Pros / This is the most capable iPhone ever made. It blew away the competition in our benchmark tests, its battery lasts forever, and its camera sets a new standard for excellence.
Cons / Thanks to a thick bezel, the phone is bigger than other devices with comparable, 5.5-inch screens. And it will bend, ever so slightly, if you're not careful.
Verdict / The iPhone 6 Plus is the best phablet we've ever reviewed. It's bulk and heft can be a real nuisance, but everything else about Apple's latest is amazing.
The Other iPhone
The iPhone 6 Plus is an excellent phone, but if it's just too big or pricey for you, the iPhone 6 is an incredible alternative. Its 4.7-inch screen is big without being overwhelming, and it's literally the thinnest phone we've ever reviewed. True, the iPhone 6's battery life isn't as impressive as the 6 Plus, and its camera doesn't have optical image stabilization, but the phone is just as powerful, capable, and enjoyable.
Editor's Note: Apple recently unveiled details on its next two flagship phones, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. Along with speedier processers and improved graphics capabilities, both phones will sport updated Touch ID sensors, 12-megapixel cameras capable of shooting 4K video, and a new innovation in the smartphone world: 3D Touch. By using force sensors that can detect how hard you push on the iPhone's screen, 3D Touch will let you peek into notifications, emails and apps with pressure-based gestures.
You can preorder the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus as of September 12, while the devices themselves will arrive in stores September 25. Top Ten Reviews will get you our official reviews and comparisons of each model as soon as we get our hands on them.
Editor's Note: This review has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it no longer ranks as a top 10 product. The original review is below, but check out our current top 10 about Smartphones here.
That Apple makes superlative smartphones is nothing new; the Cupertino-based company has set the gold standard for mobile design ever since it debuted the iPhone in 2007. But in the iPhone 6 Plus, Apple is walking a path it's never trodden before. This is the company's first phablet, a pocket-stretching smartphone/tablet hybrid that trades comfort for functionality and raw power. You get a very large screen and a beefy battery when you buy a phablet, but making phone calls can be awkward.
Whether you prefer phablets over smaller smartphones is a matter of personal preference, as both form factors having their advantages and drawbacks. If you're looking for a more discreet Apple device, there's always the iPhone 6. But we review phones on their own merits, and the iPhone 6 Plus is unquestionably meritorious. Its processor tore through our benchmarks, its battery lasts through two days of use, and its camera turns every photo into a set piece.
As smartphones go, the iPhone 6 Plus is massive. Granted, there are a couple Android phablets on the market with even bigger dimensions, but they have 6-inch screens. Among phones with 5.5-inch displays, nothing is quite as palm stretching as the 6 Plus. Much of that excess size comes from the phone's sizable bezels, which are necessary to accommodate Touch ID on the bottom and the phone's OIS-enabled camera up top.
Wide and tall though the phone may be, it's also very thin. Just .01 inch thicker than the iPhone 6, the 6 Plus is easily the thinnest phablet we've encountered. Its aluminum chassis is a pleasure to hold, with a soft, almost silken finish.
The phone's 5.5-inch, 1080p screen is a window to iOS 8, the latest iteration of Apple's elegant mobile operating system. Along with a couple simple interface improvements and some new messaging features, iOS 8 introduces a wealth of under-the-hood enhancements. HealthKit consolidates all your health and fitness information to a single location, and gives third-party apps an easy way to share that data, should you choose. You can substitute Apple's keyboard for new ones, install little app widgets in the Notification Center, and even set up customized quick-sharing options.
One of the operating system's best features, Continuity, lets you hand off phone calls, text conversations and documents between your phone and your Mac. It's only available if you have OS X Yosemite installed, and you have to be on the same Wi-Fi network, but we use it every day at our office, and we love it.
As Apple is fond of reminding us whenever it announces a new phone, the iPhone is the most popular camera in the world. That might seem surprising, given its shooter's generally low specs – recent iPhone generations have all sported the same 8-megapixel sensor and ƒ/2.2 aperture, which is rather average if you only look at the numbers. But as Apple's repeatedly proved, numbers don't make a great camera; great pictures do.
