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iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus - which model is right for you?

Katharine Byrne
15 Feb 2015
iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus header
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The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are very different handsets, so which phone should you go for? We compare Apple's latest handsets

With the launch of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, we got something for the first time from Apple: a genuine choice of flagship handset. While size is the obvious differentiator, underneath the surface are some smaller and more subtle differences. As we've been using the handsets for the past six months, we're in a good position to help you work out which of the handsets are best for you. First, if you've got an iPhone 5s, you may want to read our iPhone 6 vs iPhone 5S article to see if you should upgrade.

DESIGN AND SIZE

Dimensions: The iPhone 6 is a big handset compared to previous iPhones, measuring 138.1x67x6.9mmThe iPhone 6 Plus is even bigger, measuring a whopping 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm. With a difference in size, comes a difference in weight: the iPhone 6 Plus weighs 172g, while the iPhone 6 weighs just 129g. It has to be said that neither phone is truly heavy and the only limiting factor is likely to be the physical size.On paper there doesn't seem to be too much in it, as the iPhone 6 Plus is only 0.2mm thicker, 10.8mm wider and 20mm taller. 

On paper, then, there doesn't seem to be too much in it, as the iPhone 6 Plus is only 0.2mm thicker, 10.8mm wider and 20mm taller. In actual use, it's fair to say that the iPhone 6 Plus is a lot bigger than its little brother. If you're going from the iPhone 5S, the iPhone 6 feels big, but the iPhone 6 Plus feels absolutely huge. We think that it's really a matter of preference and what you're comfortable with, but here's what we've found since launch.

First, the iPhone 6 is a decent upgrade from the iPhone 5S. It's not too much bigger, is easy to carry around and fits into a pocket easily enough. Overall, it's a great compromise between getting a larger screen while keeping the physical size down. There's no escaping from the fact that the iPhone 6 Plus is massive, and it's going to be too big for some people. That's not to say it's too big, though. Apple has designed it well, so it's comfortable to hold and we've never dropped ours. It's a little cumbersome to put into a trouser pocket, but will go into most jeans pockets without too much discomfort. 

Overall, the iPhone 6 is the logical choice for most people, but it's easy to live with the iPhone 6 Plus if you want the best and biggest screen (more of that later). Our advice is to go into an Apple store and hold both to see how you get on.

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus side by side

Materials: The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus both have an anodised aluminium rear panel, a curved glass front and a stainless steel Apple logo on the back of the phone. They're practically identical in this respect, and Apple says that each phone should feel like one continuous surface. It's certainly got that right, and it's hard to feel the join where the screen meets the case. We love the new curved display, which swoops down to meet the metal sides, as it makes swipe gestures easier to feel for and makes both handsets more comfortable to hold and grip. There's nothing to tell either phone apart here.

Design and size conclusion: There's no clear winner here, as it depends on the size that you're comfortable with. In summary we'd say that the iPhone 6 is the more practical handset and the logical upgrade from the iPhone 5S; the iPhone 6 Plus isn't for everyone, but it's just as gorgeous as its little brother and so well designed that the physical size is easy to get used to.

DISPLAY

Screen size: The iPhone 6 has a large 4.7in screen. We feel this is one of the best and most practical screen sizes currently available, giving a great compromise between screen size and physical size. The iPhone 6 Plus, on the other hand, has a huge 5.5in screen, which just edges it into phablet territory. The larger screen makes viewing websites, videos and photos that much nicer, in our opinion.

While you can mostly reach every part of the iPhone 6's screen using one hand, the iPhone 6 Plus' screen isn't so easy to use one handed. On both handsets, Apple has added Reachability. By double-tapping the TouchID button (don't click it), the entire screen slides down so that the top appears halfway down the display. This means that you can more easily reach the top of the screen or quickly swipe down on the blank space to bring up the Today Screen. It works well and means that you can pretty much use the iPhone 6 one-handed. With the iPhone 6 Plus, Reachability dramatically improves things, but there are times where you have to go two-handed, particularly as trying to hold the phone one-handed while double-tapping the TouchID button makes the handset rather top heavy.

