Best iPhone: Which iPhone is for you?


WhistleOut
14 September 2015

It’s easy to assume that the latest iPhone is also ‘the best’ one and leave it at that. But, let’s be honest; the main reason for a lot of people to buy an iPhone is to gain access to the Apple ecosystem. So long as everything works smoothly, you needn’t always spend top-dollar on the newest handset. In fact, you may even prefer one of the older models.

Current iPhones:

iPhone 6s

iPhone 6s

The latest and greatest, Apple’s iPhone 6s is the new benchmark for iOS powered products. Though incrementally different from last year’s iPhone 6, the new 6s has a number of cool new features, an upgraded camera and 3D Touch.

Display

Apple keeps the 4.7-inch display the same as in last year’s model, and while hardcore fans may be slightly disappointed, we have no complaints about this screen. It’s ‘Retina’ quality panel is one of the sharpest and most colourful in market, and is perfect for most everyday smartphone jobs.

One significant enhancement to the screen this year isn’t one you can see. 3D Touch is a new enhancement to the touchscreen component, making it possible for the phone to detect the pressure with which you touch the screen, opening up a new possibilities for how you access different functions within apps. For example, if you are using the Maps, a brief touch might bring up details about a restaurant, while a longer, firmer touch might shortcut you directly to turn-by-turn navigation to this place.

Camera

Apple continues to excel in smartphone photography and iPhone users who love photography will get a kick out of this year’s big update.

Like many of it’s competitor’s, Apple has significantly increased the size of its image sensor, stepping up from 8-megapixels to 12-megapixels. This move isn’t only about the size of your photo prints, but it should also play a part in creating a more detailed image.

Also, new is the iPhone’s ability to shoot videos with a massive 4K resolution. If this is new terminology to you, 4K means a video roughly four-times the size of a standard Full HD image, comprised of over three-times the number of pixels. For most of us, with standard Full HD TVs in our living rooms, this is serious overkill, but again, it should contribute to iPhone videos looking of a higher quality.

CPU

The iPhone 6s (and 6s Plus) benefits from an improved computer chipset under the hood, known as the Apple A9. It is hard to say how much faster things will feel when you use the new iPhone, but synthetic benchmarks suggests between a 40 - 50% increase in performance capability.

Who is it best suited to?

You know who you are. You want to be on the absolute bleeding edge of technology, or you want a talking point when you pull your phone at the bar. Photographers will benefit most for the upgrades this year, and 3D Touch is a nifty new feature which should prove extremely useful over time.

iPhone 6s Plus

Like last year, you know have two iPhone size options, and the iPhone 6s is the big daddy of the bunch. It’s retains the 5.5-inch display of the original ‘Plus, but comes with all of the new goodies found in the iPhone 6s.

iPhone 6s similarities

Everything we listed as being new and different about the iPhone 6s applies to the larger 6s Plus. The upgraded computing power, the improved 12-megapixel camera and 3D Touch — all are included with the Plus.

One important difference is that the iPhone 6s Plus has a higher resolution, Full HD, screen. While this is necessary to compensate for the larger screen size overall, it still makes for a slight denser arrangement of pixels, and a sharper image as a result.

Camera

As we saw last year, Apple gives its larger phone a significant, if hidden, photographic advantage. It’s optical image stabilisation (OIS) and it is a physical mechanism that attempts to compensate for your wobbly, shaking hands. This helps focus your photos better, and can seriously improve the performance of the camera in low-light situations where the shutter needs to stay open longer to bring more light onto the sensor.

We said above that the iPhone 6s is great for photographers (and it is), but if you’re seriously about your smartphone snaps then the iPhone 6s Plus is the better choice.

Who is it best suited to?

If you’re spent some time with a ‘phablet’, it can be hard to go back to a smaller screen. As you’d expect, the larger display means you get more of a webpage on screen, and it’s great for watching videos. It’s also great if you like to get creative on your phone, whether you’re sketching, or editing the photos you’ve taken.

iPhone 6

Of the two newest iPhones, the iPhone 6 is the baby. Along with the iPhone 6 Plus it has the fastest processor, best graphics capability, best camera and near field communication (NFC) for when Apple Pay finally becomes available in your region.

Display

Its 4.7 inch display is 17.5% larger than its predecessors, but it still offers that good old 326 pixels per inch (ppi) known to its fans as the iPhone Retina display, thanks to an increased resolution of 750 x 1334. As such the viewing experience should be of the exact same quality you’re used to, but there’ll be more of it.

Fingerprint scanner

The fingerprint scanner may sound like a gimmick but it’s superbly well-integrated. Where it comes in handy is for authorizing app payments. Instead of typing in your Apple ID password or PIN every time you want to download an app, you can just hold your thumb against the home button.You can also use it to unlock your phone.

On the 6 and 6 Plus you can also use it to authorize credit card payments via the NFC chip at the top of your phone. This technology is set to launch in the US in late 2014, but the rest of the world is still waiting for a release date.

Camera

We’re yet to take one for a spin ourselves, but you can bet the house that the iPhone 6 will sport a great camera. Apple has always excelled in this department and there’s no reason to expect any different this time around.

