iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Dr. Mac's Final Showdown

Episode #91


I’m now on my tenth day of carrying both new iPhones — one in each front pocket of jeans or shorts —  wherever I go. As I reported last week, I’m about to replace my year-old iPhone 5s with an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. Now, after ten days of careful consideration, I believe I’ve got it all figured out.

I won’t keep you in suspense: I’m getting an iPhone 6 Plus.

If you recall, last week I told you that it had longer battery life and a better camera than the iPhone 6 but I hadn’t had time to test those features thoroughly. And in the end, those are the reasons I chose it instead of the iPhone 6. But during my testing I discovered a third very compelling reason I prefer the iPhone 6 Plus — its screen is exquisite.

Reading iBooks and viewing movies on the iPhone 6 Plus is truly a pleasure, which makes total sense. While the iPad mini has a bigger screen size (7.9-inches vs. 5.5-inches diagonal)…

Comparison of screen sizes

…the iPhone 6 Plus screen is higher resolution with significantly more pixels (401 ppi vs. 163 ppi which is to say 2208 pixels x 1242 pixels for the iPhone 6 Plus vs. 1024 x 768 pixels for the iPad mini). Another nicety is that the iPhone 6 Plus has a 16:9 aspect ratio (vs. the iPad mini’s 4:3), so an HD movie fills the screen with no black bars above and below.

Comparison of pixel densities
(Click for a larger image)

The iPhone 6 Plus also looks brighter and offers more richly saturated colors than the iPad mini. Finally, and this came is a surprise, the iPhone 6 Plus has a noticeably wider viewing angle than my 1st generation iPad mini. I wish I could show you that! Try it if you can — place an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus side-by-side with an original (not Retina) iPad mini and compare their viewing angles. The iPhones look better at much wider angles than the iPad mini.

Moving right along, that the iPhone 6 Plus can take the place of my iPad mini for travel was merely a bonus. The real reasons I selected it over the iPhone 6 are its camera and battery, which are both the best every in any iPhone.

In my week with two iPhones I shot roughly 200 photos and videos with each. I did my best to get the same shot with both phones, and, just for kicks, I often shot a third set with my iPhone 5s for comparison. The bottom line is that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cameras, which both feature Apple’s new Autofocus with Focus Pixels, took better pictures and videos than the iPhone 5s in almost every case. Discerning differences in quality between the 6 and 6 Plus was more difficult.

While video shot with both phones looked about the same, which was noticeably better than video shot with the iPhone 5s, there was a clear difference between still photos, with more shots from the iPhone 6 Plus in focus. The difference in low-light situations was even clearer, with the iPhone 6 Plus showing more detail and less noise in many shots.

Comparison of photo quality
(Click for a larger or image)

Last but certainly not least, battery life in both new iPhones is much, much better than my year-old iPhone 5s. And the iPhone 6 Plus’s battery makes the Energizer Bunny jealous — it just keeps going and going and going. For example, if I start the day with 100%, as I usually do, my iPhone 5s’s runs out of juice by dinnertime and often long before. The iPhone 6 Plus, on the other hand, has been making it through dinner and beyond, often with as much as 50% remaining at bedtime. I even skipped a night of charging (translation: I forgot) and still had enough juice to make it until late the next afternoon.

Let me say one last thing: This was a very close call. The difference between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5s cameras is clear enough, but the difference between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cameras is much smaller. It’s noticeable enough that it matters to me but they both take great stills and videos. As for battery life, both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus kick my iPhone 5s’s butt. The iPhone 6 Plus kicks harder and longer, which matters to me but might not to you.

At the end of the exercise, it turns out that size does matter and that bigger is indeed better (at least as far as I’m concerned).

And that’s all he wrote…