Screen resolution: The iPhone 6 has a 1,334x750 resolution while the iPhone 6 Plus has a Full HD 1,920x1,080 resolution. Resolution doesn't necessarily make a better screen, though, as the iPhone 6's pixel density of 326ppi (pixels per inch) is still classed as one of Apple's Retina displays, and has the same pixel density as the iPhone 5S. The iPhone 6 Plus, meanwhile, has a huge pixel density of 401ppi, which is way above this figure. Apple also refers to it as a Retina HD display. Side-by-side, it has to be said that the iPhone 6 Plus is a little crisper and sharper than the iPhone 6, although the smaller phone can hardly be classed as blurry.

Screen technology: Screen quality is very similar between the handsets, too, with both having excellent viewing angles thanks to the dual-domain pixels in the IPS displays. We measured the iPhone 6's screen as having a contrast ratio of 1,456:1, being able to show 95.1% of the sRGB colour gamut and with a brightness of 543cd/m2; we measured the iPhone 6 Plus' display as having a contrast ratio of 1,403:1, being able to show 90.5% of the SRGB colour gamut and with a brightness of 572.13cd/m2. In these terms, both screens are excellent, producing bright and vibrant colours, and they're easy to view in daylight, too.

Display conclusion: The iPhone 6 Plus has the larger, higher-resolution screen and it by produces the best viewing experience. The iPhone 6 isn't far behind, though, and its smaller size makes it the more practical handset to use one-handed.

CAMERA

Both phones have the same 8-megapixel resolution as the iPhone 5s, with large 1.5µm pixels, although the sensor has been improved and tweaked. Most obviously, the sensor now has phase detect focus pixels, which makes the camera much quicker to focus. This should mean that you don't miss an important shot, as the camera's ready to go much quicker. 

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus rear

Image quality, in bright lighting, is very similar between the two cameras, as you can see from the shots below. In our outdoor shot below, the colour balance between the iPhone 6 Plus (top) and iPhone 6 (bottom) is very slightly different. However, the quality of both shots is top-notch, with the iPhones' cameras capturing all of the detail and colour - they're both excellent cameras and few smartphones capture as much dynamic range.

iPhone 6 Plus outside sample shot Wanstead
iPhone 6 outside sample shot Wanstead

Once you get into low-light shots, the iPhone 6 Plus has an advantage thanks to its optical image stabilisation (OIS), which the iPhone 6 does not have. This means that you can take blur-free hand-held shots with the iPhone 6 Plus in situations that you can't with the iPhone 6. It's still fairly close, but the iPhone 6 Plus (top) has slightly sharper low-light images than the iPhone 6 (bottom).

iPhone 6 Star Wars sample shot HDR
iPhone 6 Plus Star Wars sample shot HDR

Otherwise, both cameras are largely identical. They both have a sapphire crystal lens cover, providing plenty of protection from scratches, and each phone's video capabilities are also the same. Both will be able to shoot video in Full HD using several different frame rates, including 30fps and 60fps, as well as slow-mo video in 120fps and 240fps. You also get the excellent time lapse mode introduced with iOS 8.

Conclusion: On paper the iPhone 6 Plus seems to have the clear advantage, but in actual use the OIS doesn't lend it much of an advantage with only minor differences in our tests. We'd have to say that this was a tie, with both handsets producing high-quality images.

PERFORMANCE

Processor: The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus use Apple's brand new 64-bit A8 chips. These are dual-core CPUs running at 1.4GHz. This may sound a little slow to the quad-core models in Android phones, but iOS is more efficient, so doesn't need such high clock speeds or as many cores. Both phones have identical performance, scoring 17,509 in the 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme test, and completing the SunSpider JavaScript test in less than 400ms. 

Battery: Apple has never revealed the mAh ratings for its phone batteries, but it's promised around 11 hours of continuous video playback and 14 hours of 3G talk time for the iPhone 6 and 14 hours of continuous video playback and 24 hours of 3G talk time for the iPhone 6 Plus. Thanks to some teardowns, we know that the iPhone 6 has a 1,810mAh battery in it, lasting 12h 58m in our video playback test. The iPhone 6 Plus has a 2,915mAh battery and lasted 14h 48m in our video playback test. Observationally, both phones last longer than the iPhone 5S during general usage, as the more efficient A8 CPU draws less power. We found that we could easily last more than a day between charging with both phones, although the iPhone 6 Plus still lasts longer. 

These tests only tell part of the story, as they have the phone's screens on the entire time, which draws a lot of power, particular on the iPhone 6 Plus, with its large display. Day-to-day when the phone's synchronising in the background without the display on, battery life of both handsets is way ahead of the iPhone 5S. The iPhone 6 Plus is the clear leader, though, and we found that we could push two days in between charging.