The iPhone 6 Plus takes some incredible pictures. Part of its success can be traced to two newly introduced technologies: optical image stabilization and phase-detection autofocus. Optical image stabilization has been around in top smartphones for a while, but it's new to the iPhone line and exclusive to the iPhone 6 Plus. It takes the familiar digital image stabilization a step further, compensating for hand shake before the camera's sensor actually captures any light. This makes the iPhone 6 Plus's photos sharper and clearer than any previous iPhone, especially when taking shots on the move.
The other camera feature introduced this generation is phase-detection autofocus. Apple markets it as "Focus Pixels," and technology aside, it helps the camera refocus almost instantaneously.
Apple remains the only company that's introduced 64-bit processors into its smartphones, and while that will soon change, right now it gives them a leg up on the competition. The iPhone 6 Plus stormed through our benchmark tests, getting a score of 55880 in AnTuTu, a 1430 in Basemark, and hitting 31.3 frames per second in GFXBench's Manhattan On-Screen test. If those numbers don't mean anything to you, take our word for it: They're really, really good.
And it's no surprise. While iPhones have long run on comparatively simple hardware – both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus only have a 1.4GHz processor and a single gigabyte of RAM – it's heavily optimized and integrated seamlessly with the operating system. And with Metal, Apple's new framework for games that lets them have low-overhead access to the smartphone's graphics processor, even the most intense 3D experiences run buttery-smooth.
The perennial weakness of the iPhone is its battery. Generally, battery life correlates directly with battery size, and earlier iterations of Apple's flagship were all comparatively small in stature. You were lucky to get a full day out of the devices, and Apple fans got used to plugging in halfway through the day or investing in third-party cases with built-in batteries.
The iPhone 6 Plus's sizable frame packs a 2,915 mAh battery, which lasts far longer than current Android flagships – even the LG G3, which also sports a 5.5-inch screen. By the numbers, the 6 Plus officially lasts up to 12 hours when surfing the web, 14 hours when watching video, or 24 hours when talking on the phone. With typical usage, you can expect to get through about two solid days of use before needing to recharge. If you charge your phone overnight, you'll never have to worry about battery life.
Apple may not be the only manufacturer to let you scan your finger and unlock your phone, but its Touch ID sensor is the best and most reliable we've seen. Rimmed in metal and coated in sapphire, the iPhone 6 Plus's home button doubles as a fingerprint scanner than can be used from any angle, without forcing you to swipe over and over. New to iOS 8 is the ability for third-party apps to tap into that scanner, without actually seeing your fingerprint data. Essentially, this means you'll be able to use your finger to unlock banking apps or make secure transactions without worrying about security, or the third-party apps stealing your identity.
We're also really enjoying Apple Pay. Apple's take on secure, NFC-based payments, Apple Pay lets you buy something at a store by hovering your phone over a small scanner and confirming the purchase with Touch ID. The service is secure, protecting your identity by using one-time credit card numbers, encrypted confirmation numbers, and Touch ID in every transaction. But unfortunately it's not yet as pervasive as we'd hoped when it was first announced.
This is Apple's iPhone 6 Plus. Like other phablets, it's huge, but it's still far thinner than most. Like all the best smartphones, it's fast, and the 6 Plus has solidified its place with the top performers in our benchmark rankings. Yet what sets the iPhone 6 Plus apart isn't its size, or its power, or its battery life, or even features like Touch ID and Apple Pay.
Rather, iPhones enjoy enormous popularity because they offer the widest selection of top-tier apps. They take the most consistently beautiful photos of just about any smartphone, and Apple's integrated ecosystem sets the performance bar high. True, the iPhone 6 Plus isn't a perfect phone. Its tendency to warp very slightly in pants pockets may not affect usability, but it’s still an irritant. Given the option, though, we'd recommend the iPhone every time. It's powerful, fun, and one of the finest smartphones in the world.