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iPhone 6 deep-dive review: A major new step in design and performance

Michael deAgonia | Oct. 2, 2014
Apple's latest smartphone offers great hardware, but like all current iPhones, has been hurt by annoying iOS 8 glitches.

And when you look again, there are other signs that the iPhone 6 is different. Besides the relocated power button, which is now on the left side of the device instead of at the top, the iPhone appears stretched compared to previous models. That's because it is: A necessary design tradeoff to accommodate the new larger screen size.

The new iPhone models feature what Apple is calling its Retina HD display: a fingerprint-resistant 326ppi screen with 1334 x 750 resolution, a 1400:1 contrast ratio and wider viewing angles. Marketing-speak aside, the display is impressive. As I noted in my initial look at the iPhone 6, there is a slight color shift when viewing the display off-center, but the colors retain a credible consistency from even extreme angles. Overall, images are sharp, clear and bright; so much so that I have the brightness dialed back more than I did with the iPhone 5S.

More impressive is the performance of the iPhone 6 display in direct sunlight: During a recent hike, I never had to shield the display from ambient or direct sunlight to read the screen. (DisplayMate, which creates tools for optimizing and testing displays, was also impressed.) As I said in my first look, the iPhone 6 doesn't have the most pixel-dense or largest screen out there, but what it does have won't bring in complaints from new owners. HD videos, photos and content look great on this phone, and that's really what matters for most.

But there are a couple of drawbacks to having the larger screen.

First, any applications that haven't been written to take advantage of the additional screen real estate appear slightly blurry, because the content is being scaled up to fit the screen. There's nothing you can do about this: If your apps are showing this behavior, you just have to wait for an update.

But there is another drawback for iPhone users unaccustomed to the larger displays, and this one is much harder to work with. At 5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27 in. and weighing 4.55 oz., the iPhone 6 is wider and taller than previous iPhones (for example, the iPhone 5S is 4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 in. and weighs 3.95 oz). As a result, I found the iPhone 6 just a little past my limits of comfortable one-handed operation, and I tended to shift my grip much more while operating it.

To try to compensate for this, Apple has implemented a feature it calls Reachability, which is activated by touching (not tapping) the iPhone's Home button twice. Doing so slides the top-most onscreen interface elements closer to the center of the screen, within thumb-tapping distance for most people. It's true that Reachability adds an extra step, but if one-handed operation is important to you, this feature will be, too.


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