REVIEW: Thinking of upgrading to an iPhone 6? Trust me, it’s worth the wait

SCMP gives a test run of Apple’s 6 and 6 Plus, and finds a suite of impressive features

On Friday, Apple will release its thinnest and largest smartphones to date – the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus – in Hong Kong and eight other markets around the world.

Pre-orders of the new iPhones in those markets last Friday already topped four million, a record number that exceeded Apple’s initial supply estimates.

That means many of those pre-ordered phones will be delivered next month, according to the California-based technology giant.

READ: New Apple iOS 8 mobile software set to arrive today

With the assistance of Apple insiders, the South China Morning Post managed to secure a brief hands-on test of both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus on SmarTone Telecommunications’ 4G mobile network.

I have been a satisfied iPhone user since Apple first partnered with mobile network operator Three Hong Kong in 2008 to release the second-generation model, the iPhone 3G, in the city.

People camp outside the Apple store in Berlin ahead of the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 plus. Photo: Reuters

In recent years, however, the wide availability of premium Android smartphones with larger screens, which come with affordable terms from various mobile network operators, have attracted more consumers.

Our test found out that iPhones are bigger and better than previous iterations, and could convince more Android users to make the switch. Here are some key features that users can expect:

  • Plenty of credit goes to Apple’s crack engineers and the team led by Jonathan Ive, the company’s senior vice-president of design, for creating an iPhone with a larger display that does not feel too big when used on one hand. The new iPhones feature Apple’s proprietary, ultra-thin Retina HD display. The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch LED-backlit widescreen, multi-touch display that provides 38 per cent more viewing area than the 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5s, according to Apple estimates.

The iPhone 6 Plus is built with a 5.5-inch display, providing 88 per cent more viewing area than the iPhone 5s. Despite having bigger screens, both new smartphones were engineered to be slimmer than the previous generation by packing smaller chips and thinner batteries in a new anodised aluminium case. The iPhone 6 is 6.9mm thin, while the iPhone 6 Plus has a depth of 7.1mm. Those figures compare favourably against the iPhone 5s, which is 7.6mm thin. But the smaller iPhone 5s weighs less at 112 grams, compared with the iPhone 6 at 129 grams and iPhone 6 Plus at 172 grams.

  • I absolutely like the solid as well as smooth touch and feel of the new iPhones as Apple brings back the curved design. Gone are the edges found on the iPhone 4, 4s, 5 and 5s models. The bigger size of the new models with the shaped glass of the display will take some getting used to and could be a tad slippery at first, so I suggest using a protective case to get a better grip. Riding the MTR provided my first test on using the new iPhone with one hand. That was no problem.

The volume buttons on the left-hand side of the new iPhone now have a thin, elongated design, which made them easy to find and use. Apple also moved the on/off button from the top of the iPhone to the right-hand side, which is conveniently within reach even with the jumbo-sized iPhone 6 Plus.

My next test was about comfortably putting the new iPhones inside my front right jeans pocket, which is where I usually carry my mobile phone. I had my reservations, but again that was no problem with the svelte iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

A sign shows the marked-up prices of new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus at a non-Apple dealer in Hong Kong. Mainland resellers of smuggled units are inflating prices by up to 400 per cent. Photo: Reuters

  • Now I understand why Apple does not want to have either new iPhone described as a “phablet” – a portmanteau of “phone” and “tablet”. That is a category in which Android smart device makers have put their stamp on. What is different with Apple’s large-display smartphones is their user-friendly “reachability” and “display zoom” features. Reachability enables the entire screen to shift down closer to interact with a user’s thumb.

Remember to simply double-touch – not double-tap, like I did a few times – the home button to activate this feature. With display zoom, users can increase the size of what is seen on the display. Go to Settings, tap Display & Brightness, find Display Zoom, and choose View. I simply toggled between Standard and Zoomed to see the difference. Many built-in apps – like Mail, Messages and Calendar – have also been redesigned so users can easily switch from portrait to landscape to see and interact with even more information.

  • Like many users, I take a lot more pictures with a smartphone than with a digital camera. The larger and higher-resolution displays on iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus make for even better camera viewfinders. In testing the iSight camera at home and on the streets I found that its Focus Pixels feature can swiftly determine the focus direction and how far the iSight lens should move, which results in faster autofocus.

Faces are also faster and more accurately recognised, including smaller faces and those farther away, which makes for better selfies and group shots. Panorama photos introduced in the iPhone 5 became an instant hit. On the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the most epic panoramic shots can be taken, thanks to dynamic auto exposure.

The iPhone 6 Plus, however, offers improved optical image stabilisation. It works with the A8 chip, gyroscope and M8 motion coprocessor to measure motion data and provide precise side-to-side lens movement to compensate for shaky handling in lower light. I believe I captured my most beautiful low-light photos at the break of dawn outside my window, which has made it a must to upgrade my iPhone.

  • For frequent travellers, the new iPhones support more advanced wireless technologies in more places. These work on up to 20 different Long-Term Evolution (LTE) 4G mobile network frequency bands. Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus support high-quality 4G network voice calls known as Voice over LTE, which SmarTone, Three Hong Kong and HKT’s CSL all provide.

Apple CEO Tim Cook unveils the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in California. Photo: Reuters

The question now is, which new iPhone model should you choose? The most convenient path for a lot of iPhone users will be the iPhone 6, which offers a bit more screen real estate than the iPhone 5s.

Better yet, take some time to get used to the size of the iPhone 6 Plus. Try it out at your mobile service provider’s shop. I bet you’ll love it. It offers a winning formula for size and picture-taking sensibility.

Available in grey, silver and gold colours, prices for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus start from HK$5,588 and HK$6,388, respectively.

It seems users on the mainland – which was left out of the list of places for Apple’s initial launch – simply can’t wait for the new phones. Tech media say black-market vendors in Beijing are touting smuggled iPhone 6 units with outrageous mark-ups of almost 400 per cent.

”Low-end iPhone 6’s are going at 13,000 to 14,000 yuan [HK$16,250 to HK$17,500] … and iPhone 6 Plus’s go straight up to 20,000 yuan and above,” TMTPost, an industry news website, quoted an unlicensed iPhone reseller in Beijing as saying.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 12:09pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 17 September, 2014, 5:06pm#iPhone6    #iPhone6Plus