A critical look at iPhone 6 in relation to 10 key smartphone features
Apple’s 2014 flagship phone has brought excitement to the world, Kenya included. But is iPhone 6 worth all the excitement? Let us examine the ten key specs that have defined smartphones since their emergence to find out where iPhone 6 stands in comparison. The key specs are:
1. Phone/Screen size
2. Display technology and screen resolution
3. Screen protection
4. Casing, build and design
5. Memory and storage
9. OS and functionality and
11. To be complete, I will also mention other features like connectivity technologies, protection against water, NFC, etc.
For a related post read: The two coolest features coming with iPhone 6
1. Phone and screen size
Remember there were days when the smaller the phone, the more bragging right you had. Then smartphones were introduced in January 2007 courtesy of Apple in the form of iPhone, the iPhone first generation. This iPhone had dimensions of 115 mm in height or length, 61 mm in width and 11.6 mm in depth or thickness. The dimensions enabled the iPhone to have a screen size of 3.5 inches and together with materials and battery, it weighed a mere 135g. These dimensions together with the weight that were at par with the best selling phones at that time, were particularly meant to observe three important characteristics of mobile phones: mobility, pocketability and single hand usability.
But the use of smartphones for functions other than receiving/makings calls and sending/receiving text messages, especially their use to browse the web, take and view picture images, play games, and watch online videos, meant a bigger screen was desirable . Phone manufacturers led by Samsung thus started the journey to find a compromise between mobility/pocketability/usability vs optimum smartphone functionality by advancing the screen sizes from 3.5 inches set by Apple in 2007 to roughly 4 inches in 2010, 4.5 inches in 2011, 4.8 inches in 2012, and 5 inches in 2013. By 2014, all phone manufacturers seem to have agreed that 5 inches is the optimum screen size for mobility, pocketability, single hand usability in one hand and functionality in the other.
However, Apple has lagged behind in keeping up with the rest where it maintained the iPhone’s screen size at 3.5 inches all the way to 2011 when screen sizes had climbed to 4.5 inches. It is iPhone 5 released in 2012 that broke the screen size monotony when Apple decided to ramp up iPhone 5’s screen size to 4 inches, a standard for 2010 smartphones. Again, Apples has made a change on the screen with the announcement of iPhone 6 where Apple has leaped from 2010 screen size to a 2012 screen size. iPhone 6 now features a 4.7 inches screen, slightly below the 4.8 inches set by the likes of Samsung Galaxy S3 in 2012. Actually, Google Nexus 4 released in November 2012 had most features that have been hyped in iPhone 6 as shown by the image below.
Apple should not have shied away from the 5 inches screen given that the iPhone 6 physical dimensions do not veer too far off from a standard 5 inches phone like Nokia Lumia 930. Compared to Nokia Lumia 930, iPhone 6 is slightly taller by 1.1 mm but 4 mm narrower at the width. Nokia Lumia 930 is 137 mm in length, 71 mm in width and 9.8 mm in thickness whereas iPhone 6 comes at dimensions of 138.1 mm long, 67 mm wide and 6.9 mm thick. Adding the 4mm to the width wouldn’t have made the iPhone way too big as the Lumia can still be held comfortably by one hand.
The success of phablet devices such as Samsung Galaxy Note 2, Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Nokia Lumia 1320, Nokia Lumia 1520 (both 6 inches), HTC One Max, LG Optimus G and even Sony Xperia Z Ultra, a whooping 6.4 inches phablet, clearly shows that smartphone users are willing to slightly compromise on single hand usability of phones to enhanced smartphone experience on web browsing, game playing and even video viewing.
Verdict: iPhone 6 is way too small for a high end smartphone thus it has compromised greatly in key functions required of a high end smartphone. If bezels are further lessened, the optimum screen size of a smartphone should be 5.3 inches at dimensions that match the height and depth of iPhone 6 and the width of Lumia 930. I give iPhone 6 four out of ten on physical and screen sizes.
2. Display Technology and Screen Resolution
QuickOnlineTips has an article highlighting 10 Types of Smartphone Displays, Touchscreens including several types of LCD displays and OLED displays. From the article, it is easy to see that most LCD based displays including TFT and IPS are used in low end smartphones whereas the OLED/AMOLED technologies are found in high end smartphones.
Top end smartphones released in 2014 such as Samsung Galaxy S5, Nokia Lumia 930, HTC One M8, LG G3, and Sony Xperia Z3 have displays made of Super AMOLED, AMOLED, Super LCD3, True HD-IPS + LCD, and IPS LCD respectively. However, the display technology used in iPhone 6 is the iteration of IPS LCD that Apple calls a fancy name of Retina Display. What makes this display unique is the mere fact that the pixel density is roughly 300ppi. The topic on displays deserve an article on its own but it will suffice to say that a high end phone in today’s standard should be in the realm of Super AMOLED found in phones such as Samsung Galaxy S5 or the Super LCD3. iPhone 6 Retina Display is thus still below the standard already set by the likes of LG and Samsung.
