Living with the Apple iPhone 6: design, display, and something more (week 1)

This article may contain personal views and opinion from the author.

It’s been nearly four months since Apple released the iPhone 6 in September, and in the meantime one thing has become abundantly clear: the new iPhone is breaking sales records and is extremely well received. After the initial lines and short supply, the iPhone 6 is finally well-stocked and available for everyone to buy. What this means is that it is about time for a long-term review of Apple’s dearest. 

I have been using the phone off-and-on for months now, but this time around I'm dedicating myself to four weeks of intense exploration of its hidden avenues. It's above all a personal journey: I have been put off by Apple's decision to stick with small screens prior to the iPhone 6, and in the past couple of years, my list of daily drivers consists of Android devices solely. A larger iPhone, however, calls for a deeper look back at Apple's ecosystem. I’ll be giving you weekly updates on my journey, and finish this off with a more conclusive long-term review of the iPhone 6.

First, though, I had to decide where I should start my journey with Apple's latest. After giving it a quick consideration, I have settled on the outwards appearance of the iPhone 6 as the perfect place to start. After all, whether you buy a phone or not depends a lot on what you feel the first time you pick it up. Design is also an argument used against iPhone rivals, so it was indeed an interesting place to start. Plus, this was one of the reasons why hundreds of people line up in front of Apple Stores all across the globe. As I started going on this journey, I was also plain curious: will I fall under Apple's reality distortion field? Let's find out.

Design can make or break a product


Understanding why Apple has reached its success is a complicated question, but I felt that the distinct design of the company’s products plays a big part. But also important is the scant amount of new products that the company offers, and its ability to focus on just a few products, and iterate on them until greater perfection. 

The iPhone 6 is a result of the strict focus and design discipline that Apple has imposed on itself throughout the years. After spending a few months with Apple’s iPhone 6 darling, I can say that this new design has withstood the test of time and comes out as being very practical and good-looking at the same time. It is a combination of different factors that intertwine in that one feeling of premium experience with the iPhone 6: the thinness of the phone makes it stand out among all current flagships (only the Sony Xperia Z3 comes close to the slim profile, all else seem terribly chubby in comparison), the color options and the extremely stylish gold version in particular make it very desirable to people of different walks in life, and it's important to note that this appeal is clearly a decisive factor and a critical advantage for the iPhone over its rivals. Apple’s reality distortion field is said to funny effects on people, but I can't say this widespread admiration is unjust: every time I pick up the iPhone 6 after using most any other phone, I felt wowed by the thinness and the sturdy design. I've felt in a similar way about few other devices in the past: the HTC One S was one such phone, and in most recent years, the HTC One (M8) has taken a special place in my heart also, but it's a place reserved for few phones, and the iPhone 6 seems to have found it. This appeal grows on you over time: one also appreciates all the little details - the well-crafted and responsive volume buttons, the presence of the useful mute switch, the lock key that is positioned conveniently right next to your thumb.

I've also found the aluminum of the iPhone 6’s back not as prone to scratches as on the 5s and earlier 5. I'd still prefer carrying the phone with an ultra-slim case when I know I'll be on the run and I am afraid it might slip out of my pocket, but I did find myself poaching it out of its case not once to have a more direct contact and appreciate its thinness. In those cases, I made sure I placed it in a pocket where it won’t mingle with keys and other pocket lint. After my first week of intense use, the iPhone 6 still looks pristine, with not a single scratch.

My experience has also shown that after months of use I've found no practical consequences from the iPhone 6’s camera bulging out. The attention this issue has gotten is understandable and fair given that in the past, we (and others) have critiqued Nokia for the terrible camera hump of the Lumia 1020 (which is in fact multiple times larger and sticks out in a much more visually offending way) and the Galaxy S5 and Note 4 for the same. Yet, my experience shows that this is more of a tableside tease that tech-involved people bring up rather than a real-life problem.


Display: the underdeserved hype around resolution, and the overlooked importance of color accuracy


Apple is often associated with pushing state-of-the-art technology before everyone else: the company was the first with high-resolution displays on the iPhone 4, iPad with Retina display, iMac; it has killed the CD in favor of the more advanced USB flash drive in the Macbook Air; it has done away with the physical keyboard on smartphones.

Yet, not so many people talk about Apple’s ability to withstand pressure and stand its ground in NOT introducing features that it considers of little value. Lately, smartphone makers have gone on a wild race to increase the resolution of smartphone displays: we saw 720p, then 1080p, then quickly another jump to Quad HD (1440 x 2560 pixels), while Apple - puzzlingly for some - sticks with a 4.7” display with a resolution of 750 x 1334 pixels. The average spec-counting crows (and those individuals tend to be very vocal) are quick to summon hell and high water on Apple for such allegedly short-sighted decision that seemingly puts the iPhone in the stone edge of technology. The truth, however, is more complicated than that, as mathematical analysis shows that the human eye finds very little visible difference between resolution going over pixel densities of 320ish ppi (the iPhone 6 has 326ppi). My personal experience is that there is close to zero practical consequences from this comparatively lower resolution, and everything looks sharp enough - we could not see any pixelization on the screen.

