Apple's iPhone has long been one of the best business phones on the market, with one major shortcoming: Its pint-size display has always been a bit too small to get real work done. Apple addressed that issue with the iPhone 6, a scaled-up iPhone that finally offers enough screen space for real productivity. Apple did more than give its new smartphone a larger display; the iPhone 6 has been totally redesigned, with a superthin profile and smooth curves in place of the boxy edges on older models. Plus, the iPhone 6 ships with iOS 8, a revamped version of Apple's mobile operating system that adds a slew of new productivity-boosting features for business users.
But Apple still has some catching up to do in a few areas. The iPhone 6 has shorter battery life than other flagship smartphones, and iOS 8, which slick and easy to use, still has some annoying limitations. So should business users upgrade to Apple's new flagship phone, or opt for an Android device instead?
These days, smartphone makers are rushing to crank out phones with huge, pocket-stretching screens. But I personally prefer smartphones with slightly smaller dimensions, so the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 is a breath of fresh air. The display is big, but not too big, striking the perfect balance between productivity and one-handed usability. It might take some time for longtime iPhone users to get accustomed to the bigger screen, but most users will find that it makes basic tasks, like managing your email inbox and browsing the Web, much more comfortable. The 4.7-inch display is certainly a lot more manageable than the 5.5-inch screen on Apple's other new smartphone, the iPhone 6 Plus .
The iPhone 6's screen isn't as pixel-dense as some of its Android rivals, but in practice, it won't matter much. The 1334 x 750-pixel panel is still technically a Retina display, which means that the human eye can't easily distinguish the individual pixels at a normal viewing distance. Competing phones, including Samsung's Galaxy S5 and HTC's One M8 , do offer higher-resolution screens. Regardless, the iPhone 6 sports a bright, colorful display that's more than sharp enough to satisfy most business users.
However, in some ways, the big screen can make the device harder to use. I noticed that it's harder to reach the back button, which is still located in the top-left corner of the screen in most apps. I initially found myself tilting the phone awkwardly in my palm to reach the top corner of the screen with my thumb. Fortunately, most apps let you swipe in from the left side of the screen to go back to the previous page, which all but eliminates the issue. If you don't already use this handy gesture, you'd better get used to it.
It's been years since Apple has made any significant changes to the design of the iPhone, which has sported squared-off edges and flat metal sides since the launch of the iPhone 4 in 2010. Apple has finally given the iPhone a total design overhaul, with smooth, rounded edges and striking accent lines on the phone's back. Overall, the premium glass-and-metal design is as appealing as ever. Like other iPhone models, the iPhone 6 is a smartphone that business users can take seriously.
The iPhone 6 is wider and taller than its predecessors, but it's also the slimmest iPhone yet. At just 0.27 inches thick, it has an even thinner profile than the Galaxy S5 (0.31 inches) and the HTC One M8 (0.37 inches), though those devices both sport bigger screens and bigger batteries.
The iPhone 6 is powered by Apple's new A8 processor, the same chip that's in the iPhone 6 Plus. It's an extremely powerful processor, which translates into zippy performance and snappy multitasking. Apps load almost instantly, and exiting apps to return to the home screen is just as fast. Business users can rest assured that the iPhone 6 Plus can easily keep up with just about anything you throw at it.
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus both ship with iOS 8, which is packed with handy new features. For starters, there's the revamped notification drawer, which now includes two separate panels: Today and Notifications. The Notifications panel is basic, delivering a list of your latest alerts, including new texts and email messages. But the Today view, which introduces widgets to iOS for the first time, is one of the best additions to iOS 8. Widgets are like miniature apps that update in real time, and can display all sorts of information without the need to open up individual applications. By default, the Today view includes the latest weather forecast and a list of calendar appointments. Adding widgets is easy; just download them from the App Store and then tap the Edit button at the bottom of the Today panel.
