The last word on the iPhone 6 vs. 6 Plus decision

By now, if you’re in the market for a new iPhone, you’ve probably scoured a dozen articles advising how to choose which model to get: the 4.7 inch iPhone 6 or the 5.5 inch iPhone 6 Plus. So, while I have no illusions that this is the first or only article you’ve read on this subject, it could be the last one you need to read.

For some buyers, there is no tough choice here. They  know exactly what they want. “It’s iPhone 6. No way I want a phone that’s so big that my small hands can’t even grasp it” or “The 6 Plus is the size I’ve been waiting for. I can finally dump my iPad mini and go with just one portable device.”

For the rest of us, and this includes myself as well as I suspect the vast majority of buyers, the decision is far less certain. That’s what drove people to make cut-outs of the different sizes before pre-ordering last week, so they could take the models for a quasi-test drive. The trouble is, even if you now go to your local store and play with each model for awhile, the choice may still not be clear.

Each model has its pros and cons. For example, I found it impossible to hold and use the iPhone 6 Plus as a camera one-handed. But, the iPhone 6 Plus has Optical Image Stabilization not present with the iPhone 6. Which way does the balance tip here? I’m not sure.

And so it goes. Do I want the largest possible display, an iPhone that can almost double as an iPad? Or do I want a more compact, portable device that is still easy to use with one hand. If I could test out each device for a couple of weeks, I might figure this out for sure. But that’s not financially practical.

Whatever I decide, it doesn’t mean that I would recommend the same choice for you. Which model is better for you depends on how you see yourself using the iPhone. The more you view the phone as a pocket computer rather than a phone with extra features, the more you’ll likely lean toward the Plus.

In the end, neither model may prove the right one in all situations. You’ll have to figure out which device you prefer most of the time because you won’t prefer either model all of the time.

As a related example, I purchased both an iPad Air and an iPad mini last year. For the first month or so, I alternately used one or the other — in attempt to decide which one would be my primary device. Some days the mini seemed too small — when I was reading the New York Times or playing a game where precision aiming was important. Other times, the iPad Air seemed too big…when reading a book or when using it for almost anything while out of the house. The Air was the better choice when paired with a physical keyboard. It’s larger size made it superior for watching video. The mini was better when I wanted to quickly look things up on the web, check the weather or other similarly small tasks.

In the end, I stayed with the Air, as it was the device I wound up wanting most of the time. But there were still days I would have preferred the mini. And so it will be with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.

Let’s not make too much of this dilemma. This should be the worst problem you ever have, as my mother would have said. Both iPhones are spectacularly designed devices. Neither one will be a disappointment.

I am especially impressed with their displays. I didn’t think they could be that much better than the one on my iPhone 5S (which was already excellent). But they are. The images are brighter, sharper and seem less pixellated. They almost appear as if they are painted on the glass.

So, when crunch time came, what was my choice? I went with the iPhone 6.

What ultimately tipped the scales for me was that the iPhone 6’s display was larger than I anticipated. And I mean that as a good thing. After reading all the hype following Apple’s media event, I was prepared for the iPhone 6’s display to be almost unrecognizably bigger than my iPhone 5S. Not so. It’s way bigger. I can type more accurately with it. I read small text more easily. Photos appear distinctly larger. Games are more pleasant to play. The iPhone 6 turned out to be sufficiently big that I didn’t feel the need for the larger 6 Plus with all the compromises it required.

Still, the iPhone 6 Plus was not as ungainly big as I had imagined. Passing one critical test, it fit easily into the front pocket of my blue jeans. If the 6 Plus was my only option, I would be content with it. Who knows? Maybe I will be ready to move up to an iPhone 6S Plus next year. But no Plus for me this time around.

One more thing: my iPhone — with its curved glass display, super-thin design and space-gray back — looks and feels so good that I decided a case would ruin the effect. So I am going without a case for the first time.

My decisions have been made. Once I gave up on the idea that there had to be a sure “correct” decision, it became a lot easier to make one. Hopefully, this helps in making your choice. Good luck!

