How does the iPhone 6 measure up?

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Apple announced two new iPhones (the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus) in September, and they went on sale in Thailand on October 31st. If you’re looking to buy a new iPhone, here’s our brief rundown of the prices and our opinion on the phones themselves.

The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus replace last year’s iPhone 5s as Apple’s flagship smartphones. As last year, they’re available in 3 colours (slate grey, silver and gold) and 3 storage capacities (16 GB, 64 GB and 128 GB). Apple has done away with the 32 GB size, and instead offers 64 GB at the medium tier. This means you can store lots more photos and content on the phone if you plump for the 64 GB (which in our opinion is the one to go for).

The iPhone 5s can still be purchased (only in 16 GB and 32 GB capacities) at a slightly reduced price, and the iPhone 5c completes the lineup.

This time around, Apple has ditched the 4-inch screen in favour of larger displays, in a move to position the iPhones against rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S5 and Galaxy Note, which have become increasingly popular as the trend towards so-called ‘phablets’ (half phone, half tablet) continues.

New iPhones break all records

iPhone 6 Launch in New York

kaarsten / Shutterstock.com

The new iPhones got off to a flying start and predictably broke all previous records. In the launch weekend, Apple sold more than 10 million in the launch countries (which did not include China this year) but that figure could easily have been far higher if they been able to meet demand. Of course, iPhones sold out quickly nearly everywhere…

Even now, two months after the initial launch, some of the higher capacity iPhone 6 Plus models are still fairly hard to find and in Thailand, many stores still don’t stock of the 64 and 128 GB models.

Here’s how iPhone sales in the launch weekend stack up with previous years:

iPhone 6 sales

Data provided courtesy of Statista.com (http://statista.com/chart/2748/iphone-launch-weekend-sales)

Where and how much to buy

You can purchase the iPhone 6 in Thailand from Apple’s website directly, or at several of the national mobile operators (such as DTAC and True) online or in-store, either unlocked without a SIM at full retail price, or with a data plan which is around 1,000 baht cheaper upfront. Other popular Thai chains such as iStudio, in addition to many of the smaller retailers found in shopping malls, also sell the new iPhones.

Buying an iPhone in Thailand is typically around 10% cheaper than parts of Europe. Taking the UK as an example, the 16 GB entry-level iPhone 6 costs 24,900 baht (or £485) at the Thai Apple Store, but the same model in the uK is £539. So if you’re on holiday in Thailand, it makes sense to consider buying a new iPhone unlocked, SIM-free if it’s cheaper than back home.

iPhones sold in Thailand will work in Europe and the US, as they support most of the common cellular bands and network technologies. Thaivisa can verify that a Thai-bought iPhone works fine in the UK and Japan based on our first hand experience. However, it’s always a good idea to check with the mobile network you use back home, just to be on the safe side.

How much are the new iPhones in Thailand?

The table below compares prices of the iPhone in Thailand (note that AIS does not list the iPhone 6 on its website) on DTAC and True (both with a SIM) and at the Apple Store (no SIM)

iPhone 6 Prices

The Apple Store initially seems expensive, but if you’re buying the without a SIM you’ll have to fork out another 1,000 baht or so when buying from the mobile phone companies.

Thaivisa recently acquired an iPhone 6 Plus (16 GB) without a SIM card at iStudio, for 29,450 baht.

Basically, there’s really not much variation in prices of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. If you’re intent on using a particular network and want to sign up for a plan, then it’s advisable to check the various tariffs with each company – there’s quite a bit of variation and special deals to be had.

The lowdown on the iPhone 6

Now you know where to buy the new iPhones and how much they cost, you may wonder whether it’s worth buying or upgrading from an older iPhone. We’re not going to review the new models feature-by-feature because there are already hundreds of reviews online, but here’s our own mini-review of the iPhone 6 (with more emphasis on the hardware than the software) that briefly describes some of the best features as well as own practical experiences of using the phone over the last month.

How big is that?

Firstly, the size of the iPhone 6 is really noticeable – it’s thinner than the iPhone 5s, and fits easily into the pocket despite its size. The iPhone 6 Plus on the other hand is really rather huge, and is best suited to be carried in a bag. After using the iPhone 6 for about a month, it’s almost impossible to go back to a 5s (and especially a 4 or 4s) with its paltry 4-inch screen, making it seems tiny in comparison.

