Probably the most obvious feature after the size changes in the new iPhone is the Camera. The new processors enable new features in photo and video and whereas other manufacturers put more and more pixels into the camera sensors, Apple has concentrated on processing power to get the best out of the usual 8 megapixel to achieve results that can only be described as outstanding.
CPU — Apple has a close eye on the development of these chips. The A8 in the iPhone 6 uses an advanced 20-nanometre process to make it very small and energy-efficient chip – it houses 2 billion transistors while scoring up to 50 per cent better energy efficiency compared to the A7 chip in the iPhone 5s.
I measured the CPU power in Geekbench 3.
Model score Single Core—Multi-Core
iPhone 5 16GB 1.3GHz A6, 1016MB RAM 717—1304
iPhone 5c 64GB 1.25GHz A7 1016MB RAM 692—1246
iPhone 5s 64GB 1.28GHz A7 1000MB RAM 1395—2497
iPhone 6 128GB 1.38GHz A8 988MB RAM 1631— 2925
iPhone 6 Plus 218GB 1.37GHz A8 976MB RAM 1618—2901
Interestingly, the dual-core scores of the iPhone 6 models are virtually equal to the quad-core processor of the Samsung Galaxy S5 recorded by Phones Review in the UK: 946 single core and 2923 multi. So if you want two more cores doing half as much, this is for you.
Battery — The energy efficiency of the A8 means that even though processor power and co-processing is more impressive than the A7s, you get more battery life. Apple states the iPhone 6 handles up to 50 hours audio, 11 hours HD video, 11 hours wifi browsing, 10 hours 3G browsing, 14 hours 3G talk and up to 250 hours (ten days) on standby before needing a recharge. iPhone 6 Plus has more space in its shell for a bigger battery, so that’s even more impressive: up to 80 hours audio only, 14 hours HD video, 12 hours wifi, 12 hours 3G browsing, 24 hours 3G talk and up to 384 hours (16 days) on standby. iPhone 5s, according to Apple, gave up to 10 hours talk time on 3G and a standby time up to 250 hours – same as iPhone 6 – but only 10 hours video playback, audio 40, 10 hours on 4G LTE cellular and same on wi-fi.
iPhone 6 Plus, full charge, video-only running, brightness on full, Bluetooth and wi-fi on, movie (Black Snake Moan) running. This 116 minute film took the iPhone 6 Plus from 100% charge to 81% charge, so it took 19% charge to play it. I could play that 5.2 times at this rate, which comes to about 10 hours …I suspect Apple’s test was with wifi and Bluetooth turned off and the screen turned down in brightness, so that stacks up.
I don’t think I’d get the Plus just for more battery life – the difference isn’t enough to justify trying to fit this big thing in my pocket. for me, other considerations would have to sway my decision (to answer Jamie Lunn’s question in the comments on the first part of this review).
(But while we’re thinking about battery life, check out Apple’s advice page on getting the most from your iDevices.)
The camera — Cameras in smartphones is a contentious issue. The easy route, not without merit, is simply to add more megapixels to the sensor on every new model release. Apple has decided, contrarily, that there’s a sweet spot of quality, lens and sensor size in a device it wants to keep trim and instead takes the route of working hard on the lens and sensor, sure, while adding processing features to make the camera and its functions really something else: slo-mo, 60-frames-per-second video (in other words, super-smooth video), time lapse, and even image stabilisation so that when you shoot shaky, the result is smooth.
And it all works tremendously well. The video is full 1080p HD even at 60 fps, and the Time Lapse (slo-mo) shoots at 240 frames per second (but resolution drops to 720p). This works better if something fairly dramatic is happening (clouds moving slowly really is pointless) and it takes a while to process anything longer than ten minutes before you can watch it, but it’s pretty neat.
The new cameras, while still 8MP (same as the fives) feature large 1.5-micron pixels and ƒ/2.2 aperture, a wide-enough aperture that lets in 81% more light so that low-light photography is better, clearer while making it less likely the flash will need to fire.
Other camera features include Focus Pixels (the new Apple-designed image-signal processor provides image info to the CPU for better and faster auto-focus – it works really).
Burst Mode is on both 6 cameras (this continuously captures 10 photos per second). And it works on the front-facing camera, too, so shoot away at yourself and pick the best one. iPhone 6 works behind the scenes to analyse every shot in real time, comparing sharpness and clarity, and even detecting when someone’s eyes are closed. Your iPhone then suggests individual photos or a sequence of photos you might like best – to see the suggested best, open the Burst shot in Photos, tap Select at the bottom, and you’ll see a filmstrip of all the images along the bottom that you can scroll through. Apple’s suggestions have dots under them.
Timer is new for any iPhone running iOS 8 (do upgrade to 8.0.2, it’s very good – all the scary stuff was in the iOS 8..0.1 update that was summarily pulled within a very short time from release), letting you choose a 3-second or 10-second countdown before the shutter fires (good for selfies and groups shots you need to be in).
Face Detection is still there, but it has been improved (according to Apple) with better blink and smile detection, the handy on-viewfinder Exposure Control, Auto Stabilisation, Optical Image Stabilisation all work seamlessly in my tests, and the cameras in both sixes also support a new auto-HDR mode for wonderful dynamic range whenever the phone detects a big-enough range of contrast in the viewfinder that the image would be improved. High Dynamic Range runs separate exposures for the overexposed and underexposed parts of the image and combines them.
The Panorama feature we’ve had for a while, along with the Square option for Instagram-style images and the same filters you can take off afterwards if you change your mind.
Comparisons — I will post a page after this containing images and clips from an iPhone 5, 6 and a 6 Plus. I can’t compare the results to non-Apple smartphones, but if you’d like to read more on iPhone 6 compared to competitors, these sites might interest you, and I’m sure there’s plenty more you’ll find on a search like ‘iPhone 6 camera comparison smartphones’.