iPhone 6: Early impressions

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Before publishing our full review, Gizmag takes an early look at the iPhone 6 (Photo: Will Shanklin/Gizmag.com)

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The iPhone 6 is officially here, and Gizmag is putting our review unit through the paces. Join us for some early impressions of Apple's new 4.7-in flagship.

The iPhone 6 is the most beautifully-designed smartphone I've ever seen. And I'm not someone who says that about every new iPhone. In fact, for the last couple of years, I thought the HTC One (M7 and M8) wore that crown. But the iPhone 6 has an outstanding combination of curves, premium metal, lightness and thinness. It sounds cliché, but pictures don't quite do it justice; you have to see it and touch it to fully appreciate it.

Physically, the iPhone 6 is much like a bigger (and cellular-enabled) version of the latest (5th-generation) iPod touch – protruding camera and all. The way the new iPhone's front glass panel gently slopes off into rounded edges is a particularly striking touch. It's also a refreshing alternative to the boxy, angular look we got from the last four iPhone flagships (2010's iPhone 4 through last year's iPhone 5s).

I could go on about design, but looks aren't everything. There's a sharp and powerful smartphone here too.

On paper, the iPhone 6's 326 pixels per inch display is looking pretty dated, but, in experience, I really can't say I pick it up and think "this needs to be sharper." The screen's contrast, as well as color range and accuracy, all help its cause. Despite having used countless 1080p (and a couple Quad HD) displays through the last year or two, I have no complaints about this 750p screen.

So far I'm a fan of Apple's approach to one-handed use ("Reachability"). By double-tapping the home button (that's two light taps, not full presses), the top of the screen slides down so that you can easily hit top-level targets. The sliding effect is quick and smooth enough that I find myself using it often.

Though it's more of an iOS 8 feature than an iPhone 6 feature, third-party keyboards are a most welcome new addition. With Android having had Swype – and a host of trace keyboard competitors – for more than four years, Apple's tap-only keyboard was a huge hole. Now Swype, SwiftKey and more are available to download from the App Store.

During early testing, camera quality looks very good. It shoots quickly, it's good at keeping the right subject in focus, and colors look great. I could say the same about several recent Android flagships as well, though, so, with further testing, we'll see if the iPhone 6's camera is able to separate itself from the pack.

It's also too early to comment on battery life, but I haven't noticed any alarming drain. Overall performance appears to be buttery-smooth – proving again that Apple can make a dual-core processor and 1 GB of RAM go farther than anyone else.

We have a lot more time to spend with the iPhone 6, but my early take is very positive – in fact, surprisingly so.

On paper, it looks like it might sit several steps behind some of the biggest Android flagships. And while there are some truly great phones on that side of the fence as well, so far I see few reasons to hesitate about the iPhone 6. It fills in the iPhone's most obvious gaps – on both hardware and software levels – making Apple's walled garden that much tighter a fortress.

The iPhone 6 is available today, starting at US$650 full retail or $200 with a two-year contract. Several carriers offer subsidized equipment installment plans as well.

Product page: Apple

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