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Hands-on: New iPhones pack big features in thin package

Dan Moren | Sept. 10, 2014
The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are the biggest iPhones Apple's ever made. Dan Moren goes hands on with the newest smartphones on the block.

Few announcements summon as much attention as a brand new iPhone, and this year, for the second time in as many years, Apple gave us two models of its smartphone to pore over. I got my mitts on the newest mobile devices in the hands-on area after Tuesday's event, and here are a few first impressions about the latest entries in Apple's mobile-handset line.

Size matters not
When you first glance at the new iPhones, it's the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus that draws the eye, because it is-at least at first glance-comically large. It's far, far bigger than any iPhone we've seen to date; it looks to me more like a small iPad mini than a large iPhone. The 5.5-inch Retina HD Display (as Apple has termed the new screen) is absolutely gorgeous, as you might expect, and looks almost painted on. Every app I launched looked gorgeous; if there were any apps not yet recoded to take advantage of the iPhone's larger sizes, they were not immediately apparent.

iPhone 6
SERENITY CALDWELL. The two models are noticeably larger than the old iPhone 5s, the 6 Plus markedly so.

Picking one up, the iPhone 6 Plus fills your hand: It's not uncomfortable to hold, by any means, but folks with smaller grips may find it difficult to use one-handed. As with every iPhone I've ever handled, the build quality was excellent. The buttons and switches were firm and responsive, with a satisfying click from the Ring/Silent switch. With its curved aluminum edges and all-metal back, it actually brings to mind the original iPhone. Even the glass screen has a slight curve at the edges, which feels pleasant against your hand in a way that the sharp edges of the iPhone 4 and 5 (iPhone 5c excluded) series never quite did.

In a big change, the Sleep/Wake button is now on the right side of the phone, making it easier to hit without adjusting your grip or resorting to a second hand. That leaves the top of the phone wholly unadorned with controls or ports of any kind.

Picking up the iPhone 6's 4.7-inch frame after handling the iPhone 6 Plus is like coming home, even though it's noticeably larger than the current iPhone 5s. But it's all about frame of reference. For example, when my 40-inch HDTV broke down last month, I originally considered a 42- or 46-inch model, but ended up ultimately going to a 55-inch screen. While it looked might have looked huge in comparison to my old 40-inch model, on its own, it certainly doesn't feel too large.

In other respects, the iPhone 6 is almost identical to the 6 Plus, right down to the placement of the buttons, ports, and so on. Outwardly, the only difference is their sizes-and in some ways, they're not that different.

 

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