While it's getting a little long in the tooth compared to the latest Android phones, the Apple iPhone 6 (Est. $650 and up) remains a premium device that continues Apple's run of top flight smartphones that look great and work better. Yes, many head-to-head comparisons done when the newer Samsung Galaxy S6 (Est. $600 and up) debuted give that flagship phone an edge, but that's not surprising since it also reflects a half year of added development time. Meanwhile, chasing down new rumors regarding the next generation iPhone is a fun Internet game, but speculation aside, it's likely that Apple has something up its sleeve for introduction sometime in the fall of 2015.
Still, regardless of whether you are a new smartphone user or need a replacement device, if an iPhone is the Apple of your eye, there's little reason to sit on the sidelines. Today's iPhone 6 is still a terrific piece of hardware, all experts say. It's earned Editors' Choice awards from PCMag.com, CNET, MobileTechReview.com and elsewhere, and sits at or near the top of most "best smartphone" lists.
Though it's been eclipsed by some newer Android phones for the title of the very best smartphone, the iPhone 6 is still a very good choice for those that don't want to get bogged down with the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of Android. Darren Orf and Sean Hollister at Gizmodo say that a "kind of we-figured-it-out-so-you-don't-have-to thinking pervades the entire experience of using an iPhone, and it's why the iPhone is the phone that's easiest to recommend for the most people, regardless of where they're coming from."
For the current generation iPhone 6, the big change compared to its predecessors is the larger screen size, 4.7 inches as opposed to 4 inches. If that's not big enough for you, the iPhone 6 Plus (Est. $750 and up) bumps things up to 5.5-inches and a phablet-sized housing that competes with a handful of Android phones, including the Google Nexus 6 ($490 and up), for the title of largest smartphone. The other key difference between the regular and king-sized version of the iPhone 6 is somewhat better battery life -- no surprise given the larger battery that the case allows, and maybe a plus worth considering since the iPhone 6's battery life is only so-so. That said, if you want a phablet-sized smartphone that lives in the iPhone ecosystem, the iPhone 6 Plus makes sense, but most feedback indicates that most users are happier and better served by the smaller iPhone 6.
The iPhone 6 (and iPhone 6 Plus) is powered by Apple's A8 processor, with 1GB of RAM and either 16 GB, 64 GB or 128 GB of memory. In terms of raw power, it's really no contest when stacked up against more powerful Android devices such as the S6. Mark Spoonauer at Tom's Guide benchmarks the two phones and says that S6 simply "smoked" the iPhone 6 in their tests. Ditto when it comes to the display, Apple's Retina screen continues to be well regarded, but its 1,334-by-750- resolution is simply out-pixeled by the S6's Quad HD (2,560 by 1,440) display, and even the iPhone 6 Plus with its 1,920-by-1,080-pixel resolution falls behind.
But when it comes to the iPhone, numbers don't tell the whole story. Experts largely agree that the iPhone's key strength is that Apple has refined the user experience to be familiar and comfortable. That disappoints some critics, but not others, and certainly not users. "It trades novelty and freshness for well-honed functionality, which is precisely why it's such a hit with those who don't trawl tech blogs for the latest news and reviews every hour of every day," says Jon Mundy at TechRadar.com. And Apple's grip on both the hardware and software side of its phones results in real world performance that compares on an even footing with technically more powerful Android devices. "There isn't a single task or app that stretches either, it seems," says Mundy in his head to head comparison of the S6 and iPhone 6.
The cameras on the iPhone 6 -- an 8-megapixel rear camera and a 1.2 megapixel front camera -- also don't look great on paper, but the photos they take look terrific and critics applaud ease of use. The rear camera performs well under most conditions and PCMag.com's Sascha Segan adds "that the iPhones—all of the iPhones—crush almost every other phone on low-light performance" Orf and Hollister say that if you get everything just right, there are other phones that can produce just as nice a photo, but add: "The iPhone 6 takes the photo you want almost every single time you hit the shutter button."
The design of the iPhone 6 closely follows that of previous iPhones, including premium fit, finish and materials. "The iPhone 6's thin, all-metal aesthetic makes for one of the sleekest designs in the smartphone universe," says CNET's Scott Stein. One improvement, reviewers note, is that the front glass wraps around the edges for a softer and friendlier look compared to the sharper edges of the last generation iPhone. The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are available in gold, silver and space gray. The iPhone is supported by nearly every major carrier in the U.S., including many prepaid services.
If the cost of the iPhone 6 is a turn off, Apple continues to offer two of its last generation devices, the iPhone 5s (Est. $550 and up) and the iPhone 5c (Est. $300 and up). Both were well-regarded devices when released and have aged relatively well. However, the 5c has older technology still -- CNET says it's essentially a repackaged iPhone 5 -- and is currently offered only with a non-expandable 8 GB of memory (though some third party sellers are still offering leftover models with more storage that are essentially identical). The 5s retains the traditional all metal and glass iPhone aesthetic, while the 5c is available in an assortment of colorful plastic cases. In its review of the 5c, CNET compares it and the 5s and notes that the latter has a number of hardware improvements. But Scott Stein adds that for everyday use, the 5c feels similar in operation to the 5s, at least at the time of review. Still, he does worry that the 5c is likely to struggle a little more with apps designed to take maximum advantage of the technology of later devices, including the 5s, iPhone 6, and whatever Apple will unveil next.