Apple iPhone 6: Australian Review

So what if you don't want a giant phone in your life? What if 4.7 inches is all you need? Try the iPhone 6. As we found out from our review, you're unlikely to be disappointed.

Gizmodo loves technology. Our product reviews are presented thanks to Dick Smith.

Editor's Note: Some of this review might seem familiar to you if you've seen the iPhone 6 Plus review we ran yesterday. We have put a few elements of the 6 Plus review into this one, like mentions of the design and software, which are the same across both devices. Stuff like the camera comparisons, however, as well as information about pricing and how it feels, as well as whether you should buy it, is all brand-new, Australian analysis.

What Is It?

Specifications
  • Processor: 1.4GHz dual-core Apple A8
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Screen: 4.7-inch Retina HD LED (1334x750, 326ppi)
  • Memory: 16GB/64GB/128GB (no expandable memory)
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  • Camera: 8-megapixel iSight Camera with Focus Pixels
  • Connectivity: Category 4 4G/LTE, Voice Over LTE (VoLTE), 802.11ac Wi-Fi

The iPhone 6 is the smaller of the two iPhones. Unlike the larger iPhone 6 Plus, the screen measures 4.7 inches diagonally as opposed to a phablet-sized 5.5 inches.

It's packing a 1.4GHz dual-core Apple A8 processor, with an updated M8 Motion Co-Processor. You get 1GB of RAM, an 1810mAh battery and an 8-megapixel iSight Camera with an overhauled sensor.

The new iPhone comes with iOS 8 as the operating system. iOS 8 is really trying to take advantage of this larger screen size by prompting you to go big with your fonts and icons on set-up, and educating you on how you can make things look bigger and better after you start using the device.

Check out all the new features of iOS 8 here in our explainer.

Apple will be selling the iPhone 6 in gold, silver and space grey. Prices start at $869 for the 16GB model, $999 for the 64GB model and $1129 for the 128GB model. Telstra, Optus, Vodafone and Virgin Mobile will all sell the iPhone 6 on contract, also. We'll get into their pricing plans below.

Hardware

Under the hood, Apple has introduced the new A8 processor, along with its helper, the M8 co-processor. The new A8 chip has two billion transistors on a smaller surface area than last year’s A7 processor, and is clocked at 1.4GHz across its dual cores.

Now that might not seem like much when compared to the big Android superphones with their quad- and octa-core processors, but it all comes down to how the rubber hits the road. With Apple, thanks to close collaboration between hardware and software designs, it hits it surprisingly hard with great results.

The M8 co-processor — designed to quietly track your step, movement and fitness data while sipping power — is beefed up from last year, with a new sensor that also allows you to track the number of stairs you’ve walked up. That new sensor is an old-fashioned barometer that tracks tiny variations in the air pressure so it knows when you’re ascending or descending. Fascinating.

Meanwhile, on the surface, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are the biggest departures in design from in years.

Design

Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have been designed in such a way that they look and feel larger, thinner and curvier than ever before. The build-quality is exceptional, as per usual and the new thin design is incredible.

Let’s start with the back of the device.

Previously on the iPhone 5s, the colour would cover the back plate of the phone before being interrupted by glass bars at the top and bottom of the device. These bars were for signal as much as they were for stability, but it interrupted the beautiful colour that you’d chosen for your device. On the 6 and 6 Plus, that’s no longer an issue: colour is pushed right to the edge, interrupted only by small black or white bands that look almost like piping in the case. It’s still meant for signal and antenna clarity (without them you’d have a very pretty phone that couldn’t get signal), but now it means that you get beautiful colour right to the edge and beyond into the corners and sides of the device.

The screen glass is also now slightly curved on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Apple want to promote the use of gestures in iOS 8 to help users get around, and by dulling the edges of the device to make it less like swiping over a hard edge, it’s a great prompt. The curved glass goes right to the edge of the device, which means you can get weird reflections on the tops and bottoms of the glass, almost reminiscent of a Galaxy S4 when the light catches the white model in the right way.

To fit in with the thinner aesthetic, the volume rockers are now flat buttons (rather than round), the Silent switch is now slightly wider and shorter into the device, while the power button has been moved for the first time from the top of the device down to the right-hand side. Android users coming back to iPhone after a while will take to this pretty easily, but old-school iOS users (including myself), will still try to lock it from the top every now and then.

The only design quirk we can note on the new iPhone is the camera lens, which sits outside of the device. The bump isn’t anywhere near as noticeable as it would be on something like the Lumia 1020, but it’s odd to see the back case interrupted by an odd hump on the top left.

Apple has covered the lens in sapphire glass, meaning it’s scratch resistant, while also encircling the whole thing in a stainless steel cover ensuring it can’t get smashed or bumped off.

Here's how it compares in size to the rest of the iPhone family.


