With every launch of the iPhone, Apple seems to have everything to lose and not much to gain. Apple’s iPhone line accounts for the majority of profits in the smartphone space, and as the smartphone market marches towards maturity it seems inevitable that companies like Xiaomi will be able to deliver largely similar experiences at much lower prices. The same once happened with Apple in the days of the PC industry where Apple approached irrelevance. Yet generation after generation, Apple seems to be able to hold on to a majority of profit share, and they’ve managed to tenaciously hold on to their first-mover advantage.

This brings us to the iPhone 6. This is now the eighth generation of the iPhone, and the fifth generation of the iPhone’s industrial and material design. We should note right now that this review is specifically for the iPhone 6; for the iPhone 6 Plus, please see our iPhone 6 Plus companion review. At this point, it’s not really possible to revolutionize the smartphone, and on the surface, the iPhone 6 seems to be directly inspired by the iPod Touch. However, instead of the chamfered edge where the display meets the metal unibody we see a continuous curve from the sloping glass to the metal unibody that looks and feels great. While the M8 was one of the best phones for in-hand feel, the iPhone 6 goes a step further due to the reduced weight and rounded side. I've always felt like the HTC 8X had one of the most compelling shapes for a phone, and the incredibly thin feel of the iPhone 6 definitely reminds me of that.

Along the left side, we see the standard volume buttons and mute switch that continue to have the same solid feel and clean clicking action. As I discuss in the iPhone 6 Plus review, going by Consumer Reports' data it seems that there is a weak point near the bottom of the volume rocker, although it's far less likely to be an issue on the iPhone 6 due to its smaller size. Along the top, there isn’t a power button because it’s been moved to the right side of the phone so there’s nothing notable on the top.

On the right side, we see the previously mentioned power button and also the SIM tray, which is ejected by inserting a pin into the eject hole. Similarly to the volume buttons, the power button has a solid feel that gives a distinct click when triggered and continues to be quite unique when compared to phones other than recent iPhones.

The bottom has the Lightning connector, speaker, a microphone, and 3.5mm headset jack. The placement and design of all these elements are largely similar if not shared directly with the iPod Touch.

The back of the phone continues to share elements from the iPod Touch. The camera, microphone, and LED flash are almost identical in their appearance, even down to the camera hump’s design. The LED flash does look different to accommodate the second amber flash, but the shape is identical. The only real difference is that the antennas of the iPhone 6 are the metal pieces on the top and bottom, with the associated plastic lines instead of a plastic RF window.

The front of the phone is decidedly more similar to the iPhone 5s though, with the Touch ID home button. While the earpiece hasn’t moved, it seems that the front facing camera has been moved back to the left side of the earpiece, and the sensors for light and proximity are now above the earpiece. For the most part, there’s not much to comment on here but after using the iPhone 6 for an extended amount of time I’m definitely sure that the home button is relatively closer to the surface of the display glass than before. In addition, the home button has a dramatically improved feel, with short travel, clean actuation, and a reassuring click in most cases.

Overall, while I was undecided at the launch of the iPhone 6 I definitely think the look of the new iPhone has grown on me. The camera hump’s accent serves as an interesting design touch, and the feel of the design is definitely much more comfortable and ergonomic than before. I’m not really sure that the extra reduction in thickness was necessary, but it does make for a better first impression. In the launch article I was a bit surprised that Apple chose to have a camera hump but given the fact that the iPod Touch has the same design it seems that there is precedent for such a move. I personally feel that the design wouldn’t be worse by increasing thickness to eliminate the hump and improve battery life as a result.

Apple has also introduced a new silicone case, which brings a lower price point than the leather cases. Surprisingly, this is a rather high quality case, and as far as I can tell it doesn’t carry any of the issues that silicone cases traditionally have. There’s a nice lip to make sure that the display glass doesn’t touch a surface if the phone is put face down, and the material doesn’t seem to stretch or attract pocket lint the way most silicone cases do.

There’s definitely a lot more to talk about though, and to get a sense of the major differences I’ve put together our usual spec table below.

  Apple iPhone 5s Apple iPhone 6 Apple iPhone 6 Plus
SoC Apple A7 Apple A8 Apple A8
Display 4-inch 1136 x 640 LCD 4.7-inch 1334 x 750 LCD 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 LCD
WiFi 2.4/5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n, BT 4.0 2.4/5GHz 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, single stream, BT 4.0, NFC
Storage 16GB/32GB/64GB 16GB/64GB/128GB 16GB/64GB/128GB
I/O Lightning connector, 3.5mm headset
Size / Mass 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm, 112 grams 138.1 x 67 x 6.9 mm, 129 grams 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1 mm, 172 grams
Camera 8MP iSight with 1.5µm pixels Rear Facing + True Tone Flash
1.2MP f/2.4 Front Facing
8MP iSight with 1.5µm pixels Rear Facing + True Tone Flash
1.2MP f/2.2 Front Facing
8MP iSight with 1.5µm pixels Rear Facing + True Tone Flash + OIS
1.2MP f/2.2 Front Facing
Price $99 (16GB), $149 (32GB) on 2 year contract $199 (16GB), $299 (64GB), $399 (128GB) on 2 year contract $299 (16GB), $399 (64GB), $499 (128GB) on 2 year contract

As you can see, this is a major release even at a high level. While the design might take some inspiration from the iPod Touch, the hardware is a completely different beast. There’s a new SoC, the A8; the iPhone 6 also includes a bigger and better display, newer WiFi module, bigger battery, and a better camera. Of course, there’s a lot more to the story of the iPhone 6 than a spec sheet. The first major difference that we’ll talk about is the SoC.

