Earlier this week, Apple announced the successor to the iPhone line due to be released on Friday, September 19, 2014. The months of speculation, rumor, and leaked screenshots have culminated in Apple releasing two iPhone 6 models and reshuffling their existing lineup to include the iPhone 5C as the entry-level model, with former king of the hill — iPhone 5S — sitting between the 5C and 6, respectively.
Along with the newly added iPhone 6 models, Apple has increased the price on the top-level model, the iPhone 6 Plus by $100, which adds to the dilemma many users have been mulling over since the announcement. Which one should you buy?
While this discussion could be argued for or against any particular model, the aim of this article is to highlight some key differences amongst the various models to allow consumers the opportunity to make objective decisions based on quantitative data and not subjective opinions.
The capacity of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus has reached a new high. There are 16/64/128 GB options, but the 128 GB model has been a highly requested upgrade for many iPhone users, myself included. This is fueled by the growing trend to use smartphone like mini computers to communicate and browse online, plus watch TV, read books, listen to music, and use apps — lots and lots of apps.
The greater the storage, the more the user will find ways to fill it with data, so it's no surprise that the iPhone 5S, though still a very capable smartphone, may not be the best choice for those with large catalogs of multimedia content due to its 16/32 GB storage offering.
Arguably the single most identifiable feature of any smartphone is the screen size. With the iPhone 5S, some saw Apple as being behind the curve with its 4-inch Retina screen and non-HD resolution (1136 x 640) at 326ppi.
Now, with changes in tow, the iPhone 6 packs a 4.7-inch Retina screen and slightly higher HD resolution (1334 x 750) at 326ppi. The bigger iPhone 6 Plus has an even larger 5.5-inch Retina screen that's capable of displaying full-HD resolution (1920 x 1080) at 401ppi.
As app developers continue to update their applications, they'll inevitably code to take advantage of the larger, higher resolution screens. Gamers will likely be among the first to see these types of changes incorporated into the latest games, as game studios tend to push the envelope of the hardware as much as possible.
Apple typically doesn't disclose the specifics of the internal components used in its mobile devices, including the iPhone. However, some of what's known thus far is that the A8 CPU in the iPhone 6 is manufactured by TSMC and not Samsung (as previous iPhone chips have been). It's also benchmarked and found to have been 25% faster than the previous A7 CPU that's found in the iPhone 5S.
Additionally, it's said to have 50% graphics performance over the A7 while utilizing 50% of the power, leading to more efficient power consumption overall and a longer battery life.
Larger screens also mean larger form factors by default. One welcome addition to the larger size is more room for a larger battery. Being that both iPhone 6 models have larger screens, the battery size has also grown and brought with it longer lasting performance numbers across the board.
The iPhone 6 Plus will have up to an increase of 10 hours talk time over the iPhone 6's 14 hours. This places the iPhone 6 Plus at literally a full day of juice. Internet use will also increase by up to 2 hours over the iPhone 6, as will video and audio playback by up to 3 and 30 hours, respectively.
The iPhone 5S still has respectable numbers, yet it falls by an average of 25-50% below the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in battery life for communication, internet use, and playback performance.
Apple Pay is a new service that leverages the Near Field Communications (NFC) chip found in the new iPhone 6 models, which provides for contact-less payments between your iPhone 6 and supported retailers.
This type of payment has existed for quite some time on Android devices, but it's a first for the iPhone. Additionally, the service will connect with the Passport app to provide a secure way of storing digitized forms of payment and rewards cards. It also ties into the Touch ID fingerprint reader, further securing payment information and ensuring consumer privacy.
While the iPhone 5S debuted Touch ID, and will be further expanded with the release of iOS 8, it lacks the NFC hardware. Thus, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are the only models capable of utilizing Apple Pay.
With the release of iOS 8 on September 14th, 2014, Apple will be enabling further use of the APIs for many of its apps. One of the key uses for these APIs is being able to tap into the multiple sensors located within the iPhone to read and display real-time data.
With the exception of the barometer sensor, all current model iPhones — 5S/6/6Plus — have the same sensors onboard. The barometer sensor however, will measure atmospheric pressure and is commonly associated with changes in weather.
How this particular piece of hardware will work likely depends on the implementation and uses for the information the sensor can pick up. This is similar to the 3-access gyroscope used by iOS to determine the orientation of the device and adjust the screen accordingly, which has become a staple for smartphones everywhere.
Much to the chagrin of the iPhonographer in all of us, the camera specifications remain largely similar to the iPhone 5S model. While touting a new 8-megapixel rear camera, the only real difference between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 5S is a lowered aperture of f/2.2 (down from f/2.4).
However, the larger iPhone 6 Plus does have something unique. It's the only iPhone model that has built-in Optical Image Stabilization. As described by Wikipedia, iOS "is a mechanism used in a still camera or video camera that stabilizes the recorded image by varying the optical path to the sensor." In layman's terms, it works to eliminate blurriness and retain focus when taking a picture of an object close up.
It's mind-boggling how the smartphone has evolved from a simple mobile telephone to the hub of communication, entertainment, and a business tool that's used to manage our physical and digital lives.
Though the point can be made that the telephone function is one of the least used, it's nice to see a modern update in the form of Voice over LTE (VoLTE) coming to the iPhone 6/6Plus.
Much like the change from 2G to 3G networks brought clearer, more reliable audio, the use of VoLTE brings a standardized way to carry voice and SMS over LTE data communications for now and into the foreseeable future.
When people hear wireless, it's instantly associated with Wi-Fi and hotspots to connect to the internet. Yet, in the scope of this article, wireless pertains to the various forms of communication that are present in the iPhone.
Beginning with LTE, the iPhone 6/6 Plus support 20 different LTE bands, spanning over 200 carriers worldwide. The inclusion of the aforementioned NFC chip, which will serve as the cornerstone to Apple Pay for contact-less payments, adds another level of wireless communication to the newly announced models.
Lastly, the ubiquitous Wi-Fi standards support in Apple's new iPhone 6 models provide connectivity for all specifications: A/B/G/N and the newest member — AC — that provides theoretical speeds of up to 1,900 Mbps (also referred to as Gigabit wireless).
By contrast, the iPhone 5S does not support NFC. However, it does have support for 16 LTE bands and all the Wi-Fi standards, except AC.
Dimensions and weight
In general, smartphones have been growing in size and weight proportionally as screen size increases. This is no different with the newest iPhones that were announced.
The iPhone 6 Plus is approximately .75-inches longer and .42-inches wider compared to the iPhone 6. It's also 1.52 oz. heavier than the iPhone 6. By contrast, the iPhone 6 is approximately .57-inches longer and .33-inches wider than the iPhone 5S, with the iPhone 6 being an additional .6 oz. heavier.
The depth across the iPhone models all remain relatively the same, with a .01-.03-inch difference across the board — but for those keeping score, the iPhone 6 models have less depth than iPhone 5S.
Whether upgrading to the latest and greatest, switching over from another smartphone manufacturer, or purchasing your very first iPhone, all models exhibit a sense of style and power that enable its users to do great things.
However, depending on your individuals needs and preferences, you might find a killer feature or must-have function that makes for a cohesive balance between your work and life modes, and that makes all the difference in the world when choosing your next iPhone or keeping your current reliable one.
What iPhone suits your personal and professional needs? Share your opinion in the discussion thread below.
Jesus Vigo is a Network Administrator by day and owner of Mac|Jesus, LLC, specializing in Mac and Windows integration and providing solutions to small- and medium-size businesses. He brings 19 years of experience and multiple certifications from several vendors, including Apple and CompTIA.