With the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple finally has a bona-fide phablet to call its own. It's Apple's biggest phone yet, packing a 5.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 display within a slim and curvy chassis that makes its monster size look elegant. This isn't simply a scaled-up iPhone, either; the 6 Plus boasts features exclusive to Apple's line, such as optical image stabilization and a dual pane landscape mode that makes the smartphone feel like a tablet. Overall, the iPhone 6 is easily one of the best big-screen phones you can buy.
Editors' note:Apple announced that the starting prices for the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, due out Sept. 25, will be $199 and $299, respectively (with a two-year contract). Both phones will feature an upgraded 12-megapixel camera, a faster processor and a new 3D Touch haptic feedback display.
Would you like fries with that? The first supersized iPhone has arrived, and Apple's normally bite-size flagship has made a graceful transition into the phablet realm with the iPhone 6 Plus. This 5.5-incher sports the same curvy edges and smooth, anodized aluminum backside as its smaller iPhone 6 counterpart, though the gray plastic stripes on the top and bottom rear panel distract a bit from its otherwise classy design.
While the 6 Plus' curved edges make it comfortable to hold, the phone's aluminum finish is slippery enough to warrant picking up a case. And unless you've got monster hands, this is a two-handed device; my right hand often cramped when I spent too long using it with one.
Measuring 6.22 x 3.06 x 0.28 inches, the iPhone 6 Plus is taller but thinner than many of its phablet competitors, including the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, LG G3 and OnePlus One.
Those upgrading from the 3.95-ounce iPhone 5s might need some time getting used to the 6.07-ounce 6 Plus, which also outweighs the 5.71-ounce OnePlus One and the 5.3-ounce LG G3. The Galaxy Note 4 is a bit heavier at 6.3 ounces.
Sporting a 5.5-inch, 1920 x 1080 display, the iPhone 6 Plus marks the iPhone's first jump to full HD. The 6 Plus' massive screen is on a par with the OnePlus One's 5.5-inch, 1080p display, though the 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4 and 5.5-inch LG G3 sport even sharper quad HD (2560 x 1440) displays.
This bigger, sharper screen makes it the best iPhone yet for watching movies; I was able to notice the smallest of details in The Avengers, from the beads of sweat running down Black Widow's face during a showdown with the Hulk to the veiny green skin of the Hulk himself. Games looked vibrant, too, whether I was shooting pigs out of the rippling waters of Angry Birds: Transformers or sliding down a shiny skyscraper in N.O.V.A. 3.
The iPhone 6 Plus registered a super-luminous 537 nits on our brightness test, beating out the Galaxy Note 4 (318 nits), OnePlus One (432 nits), LG G3 (272 nits) and the 367-nit smartphone average.
The 6 Plus displayed a healthy 95.3 percent of the sRGB color gamut, beating out the LG G3 (93.4) and the OnePlus One (92.7 percent). However, the 6 Plus fell behind the 112.9-percent smartphone average, as well as the Note 4's super-high color representation of 163 percent.
MORE: Best iPhone 6 Plus Cases
Apple's phablet boasts above-average color accuracy, with a Delta E (closer to 0 is best) of 1.9 that beats out the LG G3 (5.5), the OnePlus One (8.6), the Note 4 (4.2) and the 4.68 smartphone average.
Dual Pane Mode and Keyboard
The iPhone 6 Plus' phablet-size display doesn't just make movies and games look prettier; it actually lets you use the iPhone in new ways. When using Messages and Mail in the 6 Plus' exclusive Dual Pane landscape mode, you can view a list of your most recent conversations on the left side of the screen while reading each message in full on the right. I was able to navigate the 6 Plus' home screen and the App Store in landscape mode, much like I would on a tablet.
However, the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy S5 go even further in terms of taking advantage of the big screen. Multi Window lets you run two apps at once, and even share content between windows in some cases.
