iPhone 6 Review: It May Be Old, But It’s Still A Fine Phone

£539
Price when reviewed

The iPhone 6 generation may be more than five years old, but even as it has aged, there are a few reasons it’s still a great phone. At the time of writing, the newest iPhone available is the iPhone 11. That puts the iPhone 6 at several generations old, but it also means you can purchase the older models much cheaper than once before.

The device is available in the $100 range on Amazon compared to the iPhone 11 that costs around $699.

Whether you’re thinking about buying a low-cost iPhone, you really miss your headphone jack, or you’re just curious what the iPhone 6 looked and felt like the day it was released, we’ll cover that for you in this article.

The iPhone 6 – Good Old Days

When the iPhone 6 was announced in 2014, Apple advertised it as its first “big” phone. iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s smartphones are 4.7 inches while the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus are 5.5 inches, although at this point, the iPhone 11 Pro is 8.5 inches, and iPhone Pro Max is 6.5 inches. iPhone 6 series phones are pretty much consistent with the newer iPhones and can update to iOS 13, except for the iPhone 6. Only 6s and above can upgrade higher than iOS 12.

You can’t go wrong with an iPhone, and at such a low price compared to newer models, the iPhone 6 is a safe bet.

iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s smartphones are 4.7 inches while the iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus are 5.4 inches. The iPhone 11 Pro is 8.5 inches and Pro Max is 6.5 inches

The iPhone 6 Review

After years of mocking rivals for producing larger screens, and sticking to its pocket-sized principles, the iPhone 6 release was a shock. It introduced not one larger-screened model, but two: the iPhone 6 with a 4.7-inch screen and the iPhone 6 Plus with a 5.5-inch display.

Some say the manufacturer caved under pressure to produce the larger phone, but years later, we see this was a smart move on the company’s part.

Apple iPhone 6 review: Top half of front

Size and design

The iPhone 6, the smaller of the two phones, was the more popular option because it didn’t take iPhone 4 & 5 users too far in size. Previous models of the iPhone were incredibly boxy with straight edges and harsh sides. The iPhone 6 was Apple’s first attempt at a smoother more sleek design.

Apple iPhone 6 review: Bottom edge

If you were worried about the jump to iPhone 5S’ 4-inch diagonal screen size when it came out, you probably wonder what all the fuss is about with the iPhone 6. Yes, it’s taller, wider, and slightly heavier than its predecessor at 129g, but it’s far from unwieldy, even when slotted into one of Apple’s wraparound leather cases. The extra screen size means it’s easier to use in some respects, such as typing more accurately and using the iPhone 6 as a navigator in the car.

The sheer thinness of the handset makes it pretty comfortable to hold, too. It measures only 7.1mm from front to back, 0.5mm. In comparison to newer phones on the market today, it is much slimmer and easier to hold than other iPhones.

Apple iPhone 6 review: Camera hump close-up

As far as Apple’s flagship phones go, the iPhone 6 was the first in the line to have the power button on the side rather than the top. Essentially, this just made it much easier to use the phone with only hand which was a big deal in 2014.

Newer iPhones today have a Sleep/Wake button in place of a power button. This means that users need to hold the volume plus side button to power down their phone. If you’re using an iPhone 6 or even 6s, you can completely power down the phone by holding only one button.

Another big change between the iPhone 6 and today’s more current models is how you use the home button and Siri. Although the newer iPhone SE still has the home button, other models do not. To activate Siri on the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, all you need to do is hold the home button. Newer models lacking this functionality require users to hold the side button.

If we’re looking back at the release date, the iPhone 6 was also the first iPhone with a protruding camera. After years we’ve become used to the back camera lens preventing the phone from laying flat, but in 2014 users were concerned about possible damage to the lens or even the inability to slide it smoothly into their pockets. Fortunately, this wasn’t such a big issue that Apple couldn’t continue on with the larger cameras on the back.

Display

At the time of release, the sleek industrial design was accompanied by a swathe of upgrades to the hardware inside, but it’s the screen that made the most significant impact. With the increase in size, Apple boosted the iPhone 6’s resolution to 750 x 1,344, giving a pixel density of 327ppi (a mere fraction higher than the iPhone 5s’ 326ppi), and it looks pin-sharp.