Display

The iPhone 6 is packing a gorgeous display, when viewed in a vacuum, but the way it sits in the marketplace is a little weird. The iPhone 6 isn't packing the full HD display that its bigger brother, the iPhone 6 Plus has.

The iPhone 6 Plus features a 5.5-inch Retina HD LED screen which packs in 1920×1080 pixels (that’s 401 pixels per inch), while the iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch Retina LED screen which features a resolution of 1334x750, with 326 ppi.

It'd be amazing if the display on the iPhone 6 could be full HD, but alas, we're left wanting.

The lower resolution doesn't necessarily mean that the iPhone 6 has a bad screen, experts agree, the iPhone 6 has a great display.

Our real concern over the iPhone's screen stems from the fact that smartphones around the same size from other manufacturers are packing higher-resolution displays already. Take the LG G3, for example, with its quad-HD (2560x1440) display. Or the new Moto X with its 1080p display. Both have recently entered the market, and they pack in more pixels than the iPhone 6. By comparison, the iPhone 6 loses out slightly on specs.

Those shopping comparatively will see such a spec and potentially overlook the iPhone before clapping eyes on it, which would be a shame.

Regardless of the disparity in resolution, it's nice to see that a high-level of build-quality has been maintained with the iPhone 6.

Apple has worked to a painstaking level of detail in order to get the iPhone 6 display as good as it is. It went nuts on the production process of the iPhone displays in this generation to make sure everything works perfectly. Using a technique known as photo alignment, Apple gets its machines to use UV lights to position the liquid crystals in the right spots when putting the phone together so everything looks its best when you finally get eyes-on.

The viewing angle of the screen is also excellent thanks to what Apple calls dual-domain pixels, which refers to a practice of positioning pixels in a horizontal zig zag as opposed to a straight line. This contributes to a better contrast ratio as the pixels are mostly being viewed at uneven angles and gives an overall better viewing angle.

Overall, it’s the second-best display we’ve ever seen in an iPhone next to the one on the iPhone 6 Plus.

Camera

Apple has completely overhauled the camera module for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, but it hasn’t upped the overall resolution of the images it pumps out. You still get an 8-megapixel sensor on the new iSight Camera, but as we’ll continue to see throughout the process of this review, numbers are essentially meaningless on this thing. It’s what the hardware can do when the rubber hits the proverbial road which is so impressive.

Click to enlarge*

iPhone 6


Samsung Galaxy S5


Nokia Lumia 1020


HTC One M8


(*Images downscaled to 1282 pixels in width. We'll be linking to full-resolution images soon.)

All of these cameras produce great images in daylight, but low-light performance is what we’re really after. A great low-light phone is one that’s probably going to serve you well everywhere.

As you can see, the iPhone 6 performs admirably, rendering images with beautiful natural colour and deep, deep blacks with very little in the way of noise. The only noise you really start to see is in the greys of clouds at night.

As far as competition goes, the Lumia 1020 still holds up remarkably well for what’s coming on as a two-year old device now, producing vivid colour in daylight. Meanwhile, the Samsung Galaxy S5 and its 16-megapixel shooter perform incredibly well also, with great saturation in the images we shot.

Sound

The grilles that used to adorn the bottom of the iPhone 5s have been shrunk and reduced to just one grille now on the 6 Plus. Despite the overall reduction in size of both the iPhone’s chassis and the speaker grilles themselves, the 6 still pumps out some loud and enjoyable sound for a phone speaker.

Obviously, if you’re going to be using it to be playing music often, get ready to be disappointed and shell out extra cash for a Bluetooth speaker. The sound is still slightly tinny and relatively quiet compared to what a wireless speaker can give you.

The iPhone 6 doesn't share the issue its big brother, the iPhone 6 Plus, does in that wind noise is reasonably well blocked out while you're on a call. The Plus' microphone picks up wind noise in a very strange way we couldn't overcome, so it's nice that the 6 doesn't have that issue.

Sadly, we weren’t able to test Voice Over LTE (VoLTE). Right now, it doesn’t work in Australia, both Optus and Telstra had previously promised to have it working by the end of the year, with Vodafone on track to follow them into the service next year.

Battery

The iPhone 6 packs an 1810mAh battery, which is kind of paltry compared to the slightly aged Samsung Galaxy S5 which features a 2800mAh power plant under the hood.

The battery on the iPhone 6 Plus is a whopping 2915mAh by comparison, making the slightly smaller 4.7-inch device look a whole lot smaller on the power scale.

We've already said that it's interesting how Apple is able to squeeze a lot out of its handsets for the hardware it's rocking. In the same vein, the smaller battery still produces some strong results.

More or less, we were able to get a full day's use out of the iPhone 6. We'd still be scrambling for power at the same time as we did on the iPhone 5s (if not slightly after), however, which took us from about 7am in the morning through to 6pm in the evening. If you've got a function to attend in the evening, it might be worth dosing your phone with juice in the afternoon to prep for the affair.

