Apple's most compelling new iPhones

Before the iPhone 6 became available, I thought I would wait for a year before upgrading from my iPhone 5S which was still going strong. I love the phone which easily slips into my jeans' pocket.

This was until I saw the iPhone 6 ten days after Apple unveiled it, and its bigger sibling, the iPhone 6 Plus, on Sept 9.

For years, I believed Nokia made the best phones, having visited its R&D activities in Helsinki and talked to its engineers. I've tested and used many of Nokia's phones. They are well-made and years of anthropological research helped it build devices that feel "warm" in your hands. It gives you confidence that the phone is trustworthy and not a toy.

That was what I felt when I first held the iPhone 6 in my hand.

First, the technical specs.

Both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are LTE Category 4 devices, which means that they support data download rates of up to 150Mb/s. The same A8 processor powers the phones with 1GB of RAM and M8 motion co-processor underneath, along with Apple's TouchID sensor. Developers can now use the TouchID under iOS 8 to build their own features.

The phones come with a choice of 16GB, 64 GB or 128GB of storage and in gold, space grey or black. They are equipped with the Apple Pay payment system which I think will not reach Singapore anytime soon.

Cameras on both phones have been upgraded. They have improved sensors and better noise reduction. There is a new "Focus Pixel" technology which improves the phone's ability to select autofocus points.

It has retina HD display which can play 720p high-definition video. Text, photos and videos appeared clear, sharp and vivid. The iPhone 6 Plus offers a huge 1080p display which offers brilliant images.

For videos, there is a 240fps slo-mo option. The front camera has also been upgraded with a f/2.2 aperture which lets in more light and new burst mode capabilities.

The phone is well-made. The aluminium and the glass meet seamlessly. There are no gaps between the two surfaces.

The iPhone 6 is also thinner at 6.9mm. It has curved edges instead of sharp ones and has a 4.7-inch screen diagonally. The display area has increased by 38 per cent compared to the iPhone 5S. Overall, the new phone is just 22 per cent larger than its predecessor.

The jumbo sibling has a 5.5-inch display. Here Apple is joining competitors such as Samsung and LG who have had 5-inch and bigger screens for a while.

Despite the larger screen, all my apps - by Apple and third parties - on both phones worked. None looked distorted or blurry.

Apple has paid attention to the details. For example, the camera. It protrudes about 1 mm but has a steel rim and a sapphire glass cover which protects the camera from damage and scratch. This is a smart move.

The on/off switch has been moved from the top to the side. It is now easier to use the phone one-handed. I like the Reachability feature which helps users access the apps at the top of the screen. Just double tap the home button to move the screen half-way down for quick access.

In terms of battery life, this is the best iPhone yet. On day one, I made phone calls, text messages, chatted, took photos and images, checked email and read documents. I still had about 60 per cent of battery by bed time.

On day three with a full charge, I watched a couple of TV episodes for 90 minutes and a full-length movie. I still had about 20 per cent to go by the end of the day. Users can leave their power packs behind with the new iPhones.

There are two features I like.

If you have been complaining that the text on the previous iPhone was too small, then you must use Zoom mode on the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. With Zoom, all content - including text and images - gets larger. In Standard, you get the regular font. This is a great feature for Singapore's aging population.

Another useful feature is predictive text which now comes with the soft keyboard. It quickly predicts what your next word might be, and makes fewer errors. You can also substitute third-party keyboards.

iPhone 6 Plus

Apple has made this jumbo phone stand out from all the other phones with big screens. When I first saw it, it looked desirable and not bulky at all. At 7.1 mm, the thinness disguises its larger size, making it look smaller than other similar sized or bigger phones.

The 6 Plus has three major differentiating factors: optical image stabilization for the camera, better battery life and a landscape mode that displays more content on the screen.

The optical image stabilization is great. If you are taking a night shot and have to hold the phone for a few seconds more, you hand may shake before the shutter clicks. Optical image stabilization automatically corrects this, ensuring that the photos you take are sharp.

After a 5km run in the Botanic Gardens, I whipped out the phone to capture the nice flowers there. Even though my hands were shaking from fatigue, the photos turned out sharp and brilliant.

In terms of battery life, it sailed through two days of phone calls, text and watching video and still had a bit more left over. Apple has packed more batteries in a larger format.

In landscape mode, when I held the phone horizontally and opened Messages, my recent messages are listed on the left and the dialogue box on the right. Same with Mail. And the virtual keyboard shows extra keys. I like this.

Conclusion

The hardware is unparalleled. The two new iPhones are the most compelling smartphones I've ever seen and used.

If you are deciding on which one to buy, the iPhone 6 is good for everyday use and has more space to fit your apps and read email. The bigger iPhone 6 Plus is very good for video watching because you get all the advantages of a big screen phone- for reading, watching videos, playing games, and viewing images.

As for "bendgate", after a week moving around in my bag and pockets, the iPhone 6 Plus is still flat. So unless you purposely sit on it, it will not bend.

But there are downsides to the two phones. The iPhone 6 does not fit entirely into the (front) pockets of my jeans. It sticks out. Certainly, it will not fit easily into a shirt pocket.

There is no way the 6 Plus can fit into pockets. And it certainly can't be used with one hand unless you are basketball player Shaq O'Neal who stands at 2.16m tall.

However, once you turn it to landscape mode to navigate and type with both hands, it is not so daunting to use. Many people are already using phones with large displays, so the jumbo iPhone will find acceptance by users who want larger displays for reading and watching videos.

The Reachability feature does make the 6 Plus more manageable. However, it is still troublesome to double tap everytime you want to access an app in the top three rows.

Another consideration for users: the new iPhones are slippery due to the brushed metal, curved edges and larger sizes of the two phones. It'd be better to have a case for them. Apple has come up with silicon and leather cases which give a better grip.

I use the iPhone 6 because it is a sleek, powerful phone. But I admire its bigger sibling's photo taking capabilities. Maybe Apple will upgrade the camera on the iPhone 6S next year.

Grace Chng is a senior correspondent with The Straits Times. She has been an Apple Macintosh user for more than 20 years and an iPhone user since it was released in 2007.

VIDEOS TO WATCH

SERVICES