Brightness, contrast, and color accuracy were also all exemplary for the time, with the iPhone reaching a maximum brightness of 585cd/m2, gaining an eye-popping 1,423:1 contrast ratio, a highly impressive color accuracy rating with a Delta E of 1.74, and sRGB coverage of 95%. That contrast ratio is particularly remarkable, and a significant improvement on the 5s’ 972:1, lending onscreen images a little more depth and dynamism.

Apple iPhone 6 review: At an angle

To put it in modern terms, the iPhone 11 screen resolution is much higher at 1792 by 828 pixels at 326 PPI. This is a vast difference between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 11. So, as miraculous as this screen was in 2014, it looks incredibly dull by today’s standards.

Performance

The iPhone 6, along with its big brother, sports a dual-core A8 CPU, with 1GB of RAM, upgraded graphics, and an M8 motion coprocessor (that’s the low-power chip designed to save energy by monitoring the phone’s sensors). There are models with 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB of storage (but, oddly, no 32GB model). Apple first introduced the barometer to the phone’s line-up of sensors for more accurate reporting of relative altitude and atmospheric pressure.

Anyone who is using an iPhone 6 today will notice a vast difference from when it was first released. Reviewers raved over the seamless experience and faster processor, but with today’s updates slowing down the phone’s RAM, you may notice some lags or glitches.

Apple iPhone 6 review: SIM card tray close-up

What the Original Reviewer Had to Say

Moving on to the slightly more demanding Peacekeeper benchmark, I saw a score of 2,533, which was way in front of every other smartphone we’ve tested. It’s the same story in Geekbench 3, with a single-core score of 1,631 that wipes the floor with everything else, and a multi-core score that’s only marginally beaten by the quad-core Qualcomm hardware in the Samsung Galaxy S5.

Given that the iPhone 6 has half the number of cores as the Samsung, it’s still a seriously impressive showing. And as for the GFXBench T-Rex HD gaming test, there’s simply no competition: the only phone capable of beating the iPhone 6’s 51fps is the iPhone 6 Plus, which averaged a silky smooth 53fps despite its higher-resolution Full HD screen.

Battery life

Perhaps more importantly, the battery life was also excellent at the time of release. The more efficient 20nm CPU certainly helped: playing a 720p video with flight mode on and the screen set to a brightness of 120cd/m2, the battery depleted at 7.5% per hour, while streaming audio continuously from our SoundCloud account over 3G with the screen off reduced capacity at 1.7% per hour.

With that being said, today’s models hold a battery life for much longer time periods while running much more complex processes and programs. Today, the iPhone 6 battery life isn’t expected to run nearly as long as it once did. Why? For starters, the phone no longer runs on a slower 3G speed, in most places you’ll get 4G LTE if not 5G. Next, the newer software updates (including those of applications) will pull much more battery life than they once did.

The good news? You can still get the Apple replaced at an Apple Store. Pricing may vary and you will be paying out-of-pocket for it, but it’s a great little phone with an updated battery.

What the Original Reviewer Said About Battery Life

Even in continuous use, though, the iPhone 6 is one of the longest-lasting phones out there. In just one morning, the battery dropped from 100% to only 84% within four hours of heavy testing. In that time, I streamed a podcast for 1hr 32mins, downloaded and installed the Facebook and Twitter apps, ran the Peacekeeper benchmark twice, and the SunSpider browser test once, received a short phone call, and replied to a handful of texts.

During this period, the display was on constantly. The iPhone 6 is a phone that easily gets you through a day and a half of moderate to light use, and if you’re careful, two full days is not beyond it.

Apple iPhone 6 review: On its side

As with most smartphones, this does depend on your usage, and one thing that hits battery life hard is gaming. In the GFXBench battery test, which loops a 3D OpenGL animation for around half an hour and estimates total runtime, the iPhone 6 achieved a total runtime of 2hrs 29mins. That’s an improvement over the iPhone 5s’ 1hr 52mins (impressive given how many more frames the phone is rendering). However, it still indicates that graphics-heavy gaming will lead to a significantly shorter period between charging sessions.

Apple added NFC (Near Field Communication) to the iPhone 6, which is used solely for the Apple Pay touch credit-card payment system – it isn’t used for Bluetooth pairing. It also uses the phone’s Touch ID fingerprint reader in conjunction with your credit card details to provide increased security.