When using the 6 Plus' keyboard in landscape mode, you'll have exclusive access to cut, copy and paste keys. Regardless of how you use it, the 6 Plus' keyboard now supports predictive typing via iOS 8, though it lacks the dedicated number row of Android keyboards such as the Note 4.
MORE: Best and Worst Keyboards
Fortunately, iOS 8 allows you to download third-party keyboards from the App Store for the first time, with a lineup that currently includes favorites such as SwiftKey, Swype and Fleksy as well as sillier offerings like GIF Keyboard and ScribbleBoard. I was perfectly comfortable typing on the default iOS 8 keyboard, but the option to upgrade to Swype is one I personally welcome.
The iPhone 6 Plus' audio output isn't exactly as colossal as its size. Rock songs such as Yellowcard's "Transmission Home" came through the phone's bottom speaker with decent clarity, but the track's normally crushing guitars sounded thin, and the whole mix got messy during the chorus.
Synthetic tracks such as Kanye West's "Hold My Liquor" fared better on the 6 Plus, as I was able to hear the song's vocals and background synths clearly.
The 6 Plus' speakers registered 78 decibels on our audio test, which is softer than the LG G3 (84 decibels), the OnePlus One (86 decibels) and the 81-decibel smartphone average.
iOS 8 and Interface
The iPhone 6 Plus ships with iOS 8, which builds on the flat, minimal refresh that iOS 7 introduced. The software's improved Spotlight search now includes results from the Web instead of just your phone, and Messages now lets you send quick voice notes and makes it easier to capture short videos for friends.
New to the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is Reachability, a feature especially handy for the gargantuan 6 Plus. Double-tapping the Touch ID home button will bring the top half of the screen to the bottom, allowing you to more easily access things like app icons and search bars with your thumb.
MORE: iOS 8 Review
As with iOS 7, the iOS 8 interface sports an Android-style Control Center that lets you quickly toggle things like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Airplane mode and music playback. You can slide down from the top of the screen for the 6 Plus' notifications menu, which now features widget support for select news, shopping and productivity apps.
Health, Apple Pay and Apps
The iPhone 6 Plus' most notable new app is Health, which allows you to track a smattering of wellness statistics, including steps taken, distance traveled, daily calories and sleep. Health can funnel in data from a variety of iOS 8-optimized fitness apps, including Map My Run, Mayo Clinic, Up by Jawbone, WebMD and Sleep Cycle.
The 6 Plus also heralds the arrival of Apple Pay, which stores your payment cards to Passbook and uses the phone's NFC chip to let you pay for goods with a quick tap of the phone at supporting stores. The current list of Apple Pay-ready retailers includes McDonald's, Walgreens, Whole Foods, Duane Reade, RadioShack and Bloomingdale's, as well as every Apple Store in the U.S.
Apple's phablet comes preloaded with GarageBand, iMovie, Pages, Keynote and Numbers, allowing you to make music, edit videos and work on presentations right out of the box. If that's not enough software for you, you can always peruse the million-plus apps available on Apple's App Store.
Powered by Apple's new A8 processor, the iPhone 6 Plus breezed through any activity I threw at it. Whether I was streaming video, laying down digital drums in GarageBand or bouncing between multiple apps, the 6 Plus did what I needed it to do without a stutter.
Combined with the phone's generous screen size, the A8 processor makes the 6 Plus the best iPhone ever for gaming. The intense gunplay of N.O.V.A 3 ran without a hitch, and the new Metal graphics engine for iOS 8 made Beach Buggy Racing's sunlight reflections and motion blur effects look especially tasty.
The 6 Plus scored 2,903 on the Geekbench 3 performance test, beating out the OnePlus One (2504), the LG G3 (2,401) and the smartphone average (1,953) while falling to the Note 4's beefy 3,124.
The iPhone 6 Plus was less dominant on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited graphics test. With a score of 16,965, the smartphone trounced the 7,143 smartphone average but fell behind the Note 4 (20,126), the LG G3 (17,548) and the OnePlus One (18,399).