We have noticed a few issues with iOS 8 draining battery faster than it should in both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus recently, which is weird but will likely be fixed an update due shortly.

Unlike its larger Android competitors, the iPhone 6 doesn’t have a super-low power mode like the one found in Samsung and HTC phones of late. It’s up to you to figure out what will save energy. The idea is that you shouldn't have to need one on iOS: the fact that the iPhone has a more efficient A8 processor this time around, as well as a lower resolution screen means that it sips power rather than guzzles it like some Android phones do.

TouchID

Apple’s TouchID fingerprint sensor is back on the iPhone 6, and it’s been beefed up to work with other compatible apps in order to keep your information safe. That means you can unlock a bunch of apps just with your fingerprint.

Apps like Keeper, 1Password and Dashlane for your passwords, Day One for your journaling, Amazon and 2Do for to-do lists all work with TouchID now.

Apple assures us that the information is still kept inside the A8 processor’s secure enclave, meaning it’s not actually shared with either Cupertino or third-party manufacturers for safety purposes.

More apps need to have fingerprint unlock capabilities as far as I’m concerned. Right now the list is pretty small, but it will likely grow over time.

You can still only store around 5 fingerprints on the iPhone 6 which is a bit annoying for those who are properly paranoid about security, but the good thing is that it works faster than ever. Just tap, and go!


Software

iOS 8

Everything you thought could be better about iOS 7? Yeah, that’s fixed and some in iOS 8.

It might look like exactly the same OS as before, but iOS 8 is tweaked and tuned for the perfect user experience. Existing iOS users will love it, returning iOS users will be blown away by it, and users on other platforms who play with it might just be tempted back over by how easy everything is.

The Photos app has been overhauled, and images have been split up into new albums. Recently Added stores all the photos you’ve grabbed, while individual camera functions like Panorama, Video and Time Lapse are all stashed off in their own folders. The Photos app also now allows you to hide particular photos by long-pressing on it. Alternatively, you can actually Favourite photos now, which stores them in their own special album. While we’re on photos, it’s also worth noting that the Camera app itself now allows you to set a self-timer, capture Burst Mode Selfies and capture Time Lapse video.

Apple’s Handoff feature, first demonstrated at WWDC as a way to switch seamlessly between your Mac and your iPhone or iPad has come to iOS 8 early, meaning you can be notified of stuff like phone calls on your other devices. I’m reviewing the iPhone 6 and the 6 Plus at the moment, and everytime one rings, the other tells me about it and gives me the option of answering the call on the separate device. It’s baffling, but awesome. That feature extends to iPads too.

Multitasking View now shows you a list of recent contacts as well as your recent apps, as well as a list of your Favourite Contacts to make getting in touch with everyone easier.

Siri got an upgrade, and among other things she can now tell you the music that’s playing a la Shazam. Just ask her “What Song Is Playing?” and voila, she'll tell you while also pointing to a buy link on the iTunes Store. Unlike Shazam, she won't give you deep links into your streaming services like Spotify or Rdio, nor from the looks of things will she remember it in a list format you can access later.

Apple has made a few changes to Notification Center in iOS 8 to make it easier to use. You can do a few new things, including tune the Today view so that it shows you only the information you find relevant to you.

The Notification Center also allows you to respond inside the Notification window to things like messages. Yes, it’s something Android and BlackBerry have both had for a while, but it’s on iOS now and users who have been here a while will like that.

The only weird thing I’ve noticed about iOS 8 on the iPhone 6 so far is the inability to take a screenshot as easily as you once could It used to be a matter of tapping the Home and Power keys at once, but iOS 8 requires the keys to be held down for a period of time before it will realise you want to capture a screenshot. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how to change that.

Apps And Scaling

During our testing, we found that the iPhone 6 Plus had a bit of a problem with scaling.

A little while ago, around the time the Retina iPad Mini was released, Apple worked out how to use Retina assets in an app to upscale and shine up iPhone apps so they worked well at 2x magnification on the tablet. Now that the 5.5-inch iPhone is here, Apple is doing something similar, scaling up the iPhone apps to work on a larger screen for developers that haven’t taken advantage of the specific setting that allows apps to interact with the iPhone 6 Plus differently.

It should work great, but unfortunately, a few third-party apps aren’t coping well with the scaling change, with the animations looking jagged and stuttery, while graphics look blown up to the point of losing sharpness.

Thankfully, because the scaling isn't as severe on the 4.7-inch phone (as opposed to the 5.5-inch model), the scaling issues are nowhere near as bad. There are still a few frame issues here and there, as well as a low-res texture every so often, but it's very manageable.

Apple Pay

Apple triumphantly announced its NFC-based payment system, Apple Pay, at the iPhone 6 reveal, and as expected, it’s not in Australia as of yet.