There's also a handy new way to act on incoming messages. When a new text or email arrives, it will pop up in a small window at the top of the screen. Just swipe down to reveal the keyboard, and then type and hit send to fire off a quick reply — no need to launch the dedicated Email or Messages app. It's a small time-saving tool that busy business users will appreciate.
One of the biggest additions to iOS might be a feature that's not even completely rolled out yet. Called Handoff, the feature lets you connect your iPhone to your iPad or Mac computer. When you're writing an email or editing a document on your iPhone, for example, you can transition seamlessly to another Apple device by tapping the Handoff button on the one you're currently using. It's available on Apple devices that are signed into the same iCloud account, and works well when you want to switch between your iPhone and iPad. But we won't get to see how well it works between mobile and desktop devices until the launch of OS X Yosemite, the new version of Apple's desktop operating system, sometime this fall. When that update becomes available, you'll also be able to answer text messages and phone calls right on your Mac computer.
Apple's mobile operating system still has some annoying limitations. For example, while iOS 8 finally adds the ability to install third-party keyboards with extra functionality, Apple has imposed some strict limitations on keyboard developers. Text dictation is disabled when you're using a third-party keyboard, and some secure text fields within apps only accept input from the stock keyboard. Meanwhile, the stock keyboard is still frustratingly basic. Features such as swipe-based typing, which is practically standard on third-party keyboards, is still missing. And there's still no easy access to numbers and symbols; many third-party keyboards let you long-press on letter keys to input those characters.
Other smartphone makers are starting to incorporate fingerprint scanners into their smartphones, but Apple still does it best. Like the iPhone 5s before it, the iPhone 6 has Apple's Touch ID fingerprint scanner embedded right into the home button. When you want to turn on your phone, just press the home button, and then keep your finger pressed against it to unlock the device. The feature lets you keep your work phone on lockdown, without fussing with cumbersome password screens. Touch ID is extremely easy and satisfying to use, unlike the fingerprint scanner on Samsung's Galaxy S5, which often fails to read your print. It also makes buying new apps from the App Store extremely fast and easy; once your credit card information is saved, buying a new app is as simple as holding your fingerprint over the Touch ID scanner.
Plus, iOS 8 adds a couple of killer new Touch ID features, including the ability to protect individual apps using the fingerprint scanner. If you use the Mint finance app to track your spending, for example, you can protect your data using Touch ID. It currently also works with note-taking app Evernote and stock-trading app ETrade, and many others. Developers must manually implement the feature into each app, but it's a great perk for business users who want an extra layer of protection for sensitive business data.
Touch ID also works with Apple Pay , a new mobile payment system that lets customers pay with their iPhone in place of cash or a credit card, by taking advantage of the new near-field communication (NFC) chip in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. The fingerprint scanner ensures that thieves can't pay for items with a stolen iPhone. It's too early to say if Apple Pay will catch on, but it's something that small business users should keep on their radar.
Apple's last flagship smartphone, the iPhone 5s, had notoriously poor battery life. The iPhone 6's battery life is a marked improvement, lasting about 7 hours and 27 minutes in a battery test that involves continuous Web browsing over 4G LTE, which is about 1 hour and 45 minutes longer than the iPhone 5s' battery life. However, it still lags behind competing devices, lasting roughly 1 hour less than the smartphone average. In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S5 lasted 8 hours and 25 minutes , while the HTC One M8 clocked in at an impressive 10 hours.
The iPhone 6 is a dream come true for Apple devotees who find smaller iPhones a little cramped. It offers fast performance, a sleek design and a big, sharp display, while retaining a manageable form factor that's easy to use with one hand. Plus, iOS still offers arguably the best overall selection of business and productivity apps on any mobile platform.
But there are still a few things holding the iPhone 6 back. Although it boasts better battery life than its predecessor, some business users may still be frustrated by its below-average longevity. Other flagship smartphones have sharper displays and hardware features that the iPhone 6 lacks, such as a microSD card slot to expand the device's storage. And while iOS 8 is slick, it's not as customizable as Android. If those limitations don't bother you, the iPhone 6 is one of the best business phones money can buy.