Apple is calling its new iPhones “the biggest advancement in the history of iPhone” and “the best phones ever made.” That’s some heady stuff, and while the former might be true (and I think that might even be a stretch), the latter certainly isn’t. Let’s deconstruct the reality distortion field that is Apple marketing and take a good luck at whether Apple’s newest offerings, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, are worth your upgrade.
Despite openly sneering in the past at Android phones that have grown ever larger in recent years, Apple has finally beefed up the size of its offerings. Gone are the 3.5-inch and 4-inch models it sold last year. The iPhone 6 has a 4.7-inch display with 1334×750 resolution for 326 pixels per inch, the same pixel density as the past several iPhones. The iPhone 6 Plus has a phablet-sized 5.5-inch screen with 1920×1080 resolution and 400ppi. Neither display is going to set the world on fire with its pixel density, though Apple’s displays are known for being sharp with accurate color reproduction and wide viewing angles and excellent brightness. The new iPhones feature Apple’s A8 processor, which the company claims is faster, more powerful and results in improved battery life over last year’s A8. And in another case of adopting a feature it had roundly mocked for years, the new iPhones will also have NFC.
As far as new hardware, that’s it. Many of the fancy new features Apple showed off at its unveling came as new software functions. The rear camera has the same 8MP sensor as before with the iPhone 6 Plus gaining optical image stabilization. The company is also boasting improved video-shooting capability, especially in slow motion. The company unveiled its take on mobile payments with Apple Pay as well as its interoperability with its own smartwatch, the Apple Watch. Apple’s updated operating system, iOS 8, brings improvements to text messaging, email navigation, and access to favorite contacts as well as future connections between apps.
Apple has shown disdain for the spec war for years with its smartphones. This year is no exception. It’s not hard to find Android (and Windows) phones that have higher screen resolutions, bigger batteries, faster processors, camera sensors with more megapixels and hardware capabilities such as IR blasters, wireless charging and expandable storage. Indeed, many of the new iPhones’ new features are those that Android users have enjoyed in some cases for years such as NFC and 1080p screens.
So Apple can’t win the spec war, you say, but it’s competitive with its pricing, right? Wrong. And so wrong as to not even be in the same universe. Apple’s new base model, the 4.7-inch 16GB iPhone 6, will set you back $199 on contract and $649 outright. Want more storage? That’ll set you back an extra $100 both on and off contract for a 64GB model and an extra $200 for a 128GB version. Have your eye on upgrading to the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus? The 16GB base model is being offered for $299 on contract and $749 outright. Throw in an extra $100 for each version here as well for each storage-capacity version up to a ridiculous (to me) price of $949 off contract for the 128GB model.
For comparison, the new Moto X announced by Motorola last week and slated for release later this month will sell for $99 on contract and $499 off contract for the 16GB version. The Moto X has top-notch specs and build quality as well as additional voice capabilities that put Siri to shame. Only Samsung’s phones are as pricey as Apple’s in the Android world.
From an upgrader’s point of view, then, Apple isn’t winning on specs, features or price. So why does anyone own these phones at all, you ask? This is easier to answer, but also a little less immediately tangible.
First, Apple makes some beautiful hardware. There’s no denying that the company’s products are drool-worthy premium designs with excellent build quality. Their phones look great and feel great, better than many Android devices.
Second, unlike Android phones, an iPhone is a tight integration of hardware and software designed by the same manufacturer. Simply put, they were made for each other; there isn’t any wonkiness or having to employ a device-specific workaround for a feature. The iPhone user experience is well-tailored for customers. Nearly everything is straighforward, intuitive and simple. Trying to play tech support for someone with an iPhone is not difficult or time-consuming. Everything just works. There’s certainly a lot of value to that approach. And because Apple controls the hardware and software, anyone with an iPhone receives their iOS update at the same time; no waiting months for the OEM and your carrier to get on the same page to push out an update just as the next new version comes out.
Lastly, the Apple ecosystem is vast and works well together. More than any other device manufacturer, there’s an enormous value in owning several Apple products. Apple’s Macs and its iPhones and iPads play well together and will be getting even more interoperability in the coming months with Continuity and OSX 10.10 on the Mac. The Apple App Store is huge and filled with tons of great, feature-rich titles. Thrown in iCloud and the new iCloud Drive, and you’ve got some powerful capability. So on to the question of whether to upgrade.
If you’re an exisiting iPhone owner and looking to stay in the Apple ecosystem, these phones are definitely improvements on what you’re carrying around. The larger screen real estate alone will be a breath of fresh air, especially if you’re coming from an iPhone 4 or 4s. If you’ve always wanted a bigger iPhone but are still in the middle of a two-year contract, it would almost certainly even be worth looking for another carrier to jump to who would pay your early termination fee. And while Apple will push out iOS 8 to your older iPhone, iOS 8 was made for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus; it will run better and provide more features on the newer devices. If you’re willing to drop the extra $100, the iPhone 6 plus offers a bigger screen with higher resolution as well as optical image stabilization and iPad-like functionality in landscape mode.
If you’re an Android user, nothing Apple has done on paper is going to convince you to buy an iPhone. And before you get all up in arms, neither am I. Android phones generally cost less, have better specs and more features and boast of longer life. While Android phones have long offered exponentially more options to customize, they have long suffered the reputation of offering a baffling, garish-to-ugly and chaotic user interface out of the box. That’s no longer the case, even on a Samsung phone. But if you’re an Android user looking to simplify, with a device that will not need to be tailored just-so in order to bring you a great user experience, an iPhone could be a compelling option.
So there you have it — my take on Apple’s new premium but pricey iPhones. You’ve got a week to think about it before they’re released: Will you be upgrading? Check back with iTechTriad for all the news and details about Apple’s newest offerings.