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4 Responses to The last word on the iPhone 6 vs. 6 Plus decision

  1. Chip says:

    I own an iPhone 5 and an iPad 3 and prior to the announcements the other day I’d been thinking about replacing both (or keeping the iPad and buying a $120 Kindle Paperwhite for reading).

    With the new iPhones I have been hoping that an iPhone 6 Plus would eliminate my need for a replacement iPad (I was considering a mini when they get updated later this year) – I figured the 5.5″ screen of the Plus would generally be an acceptable replacement for the 6″ screen on the Kindle, and be one less device while also offering much better battery life.

    A few things have complicated that consideration. For one, Jason Snell wrote about how the Plus doesn’t really replace the benefits of the iPad mini (, and then Amazon is now offering a 300 DPI version of the Kindle (for a somewhat pricey $200). Snell and Andy Ihnatko both preordered the new Kindle, and the thought of it is quite enticing, despite the face that most of my books are in epub and pdf format (and work wonderfully in iBooks).

    Today I played with a friend’s new silver iPhone 6 and I like it quite a bit; it feels better in the hand than my iPhone, it’s appreciably faster, has a better screen, it doesn’t feel *that* much bigger than my phone, and I can continue to use it one-handed. So I’m reluctantly leaning back towards the 4.7″ iPhone

  2. mike salesin says:

    i bought the “plain” 6 as well. and love it. i use a belt holster but never put an iPhone in a case, the devices have all been too nice naked to cover them up. i thought that the iPhone5S was terrific in my hand but the 6 is even better. as you said, nice problem to have.

  3. Vic says:

    Went for the Plus – for the novelty mainly, but also because I happen to be using my iPhone for emails, tweets and browsing early in the morning or late at night when in bed (I know it’s bad)… because the iPad does only a very marginally better job than the phone, I thought a way larger phone would be a viable option.
    I was impressed (not to say shocked) when I unboxed it: it’s big. I was riding my bike home and as I felt the device in my jeans pocket I regretted my choice.
    But after a couple of hours at home, I began to think the original intuition was right, the iPhone 6 Plus is probably the device I ever wanted.
    I had an iPad Mini for a short time, it was great to hold in one hand but the screen real estate was too small to do what is was supposed to do for me. So my iPad Air would be for playing music, those sunday afternoon’s readings in the couch and movies alike…
    And that big iPhone for all the rest I really need to perform on the go, no matter the time and location: email and browsing.

  4. Chip says:

    I was at the 5th Avenue NYC Apple Store today because my iPhone 5’s serial # matches bad batches for both battery and sleep switch, so the Genius was nice enough to order me a free refurb replacement under Applecare+ (he *could* have sent my phone away for parts replacement and given me a 16Gb loaner while my 64Gb phone was sent away for a week, and I’m realy glad he didn’t). While there I got to play with the new iPhones for an extended period.

    I really *wanted* to prefer the Plus for the superior book-reading and the longer-lasting battery. What I found was that the iPad mini is even better for reading, with more book-like white space around the text, and it’s light enough.

    The iPhone 6 Plus is just not a one-handed machine, and I’ve got years of muscle-memory invested in handling a phone that way. And I’m a little afraid I’ll try to use the Plus that way without thinking, and drop it.

    So it looks like my next purchase will be a refreshed iPad mini if one comes out in a couple of weeks as rumored. And with a fresh battery in a ‘new’ iPhone 5 I just might wait it out past my Applecare+ expiration in December and hold out for an iPhone 6s a year from now.

    I asked about the trade-in value for my 64Gb phone and was quoted $200. (My unlocked phone originally cost me $849 unlocked, plus $99 for Applecare+, plus 8.25% tax, which is considerable, but it paid for itself after 14 months with savings from the T-Mobile plan I chose.)

    $200 is about what Gazelle et al are offering for the phone these days. At that price, even if I do buy a new phone, it might be better to keep the 5 as a backup for me or my significant other (currently using a 7-month-old 5c that she loves), or even use it indoors as a streaming music/TV controller.

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