Apple iPhone 6 Plus review:

A super-sized phone delivers with a stellar display and long battery life

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4.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

4 stars 45 user reviews

The Good The big battery provides long life, and the 5.5-inch screen is not only big but bright and high-contrast. Optical image stabilization improves low-light photography.

The Bad The big footprint may not be for everybody, and the overall design is less distinctive than previous iPhones.

The Bottom Line The iPhone 6 Plus is an outstanding choice for those with big budgets and big pockets, but power users seeking even more flexibility should audition the Galaxy Note 4 as well.

9.0 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Camera 8.0
  • Battery 9.0

In 2014, Apple forked its iPhone product line, simultaneously introducing the next generation of its flagship model -- the iPhone 6 -- and debuting its super-sized sibling, the iPhone 6 Plus. The iPhone 6 is an exceptional phone in nearly every way but for its good-but-not-great battery life. The iPhone 6 Plus is also impressive; larger and thinner than other iPhone models, and with the capacity for far more endurance on a single charge than most comparably-sized and smaller competitors.

As great a phone as it is, the iPhone 6 Plus isn't for everybody. Its defining characteristic is its size, which occupies a nice middle ground between the 4-inch iPhone 5S and the 7.9-inch iPad Mini . While the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 is considerably more portable, the 6 Plus will hit the sweet spot for those who want a bigger display on their smartphone (and prefer iOS to Android).

And remember: a 5.5-inch screen may feel gigantic at first, but it may end up feeling just right in no time.

Editors' note: This review was updated June 15, 2015 with new comparisons to more current phones, and other reflections on the 2015 smartphone and iPhone marketplace.

Review update: Summer 2015

If Apple sticks to the same mid-September release calendar it's followed for the past several years, we are just a few short months away from the next version of the iPhone. And if Cupertino follows the same upgrade plan -- big redesigns for even numbered years, internal specs updates for odd ones -- we can likely expect something a bit less radical than the big-screen makeover the iPhone got in 2014. (You can read our predictions of what to expect from the next iPhone here ).

At its Worldwide Developers Conference in June, Apple introduced the next edition of its mobile operating system, iOS 9 . Apple promised a stronger, more "proactive" version of Siri, the personal assistant; an upgraded maps app and a new news app; as well as, importantly for iPhone users, improved battery life (plus a new low-power mode for even longer performance). For now, iOS 9 is available only to developers; the rest of us can sign up for the public beta in July.

Those looking to purchase an iPhone this summer are advised that Apple also still sells the iPhone 5S and the iPhone 5C -- both of which, in what are likely to be their waning days on store shelves, constitute an excellent value. If you're looking to buy a larger phone or phablet, the iPhone 6 Plus , with its elegant design, fantastic camera, and user-friendly OS, certainly remains among our favorites. That noted, you might also consider the Galaxy Note 4 , an Android-based device with an appealing design, powerful performance, a great suite of native productivity tools, expandable storage and swappable battery, and a useful S Pen stylus.

Availability

The iPhone 6 Plus's larger profile comes with a higher price tag. The device is available in the US with a two-year contract from AT&T, Sprint and Verizon; the 16GB version will set you back $299, with 64GB at $349 and the top-end 128GB costing $449. Contract-free on T-Mobile, it costs $749, $849 or $949 respectively. You can find a more detailed rundown of US carrier plans here.

Design

Befitting its moniker, the 6 Plus is on the large side, measuring 6.22 inches high by 3.06 inches wide (158mm by 78mm). At 6.07 ounces (172 grams) it's just a touch lighter than the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 but noticeably thinner -- just 7.1mm in thickness, compared with the Note 4's 8.5mm.

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Apple iPhone 6 LG G3 Samsung Galaxy Note 4
US base price (with 2-year agreement) $299 $199 $199 $299
UK base price (unlocked) £619 £539 £360 £450
Australia base price (unlocked) AU$999 AU$869 AU$630 AU$837
Display size/resolution 5.5-inch 1,920x1,080 IPS (401ppi) 4.7-inch 1,344x750 IPS (326 ppi) 5.5-inch Quad HD 2,560x1,440 IPS (538 ppi) 5.7-inch 2,560x1,440 Super AMOLED (515 ppi)
Processor 1.38GHz Apple A8 (64-bit) 1.39GHz Apple A8 (64-bit) 2.5GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon (Krait 400) 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
RAM 1GB 1GB 3GB 3GB
Internal storage 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB 32GB 32GB
Expandable storage No No Yes (microSD) Yes (microSD)
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC
Operating system iOS 8 iOS 8 Android 4.4.2 Android 4.4

Dimensions aside, the iPhone 6 Plus feels better in the hand than the Note. Like previous iPhones, it's made of matte aluminum, but where harsh lines and chamfered edges give the iPhone 5 a stark, industrial feel, the iPhone 6 Plus nestles more comfortably in your hand rather than cutting into it.

That noted, the rounded shape -- complete with glass that blends into the rounded edges -- provides a less distinctive appearance. That curved glass will be familiar to owners of Nokia Lumia devices, and the inset lines of plastic on the back are reminiscent of the HTC One . Though the iPhone 6 Plus looks and feels great, it lacks the unique styling of its predecessor.

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Owners of earlier model iPhones will need to adjust to different button locations; the iPhone 6 Plus's power/lock button is located on the right side - a good thing, given how far one would need to reach if it were placed on the top. The volume buttons, wide and flat rather than round, are located on the left directly beneath the ring/silent toggle switch. The 3.5mm headphone jack sits at the bottom, as it does with the 5S, next to eight holes that allow sound from the (surprisingly powerful) internal speaker to escape.

Then, of course, there's the home button, front and center below the display, featuring Touch ID functionality, which allows you to unlock the phone quickly with a fingerprint. While this feature is no longer as novel as it was when it debuted, Touch ID remains quicker and more reliable than the fingerprint detection capabilities we've seen on other smartphones. And with iOS 8, you can use fingerprint access for a wide variety of apps beyond the lock screen and iTunes Store.

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'Reachability'

To avoid any unfortunate thumb-straining incidents, Apple provides the "Reachability" feature: two quick taps on the Home button slide any content at the top of the display -- app icons, Safari's URL bar, whatever else is up there -- down to the bottom. (That's a double tap rather than a double press -- the latter of which opens up the app switching screen, as it does on earlier versions of iOS.) Though it's handy in theory, we did not find it particularly useful in practice.

For example, if you want to open a folder of icons on the top of the display, a double-tap brings that folder down. Tap on the folder and it opens, but then slides back up to the top again. You need to double-tap on the Home button again to bring it down a second time so that you can select an icon within. It's simply too much tapping to be of regular use, even for those with short thumbs, though it could be handy if you're standing on a bus or train and need your other hand to hang on.

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