At the same time, what gets much less attention - while at the same time being a factor with such huge variances with big significance for the quality of an image - is the color accuracy of displays. Apple's iPhone 6 display delivers very good color with none of the plaguing issues like ghosting that are typical of some AMOLED displays. Comparatively speaking, it is among the best smartphone displays in terms of color calibration. This does not mean it's perfect: being an avid night reader, I've found the level of minimum brightness on the iPhone 6 to be too bright, which makes for an uncomfortable, eye-strain-inducing experience. Also, color saturations are slightly off and the screen is just slightly bluish, whereas I would prefer seeing Apple stick closer to the industry standard color temperature with less of that cold tonality.

It's also important to say a couple of words about the curved glass that is a worthy feature on its own. Apple is not unique in adopting this (the Galaxy Note 4, for instance, uses similarly curved glass at the edge of its screen), but with no frame to obstruct the curved edge, you can feel the actual usability benefits of the curved edge. Put simply, it's much easier now to perform the iOS-specific swipe gestures from the edge of the screen.


An ode to the physical button


It's remarkable how Apple has managed to keep the continuity in the iPhone design. The only thing that has changed in some 8 years is the position of the lock key - from its up-top position to the right. Everything else remains positioned in pretty much the same way, including the most visible birthmark of the iPhone: its round home key.

This simple mechanical element deserves a special chapter in this article for a simple reason: both Google and Microsoft have decided to do away with physical, tactile elements in favor of virtual navigation buttons. However, there is a very strong case to be made for the physical, tactile button.

To smartphone newcomers (strange as it is, they do still exist, and I've had a personal encounter with some of them, my parents) the physical home key is a true life saver: it's - reassuringly - always there, and you just press it to go back to safety after wandering into some obscure menu.

It's more than that, of course: it makes communication with Siri possible without having to ever look at the screen (call us crazy, but we think that’s one of the core ideas of having a voice assistant), while on both Android and Windows Phone, one needs to look and interact with the phone for even the simplest voice command. I find a great deal of tranquility in being able to dictate a late-night message or set an alarm without having to break the comfort of the night’s meditative darkness. Naturally, I'm not trying to argue that this is something that all users would need, but it's just a nice feature missing on other platforms.

Let's not forget that the tactile, physical key is the home to the fingerprint scanner, the single invention that has made your smartphone safe from nosy strangers and acquaintances. Having this peace of mind is crucial - after all, we have so many photos, emails, Facebook messages, and what not, that we can imagine that having others look through them could be devastating to that fragile feeling of personal space. Naturally, the fingerprint scanner is also a good weapon against thieves, plenty of reasons to make it a must-see on my smartphone checklist.

Stay tuned for part 2 of our ‘Living with the Apple iPhone 6’ series, where we pay closer attention to the iOS interface and what sets it apart from Android and Windows Phone.


Related phones

iPhone 6
  • Display 4.7" 750 x 1334 pixels
  • Camera 8 MP / 1.2 MP front
  • Processor Apple A8, Dual-core, 1400 MHz
  • Storage 128 GB
  • Battery 1810 mAh(14h 3G talk time)

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88 Comments

1. Supraman21

Posts: 467; Member since: Jun 09, 2010

I'm sorry but pixelization on a 720p screen at 4.7 inches is very visible. Seeing my old HTC One M7 next to my friends 6 was night and day. I don't understand how you can even say that the 6 looks better than the M8 but looks are definitely subjective.

3. Victor.H

Posts: 1062; Member since: May 27, 2011

I've actually never said that the iPhone 6 looks better than the M8. What I did imply, though, is that I cannot notice much of a difference in sharpness between a 720p-ish 4.7" screen and a 5"-ish one unless I'm pixel peeping and comparing the two side by side and from a 2" distance. Put simpler, in daily use, I can't see any jagged pixels and I feel perfectly comfortable with the sharpness of a 720p 4.7" display (but yes, looks are subjective). Call me crazy, but I also don't see any point in Quad HD displays on smartphones.

6. Supraman21

Posts: 467; Member since: Jun 09, 2010

Ah I didnt read your line about the design correctly, my bad. I definitely agree with you on the subject of Quad HD. I currently own a G3 and I saw little to no difference between sharpness between that phone and the M7. With my usage I only get about a half hour more of screen on time compared to the M7.

21. maherk

Posts: 6877; Member since: Feb 10, 2012

But aren't you the same guys that always criticize Android phones with 720p resolutions? And wasn't one of your fellow writers that find a way to stuff some criticism into the Note Edge's display while you are glorifying the iPhone's one, when in reality, experts have came up with the verdict, and the Note's panel was voted as the best screen for a smartphone ever? I am not saying that the iPhone 6's display is bad, matter of fact i don't have any problem with it, but what i am pointing at, is that MAYBE your site needs a bit more consistency when talking about an Android phone versus when you review an Apple product. P.s: it's not just about the screen, 16gb is fine for an iPhone and not for an Android phone, 8mp is great vs 13mp is meh, mono speakers is ok for an Apple product but a big no no on an Android phone, bezels aren't an issue on the design of an iPhone when they are ugly on the others. Again, i am sure i am not the only one in here who is asking for a little bit of consistency when reviewing an iPhone vs the rest.

23. zacsaturday

Posts: 262; Member since: May 09, 2014

Well said.

59. Victor.H

Posts: 1062; Member since: May 27, 2011

The question you should be asking yourself is who are those experts, and I'll leave it at that. Let me also point out that we have display benchmarks that are performed under carefully controlled and identical conditions for all devices, and I encourage you to take a closer look at them. And yes, this article is different from the typical on PhoneArena. It's an editorial, hence written in the first person, hence it is my and only my opinion (and opinions do vary at PhoneArena, but for regular articles we do our best to be consistent). Anyway, I appreciate you asking for more consistency, it's something we're striving for. Still, what you fail to even touch on about the display issue is the fact that not all 720p displays are created equal. There's OLED, and there's LCD, there's Pentile, and there's RGB, there are ups and downs (for sharpness, OLED's PenTile is clearly a compromise). My point being that saying 1080p and leaving it at that, without specifying the technology and all the little variables, does little to explain the quality (even just the sharpness) of a display.

60. BobbyBuster

Posts: 854; Member since: Jan 13, 2015

Very often in Androscape, compromises are sold as "optimizations" or even "innovations": Pentile sucks. Java sucks. nVidia K1 Denver's ARM emulations sucks. just to name a few.

81. trob6969

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 26, 2015

"Apple is often associated with pushing state-of-the-art technology before everyone else" WHAT?! You CAN'T be serious...and actually the current amoled pentile displays aren't compromising sharpness at all compared to lcd. Google 'Galaxy S5 vs LG G2 : life in the fast lane -page 3' then scroll down the webpage to the comparison image of the Galaxy S5 5.1" 1080p amoled pentile display and the LG G2 5.2" 1080p lcd. magnified under a microscope. Looking at both from arms-length distance your eyes actually notice the black background between the pixels on the lcd panel moreso than the pentile one because the pixel layout on the S5's is staggered, breaking up the space between pixels. Whereas the pixel layout on the G2's is lined up vertically and horizontally which lets the black background between the pixels run together, so the space between pixels stand out to your eye more. This means that the pentile display is actually percieved to be sharper to the eye.

68. seven7dust unregistered

The problem is Android phones compete only on a hardware stand point , they all run Android software one way or another, So you need to compare hardware , but iPhones don't , they run iO.S which is more optimised. {the O.S that revolutionsed the modern smartphone} So when talking about a Android phone you need to compare specs with other flagships as they exist on that platform. Due to iO.S optimisations a dual cores runs circles aroung octa cores of Android. a 8 MP camera is regarded as one of the best by hundreds of review sites and even users. Retina screen is one of the reasons iPhone gets such good batterylife even with a small battery and has the best color accuaracy and brightness levels and good enough PPI for the majority of users. The iPhone is praised due to these optimisations , look at how samsung is suffering now because they can't optimize their phones properly. Software matters a lot to a smartphone experience, not just specs , this is why Apple continues to rule the high end of the smartphone market they created back in 2007, cause others can't optimize thier phones properly.

82. trob6969

Posts: 3; Member since: Jan 26, 2015

Then why does the Galaxy Note 4 out perform iPhone 6+ in side by side 'real world' speed comparisons? I tried to post links to YouTube videos showing this but for some reason this site won't allow them.

86. Camikazi

Posts: 25; Member since: Dec 20, 2014

I'll give you the credit of the camera as one of the best on the smartphone world, but not the best. That's about it, battery mehh (the only iphone with a good battery life is the 6+, the rest of them suck at it) The 326 PPI myth has been debunk several times, it is nothing more than a sales tactic that Jobs used. The screen is good, but th Note 4 take the cake and the icing. And you are right Samsung is loosing ground, but not only to apple, to other smartphone as well, and itcis still the world leader. So in other words Apple is not ruling as you put it. As for this article, this is just the views of the writer, and his word is not absolute. In one part he mentioned how the back is less pronecto scratches than prev Iphones, but he forgot to mention is how slippery it is, so a case is mandatory. You mentioned the dual core of the iphone and how fast it is, and you are right itvis fast, it has more transitors per core than an intel I3, but on the other side of the coin, because of this limitation of minimal cores, apple has added separate cpu's to its units (m8 chip) to take loads off the main cpu, in other words thats another core outside the main CPU, and even with this, i cant match snapdrangon 805 in the real world.