What the Original Reviewer Had to Say

We’re much more interested in the move to 802.11ac from 802.11n. Connection speed reaches a maximum of 433Mbits/sec, so it’s a single stream. At close range, using the FileBrowser app to transfer a large movie file from shared NAS storage to the iPhone, I saw roughly twice the speed from the iPhone 6 over the 5s, with transfer rates hovering between 7.5MB/sec and 8.5MB/sec over 802.11ac compared to 6MB/sec and 7MB/sec for the 5s using 802.11n.

Cameras

The iPhone 6 will give you get an 8-megapixel 1/3in backside-illuminated CMOS sensor with 1.5-micron photo sites, and an aperture of f/2.2 – the same as the 5s. Apple’s True Tone flash accompanies it so that indoor shots don’t look washed out and ghostly.

The difference is that the camera now sports several phase-detect autofocus pixels on the sensor’s surface, which are similar to the Galaxy S5 high-end SLR cameras, enabling much faster autofocus.

Apple iPhone 6 review: Top half of rear panel

In practice, what this means is that the iPhone 6 will almost instantly transition from focusing on a subject that’s far away to one that’s close. The iPhone 5s would take a second or so. This feature isn’t a dramatic upgrade, but it makes a big difference with video: the highly effective digital stabilization and super-quick focusing combine to produce stunning Full HD video, with much less focus hunting.

The other major upgrade at the time was the optical image stabilization – available on the iPhone 6’s big brother, the iPhone 6 Plus. Even there, Apple is restricting its use to low-light conditions and stills. It isn’t used in video mode, presumably to save on battery life.

Its digital image stabilization remains excellent and produces smooth, shake-free videos. The only difference is that the iPhone 6’s improved processing engine tends to apply less aggressive noise-reduction settings, leading to slightly grainier but more detailed photos in low light.

Apple iPhone 6

The front-facing camera, or “selfie” camera as we’re encouraged to label it these days, also gains from a small improvement. Although resolution remains the same at 1.2 megapixels, the aperture is now a wide f/2.2, which lets in “81% more light”, and there’s also a burst mode to help capture your best side.

It produces more detailed, cleaner self-portraits in low light, but in brighter conditions, you’ll struggle to tell the difference between the iPhone 6 and the 5s.

To round things off, Apple added a handful of features to the camera front-end. Top of the list is a timelapse video feature, which produces top-quality sped-up footage, and there’s also an additional Slo-mo mode, which captures video at 240fps – twice the frame rate of the iPhone 5s. Keep in mind though, that newer models feature higher mega-pixel cameras with better software and multiple lenses.

Apple iOS 11 on the iPhone 6

Although Apple is no longer selling the iPhone 6 directly, the phone is still on the list for iOS updates. The iPhone 6 was released at launch with iOS 8, and it is now open for iOS 11. There is one caveat, of course, each iteration of iOS is designed to work with the latest hardware, so upgrading could cause your iPhone 6 to become sluggish.

Apple iPhone 6 review: Home button and fingerprint reader

iPhone 6: Verdict

The iPhone 6 is a pleasure to use. It’s smaller than many phones offered today, still has a headphone jack and a home button, and seems to work fairly well for light users.

Unfortunately, this model will likely soon become phased out. Not just the older hardware and newer software compatibility issues, this phone will begin to struggle with network connectivity as 5G becomes more prominent. As seen with the older 3G network which was eventually phased out, the iPhone 6 could become nothing more than a wifi-only iPod.

Fortunately, at the time of writing, Apple still offers repair on this model of phone. With a new battery, perhaps a new screen, and a new motherboard, you’re likely to see an improvement in productivity and usability.

If you’re in the market for a low-cost iPhone that still has a home button, consider the iPhone SE. Released in 2020, this model contains updated hardware, better software, and all at a low price.

The Competition – A Review from 2015

After reviewing the iPhone 6 as it was on release day, and how it operates in the market today, we’d like to explore some other phone options from the iPhone 6 era. Technology changes so quickly that some phones aren’t manufactured at all anymore while others are so severely out-of-date with newer models on the market they’d be difficult to come by.

If you’re here for research, or you’d love to know the history of your favorite 2014 smartphone, we’ve left the original reviews intact below.

Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge

Samsung Galaxy S6

If the iPhone 6 and the other alternatives above aren’t big enough for you, but you don’t want to leap over to the oversized iPhone 6 Plus, Samsung’s Galaxy S6 or S6 Edge may be the answer. They both have a slightly larger 5.1in display, but it’s still just about useable one-handed thanks to extremely narrow bezels on the S6 and no bezel on the S6 Edge.