Are there any improvements?

Both models run iOS 8, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, and there are lots of improvements and tweaks compared to iOS 7 – both visible as well as under the hood. We won’t get into the whole Android versus iOS 8 debate here, but suffice to say that iOS is eminently usable and intuitive, though it lacks the degree of customisability that Android users enjoy.

Fortunately, iOS 8 introduces the concept of extensions that can be added to the Today screen (for example, the latest Yahoo news headlines, or LinkedIn notifications), as well as custom keyboards (such as Swype). Hopefully, there will be more such extensions available as developers release more compatible apps.

iPhone 6 and iphone 6 Plus

Oleg GawriloFF / Shutterstock.com

What’s the difference between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus?

There are a couple of differences between the iPhone 6 and the Plus, notably the addition of optical zoom to the 8 megapixel camera, and of course the increased screen resolution on the Plus (1,920 x 1,080 at 401 pixels per pinch, compared with 1,334 x 750 at 326 pixels per inch) which results in slightly sharper images.

Additionally, the 6 Plus utilises the extra screen real estate nicely when the phone is used in landscape mode. Any example of this is Mail, which now uses a two column layout and shows contact pictures besides the message. Other than that, the two phones are almost similar in every way, and it’s largely a choice of which size you prefer.

What about the design and camera?

The iPhone uses a completely new design, with rounded corners and supposedly Gorilla Glass 3 (though Apple just says it’s ion-infused glass) that tapers off into a gentle curve at the edges. It’s very light to hold (129 g for the 6 and 172 g for the 6 Plus) and almost feels as if it’s going to slip out of your hand.

The camera, while still an 8 megapixel shooter on the back (fairly low spec compared to the now-typical 12 megapixels upwards seen in high-end smartphones), produces noticeably better pictures and much faster focusing (which Apple calls ‘focus pixels’) thanks in part to Sony’s image sensors. It just goes to show that in the megapixel race, it’s often the quality of the optics and camera software which are more important, since the iPhone 6 (and especially the 6 Plus) are regarded as having one of the very best cameras on any phone.

Apple puts a lot of effort into improving its camera with every iteration of the iPhone. It was even rumoured (by John Gruber of Daring Fireball) that the 2015 iPhone will use some kind of dual lens setup to offer near-DSLR quality pictures…

Contactless (NFC) and Apple Pay

At long last, Apple has added contactless NFC (Near Field Communications) capabilities to the new models, to support the new Apple Pay wireless payment system. This works in conjunction with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor for quick and secure payments.

Unfortunately, this tap-to-pay service isn’t yet available in Thailand (it’s U.S. only at first), so even though it’s one of the phone’s best features, it’s not currently possible to use it here. If the service and technology catches on, in the not-too-distant future we might simply be tapping our phones to pay for all kinds of goods and services. Apple Pay will also be used to pay for goods online, which might see more rapid adoption in Thailand because it doesn’t require any new in-store hardware such as wireless payments terminals.

Our verdict

There’s no doubt that the new iPhones are svelte, attractive and very capable hardware. In fact, thanks to the custom A9 chip they use, they are among the fastest smartphones in terms of performance. The battery life is also much better than the iPhone 5s – rather than lasting a day (or less) on a single charge, the 6 can easily go a couple of days with moderate usage, and the 6 Plus is even better.

For anyone that has lots of Apple gear such as an iPad and a Mac, the decision to buy one of the new iPhones is almost a no-brainer – everything synchronises between devices, and you can now even send and receive SMS messages on a Mac using the iPhone, as well as take regular phone calls. That’s a feature called Continuity, that really makes the whole ecosystem of Apple devices work well together.

Android fans may not be swayed by the iPhones. They are undeniably very capable smartphones,but as is the norm with Apple, while they have some very advanced technology, there are plenty of phones out there with better specifications. Does that really matter? In the end it’s all about personal choice. An iPhone 6 is a great smartphone for many people and one that does most things extremely well and is intuitive to use.

Despite a few quibbles in terms of features and capabilities the new iPhones are a worthy successor to the iPhone 5s, and definitely worth considering if you’re after a new smartphone.

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