Tech specs Price: $1,148 (16GB), $1,288 (64GB), $1,448 (128GB); all without contract Processor: A8 chip with 64-bit architecture, M8 motion co-processor Operating system: iOS 8 Screen: 5.5-inch Retina HD display; 1,920 x 1,080 pixels Camera: 8-megapixel rear camera, 1.2-megapixel front camera Weight: 172g
Many probably did not see an Apple phablet coming, especially given Steve Jobs' very public disdain for big displays on smartphones. Apple's late great co-founder famously said of big smartphones: "No one's going to buy that."
But Steve is gone. And now there's the iPhone 6 Plus.
The Plus has the same Retina HD display as its sibling, only substantially bigger at 5.5 inches with a full high-definition (HD) resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 pixels. This gives it a pixel density of 401 pixels per inch (ppi), the highest ever in an iPhone.
Both displays use the same technology that is supposed to give you a better viewing experience, with deeper blacks and sharper text. Dual-domain pixels ensure colour accuracy from corner to corner for a wider viewing angle, while an improved built-in polariser lets you see the screen more clearly when you are outdoors in sunlight.
Because the Plus has a bigger screen, its display looks brighter and sharper even though it has the same brightness level and only marginally higher pixel density than the iPhone 6. Photos and videos all look much better on this display than on the iPhone 6.
As with the iPhone 6's display, there is minimal colour or brightness shift when I view the display from the side. The display is clearly readable even in bright sunlight.
Just as in an iPad, the icons in the Home screen will flip around to display in landscape mode, when you turn the iPhone 6 Plus sideways. In addition, in apps such as Messages and Mail, the display will show two panels: one, a list of messages; and the other, the selected message. For those who want to be able to see the list while reading a message, this ability will be invaluable.
In terms of design, it's goodbye to the flat sides and chamfered edges of the iPhone 5/5s. In the Plus, the front glass panel curves around the edges for a totally smooth and seamless meeting with the rounded edges of the anodised aluminium shell, a perfect union of glass and metal.
The rear sheds the two-colour tone of its predecessors for a more uniform colour. Only the antenna band is slightly different in colour.
The Sleep/Wake button has migrated from the top to the right side of the device, for easier access with your right thumb. The volume buttons, which were round in the iPhone 5s, are now elongated like those on the iPad Air.
The iPhone 6 Plus is also thicker and heavier than the iPhone 6: 7.1 mm thick to 6.9 mm, and 172 g to 129g.
Still, even the bigger device, with its rounded edges, is comfortable to hold in your hand, and unless you hold the iPhone6 in one hand, and the Plus in the other, the additional weight is not obvious.
While the iPhone 6 Plus sits comfortably in the side pockets of my working and weekend pants, it is a tighter fit in jeans. If your jeans are fashionably skinny, you might have trouble extracting the iPhone 6 Plus from a pants pocket without standing up.
While it may not be as easy to use the iPhone 6 Plus with one hand, a feature that Apple termed Readability lets you move the screen down by double tapping the Home button.This comes in handy if you use the expanded screen space to add an extra row of icons.
Nevertheless, I think the iPhone 6 Plus is best operated with two hands. My fingers are not particularly long, so I found it hard to reach the Sleep/Wake button with my right thumb.
But it is a trade-off that I will willingly make to enjoy that bigger display.
The camera retained its 8-megapixel image sensor and True Tone dual-LED flash of its predecessor. Apple's decision not to add megapixels may be a good one, as more megapixels sometimes adds image noise to your pictures.
More importantly, the camera now uses focus pixels or phase detection autofocusing (AF) found in DSLR cameras. Unlike iPhone 6's digital image stabiliser, the iPhone 6 Plus' camera has optical image stabiliser for better prevention of camera shake.
I found the AF to be faster than both iPhone 5s and iPhone 6. This is especially so when shooting in dim conditions.
When shooting video, the intelligent AF is able to lock on to focus on the main subject instead of searching about for a focus.
Slow-mo video can now be shot at 240 frames per second (fps), instead of the iPhone 5s' 120fps. So, you can get more dramatic slow-motion videos.
Image quality is superior to earlier iterations but on a par with iPhone 6. Pictures are sharp and details crisp, even in the darker areas of the image.
With its optical image stabiliser, I found the videos shot with the iPhone 6 Plus to be more stable with less "jerkiness" than those shot with iPhone 6.
With an upgraded 64-bit A8 chip, the iPhone 6 Plus is a Speedy Gonzalez. Whether you are starting up apps, or switching tabs when browsing the Internet, everything just feels zippy and faster.
In the Geekbench 3 benchmark tests, which showed the iPhone 6 Plus to have a dual-core 1.39GHz ARM processor with 976MB of system memory, iPhone 6 Plus scored 1,621 (single-core) and 2,914 (multi-core). The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 scored 947 and 2,978 respectively.
In real life usage, it took only 8.9sec to load Infinity Blade III in iPhone 6 Plus, compared to 20sec on an iPhone 5s. The graphics of Infinity Blade III look fantastic with nice and clean textures of the characters and environment. Furthermore, with the bigger display, you can enjoy the visual feast to its fullest.
Playing games, such as Bioshock, Knights of the Old Republic or NBA 2K14, is also fast and quick with the larger display allowing more space for virtual movement buttons. However, the graphics of these games lack the nice textures of Infinity Blade III. These games probably need an update to fully utilise the power of A8 processor.
There is also a new M8 co-processor, which measures motion data from the built-in accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and a new barometer. So, sport apps can use this co-processor instead of the main A8 processor saving energy and valuable processor power. And now, with the new barometer, it can calculate how many flights of stairs you take.
With iPhone 6 Plus' 20 4G LTE bands, you can practically go anywhere in the world and be connected to 4G networks. Voice calls are also great with no drop in connections.
Apple did not specify the capacity of the battery, as usual. But it is supposed to provide 24hours of talk time on 3G and a standby time of up to 16 days, certainly longer than the iPhone 6.
At the end of a working day, the battery life showed 50 per cent, even with frequent viewing of Facebook or Twitter updates, checking of e-mail messages, and sending of Whatsapp messages. Much, as usual, depends on how you use yours.
In our intensive battery life test, it lasted 7hrs 35min looping a 720p video at full brightness and full volume, with Wi-Fi on. This is about an hour longer than the iPhone 5s and 40min longer than the iPhone 6.
The Plus is certainly more expensive than some flagship Android models. But the plasticky build of many Android smartphones, just does not come close to the build and pristine quality of the Plus.
Verdict: For those who want a bigger screen, deciding to buy the Apple iPhone 6 Plus is a no-brainer, especially so for those who are already committed to the Apple ecosystem. The Plus not only provides more screen real estate, the optical image stabiliser of its camera and its longer battery life make it a better choice for many. This is the best iPhone so far.
Rating Features: 5/5 Design: 5/5 Performance: 5/5 Battery life: 4/5 Value for money: 4/5 Overall: 4/5 (DL Editor's Choice)
This article was first published on September 17, 2014. Get a copy of Digital Life, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.