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Sunday
Sep282014

Buying guide: Apple iPhone 5s vs iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus

After a year of using the iPhone 5s, I've spent a week with both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. All three phones are part of Apple's current line-up. Here are my thoughts:
 

iPhone 5s - A sound choice for a single-handed phone.

The main visual difference between the iPhones is that the iPhone 5s has a 4" screen whereas the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have larger screens. The iPhone 5s is still very capable after a year of availability. Its main brain, the A7 chip, is only slightly slower than the A8 inside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, so it doesn't feel sluggish at the moment. The iPhone 5s is easier to handle than both the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus due to its smaller size, and it's also slightly lighter than the iPhone 6. The camera on the iPhone 5s is also excellent, and while the iPhone 6 does have a slightly better camera, the iPhone 5s still takes very good photos.
 
The iPhone 5s will work with the upcoming Apple Watch but it will not work with Apple Pay, which is the payments system coming in October that will allow us to pay for things without needing to hand a credit card over to a restaurant or store.
 
All in all, the iPhone 5s may be a year old but it's still very capable. 
 
A note on the iPhone 5c: This is the other 4" iPhone currently sold by Apple. It contains the brainpower of the iPhone 5 that was released in 2012. While the iPhone 5c is now the iPhone that is often available for free on a new contract, I would go with the iPhone 5s for an extra hundred dollars because its main brain, the A7 chip, is twice as fast as the A6 chip in the iPhone 5c. This means the iPhone 5s will continue to be more responsive than the iPhone 5c when Apple's iOS software becomes more demanding of the iPhone over the coming years.
 

  

iPhone 6 - Likely to be the sweet spot for many people 

The iPhone 6 is larger than the iPhone 5s but only marginally heavier. It has a 4.7" screen compared to the 4" screen on the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c. That may not seem to be a huge jump but everything becomes easier to see and manage. The keyboard is wider, text is bigger and the camera viewfinder is larger. The iPhone 6 is also thinner than the iPhone 5s and its curved edges make it easy to handle. It's possible to use the iPhone 6 single-handed if your hand is large enough, but reaching the top of screen can be a challenge.
 
The iPhone 6, like the iPhone 5s, fits into most pockets comfortably. This is definitely an advantage over the iPhone 6 Plus, which can be harder to fit gracefully into pockets.
 
The iPhone 6 typically costs a hundred dollars more than the iPhone 5s. 
 
The overall feeling of the iPhone 6 for me is that it feels perfect in the hand, amazingly lightweight and probably the best balance of practicality and size. But the larger screen on the iPhone 6 Plus is very appealing...
 
  

iPhone 6 Plus - Almost an iPad replacement 

The iPhone 6 Plus looks cosmetically similar to the iPhone 6. It has the same curved sides and antenna design on the rear, but its screen measures 5.5" compared to the 4.7" screen on the iPhone 6. This makes the iPhone 6 Plus significantly larger than the iPhone 6, and you immediately feel this when you pick up the iPhone 6 Plus. It's both heavier and a lot bigger to handle than the iPhone 6. The benefit is the huge 5.5" screen, which is very useful when reading web pages or if you like to increase the size of text on the screen.
 
Most of the features on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are identical but the camera on the iPhone 6 Plus has optical image stabilization, which should produce less blurry images if you move the phone slightly when taking a photo. I've found the camera on the iPhone 6 Plus to be excellent so far. But I've also found the camera on the iPhone 6 to be excellent. 
 
The iPhone 6 Plus is harder to fit into some pockets. This is worth bearing in mind unless you carry your phone in a bag or purse. It's also a couple of ounces heavier to hold than the iPhone 6. 
 
One advantage of the extra weight of the iPhone 6 Plus is that its battery lasts a lot longer than the iPhone 6. I haven't had to charge the iPhone 6 Plus part way through a day. Another advantage of the larger size of the iPhone 6 Plus is that the antenna straps on the back are physically larger than those on the iPhone 6. As a result I've experienced better cellphone reception with the iPhone 6 Plus compared to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 5s.
 
The iPhone 6 Plus is an excellent choice if you are comfortable with the larger size and extra weight.
 
 

What's in my pocket?

There’s no ‘right’ choice with this wonderful decision. I will probably settle on the iPhone 6 Plus because I’ve enjoyed being able to carry a larger screen with me and the extra battery life has made a difference. I also like the improved cellphone reception that I seem to get with the iPhone 6 Plus. But there are big plusses to the iPhone 6 and 5s also. Spend time with all of them in a store and decide which one fits best into your lifestyle.
 

Neil Berman, Helper-in-Chief, TheONbutton

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