A8: Apple’s First 20nm SoC
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  • Toss3 - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - link

    The browser benchmarks would make more sense if they used the stock browser on all the devices, not just on the iPhone to make it look good. The Note 4 for instance is scoring around 350ms with its own browser, while on Chrome it is only seeing 800ms. The results should also be in a separate "Web-browsing performance" section instead of the CPU performance one.
  • thackr - Thursday, October 9, 2014 - link

    Does anyone else see the green dot lens flare shown here on their iPhone 6? http://www.alternapop.com/2014/10/02/iphone-6-lens...
  • The0ne - Friday, October 10, 2014 - link

    "At this point, it’s not really possible to revolutionize the smartphone..."

    Stopped when I got here. I don't usually cuss but you have got to be shtting me for making such a statement. In your effort to try to write a unbiased review you are already stating that for whatever the reasons the phone may lack it is because nothing can be improve so it's a great phone. I officially hate all your Apple reviews now. This is sickening for any professional engineer to digest.
  • JC86 - Friday, October 10, 2014 - link

    @TheOne: Engineers are constantly tweaking and refining the software and hardware for a better UX and that refinement is great but the bottom line is the modern smartphone as we know it have not had any revolutionary advancements in years. It's a mature product category, plain and simple.
  • tralalalalalala40 - Friday, October 10, 2014 - link

    So you're one of those that thinks cars are changing massively every year. "THE BRAND NEW REVOLUTION IS HERE FOR A LIMITED TIME"
  • sgmuser - Sunday, October 12, 2014 - link

    "and how Apple’s SoC development is now synchronized with the very edge of semiconductor fabrication technology." You are not kidding right! :-) Comparing Intel's 14nm chips, I still believe Mobile phone SoCs are not coping up with the latest tech. m2c. Samsung (with Exynos) atleast jumped a bit...comparing QC SD or Apple Ax series.
  • Pandian - Sunday, October 12, 2014 - link

    Actually, Intel is not in making chips, 14nm or 20nm, for cell phones at large! Such a big company with capacity to supply designer boards to any manufacturer in the handheld 3inch or 12 inch device - and still staying away!
  • Pandian - Sunday, October 12, 2014 - link

    Compare these - Apple, etc. and All Pharma! 2-5% on actual R&D by pharmaceutical companies, (esp., the ones pricing cancer and Hepatitis C drugs) and about 95 % on marketing (read bribing the Medical industry - that includes "respectable life-saving Doctors") - vs 20-50% profit by tech companies (Apple, Samsung, Lenovo, HP, etc.) on products made from R&D from this decade! Without the slave labor of China and such countries, even that profit is not possible! Today's pyramids and Taj Mahals!

    Drugs: Most of these drugs were "discovered" decades ago in govt. research facilities - somehow, they are private intellectual properties today! Even anti-helminths (drugs for cattle parasites) costing ~$1-10 for 1000 pills, suddenly cost up to thousands of dollars each pill, because their anti-cancer capacities were "discovered" as side-effects! Even aspirin, made in third world countries and sold here, costs about ten times from a decade or so ago, due to price fixing!

    Your life or $200,000 - pay-up or die, if you have cancer or Hepatitis C.

    The target is larger with cellphones and computers - hence the bigger market value of the companies!

    Even within the tech industry, the profit of $200-300 for each device is paid once every three years or so - the cost of gasoline for a car is more than that in 2-3 months! The actual leaches that cost the consumer are the cell and cable/satellite companies - thousands of dollars a family in a two year contract! USA still charges the highest fee for cell plans, voice, text and data - taking a bite at each end of the link, i.e., the caller and the recipient!

    And, we whine more about the cost of these hand-held toys - that is the purpose and use of most of these "smart" devices! Truly important communication via voice, or the equivalent of the Morse code or ham-radio, is so small - not worth taking care of while driving a 4000+lb missile at 55 to 80 mph!

    Both Apple and Samsung will take a dive in the next 12 months

    A millionaire on CNBC talked about not being eligible for a phone upgrade for another year - and therefore not having hands-on experience with the recently released phones, Apple, HTC, etc.! That is how you stay rich!

    The post seems irrelevant! No! The basic premise of most of the posts here are about MONEY!
  • xmen77 - Monday, October 13, 2014 - link

    There can not be "ideal 6500k" if the other LCD in this all bad
    this is "ideal 6500k"?
  • thrasher32 - Tuesday, October 14, 2014 - link

    Yeah I'm just gonna say it: Apple is the Bose of mobile electronics, only those who don't know any better buy that junk. Hey it's your money feel free to waste as much as you like.

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