Hands on with iPhone 6 and 6 Plus - Which One Should You Get?

Apple released two new iPhones on Tuesday and the fact that we're asking, "which one should you get?" instead of "should you get one?" is a testament to Apple's marketing success with product rollouts. As the company did last fall with the iPhone 5s and 5c, Apple rolled out two completely new iPhone models for this year, and this time both of them are quite new.

Both the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus are worthy contenders to be your main device and, after some hands-on time with them I have a few things to share that might help you decide which is right for you.

The iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6, side-by-side in Reachability mode.

Bigger is Better

It's important to remember that both of these are significantly bigger than all of their predecessors, including the 4.0" iPhone 5/s/c, which will henceforth be referred to as iPhone 5. This allows for more screen real estate and also a larger battery behind it.

The 4.7" iPhone 6 feels a lot like a taller iPhone 5. It is a little wider, but it feels like a taller version of last year's models. This means if an iPhone 5 (or 5s or 5c) fits into your pocket, the iPhone 6 likely will, too... it'll just go a bit deeper.

The iPhone 6 Plus is a completely different beast altogether. It's much wider than both the iPhone 5 and the iPhone 6. This device definitely has a "phablet" feel, being more like a small(er) iPad mini than a phone. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it is an important distinction between the two models.

The iPhone 6 is substantially taller than the 5 series prior

Fitting this device into my pocket was fine, as was the case with nearly every male who tried it—men's jeans tend to have large-enough pockets for such things as phones, keys, rocks, and toys. If you do plan to put the iPhone 6 Plus in your pocket, you'll likely want to do so without a case, as a case will add a significant amount of bulk that may make pocket-dwelling a difficult task. It will require real-world, wide-scale testing to be sure, but from what I saw it will fit in most guys' pockets.

I would venture to guess that most women's pants and jeans — usually lacking any significant pocket depth anyway — will not house this phone (or any phone, really).

User Experience

As mentioned above, the iPhone 6 has the familiar feel of an iPhone. It's a bit taller and only slightly wider (and it's thinner than last year's models), but in general use it feels like the phone we're all used to, just bigger and better.

The iPad feel of the iPhone 6 Plus extends beyond its physical size to the user interface. Things like iBooks in landscape mode (shown below) are closer to the iPad—which goes to two-column mode—than the iPhone (which just extends out the one column).

iPhone 6 Plus iBooks

iBooks on iPhone 6 Plus in Landscape Mode
Photo by Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus

Indeed, Mail and other apps feel more like you're on an iPad than an iPhone and, to me, that's an excellent thing. I'm a big fan of my Retina iPad mini, and it's entirely possible that the iPhone 6 Plus could mean that I only need to have one device instead of two. That's a compelling argument right there.

Next: But Wait, There's More

Page 2 - But Wait, There's More


Feature parity is not something that exists between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. There are a couple of things that set the iPhone 6 Plus ahead of its smaller brother. Battery life is a big one, with the iPhone 6 Plus boosting battery life 20-40% over its predecessors. This will be huge for folks that plan to replace an iPad with this device. There are benefits to having more space inside the case!

The other big benefit unique to the iPhone 6 Plus is Optical Image Stabilization. This means the lens can move not just in and out (to focus) but side-to-side and up-and-down to eliminate jitter in both still and video modes.

Dave Hamilton and iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone 6 Plus
Photo by Bob "Dr. Mac" LeVitus

Is Either Too Big?

Neither of these devices felt overly large in my hand and, thanks to both the hardware and software design, one-handed use was completely feasible with both for me. Apple's "Reachability" mode (shown above) was especially impressive, allowing a double-tap on the home/Touch ID button to bring down the top edge of the screen to within thumbs reach.

One note: on the iPhone 6, Reachability brings the top edge down about half way on the screen, making thumbing quite possible. On the iPhone 6 Plus it actually brings it down further than that, so that the top edge is the same distance from the bottom as it would be on the iPhone 6. This is part of what we all love about Apple and probably don't even notice. The company's designers and engineers iterate through design decisions until they find the right one and rarely do they just stick with the first attempt at anything.

So, Which Is It?

I was quite happy with the iPhone 6 in my hand. It's markedly larger than the iPhone 5, and that was a welcome change of feel and screen real-estate. If there were feature parity—specifically the Optical Image Stabilization—between the two I would likely lean towards the iPhone 6 and just keep using my Retina iPad mini, as well.

But the extra picture capabilities, longer battery life, and prospect of scaling down from two devices (iPad mini and iPhone) to one device make the iPhone 6 Plus my final choice for this round. I'll probably opt for the 128GB, too. Normally I don't go to the largest size on my iPhones, but if there's a chance this will replace my iPad I'll want plenty of room for both the pictures I take as well as the movies I'll want to watch on plane rides and such.

As usual, I'll keep you posted as to what I think of this both here and on our Mac Geek Gab podcast.

Which one will you choose?