Screen resolution should not be anything below full HD of 1080p by today’s standards. The mentioned phones in the above paragraph have resolutions of 1080 by 1920 in Galaxy S5, HTC One M8, Sony Xperia Z3 and Lumia 930 and 1440 by 2560 in LG G3. Since LG G3 can rightly be considered a phablet given its screen size of 5.5 inches, we can conclude that almost all flagship phones for 2014 have featured a full HD screen except for iPhone 6 whose screen resolution is only 750 by 1334 pixels making it a 720p resolution.
Verdict: By 2012 smartphone resolution had been set at 760p built on AMOLED and better so here Apple has given its fans another raw deal. The argument that human eye cannot discern pixel densities above 300ppi has been proven false by 2K, 4K and even 8K resolutions some of which hit above 500ppi mark. Here again iPhone 6 scores below five and it gets a three.
3. Screen Protection
There is nothing much to mention here really other than the highlighting the fact that a glass used to protect the phone should be smooth, resistant to scratch and strong (unbreakable) and at the same time allowing for clear viewing of the screen without adding too much cost on phone manufacture. Most of the high end phones use Conning Gorilla Glass 3 except for Sony Xperia Z3 that uses a shatter proof glass embedded with both Triluminos display and X-Reality Engine.
Similar to Sony Xperia Z3, iPhone 6 has also used a shatter proof glass (ion strengthened glass) with oleophobic coating. However, according to review by Ryan Inoyori of International Business Times, Sony Xperia Z3 is still superior to iPhone 6’s protection given that the protection on Sony Xperia Z3 also offers the users protection against dust and water. It was expected that iPhone 6 would come in Saphire Glass and thus promise unbreakable screen but Apple seems to have had a change of mind most probably because the manufacturing logistics could not allow for timely release of the phones at the time customers expected the launch. However, the choice of the shatter proof glass still puts iPhone 6 above the other flagship devices that came with Conning Gorilla Glass 3 protection.
Verdict: iPhone 6 beats most of the high end smartphones in screen protection and here the iPhone fans have a reason to smile. Since Sony Xperia Z3 has beaten it on screen protection, I will give iPhone 6 an eight.
4. Casing, build and design
iPhone has been excellent in stylish designs and premium finishing as far as phone finishing is concerned. Gareth Beavis of TechRadar puts it succinctly thus:
Say what you like about Apple, it’s a brand that’s always put design at the forefront of its new handsets. Even the iPhone 5S, probably the most unimaginative of all of Cupertino’s handsets, had a strong build that screamed quality in the hand, giving the user the instant feeling of something worth spending a lot on.
The iPhone 6 pushes that idea to the next level, losing the sharp edges in favour of sleek and rounded sides that make the device much more pleasing in the palm. It just feels so thin, but doesn’t have the overly-lightweight feeling of the iPhone 5S.
It’s one of those phones that I’m actually sad feels so nice in the hand – when reviewing phones, proving oneself agnostic to whichever brand is critical, but Apple consistently shows it knows how to make a well put-together handset, and it’s done it again here.
It just feels premium the moment you pick it up, from the vibrant and clear screen to the subtle curve of the display into the rounded frame.
When most Android phones especially Samsung still come in plastic casing, Apple has maintained premium metallic finishing with beautifully embedding glass to give its flagship devices elegance and style. iPhone 6 is made of aluminium including the back cover when the flagships like Samsung Galaxy S5 and Nokia Lumia 930 feature polycarbonate backs.
Samsung apparently has run away from metallic finishing on its devices because it wants to keep the Galaxy range of smartphones lighter. However, iPhone 6 has managed to be lighter than Samsung Galaxy S5 despite being made of premium aluminium and glass finishing combo. Mikey Smith of Daily Mirror concludes:
…combined with the world renowned Apple attention to detail make it hard to recommend anything other than iPhone 6 where build quality is concerned.
Verdict: iPhone 6 gets ten out of ten in build quality and premium design as it beats all the flagship phones in the market including the previous iPhones. However, if you want a phone to set you apart from the rest, Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is still the phone to go for.
5. Memory and Storage
iPhone 6 will come in three memory categories: the 16 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB versions. Most high end smarphones have traditionally come in 16 GB, 32 GB and 64 GB versions. But as always, iPhone 6 still will not allow you to expand the storage capacity and this has been a downside of iPhones ever since. However, the fact that iPhone 6 has a 128 GB version is something to write home about and thus adds a small value therein.