It’s meant to work by storing your cards inside the Passbook and allowing you to swipe your phone at a contactless terminal to pay for goods and services. Our Amerifriends will be using that soon, but we’ll have to wait an undefined amount of time to get it for ourselves. Which is disappointing.

Marks off for that.

What's Good?

The iPhone 6 feels like what the iPhone was always meant to be: not too big, not too teensy. Just right. It's the perfect fit between an entry-level smartphone and a massive phablet. Plus, the new trim design means that it's a joy to have both in your pocket (where it fits perfectly), and in your hand.

As on the iPhone 6 Plus, the camera is freaking amazing, and the 8-megapixel sensor overhaul on the 6 and 6 Plus cameras (for me at least) solidifies the phone as the camera of choice for all-purpose mobile shooting.

Using it is also a pleasure: iOS 8 (despite a few scaling glitches), is a fantastic experience that I’m still not tired of after years of being an iOS user as my daily driver. There are also a bunch of new experimental features that I’m sure I’ll employ over the next few months, with sending voice messages, Siri’s new Shazam-like functionality, getting out of group chats and seeing what’s eating my battery being top of my list for favourite new features.

What's Bad?

Let's face it, when choosing a smartphone, people will comparison shop to get the most for their money.

In a world where everyone looks at the spec sheet of their smartphone before actually getting their hands on and using it, some may see the numbers on the iPhone 6 and automatically pass it by in favour of something that looks better on paper.

While it's common sense to do this, you shouldn't be swayed into thinking that more of something immediately makes it better.

As we found with the iPhone 6, just because it has a dual-core as opposed to a quad- or octa-core processor; 1GB of RAM as opposed to 3GB and up, or an 8-megapixel camera as opposed to a 16- or a 41-megapixel doesn't mean that it's any less capable.

In fact, some of these features are actually better on the iPhone 6 with lower stats than they are on more generously endowed smartphones from Samsung, LG and HTC. It's hard to explain, but sometimes less is more, especially with Apple. Apple is really going to need to tell people about that so they don't immediately overlook it.

Price

Apple will be selling the iPhone 6 in gold, silver and space grey. Prices start at $869 for the 16GB model, $999 for the 64GB model and $1129 for the 128GB model.

It's also on offer from carriers including Telstra, Vodafone, Optus and Virgin Mobile.

It's safe to assume that if you want the absolute lowest price for your iPhone 6, you'll be looking at the 16GB model on entry-level plans. That means you won't get a huge amount of storage on your phone, nor will you get generous inclusions.

Let's run through the carriers:

Telstra

The 16GB iPhone 6 will run you a minimum of $77 per month on Telstra.

That consists of the $55 Mobile Accelerate Plan which includes $550 worth of calls, 500MB of data over 24 months. That means the phone itself will cost an extra $22 per month on a 24-month contract.


Optus

The 16GB iPhone 6 will run you a minimum of $60 per month on Optus.

That consists of the $35 MyPlan which includes 300 standard minutes of calls, unlimited SMS and MMS, and 500MB of data over 24 months. That means the phone itself will cost an extra $25 per month on a 24-month contract.


Vodafone

The 16GB iPhone 6 will run you a minimum of $74 per month on Vodafone.

That consists of the $70 Red Plan which includes Infinite standard national calls and texts and international texts plus 300 international minutes, and 3GB of data over 24 months. That means the phone itself will cost an extra $4 per month on a 24-month contract.

(Vodafone does offer Red Plans at lower than $70 per month, but from what we've seen they don't trigger the phone inclusions.)


Virgin

The 16GB iPhone 6 will run you a minimum of $55 per month on Virgin.

That consists of the $30 plan which includes $300 of standard calls and texts and 300MB included over 24 months (a special iPhone launch offer will see you get an extra 2GB of bonus data when you switch networks). That means the phone itself will cost an extra $25 per month on a 24-month contract.


Should You Buy It?

iPhone 6

Price: from $869

Like
  • Incredibly polished device.
  • Great all-purpose mobile camera.
  • iOS 8 is fantastic.
Don't Like
  • Some specs aren't as high as they should be.
  • Some features don’t work in Australia yet.
  • Expensive.

If you thought that the iPhone 5s was disappointingly small when it was announced, your frown will immediately be turned upside down when you get the iPhone 6 in your hand.

It's thin, light, gorgeous and will meet your needs for a mid-sized handset.

It's definitely built to the level of quality we've come to expect from an Apple product from both a hardware and software design standpoint, and straddles the pleasant middle-ground between the iPhone 5s (which is still on sale) and the phablet-sized iPhone 6 Plus.

If you're one of the folks concerned that the iPhone 6 just isn't as powerful as it should be, but still want to get on board the iPhone's hype train, check out the iPhone 6 Plus for a bit of extra grunt where it counts.

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