I've had a full day now to play with the brand new iPhone 6. Like most pieces of new technology, it's a mixed bag.
iPhones aren't new to me – I've owned every one but the first model, and I use mine nonstop as both a work and personal device. This model is different in many ways, but as usual, the biggest story here is the software, not the hardware.
iOS8 will work on iPhones new and old, although it's certainly more quick on the 6 than it was on the iPhone 5S. Unless you have a very old iPhone, you should definitely upgrade to iOS8. And if you have a very old iPhone, say the 4S, you should definitely upgrade the phone, too: Phones aren't refrigerators; they really only last two years and after the first, the battery is mostly gone, anyway. But that's another conversation.
Let's first talk about the hardware on this toy. The iPhone 6 is big, skinny, light and slippery. It still fits in my hand easily, even with its larger screen. The form factor doesn't feel as premium as the previous design, but it certainly doesn't feel cheap and plastic at all. In other words, it ironically looks more like an Android imposter than ever, but it doesn't feel like one. The way the screen seamlessly meets the edge is pretty; for the first time, the black model looks nicer than the white.
Oddly, Apple allowed the camera lens to protrude from the back a little, so the phone doesn't lay totally flat on a table. My finger keeps touching the lens like it's a button. The actual power button has been moved to the right from the top, and I instinctively go to touch something that's not there to put it to sleep. The fingerprint sensor appears to be improved; I'm getting way fewer false negatives so far.
This phone is louder than the last model, and the vibration motor has somehow become more powerful, too. The pixel density on the Retina screen is more gorgeous and bright than ever before, but it occasionally seems to dim on me, even though I have auto-brightness turned off.
The camera is refined, too, even though the hardware specs haven't changed. Apple is using the A8 processor's added horsepower to improve its sensor and more; the iPhone 6, with its on-board image adjustment tools, can now safely replace all but the best point and shoot cameras. I'll still use my pro camera, shooting in RAW, for important tasks, but they say the best camera is the one in your pocket, and in this case, there's nothing to be ashamed of when whipping it out.
Battery life on the 6 continues to be abysmal, although at least with a new phone you get a fresh battery, so as I'm writing this, my battery is hovering around 50 percent (it would usually be 20 percent by mid day).
But the best piece of hardware remains elusive to review. The killer feature on this phone is the NFC-powered Apple Pay, but that was delayed until October, so I can't tell you how that works at all. It's disappointing that we were told it would be ready to go, yet it isn't.
On the very negative side, my upgrade experience was a huge mess. First, both my wife's iPhone 6 and mine wouldn't activate on their own, so I spent a good two hours on hold with Verizon while they activated both manually. Then, in restoring from an iCloud backup, my phone wasn't fully updated for about 12 hours. Obviously, during the process (in which Apple's servers were slammed), it was slow and unresponsive. By now, Apple should be prepared for this kind of bandwidth flourish, and it isn't. People who don't care to understand what's going on will be very perplexed and frustrated, and only now am I beginning to see what the phone can do.
And in normal operations, I don't notice an appreciable speed difference. I do notice that many of the staple apps, like Facebook, GMail and Instagram, haven't yet been updated for the iPhone 6's larger screen. That means they're still upscaling to the new dimensions, so everything is noticeably blurry. I'm sure that will be resolved soon, but for now, saying "it just works" is a bit of a stretch.
So, despite these problems, should you buy this phone? Oh yes. In my unofficial role of family Apple tech support, I also set up my mom's iPhone 6 Plus. And it's really big. In person, it doesn't really look like a little iPad, but the phablet is larger than something I'd want in my pocket, if it would even fit. But this bigger, but not huge, iPhone 6 is a really nice size. The skinniness makes up for its stretched length. Once the other problems are hammered out, it will be an amazing device.
If you like the Apple ecosystem and are eligible for a contract, this purchase is a no-brainer, especially given that there are plenty of opportunities for you to sell your old phone and break even. Even if you are stuck paying an early upgrade fee, I'd recommend it. The camera, the Apple Pay (eventually) and the fresh battery are enough for me. If you prefer Android or Windows phones, of course, you should buy one of those.
And obviously, the iPhone 6 is far from perfect, even if some of the problems come from the carrier. The good news is that most of the hang ups are temporary ... but miserable battery life, of course, is not.
No, I'm not blown away by this phone ... yet. But I'm pleased with it after just 24 hours. For the headaches that came with day one, the iPhone 6's many attributes will reveal themselves as everyone catches up to the next game changer. My recommendation: buy the iPhone 6 as soon as you can.
Andy is the president, publisher and founder of OnMilwaukee. He returned to Milwaukee in 1996 after living on the East Coast for nine years, where he wrote for The Dallas Morning News Washington Bureau and worked in the White House Office of Communications. He was also Associate Editor of The GW Hatchet, his college newspaper at The George Washington University.
Before launching OnMilwaukee.com in 1998 at age 23, he worked in public relations for two Milwaukee firms, most of the time daydreaming about starting his own publication.
Hobbies include running when he finds the time, fixing the rust on his '75 MGB, mowing the lawn at his cottage in the Northwoods, and making an annual pilgrimage to Phoenix for Brewers Spring Training.