The first member of the iPhone family to dabble into “phablet” territory, the iPhone 6 Plus expands the size of Apple’s smartphone with a 5.5-inch screen. The iPhone 6 Plus sports a Retina HD display, a “new generation” of screens from Apple according to company vice president Phil Schiller. Apple’s new handset displays at a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, 185 percent more pixels than the iPhone 5S.
The LCD screen consists of “ion-strengthened” glass, which sits atop and improved polarizer, photo-aligned IPS liquid crystal, and ultra thin back light. All of that is Apple’s very wordy and nerdy way of saying that the display has been improved, now displaying at broader viewing angles.
Bigger and smaller
Despite the larger screen on the iPhone 6 Plus, the smartphone manages to maintain a slim frame. It measures in thinner than the iPhone 5S at just 7.1mm thick (compared to 7.6mm for the 5S).
New user interface
With the newer, bigger screen on the iPhone 6 Plus comes changes to the user interface. Some changes will be small, like faces on display in the messaging app or additional keyboard keys for cut, copy, and paste. Others are more noticeable, like the ability to turn the iPhone 6 Plus horizontally and get a two-pane display. The home screen can also go horizontal on the iPhone 6 Plus. The interface takes many of its cues from the iPad, making the iPhone 6 Plus the mini version of the iPad Mini.
A new gesture has also been added to the iPhone 6 Plus, dubbed “reachability.” Users can double-tap the home button and the whole display slides down.
Apps automatically fit
The new display size does present some worries for both users and developers when it comes to apps and how they will fit on the super-sized screen, but Apple quelled those concerns quickly during its presentation by announcing “desktop scaling,” which automatically scales apps up for the iPhone 6 Plus – even when they haven’t been updated. Developers will have the ability to customize their apps for the screen of the 6 Plus if they choose.
Inside the frame of the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is a new chipset, the A8. A second generation 64-bit chip, it has 2 billion transistors on a 20-nanometer process, sports an up to 25 percent faster CPU, 50 percent faster graphics, and is 17 percent smaller than the A7 chip. Apple is promising the A8 chip will also provide longer sustained performance, allowing the 6 Plus to run at full power without beginning to heat up.
The A8 chip paired with Apple’s Metal – the 3D app and game engine introduced last year – looks promising for games. Apple showed off the process on stage with a new game from Super Evil Megacorp called Vain Glory, but the details are as telling as the demo: Over 100 fully animated characters can be put on screen at a time.
M8 motion coprocessor
Apple has updated the motion coprocessor that sits alongside the A8 chip in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Designed for fitness apps, the M8 is capable of differentiating between cycling and running, and can calculate distance as well as elevation. The elevation is measured with a barometer, which uses air pressure to measure relative elevation. Nike is an early adopter of the new feature and will be updating Nike+ to utilize the elevation measurements.
With the slim body of the iPhone 6 Plus, some feared a sacrifice in battery life. That doesn’t seem to be an issue given what Apple laid out for expected usage rates for the handset. The 6 Plus gets up to 24 hours of 3G talk time, up from 10 for the iPhone 5S. Users of the 6 Plus can expect up to 80 hours of audio, 14 hours of video, 12 hours of web browsing, and 16 days of standby time. All of the suggested numbers from Apple are improvements upon the previous generation.
Faster LTE and WiFi connections
The internet isn’t new, but Apple appears to have supercharged access to it for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The newest Apple handsets can handle up to 20 LTE bands, more than any other smartphone on the market. It also does “carrier aggregation” to maximize speeds.
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus will also enjoy improved WiFi connectivity with Wi-Fi 802.11ac. Tim Cook claimed it would provide up to 3 times faster WiFi connections.
The improvements to LTE and WiFi are to make way for better ways to talk. Apple’s latest phones now support voice over LTE (VoLTE), which promises to improve call quality. A slide during the presentation indicated that carriers around the world were on board, including AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile in the U.S.
Related: Apple Watch coming in 2015 for $349
Apple also announced WiFi calling, which like LTE should provide for a better line of communication. It will be available for T-Mobile users in the U.S. and EE customers in the U.K.
8MP camera with loads of tweaks and upgrades
Apple still hasn’t fallen into the competition to fit the highest megapixel lens onto their device, opting instead to continue tweaking the 8MP camera that will sit on the back side of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The lens offers 1.5 micron pixels and f/2.2 aperture, as well as true tone flash. Also included is the “next generation iSight sensor” with a feature referred to as focus pixels. The focus pixels perform phase detection autofocus, which will provide autofocus that is twice as fast as the previous generation. Face detection will also enjoy improved speeds and the smile detection has been improved.