When speaking of RAM, since last year phones have come with about 2 GB of RAM although a few have managed to pack 3 GB of RAM. Apple has not thought it wise to give fans more RAM and thus has only packed a 1 GB RAM in the iPhone 6. Users of iPhone have however said that iOS is lean compared to Android and thus the 1 GB RAM is more than sufficient. This comparison is no longer true as Android 4.4 has shown that Android devices can perform even faster, and now that most of them are packed with 2 GB RAM, Apple’s offering is still below the set standard.
As the screen sizes of smarphones continue to standardize around 5.3 inches, the RAM powering the millions of pixels in such screens should tend towards 4 GB; given that RAM consuming apps and games continue to be created by the day. This then implies that a smartphone that is far away from 4 GB is far off the mark.
Verdict: Lack of expandable memory and a mere 1 GB RAM makes me give iPhone 6 a score of three.
Apple doesn’t like revealing the architecture behind its processors but they would rather hide behind fancy names like A7 or A8 processor.Factors to consider when discussing processors are the bits e.g. 64 bit processor, whether it is a single core or multicore (duo core, quad core, or even octa core) processor and finally the processor speed all of which determine how fast a phone responds to instructions.
Apple has already set a new standard for processor bits as 64 bit which should perform twice as fast as a 32 bit processor; but this again would depend on OS, and Apps coding, most of which are still programmed in 32 bit technology. Although both A7 in iPhone 5s and and A8 in iPhone 6 boast of being 64 bit, tests suggests that these processors are mere duo core processors with speeds not exceeding 1.4 GHz. Compared to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 801 found in Samsung Galaxy S5 that features a quad core 2.5 Ghz processor, Apple’s processors are still way below the standards set as far back in 2012. The processor in iPhone 6, if 64 bit part is ignored given that it is actually not useful yet, then the processor in iPhone 6 compares closely to that in Samsung Galaxy S2 that was announced in February 2011.
Verdict: By today’s standards, a smartpphone should have at least a quad core processor with speeds exceeding 2.2 Ghz. These standards makes iPhone 6 be given a score of two out of ten specifically because the 64 bit part is actually unnecessary value add…it’s like somebody giving you a jet to commute between your residential estate and office that are less than 5 Kms apart.
There has been a serious problem with iPhones, and that’s battery. At the announcement of iPhone 6, a joke around the battery was tweeted and this is what it said:
People are happy with iPhone thickness, disappointed with battery. So they made it thinner and kept the battery. Apple logic.
— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) September 9, 2014
As your read this section, keep in mind that iPhone 6 battery, just like battery in other iPhone, is not removable. According to GSMArena, iPhone 6 battery can manage a standby time of up to 250 hours on 2G, 14 hours talk time and 50 hours of music play. It is the talk time that is of interest. Nokia Lumia 930 which has a 2420 mAh battery capacity is capable of up to 11 hours 30 mins talk time. Compare these to the super battery saving capacity and a bigger screen of Samsung Galaxy S5 which has a talk time of 21 hours with its 2800 mAh battery size. The phone with a closer rating to that of iPhone 6 on talk time is HTC One M8 which has a 2600 mAh battery capacity.
According to a friend who owned a Samsung Galaxy S4 that has battery capacity of 2600 mAh just like HTC One M8, one can use the phone for 18 hours in heavy use meaning smartphones should be able to drain, in normal use, slightly after the approximated talk time rating. Apple said that the battery it has packed on iPhone 6 is now able to give the phone a full day of use which probably means 12 hours of standard use (no gaming nor heavy web browsing and running processor demanding tasks like gaming). It seems that the battery in iPhone 6 has capacity somewhere in the realm of 2400 mAh and 26 mAh. If Apple just widened the phone a bit, it could have packed it with battery capacity in the realm of 2800 mAh to possibly 3000 mAh to give the phone at least 20 to 24 hours of normal use.
Verdict: The fact that iPhone 6 still doesn’t allow fans to change battery and has only 14 hours of talk time, I will give it a score of four.
In addition to the screen size, Apple has declined to improve on camera on iPhones especially when it comes to number of pixels captured by the camera. Ever since Apple upgraded its camera from 5 MP on iPhone 4 (lower iPhones had even lower MPs cameras) to 8 MP on iPhone 4s, it has retained the megapixels at 8 to date. Thus from 2011, the iPhones have come generally featuring 8 MP megapixel rear cameras.
The rival competitor Samsung also had 8 MP rear camera introduced in Samsung Galaxy S2 and retained in Samsung Galaxy S3 but in 2013 Samsung upgraded its camera to a 13 MP on Samsung Galaxy S4 but since Sony and Nokia stretched the standards to 20 MP and above, Samsung Galaxy S5 came with a 16 MP camera with a few ad ons.
