Last year, the big change to the then-new iPhone 5S was the addition of a gold option. This year, Apple upped the ante by offering not one but two screen sizes — both of them larger than the 4-in. screen on last year's flagship iPhone.
Apple calls these Retina HD displays, but what they really are is a conundrum for iPhone users not accustomed to choosing a display size. Since the new iPhones (and the Apple Watch) were unveiled on Tuesday, I've been asked repeatedly about the new screens from would-be buyers. As it happens, I'm mulling the same question, since pre-orders begin tomorrow for the new phones, which go on sale Sept. 19.
If you're on the fence about which size is right, fret not. All you have to consider is exactly how you'll use this phone, and which functions you'll want most often.
Both models of the new iPhone 6 line-up — the regular 6 and the 6 Plus — come in the same color and size configurations: silver/gold/space gray and 16/64/128GB. Both come with a new barometer sensor, support for faster LTE, support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi, NFC, and improved cameras.
The difference is mainly in the screen. The iPhone 6 offers a 1334-x-750-pixel 4.7-in. LED-backlit display, which works out to 326 pixels per inch, just like the iPhone 5 and 5S. The iPhone 6 Plus has a 1920-x-1080-pixel 5.5-in. LED-backlit display at 401 pixels per inch. Both displays feature an LCD with dual-domain pixels for improved viewing angles and a substantially higher contrast ratio. Last year's flagship iPhone 5S had an 800:1 ratio; the iPhone 6 has a 1400:1 ratio, with the larger 6 Plus offering 1300:1. The iPhone 6 Plus offers 88% more viewing area and three times the pixels on iPhone 5/5S. That's two million pixels in total, and nearly a million more pixels than the iPhone 6.
So if you're mainly interested in pixels and screen real estate, the 6 Plus is for you. Note: It's $100 more than the regular iPhone 6.
While it's one thing to have a large display, it's another thing entirely when the software is optimized to take advantage of that big screen. Instead of simply scaling up interface elements, iOS 8 has been redone to take advantage of the larger screens, more so on the Plus model and especially when holding it in portrait mode. For instance, the keyboard on the Plus has extra keys, including dedicated virtual buttons for cut, copy and paste. And on the Plus, apps like Messaging, Email, and Calendar use a split mode to show you more information.
The larger screen obviously means a larger size and a bit more weight, so, for some buyers, the 5.5-in. iPhone is just too large to be a comfortable fit in the hand. Measuring 6.22-in. long, 3.06-in. wide, and weighing 6.07 ounces, the iPhone 6 Plus isn't the biggest phone on the market, but it certainly is the largest and heaviest iPhone ever released.
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