Storage: The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus will be available in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models. Strangely there's no 32GB version, and the phones don't support microSD cards either, so you're stuck with the amount of storage you buy at purchase.

Performance conclusion: There's nothing in it when it comes to CPU and graphics performance. Battery life has been much improved on both handsets, but day-to-day the iPhone 6 Plus has a battery that just keeps on going.

FEATURES

Much like the iPhone 5s, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have a built-in fingerprint sensor in the form of its TouchID sensor. This allows you to unlock the phone in less than a second using your finger, as well as confirm payments on the App Store. Apple has made TouchID available to third-party app developers, so you'll soon be able to use the fingerprint reader for authentication in these, too. With the NFC chips in both phones, you'll also be able to authenticate contactless payments in stores, and online transactions, when Apple Pay launches at some point in the future.

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus on top of each other

Both phones also have an accelerometer to keep track of the number of steps you take each day and a barometer so it can take account of elevation, giving you more accurate results in Apple's new Health app for iOS 8. As these features use the phone's low-power M8 motion co-processor, they're not a massive battery drain.

Both phones ship with iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system. It's a great upgrade from iOS 7, adding in new features, such as the ability to answer phone calls on your iPad, and the ability to send a task you start on one Apple device to another Apple device. For example, you can start writing an email on your iPad and finish off on your iPhone. Both phones are roughly identical when it comes to additional iOS 8 features, with a new landscape keyboard that adds in new keys, such as cut/paste and cursor keys. The iPhone 6 Plus goes one step further with a new landscape home screen and landscape modes for some apps, such as Mail and Safari, giving you more information on screen.

Each phone is also compatible with Apple's brand new Apple Watch. This smartwatch will only work with iOS devices, ruling out any crossover with Android phones. The Apple Watch will be available in two sizes, three finishes and six different straps, making it one of the most customisable smartwatches we've seen so far.

A smartwatch is also a practical accessory for anyone with a large screen phone, as it means you won't have to continually fish it out of your bag each time you want to respond to a message or email. Instead, you can use Siri to reply to messages using your voice and read your notifications straight on your wrist. It can also be used a remote viewfinder for a paired iPhone camera. The Apple Watch won't be released until next year, but in the mean time you can read all about Apple's smartwatch in our in-depth Apple Watch article.

Features conclusion: The iPhone 6 Plus has a couple of additional features, to make the most of its higher resolution display, but you'd have to call this one a tie as both handsets offer exactly the same things.

CONCLUSION

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are incredibly similar phones, both in terms of design, features, performance and storage. The iPhone 6 Plus is the slightly more advanced of the two handsets, with a sharper, higher-resolution screen (not to mention iOS 8 support for it), and a camera with iOS 8. With its bigger battery, too, this is the smartphone to buy if you want the best. 

There are other considerations, though. If the iPhone 6 Plus is simply too big for you, the iPhone 6 is a much easier to handle handset, which will make it more appealing to a larger number of people. Then, there's price. The iPhone 6 Plus' large screen comes at a significant premium, as the 16GB version of the iPhone 6 Plus alone costs £619 SIM-free, while the 64GB and 128GB versions cost a wallet-breaking £699 and £789 respectively. The iPhone 6, by comparison, costs £539 for the 16GB version and goes right up to £699 for the 128GB version. If you want to save some cash, the iPhone 6 is the better choice - check out our best deals for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus article for the best current prices.

KEY SPECIFICATIONS

ManufacturerAppleApple
ModeliPhone 6iPhone 6 Plus
Hardware
ProcessorDual-core 1.4GHz Apple A8Dual-core 1.4GHz Apple A8
RAM1GB1GB
Screen size4.7in5.5in
Screen resolution1,334x7501,920x1,080
Screen typeIPSIPS
Front camera1.2 megapixels1.2 megapixels
Rear camera8 megapixels8 megapixels
FlashYes (dual LED)Yes (dual LED)
GPSYesYes
CompassYesYes
Storage16/64/128GB16/64/128GB
Memory card slot (supplied)N/AN/A
Wi-Fi802.11ac802.11ac
BluetoothBluetooth 4.0Bluetooth 4.0
NFCYesYes
Wireless data4G4G
Size138.1x67x6.9mm158.1x77.8x7.1mm
Weight129g172g
Features
Operating systemiOS 8iOS 8
Battery size1,810mAh2,915mAh

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