding which iPhone 6 to buy, it’s important you consider these features, their importance to you and which iPhone 6 suits you best.
So, what are you buying the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus?