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Apple iPhone 6 vs Apple iPhone 5s

Posted: , posted by John V.




We've asked for it, and Apple has delivered. Two iPhone generations ago, the iPhone 5 brought a modest bump in screen size, pushing the diagonal from 3.5" to 4.0". The same exact display area was kept by the 2013 flagship as well, the iPhone 5s. 4 inches were still doing the job well in most use cases, but being surrounded by a plethora of large-screen smartphones, many an iPhone user wished they could get in on the act. Well, now they can, as Apple has just launched the iPhone 6, and this time, Cupertino is introducing a significantly larger panel – one that measures 4.7 inches in diagonal.

The result? The iPhone 6 is considerably bigger than its predecessor, but that's the trade-off one has to make when they want a bigger, more immersive media experience. But larger screen size is far from being the only major enhancement introduced by Apple's latest and greatest. The iPhone 6 improves on the overall offering of the iPhone 5s by featuring a faster processor, better camera, more versatile networking, and mobile payment capabilities, among others. It's a substantial upgrade across the board, explaining why Apple is willing to call the iPhone 6 (and its even bigger variant, the 6 Plus) "the biggest advancements in iPhone history".

But even though the iPhone 6 is a big step forward, and one that we've been anticipating for a while, we know what many iPhone 5s users out there could be thinking right now: "My iPhone 5s still packs quite a punch, and even though the screen is relatively small by today's standards, is there really that much to gain in replacing my one-year-old device with this new model?" And we know those users will be absolutely right to ask that question. After all, the processor is faster, and the camera is better, but are they, and the rest of the enhancements brought by the iPhone 6, that much better, so as to make an upgrade from the 5s to the 6 a no-brainer? We'll look at all the essential components that constitute the user experience in these two smartphones, and try to come up with a clear view of just how much there is to gain in upgrading.


It's chamfered edges vs rounded corners in this 'old' vs 'new' design comparison

The iPhone 6 isn't just a bigger 5s, it brings a new design that changes how the phone looks and feels significantly. While the metal frame surrounding the 5s was flat and had these sharp edges, the one used by the iPhone 6 is rounded, giving the new phone rather different appearance and character. Also, gone are the small glass pieces that were present on the back side of the iPhone 5s. Instead, its successor goes for an all-metal back (a la HTC One), with some black antenna lines near the top and bottom ends ornamenting its look. This new design of the back is by no means bad, although most people don't seem to be in love with it. Meanwhile, the signature front appearance of the phone has been largely kept intact, with a new detail here being the slight curve of the front glass, adding to the overall rounded nature of the iPhone 6.

Aside from these visual differences, we're pleased to say that both handsets feel equally premium. Their exterior styles are pretty different, but both utilize some very high-quality materials in their construction, plus they are built in an extremely solid way that makes them feel like the exquisite and expensive products that they are.

So, the new iPhone is bigger. While the iPhone 5s sits well in most hand sizes (with the exception of extra-large ones), switching to an iPhone 6 may initially feel slightly inconvenient, especially if you haven't used a big smartphone before. The larger size is something that one quickly gets used to though, since the iPhone 6 and its 4.7” screen don't come off as overwhelmingly big. We could say that the new iPhone is extremely close to the sweet spot between screen size and overall dimensions. So, yeah, after just a few days, or maybe even hours, using the iPhone 6 will feel pretty natural, and not that much more uncomfortable, compared to its smaller predecessor. The razor-thin profile of the iPhone 6 definitely helps in this regard.

Button design has also changed in the iPhone 6. While the Touch ID-enabled home key remains the same, the volume keys no longer have the circular shape they have in the 5s, but are elongated instead. Additionally, the power button has moved from the top to the right hand side of the device, where it's easier to reach in a big phone.

Aside from that, both models have their 3.5 mm audio and Lightning ports situated on their bottom ends, so no changes in accessibility there. Meanwhile, the Nano SIM card slot also has the same positioning on both handsets – on the right hand side, and yes, both will require you to use a SIM card ejector tool, or a clip, in order to open it.

Overall, we can only say good things about the designs of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5s, as they are both beautiful and extremely premium. The appearance of Apple's last-year flagship is probably a bit stricter in comparison, as its shapes are sharper, and it avoids “design frivolities,” such as the iPhone 6's antenna lines or the protruding camera, but on the whole, these are still minor details to consider the iPhone 6's design any less premium than that of its predecessor.

To see the phones in real size or compare them with other models, visit our Visual Phone Size Comparison page.


From 4” to 4.7”: Apple manages to increase the size of its mobile displays without serious compromises in screen quality

Now, this is where the iPhone 6 shows that it's a radical departure from what Apple has been doing with the iPhone line thus far. Flaunting a sizable, 4.7” display, the iPhone 6 openly recognizes the fact that the general consumer has gotten ready for, and is expressing willingness to use a big screen on a mobile. Thankfully, though, Apple has also increased resolution along with size, so the new display will deliver exactly the same pixel density as before – 326 ppi. For the record, the iPhone 6 has a resolution of 750 x 1334 pixels, while the iPhone 5s' resolution is 640 x 1136 pixels. And, since the new, 750p resolution of the iPhone 6 crosses the 720p mark, this has allowed Apple to call the new screen “Retina HD display”.

Color balance of the iPhone 6 has barely changed. Color temperature is still hovering around the 7150 K mark, with the 6500 K considered the reference point. The contrast has been increased, though – it now stands at around 1:1500, compared to the 1:1000 of the previous model. Thankfully, maximum brightness has been slightly bumped to 600 nits. In comparison, the iPhone 5s peaked at about 580 nits, which is still great. However, the minimum brightness has been heightened a bit – from 5 nits in the 5s to 7 nits in the iPhone 6. This is still a good figure, though.

For those looking at the Delta E values (which stand for average 'color error'), those are ever so slightly higher on the iPhone 6, as you can see in the table below, but they are still considered in the safe zone.

At the end of the day, the larger display of the iPhone 6 makes things easier to look at, but it's also a bit harder to use with one hand. Apple has tried to address this issue with the Reachability feature, which brings the whole UI down upon a double-tap of the home button, and to some extent, this works, although it naturally isn't as easy and intuitive as simply using a smaller display.


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