Samsung has also taken a step up in terms of design from the Galaxy S5, with both the S6 and S6 Edge featuring a metal unibody and Gorilla Glass 4 on the front and back. They have lost the water and dust-resistant sealing of the S5, though, as well as the MicroSD slot and removable battery.

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge review - bottom end

What’s most impressive about the S6 and S6 Edge, though, is how good they are in terms of their overall performance. They’re the fastest Android phones we’ve tested. The cameras are fantastic, easily matching the iPhone 6 (and in some ways, beating it). Battery life is on par with Apple’s flagship as well.

Their qHD Super AMOLED displays, though, are what impressed me most when I tested them. They’re more color accurate, have better contrast, and are just as readable in bright sunlight as the iPhone 6 is.

In our view, Samsung’s new smartphones are the best smartphones on the market right now, both in design and performance. If you’re thinking of switching to Android, there’s no better time to do it.

Read the full Samsung Galaxy S6 review here.

Sony Xperia Z3 Compact

Another contender is the fabulous Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, our former A-List champion.

Best phones Xperia Z3

It’s another Android phone, but the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact is similar in size to the iPhone 6, rather than the Galaxy S6. Aside from the design (which is plastic-like), it matches in most departments. The screen is ever-so-slightly smaller, but it’s just as sharp, and the quality is fantastic. Battery life is superior to the iPhone 6, and the Z3 Compact also holds a couple of other key advantages: it has a microSD card slot for expanding on the base 16GB of storage, and it’s water and dust resistant.

As long as you keep its flaps shut, spilling a glass of wine or beer won’t cause any more drama than a wet pair of trousers.

What swings things to Sony Xperia Z3 Compact’s favor, however, is its price. At the time of writing, it was possible to pick one up, unlocked, for only £269 – half the cost of an iPhone 6 – with contract prices proving just as tempting.

Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Best phone Samsung Galaxy Alpha

Samsung’s second entry in this list is the Alpha, its first metal-framed smartphone. As well as squeezing high-end core components into a compact smartphone, the 4.7in Alpha also competes on the design front. Its soft rear panel and sculpted aluminum edges look the part, and it’s a quick, slick handset that’s packed with intelligent features, including a fingerprint reader and a heartrate monitor.

In terms of price, the Alpha is cheaper than the iPhone 6 but more expensive than the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact, and that puts it in a bit of an awkward place. The Samsung Galaxy Alpha remains a top-quality smartphone, and alongside the Motorola Moto X (2014), it’s among the best looking Android handsets we’ve reviewed. However, it lags behind the Sony Z3 in critical areas, including inferior battery life, no water-resistance, and no microSD card support.

Read the full Samsung Galaxy Alpha review here.

Motorola Moto X (2014)

Motorola Moto X+1

Another slightly larger alternative you might want to consider is the 2014 model Motorola Moto X. Now running the latest version of Android 5 Lollipop, the Motorola is a handset that will satisfy the most demanding of smartphone aesthetes, even someone used to using an iPhone.

Its luscious curves and customizable finishes, including wood and leather choices, put Apple’s gold, silver, and black designs to shame, and the phone itself is packed with well-thought-out extra features.

My favorites are the twist-of-the-wrist gesture used to launch the camera, and Motorola’s Active Display feature, which shows notifications on the lock screen in standby when you wave your hand over it.

Of course, being a modern, flagship handset means the Moto X isn’t shy when it comes to performance and core smartphone hardware, with a Full HD AMOLED display shackled to an Adreno 330 GPU and a 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC.

The Moto X’s battery life can’t quite match the iPhone 6’s, and neither does the camera. However, its a slightly different way of doing things, which means it’s certainly worth a look.

Details

Cheapest price on contract£255
Contract monthly charge£31.50
Contract period24 months
Contract providerwww.mobilephonesdirect.co.uk

Physical

Dimensions62.5 x 7.1 x 138mm (WDH)
Touchscreenyes

Core Specifications

RAM capacity1.00GB
Camera megapixel rating8.0mp
Front-facing camera?yes
Video capture?yes

Display

Screen size4.7in
Resolution750 x 1344
Landscape mode?yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth supportyes
Integrated GPSyes

Software

OS familyOther

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