For those that like to capture surroundings in a single movement, panoramic shots can now be up to 43 megapixels.
While the iPhone 6 has digital image stabilization, the iPhone 6 Plus has optical image stabilization (OIS). This feature moves the lens to compensate for hand shaking and unsteadiness that would otherwise blur the image. It’s the first appearance of OIS on an iPhone, but not a first for smartphones.
Video, like photography, benefits from the new lens in the iPhone 6. The cameras in the new handsets are capable of capturing 1080p video at 30 or 60fps. Slo-mo video can be done at 120 or 240fps. The cameras also do cinematic video stabilization, and continuous autofocus works automatically in video. All of these are generally unnoticeable adjustments that result in a better final result with captured video.
The FaceTime camera has been updated, too
On the flip side of the 8MP lens is the front-facing FaceTime HD camera, which has also been updated for those who like to snap photos of themselves. An all-new sensor has been included, and the lens has larger f/2.2 aperture and 81 percent more light. The FaceTime HD camera has improved facial detection. Apple stated the front-facing lens is “perfect for taking those killer selfies.” A new feature for “burst selfies” has also been included for capturing a bunch of shots in quick succession.
Launching with iOS 8
As one would imagine, the new line of iPhones will launch with the newest version of Apple’s operating system. Announced back in June 2014 at WWDC, the operating system will debut on September 17 and there’s enough information about it to justify its own post. In fact, you can go here for exactly that.
In brief, iOS 8 will bring mobile payments, Apple’s new HealthKit for health and fitness apps, new photo options like a time lapse feature, family sharing of media and information for up to 6 family members, expanded iCloud for photos, improvements to Siri, a revamped notifications system, redesigned Control Center, third-party keyboards, improved Messages app, and tons more.
There’s an NFC chip for Apple Pay
Apple held off on NFC for awhile but it’s hopped on board with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, and it’s bringing the new Apple Pay feature with it. Apple’s take on mobile payments, a field with plenty of competition and almost none that have succeeded, debuts in line with the new set of iPhones. In a demo video, Apple showed a person making a purchase by raising their phone to a scanner and holding their finger against the TouchID button, completing the transaction. The scanner accesses the NFC chip, located in the top of the phone.
Apple Pay store payment information so it is encrypted and secure. The service is integrated into Passbook. Apple Pay is already available with the credit card stored for iTunes purchases and new cards can be added by taking a photo of the card. The card numbers aren’t given to the merchant – rather, Apple Pay uses a one-time number associated with the payment and a dynamic security code.
Accounts can be suspended via the Find My Phone app if an iPhone is lost or stolen. Users won’t have to cancel cards because the information isn’t stored on the device and the thief won’t have access because of the TouchID functionality. Apple hammered home details about steps taken to ensure privacy, stating, “Apple doesn’t know what you bought, where you bought it, and how much you bought it for.”
Apple Pay will work with American Express, MasterCard, Visa, as well as CitiBank, Bank of America, CapitalOne, Wells Fargo, Chase, and American Express. 22,000 retailers will participate in Apple Pay, including Subway, Walgreens, and Starbucks. It just takes a swipe of the iPhone 6 Plus to complete transactions. The feature will be available starting in October of 2014.
It works with the Apple Watch
To no one’s surprise, Apple showed off the Apple Watch during same event as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus unveiling. The smartwatch requires an iPhone to be paired with, and the iPhone 6 Plus is one of five compatible models of iPhones that works with the accessory. The Apple Watch uses the GPS in the phone to track distance information, part of which fits into the Apple health initiative. This includes two new apps, Fitness and Workout, that run on both the Apple Watch and iPhone.
As with most Apple products, the iPhone 6 Plus is an eco-friendly device. Apple ran down the checklist of environmentally friendly features, including the mercury-free LED-backlit display, arsenic-free display glass, it’s free of Brominated Flame Retardants (BFR), beryllium-free, free of Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), and made of recyclable aluminum.
When you can get it
The iPhone 6 Plus will launch alongside its smaller partner, the iPhone 6, on September 19, 2014 in the U.S. Pre-orders for the phone will begin on September 12. The iPhone 6 Plus will start at $299 on a two-year contract for a 16GB model, $399 for 64GB, and $499 for 128GB.