22. gustavoace

Posts: 187; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

It's funny... You don't see the point in Quad HD displays, but you probably think that 5k iMac is awesome. Imagine a world where technology would follow what you (or anyone else) think that is enough.... we'd probably never met iphone in first place... I've been using a iPhone 6, coming from a Nexus 5.... And I miss android so much.. Lollipop eh better in almost every way (except for camera interfrace and photos...iOS solution is perfect)

69. seven7dust unregistered

5k iMac is different , After using the 5k display for a week I can't go back to using a regular 1080p screen. The combination of OSX and 5k is actually useful, even a simple thing like Email is so much easier to read and pictures look fantastic. Same can't be said about smartphones now can it. what use is a QHD on Android smartphone , other than sucking out batterylife and reducing performance. I was lucky enough to buy one on a EMI plan which is probably the only way to buy a iMac these days , Apple can't seem to price their computers properly. they seem to be slipping in their desktop pricing. they are too expensive for the mainstream.

45. kevin91202

Posts: 642; Member since: Jun 08, 2014

"Call me crazy, but I also don't see any point in Quad HD displays on smartphones." -Victor H. Yes. You are crazy. Your words, not mine. The same iFans said the same thing about HD. Now that an Apple (finally) has an HD screen, iFans (you) love to dismiss higher resolution screens. And when Apple releases a QHD screen (and they will), what will you say then?

83. piggerz_b_piggin

Posts: 18; Member since: Jan 08, 2015

Technically the iPhone 6 has the resolution of a 720p on a 4.5 inch screen, the ppi on a 4.7 is 312 and I think the 4.5 is 320

87. techinfo

Posts: 2; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

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88. techinfo

Posts: 2; Member since: Feb 02, 2015

“It's more than that, of course: it makes communication with Siri possible without having to ever look at the screen (call us crazy, but we think that’s one of the core ideas of having a voice assistant), while on both Android and Windows Phone, one needs to look and interact with the phone for even the simplest voice command." False. I will not speak about Windows Phone since I haven't been using my WP lately. But for Android I know this is already available. For some time you could easily communicate with Google Now. In fact, it's even easier than what you say it is for the iPhone and using the Home button. Unless plugged into a power source you can't use just your voice to activate Siri. Not so with some Android devices. The Note 4 for instance is able to be woke up with just your voice and access GN. Again, no looking needed and even easier than using a button

26. stealthd unregistered

Its not at all "very visible" unless you're holding the phone an inch in front your eyes. 720p to 1080p is not at all night and day. 1080p to 4K, or the jump in resolution when Apple went "retina" those are night and day jumps.

46. Supraman21

Posts: 467; Member since: Jun 09, 2010

But that's your opinion. I can see it. I'm sorry that you don't have very good eyes..actually I'm not sorry cause you don't need a phone with a high end screen. Lucky you :)

76. strudelz100

Posts: 646; Member since: Aug 20, 2014

My opinion is that stealthd is correct. Im sorry your opinion is in the minority. You don't fit in. But thats YOUR opinion and I respect that without talking down to others...... You also don't realize that the difference between 1080P and 720P is an hour of on screen time. 720P is both easier on the processor and the backlight (LCD).

31. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

What do u expect from a iPA site ? They only care bout SIDE VIEW ANGELS they don't care bout any other phone but their paper weight BENDGATE PHONE. Not a single iBLOG site can't say a bad thing bout their precious iBendgate phone.

75. strudelz100

Posts: 646; Member since: Aug 20, 2014

Wow my experience is exactly the opposite and thus cancels you out according to internet rulz.

2. Wiencon

Posts: 2278; Member since: Aug 06, 2014

I find iP6 very good smartphone but surprisingly not even close as good as 5S. Using 6 feels like using at least 200$ cheaper model, 5S is IMO best iPhone to date. Only battery could be better. Can't wait for 4" 6S.

4. TimCook

Posts: 450; Member since: Oct 23, 2014

iPhone Baby... Respect to the largest selling smartphone of all times...,

5. wilsong17 unregistered

Doesn't mean is any better than my note 4 fact

14. Ninetysix

Posts: 2964; Member since: Oct 08, 2012

18. Busyboy

Posts: 731; Member since: Jan 07, 2015

Ninetysix, either your a creep or have no life. I'll bet on both

33. g2a5b0e unregistered

No comment on you being wrong about the camera comparison, huh? I see.

32. darkkjedii

Posts: 31039; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

School em Ninteysix lol.

17. darkkjedii

Posts: 31039; Member since: Feb 05, 2011

Feel free to head on over to a Note 4 article.

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