But for Apple it is only the ad ons it has concentrated on instead of revamping the camera pixels to at least match those in Samsung Galaxy S5 which captures twice as many pixels as iPhone 6 camera. Retaining the 8 MP camera on iPhone 6 also means that the camera cannot capture high quality videos in the range of 2K or even 4K videos as rivals can. iPhone 6 can only deliver a 1080p video.
Worse is the front facing camera. Since 2011 the standard of front facing camera especially for selfies has been set at 2 MP. iPhone 6 however comes with a meager 1.2 MP front facing camera that I’m sure delivers very bad selfies compared to the competition.
Despite these, Apple has introduced a number of promising tweaks on the camera by incorporating goodies like focus pixel, face detection, image stabilization, wider aperture (f/2.2), enhanced panorama experience, bigger pixel at 1.5 micro meter apart, and ability to capture videos at 240 fps slow motion.
Verdict: Nokia and Sony have proven that 20 MP cameras can give back value for money thus smartphones should strive to set their cameras at 20 MP and add those other tweaks as well. iPhone 6 is great on tweaks but still their are better tweaks in other high end phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5, Sony Xperia Z2, LG G3 and even HTC One m8 with its duo lense. I give iPhone 6 camera a score of five.
9. iOS 8
iOS 8 is an upgrade of iOS 7 that we featured in the article iOS 7 features. You can compare the iOS 7 features with Android KitKat features that powers most of the Android flagship devices. Another OS to compare with either iOS 7 or iOS 8 is the Windows 8.1 for mobile devices.
This Apple page details what’s new in iOS 8 and should be compared to Android L that has been released for testing by developers. Other than the statement that iOS 8 is the biggest release ever and the inclusions of health apps, iOS 8 doesn’t sound any superior to Android KitKat let alone Android L that will offer significant improvement to notification experience.
Generally however, iOS has been hailed as more secure and user friendly over Android. Windows has to come of age and thus iOS still takes the first place in these ecosystem battles.
Verdict: iPhone 6 gets a score of seven as it will be running on an improved version of iOS 7 that was already good enough.
Before you cough out Shs 80,000 for iPhone 6 16 GB, you need to read this article: Apple vs Android: When market share doesn’t bring food to the table. What I found out from that article is that Apple puts a margin of more than 60% (up to 65%+ in some products like top selling iPhones), to reap the maximum it can from iPhone fans. What this means is that if Apple was to cost its products at per with other smartphone manufactures, then the phones could retail for less than Shs 60,000 as expected.
We still do not know how the iPhones will be priced locally but given the US unlocked prices of $649 for 16 GB, $749 for the 64 GB, and $849 for the 128 GB I guess the Kenyan prices will range from Shs, 80,000, Shs 90,000 and Shs 105,000 excluding 16% VAT for the 16 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB variants respectively.
Verdict: iPhones are way too expensive for nothing. A score of one.
11. Other factors
Smartphones have offered several value adds such as the fingerprint scanner that was introduced in iPhone 5s for security purposes and phone lock, Samsung Galaxy S5 came with both a finger print scanner and heartbeat monitor, Sony Xperia Z2 came with water resistance, LG Flex came with self healing ability etc.
iPhone 6, in addition to coming with the fingerprint scanner, has incorporated an old technology called the Near Field Communication (NFC) hence the Apple Pay that has been compared to M-PESA elsewhere. It is important to emphasize that NFC technology has existed in Android devices since 2011 hence its hyping is really unnecessary.
Finally iPhone 6 supports the widest range of LTE (4G) bands thus it can be used in most parts of the globe. It’s Wi-Fi technology has also improved but I am not sure if it surpasses the Wi-Fi on high end Android devices. iPhones have generally had bad Wi-Fi connections and the improvement being said of iPhone 6 could just be that it is better than the Wi-Fi’s of previous iPhones. Does it have Wi-Fi Direct found in Samsung Galaxy to range phones?
Verdict: There seem to be no ad on that has come in iPhone 6 that is lacking in the competition so I will not give it a score here. iPhone has simply played catch up and after all, it is not yet water proof or resistant.
Conclusion and total score
After going through all the ten key specs for smartphones one by one, you can agree with me that iPhone 6 is not the greatest phone out there. The phones to go for this year is still the Samsung Galaxy S5 but if you don’t like the build quality and design of that one then HTC One M8 still carries the day. However, once Sony Xperia Z3 is out, that will be the phone to salivate after. If you don’t mind going big though and you are looking for a phone to define your class, then Samsung Galaxy Note Edge is the phone you have been waiting for.
The total score for iPhone 6 is 4.7 out of ten. I’m very fair, right?