iPhone 6

"Craftmanship. The perfect smartphone, with a perfect operating system, with elegant design. The best phone out there."

That was the response of someone when I asked how they thought Tim Cook would answer the question "Why does the iPhone 6 cost so much more than the rest of the competitor phones?" around the time of the phone's launch.

It's still a question worth asking, given that the iPhone 6 continues to cost as much as many current Android flagships. I still feel that answer would be pretty close to the mark, though.

It's a more in-depth answer than 'the Apple logo on the back', which a lot of people assume is the reason you've got to pay more for an iPhone. That answer would explain why Apple thinks it can charge more for the phone, but doesn't go any way to explaining what it is that makes it feel the need to keep the price so high.

In fact, price is the main thing that plays on my mind whenever I use the iPhone 6 these days. Is this mid-range phone still worth such a high price?

However, before I give my thoughts on that, let's first take a look at what makes this phone special: an improved design, a better camera, and an upgraded battery compared to its predecessor.

A faster CPU, better graphical power, stronger health sensors and a slicker and more intuitive UI. The iPhone 6 represents Apple's last big jump in smartphone design, and one that makes this a very impressive phone indeed.

But is that worth the extra money?

We liked

A lot of people still think it's acceptable to compare phones based on a spec sheet. It's not. It's about the experience, the relationship one has with a phone day after day, and that's something Apple has nailed year after year: the feeling you get when you first pick one up.

The design of the iPhone 6 is brilliant. It feels like a potted down version of the iPad Air, which itself was one of the best-designed bits of tech I've ever held. I'm not a fan of the plastic strips on the top and bottom of the phone – I'd have preferred these to be blocks of colour – but that aside, it feels great in the palm. And it's a design that remains relevant through the iPhone 6S.

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The battery life upgrade is a real plus too. Yes, it falls a little under hard use, not to mention after more than a year of working, but the main problem with the 5S was the fact the phone would be useless by the end of the working day even when not put under a lot of strain; that problem seems to have been resolved.

The camera quietly impresses, and the new modes are helpful at times, if not always useful. While it irritates that there's no 16:9 mode for snapping, the results are still almost always something I'd want to share.

We disliked

The iPhone 6 is still a sensational handset, but not flawless. There are two issues that have to be raised.

The first is the screen. It's a tricky one, as it could sound like I'm being rather hypocritical given my point about not basing a feeling about a phone on a spec sheet.

But the lower-res screen is noticeable next to most other Full HD phones in the iPhone 6's class. Sure, day to day you won't notice the fuzzier text, the slightly rougher pictures; but given that you'll be paying more for a new iPhone 6 than for many newer Android flagships, I can't condone Apple not working out a way to get a Full HD display on this phone.

It's not like it's new technology either: the HTC One M7 had a similarly sized display back in 2013 and it was Full HD. It looked great back then, so why has Apple not managed the same thing now?

I can't think it's to do with battery life, but if it is, then the phone should have been made thicker; 6.9mm with the rounded back feels nice in the hand, but a mm or two thicker wouldn't have gone amiss if the thing I was looking at had a better display – after all, Apple did just that to squeeze in the iPhone 6S's arguably superfluous 3D Touch feature.

iPhone 6

And secondly, there's the issue of price. Again. The Apple iPhone 6 is still too expensive for me, even after the post-iPhone 6S price cut.

Every year I get to this point in the review of that year's iPhone and wonder: "Am I'm missing something? Should I be giving the iPhone a pass while castigating Android or Windows Phones for the same thing?"

But I still can't find a tangible reason for the extra cost. We're not talking a single pound / dollar or two; it's a big difference in price on contract. The materials used are premium, yes, but they're not necessarily making the best design out there.

The iCloud drive stuff is good, the operating system is sleek, but there's nothing here (beyond the phone being a very good all-rounder) that gives me a quick answer when someone asks me "Why is the iPhone more expensive?"

To me, that's a problem – and one I can't just ignore because 'people' will pay it. Were there nothing else wrong here, then perhaps it could be glossed over, giving the choice to the buyer, but as the phone isn't – and wasn't – market-leading in a number of ways, the price rankles heavily.

Verdict

When I first picked up the iPhone 6 I thought this was going to be a hard review to write. Had Apple just changed the shape but kept the same inherent problems? Was there actually enough new stuff to make it a phone that really helped the company leap forward?

The answer is: the Apple iPhone 6 is a brilliant phone. Its release marked the first time I'd even considered using an iPhone as my daily device, thanks to the larger screen, better keyboard and, most importantly, the upgraded battery life.

However, the price is still off-putting and the screen, while perfectly fine (and sometimes impressive) in day to day use will still irritate me, knowing that I've not got the best experience for my money.

But that's the only bugbear I have with the Apple iPhone 6. It still feels amazing in the hand. Apple has somehow made a phone too thin (even for Apple to top) and turned it into a positive. The operating system is smarter and more intuitive than ever, and that's without even factoring in the strong ecosystem of apps and media that Apple users get.

So while the iPhone 6 might not be the most powerful, most attractive, best at photography or best for battery life, Apple has put it all together in a way that, if you can forgive the persistently high price (and that's a big if), offers a phone that should still be at the sharp end of your consideration for your next smartphone if you're not willing to splash out £500-plus.

First reviewed: September 2014

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Global Phones, Tablets and Wearables Editor

Gareth (Twitter, Google+) has been in charge of phones, tablets and wearables at TechRadar for the best part of a decade. He can instantly recommend the best phone for you, or can be found running around the nearest park with the latest fitness tech strapped to his wrist, head or any other applicable body part.

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