It’s still 8MP, but there have been improvements in autofocus speed, image sensing technology and the lens system. There’s also some digital image stabilization (DIS) to make sure your pics come out as blur-free as possible.

Another feature is the flash. It goes off with different color tones depending on what it's looking at. This is to avoid that white, washed-out look that so many flash photos suffer from. Instead, you can get a nicer, warmer look that you’d be happy to post without shoving it through an Instagram filter first.

CPU

The iPhone 6 uses a 64-bit A8 chip that is 25% more powerful than the one found in the iPhone 5s. 64-bit is a good sign that it will be fairly well future-proofed against iOS releases until at least iOS 10 or 11.

Who is it best suited to?

You're looking for a superb new smartphone, but you're savvy enough to know there is money to be saved by choosing last year's iPhone over the newer iPhone 6s. Quite a bit of money too, depending on where you shop or which carrier you choose. You won't sacrifice on features or performance, and no one will be able to tell whether your phone is old or new, so you might as well save a few bucks.

iPhone 6 Plus

Big and beautiful, the 5.5 inch iPhone 6 Plus is the iPhone for lovers of beautiful displays with as much screen real-estate as possible. It is the only iPhone to go above and beyond the 326 pixels per inch (ppi) restriction. Its 1080p resolution gives it a whopping 400ppi, which offers a noticeable raise in image quality on other phones and should also do it here.

It’s also the most expensive, so make sure you’re willing to fork out the big bucks. This is one of the priciest phones on the market.

iPhone 6 similarities

It sports the same fingerprint scanner perks as the iPhone 6, including NFC payments, and the same A8 processor and graphics capability.

Camera

The rear camera is essentially identical to the one found on the smaller iPhone 6 with one difference: it has optical image stabilization (OIS). OIS has the advantage because it literally moves the camera lens to compensate for your shaky hands, instead of relying on clever software tricks like DIS.

The front-facing cameras are the same.

Unique features

Thanks to its size, the iPhone 6 Plus needed a little more attention to keep the fans happy. You can view the Home Screen in landscape mode if you wish, which is a nice perk that not even Android has implemented yet. You can also get a two-column view in the email app.

More interestingly, Apple has taken a unique approach to solving the finger gymnastics needed to reach the top of such a large screen. Double-tapping the Home/Touch ID button will bring everything on the display down, leaving the top half blank. This is so you can reach any on-screen buttons located up there, or easily tap the address bar in your browser.

iPhone 5s

The 5s was 2013’s flagship model and so has now been relegated to 2nd tier in both status and price. That’s good news for anyone after that old compact Apple experience.

The 64GB model has ceased production, so you’ll need to get in while stocks last. In all probability there’s no rush, though.

iPhone 5s
Verizon Plans
iPhone 5s
AT&T Plans
iPhone 5s
T-Mobile Plans
iPhone 5s
Sprint Plans
Fingerprint scanner

It has the same Home button fingerprint scanner as the newer models, but it doesn’t have NFC so you won’t be able to use it for those swanky Apple Pay payments that the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus can do.

You’ll still be able to use your fingers as your unlock code and App Store security. It’s especially handy for in-app payments.

Camera

The camera was our 2013 pick for best color accuracy on the market, and came close to being the best overall phone. It takes photos quickly, achieves focus within milliseconds and you can take repeat shots almost as fast as you can tap your finger. It also rocks the two-tone flash of the 6 and 6 Plus.

CPU

The A7 chip is a little slower than the A8, but it’s still a 64-bit chip and as such should be well future-proofed. With any luck you should be good until at least the end of 2016 or 2017.

What they have in common

All iPhones offer similar user experiences thanks to their operating system, which is called iOS. As of the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the current version is iOS 8. All of the iPhones listed here are compatible with the iOS 8 update, but will obviously differ in how well they can handle it based on their hardware.

iOS 8 brings new features like:

  • QuickType keyboard
  • Family sharing for music, movies, books and apps you buy through the iTunes store
  • Health tracking compatible with sports bands, like Nike Fuel
  • Messages that include voice clips
  • Easy file-sharing from a Mac to your phone, and vice versa

Click here for a detailed breakdown of the features on iOS 8.

iOS ubiquity

Each time an iOS update (the iPhone operating system) rolls out it makes its way to every iPhone that’s current enough to run it. Even if an older iPhone comes with an older OS, it’ll update as soon as you want it to.

Identical displays – no longer

Apple has been reluctant to change the size of the iPhone’s screen, finally budging in 2012 and upping it to a still-compact 4 inches. That’s all changed now.

The iPhone 6 has a more-standard 4.7 inch display, while the iPhone 6 Plus has a whopping 5.5 inches. This is compared to the identical 4 inch displays of the iPhone 5s, iPhone 5c and iPhone 5.

Siri access

All these iPhones run Siri — Apple's personal assistant software, all models interface with iTunes in the same way, and all have access to iCloud.

There, now that we have that sorted, let’s get in to the comparison.

Image credit: Hadrian / Shutterstock.com


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