However, the 6 Plus fared quite well on the GFXBench Manhattan graphics test, which measures OpenGL ES 3.0 performance. The iPhone notched 31.6 frames per second, which is more than double the Galaxy S5 (11.7) and the Galaxy Note 4 (11.1).
The iPhone 6 Plus' iSight camera retains the 8-MP resolution of the iPhone 5s, but boasts an improved sensor with an aperture of f/2.2, meaning more light can get in. The 6 Plus is the only new iPhone to offer optical image stabilization, which allows for better low-light shots.
The shots I took on a trip to Union Square looked mostly crisp and colorful. Individual blades of grass stood out in a photo of a Union Square park lawn, and the stacks of bright store logos that adorn the area's shopping center came through clearly. A colorful rack of play balls in Petco looked mostly true to life on the 6 Plus, but the orange balls looked strangely washed out.
The 6 Plus' optical image stabilization held up well when taking shots in an unlit video studio, as I was able to make out my co-worker's facial features and plaid shirt pattern without flash. When I turned flash on, the 6 Plus captured natural-looking skin tones and even more facial detail.
Apple's front-facing FaceTime camera continues to be one of the best selfie-takers around, capturing fine details like the strands of my beard and the small white dots on my blue shirt.
If you're like me, you'll probably find yourself addicted to the 6 Plus' slo-mo video mode. You can capture slow-motion video at up to 240 fps on the 6 Plus, which allowed me to turn a calm afternoon of people walking and driving around 5th Avenue into a Michael Bay movie waiting to happen. The 6 Plus also shoots regular old video at up to 1080p, which looked just as crisp as my still shots.
The iPhone 6 Plus isn't just the biggest iPhone yet; it's also the longest lasting.
Apple's phablet lasted an impressive 10 hours while surfing the Web on AT&T's 4G LTE network, beating out the LG G3 (7:12) Galaxy Note 4 (8:43) and the 7:28 smartphone average while falling to the OnePlus One's epic 13:16.
The 6 Plus outlasted the standard iPhone 6 (7:40), and nearly doubled the iPhone 5s' 5:46 endurance.
The iPhone 6 Plus starts at $300 on-contract with 16GB of storage. A 64GB configuration will run you $400, and stepping up to 128GB costs $500. In comparison, the $300 Note 4 packs 32GB of storage, and can be expanded to up to 128GB via a microSD card.
iPhone 6 Plus vs. iPhone 6
Picking the right iPhone 6 for you comes down to a few factors. The 6 Plus has the bigger, sharper display (5.5 inches, 1920 x 1080 vs. 4.7 inches, 1334 x 750), but the standard iPhone 6 is more compact and easier to use with one hand.
The iPhone 6 Plus is the only of the two to sport optical image stabilization, though I noticed generally consistent camera quality between the two smartphones. The 6 Plus has an exclusive Dual Pane landscape mode, which gives you a better view of texts and emails when using the phone horizontally.
In terms of software, the smartphones are identical. Both ship with iOS 8, and both have NFC chips that can make mobile payments via Apple Pay.
If you want the most storage for your dollar, you might want to consider the vanilla iPhone 6. For the same $300 asking price as the starting 16GB iPhone 6 Plus, you can get an iPhone 6 with four times the storage at 64GB.
If you've been holding out for a phablet-size iPhone, the $300 iPhone 6 Plus is for you. The handset's 5.5-inch full HD display and zippy A8 processor make it the best iPhone yet for entertainment, and its long battery life ensures that you'll be able to enjoy apps, movies and games for hours on end. Apple's big-screen phone also packs a fantastic camera in a slimmer design than the competition.
While the iPhone 6 Plus impresses, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 is the best overall phablet on the market. Samsung's plus-size phone has an even sharper quad HD display, pen input, robust multitasking options and more storage for the same $300 starting price. Still, if you're looking to get as big a phone as possible while sticking with iOS and Apple's excellent app ecosystem, it's hard to go wrong with the iPhone 6 Plus.