Can a phablet replace a tablet? The iPhone 6 Plus is a huge, new 5.5-inch (14 centimeters) smartphone that absolutely dwarfs last year's 4-inch (10.2 cm) iPhone 5s. The device debuted this month alongside the iPhone 6, a midsize, 4.7-inch (12 cm) phone. But it's the iPhone 6 Plus that can really give business users a boost, with a massive screen that's big enough for screen-intensive tasks like editing a spreadsheet, but a body that's still small enough to fit into most pants pockets. It's Apple's first phablet, a device that's bigger than the average smartphone, but smaller than the average tablet.
So where does that leave the iPad mini with Retina display, the 7.9-inch (20 cm) tablet that used to be the middle ground between the compact iPhone and the larger, 9.7-inch (24.6 cm) iPad air? Does the introduction of the iPhone 6 Plus make the iPad mini obsolete? Read on for a feature-for-feature matchup between the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPad mini with Retina display.
iPhone 6 Plus: The iPhone 6 Plus isn't as big as the iPad mini, but for some users, it might be big enough. The phablet packs a big, 5.5-inch screen that's significantly larger than any other iPhone display. And with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (that's 432 pixels per inch), it's even sharper than the iPad mini's display. Business users accustomed to working on smaller iPhones will find that everyday tasks such as managing your email inbox or browsing the Web are a lot more comfortable on the larger screen. But a 5.5-inch smartphone can also feel a bit unwieldy; you might find yourself frequently holding the iPhone 6 Plus with two hands instead of one.
Apple did add a few features for users concerned that the display is too big, including "reachability," which lets you double-touch the home button to bring the active portion of the display down about halfway, making it easier to reach the top of your apps. And the iPhone 6 Plus even supports a few iPad-like features, such as a special dual-pane mode in some apps, including Mail and Messages. Here's how the mode works: When you turn the iPhone 6 Plus sideways, those apps will display a persistent navigation pane on the left side of the screen, so you can easily jump back and forth between conversations without tapping through hidden menus — just like on the iPad mini. That second pane simply wouldn't fit on smaller iPhones.
iPad mini with Retina display: With its 7.9-inch screen, the newest iPad mini falls on the smaller end of the tablet spectrum. Still, compared to the average smartphone, it provides a lot of screen space to work on. Business users will have no problem viewing large documents or tapping out emails on the iPad Mini's sharp, 2048 x 1536 (264 ppi) screen. But here's the sticking point: Small as it is, the iPad mini is still much too large to fit in your pocket. But it is easy to stow in your bag on your daily commute.
Communication & connectivity
iPhone 6 Plus: Of course, there's one key difference that sets the iPhone 6 Plus apart from any tablet: It's a phone, so you can place calls on the device. And Apple is including a handy new feature for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus called Wi-Fi calling. It lets you place calls over Internet connection, for those times when your cellular signal lags. And if you get out of range of your Wi-Fi signal, the iPhone 6 Plus will automatically switch the conversation over to a regular cellphone call with no interruptions.
And like any good smartphone, the iPhone 6 Plus supports 4G LTE connectivity, so you can connect to the Internet from anywhere without scrounging for a Wi-Fi signal. That means you can use the device to manage all your incoming work email and text message communications.
iPad mini with Retina display: Like any tablet, the iPad mini is really intended to be a secondary device. Unless you're connected to a strong Wi-Fi signal and using a VoIP service like Skype, you can't place a phone call using the iPad mini. And it doesn't support the native Wi-Fi calling feature found on the iPhone 6 Plus. An LTE version of the iPad mini is available, but you'll pay a $130 surcharge over the regular model for that functionality. That's in addition to the monthly cost of a second Internet data plan on top of your smartphone plan.
iPhone 6 Plus: The iPhone 6 Plus may be significantly smaller than the iPad mini, but it's actually the more powerful device. It packs Apple's brand-new A8 processor, so business users can expect extremely fast performance and snappy multitasking.
iPad mini with Retina display: The latest version of the iPad mini debuted last fall with Apple's last-gen A7 chip. That means the mini can't match the iPhone 6 Plus in terms of pure processing power. Still, most users won't notice a big difference during daily use.
iPhone 6 Plus: Apple introduced a new way to pay with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Dubbed Apple Pay, it lets customers complete transactions by scanning their smartphones on a contactless point-of-sale device. It works because the new iPhones are the first Apple devices to include a near-field communication (NFC) chip, which lets you scan your smartphone at checkout instead of swiping a credit card, for quick and easy payment. Apple has partnered with American Express, MasterCard and Visa to help the service take off. If it's a hit, Apple Pay could help NFC payment on other devices finally go mainstream.
iPad mini with Retina display: The iPad mini, like all iOS devices released prior to the latest iPhones, lacks NFC support altogether. That means it doesn't support Apple Pay, either. So if the iPad mini is your only iOS device, you're out of luck for NFC payment.
The iPhone 6 Plus and the iPad mini with Retina display have a lot in common. Both devices run on the brand-new iOS 8, an updated version of Apple's mobile operating system. And both support the full library of iOS apps, as well as handy features like Siri, Apple's voice-activated digital assistant app. Carrying an iPad mini on top of your iPhone used to be easily justified, since the iPhone was just too small to really work on. But with the introduction of the big, new iPhone 6 Plus, that could change. Business users must decide if the extra inches afforded on the iPad mini justify carrying a second gadget. For a lot of users, the iPhone 6 Plus might be big enough to become their sole mobile work device.