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Apple iPhone 6, bigger and better | REVIEW

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Apple iPhone 6, bigger and better | REVIEW

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Interface

The interface of the iPhone 6, despite being upgraded to iOS 8, is still very familiar for any iPhone or iPad fan. With the iPhone 6 you’ve actually got another option to make the view bigger (or zoomed in) in order to service those that perhaps don’t have the best vision and don’t want to squint at the larger screen.

But beyond that, there’s not a lot new with iOS 8, bar some very clever UI tweaks here and there. For instance, the new OS brings the ability to save contacts (with info like phone numbers from the signature) directly from the email app, or on the iPhone 6 lets you have a zoomed in view, which I assume is for those that have eyesight issues, or just enjoy a more filled screen.

The latter feature seems a bit redundant, but anything that aids accessibility has to be a good thing.

One new feature for the iPhone 6 is the ‘Reachability’ option. Double tap on the home key without pressing it in will make the screen drop down around two-fifths, apparently enabling you to easily press anything at the top of the screen. It’s a slightly messy way of doing things, and despite trying my utmost I could rarely remember to activate it.

Looks awful, hard to activate, vaguely useful

Looks awful, hard to activate, vaguely useful

Still, at least Apple is showing that it’s still a bit disgruntled at being forced to bring a larger phone to the masses and is trying to mitigate the problem.

One of the most impressive features of iOS 8 is the ability to now swipe back and forth through the OS to get through apps and pages on the web.

It’s not a new feature for the average smartphone user at all – it’s got some elements of BB10 (in terms of swiping to get to new menus) and there are more than a few nods to Android in there as well.

But that’s not a bad thing in my mind. As long as a method isn’t patented, then the more you can do to add a feature in to make a user’s experience a more simple experience, the better.

It’s not a completely useful system, as the swipe doesn’t work as a complete back key. To be perfect, I’d have liked to see a swipe backwards on the first screen of an app or web page as a method of getting back to the home screen.

It’s things like that which embed the action into muscle memory, rather than being able to do something when you remember it’s possible. However, it did severely limit the need to press the back button in the top left-hand corner, which is a plus.

Although, here’s an idea: put it in the bottom left-hand corner instead. You know, where we can reach it.

Quick contact access

Another change is the ability to double press the home button (full press, not a tap) and access the multi-tasking menu to switch apps or shut them down.

This now has a ‘recent contacts’ bubble gallery at the top, which shows the people you’ve, well, you don’t need me to spell it out to you. You’re smart, you can work it out.

However, I dislike things that try and choose these things for you. I’d rather be able to hard code contacts there, as unpredictability in new features can be infuriating.

As such I didn’t really use this feature that often – but if you remember to double tap to get to the most used people, then hopefully over time it would populate correctly.

Interactive notifications

The other big thing with iOS 8 is the interactive notifications and widgets for the main drag-down menu that pervades throughout the app.

The interactive part is, again, nothing new as it’s something that’s been part of other phones (for example, the LG G2 and G3) for a number of years. However, it’s a very slick and unobtrusive system here, with a small banner appearing at the top of the screen.

Replying to a message instantly is cool, and something that really does bring an element of joy and usability to the system. Other apps can use this method of alert too, but not to the same effect. For instance, Mail coming in will show up in the same banner, but you can only organise the message rather than reply there and then.

I appreciate that emails are generally longer, but there should be the option to fire off a quick missive if the situation calls for it.

The widgets in the Notifications drop down will be pretty cool, if the presentation Apple gave at WWDC was anything to go by. However, the functionality of being able to bid on eBay items without entering the app still wasn’t present in the current iteration of the application, as it’s probably not going to be updated until iOS 8 hits public release.

These are starting to filter through now, with more options available in the notifications bar to make a quick tap all you need to do things on the fly. It’s one of those things that when you notice it for the first time, it’s really useful, but quickly becomes commoditised.

The favourites and new notifications work well, and the back swipes are very intuitive

The favourites and new notifications work well, and the back swipes are very intuitive

The rest of the interface is much as expected for an iPhone – and that’s a good thing in the eyes of most users. However, I will say that the touchscreen on the iPhone 6 isn’t as good as the competition – it doesn’t feel as responsive as the Project Butter / Project Svelte (and subsequent evolutions) that Android has been adding into the backend of its platform.

The problem manifests itself when swiping laterally through apps, and the internet browser doesn’t always have that super smooth reaction that I’ve come to expect from a modern smartphone.

I’m being really picky here, as it’s not a nuisance, but at the same time it’s perceptible compared to the competition, although nothing out of the ordinary for your average Apple user.

I doubt it’s down to the lower 1GB of RAM Apple has packed in (although it would be interesting to see what the brand does to performance if it ever ups that number) but although slight, those hopping between Android and iOS might pick up on the slight lag.

The better news is the crashes that plagued the early iOS 7 devices seem to be pretty clear with the iPhone 6 – I only noticed Spotify giving up the ghost during my set up, as well as one Facebook crash where before Safari was falling apart all over the place.

Dropbox did hate downloading large files when you moved the phone – but that feels like more of a bug with iOS 8 compatibility than an endemic failure.

I’ll keep an eye on this area, as it’s something that can take a few weeks to manifest, but early indications are that the iPhone 6 is a lot more stable than its predecessor.

The rest of the iPhone 6 interface is simplicity itself. I’m never going to be happy with the way many apps still have their personal settings only available in the general Settings app, but at least more are starting to let you edit functionality from within the app itself.

The iPhone 6 interface is clear, clean and as you’d expect. I still think there’s more to be done with the Notifications area, but at least it’s less complicated than before. Splitting it into two still feels wrong, and the calendar / traffic / summary info seems more power user than standard Apple buyer.

The Control Center at the bottom of any screen is richer than before too, and still gives access to the key areas, including music control from anywhere within the phone.

Mixgrab control-900-100

Is it the perfect interface for customisation? No, and many people are starting to want more from their smartphone, which is why Android phones are proving so popular.

But it’s still got the core simplicity that Apple has prided itself upon for years, and that’s still going to be a massive draw, especially for those that feel like ‘they know where they are’ with iPhones.

Performance

Providing the power behind the scenes on the iPhone 6 is a 1.39GHz dual-core A8 processor with 64-bit architecture and 1GB of RAM.

The iPhone 6 seemed to be the slicker of the two new iHandsets when it comes to chugging away under the finger, although when looking at the Geekbench 3 scores, we can see it’s almost identical to the iPhone 6 Plus (average score of 2905 vs 2911 for the 6 Plus) which puts it right with the Samsung Galaxy S5 and below the One M8 and One E8 – although HTC has admitted to slightly gaming those results with a special ‘high power mode’.

In short, despite the dual-core processor, Apple seems to have eked out enough power to make the iPhone 6 a strong enough contender day to day.

 

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