The big new iPhone 6 Plus could be huge for business users. It's the first iPhone with a screen topping 5 inches, giving you tons of space to work. It also features long battery life, blazing-fast performance and genuinely innovative software features that make the big screen easier to use. And it ships with iOS 8, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system. But it's not without flaws. The iPhone 6 Plus is a handful, and it's seriously hard to use with one hand. And the screen isn't the only thing that's been supersized — so has the price. But if you can deal with the size, cost and some annoying software limitations, the iPhone 6 Plus might be Apple's most productive smartphone yet.
The iPhone has always been one of the best business phones around, but the small 4-inch screen of the last few models was just too cramped to really work on. And the standard iPhone 6, which launched alongside the 6 Plus with a 4.7-inch screen, strikes a good middle ground. So has Apple gone overboard with the iPhone 6 Plus's pocket-stretching 5.5-inch display?
First, the good. The iPhone 6 Plus's display is as practical as it is gorgeous. Screen-intensive tasks like editing a document or spreadsheet feel a lot more comfortable on the iPhone 6 Plus than on any other model, including the standard iPhone 6. Even basic tasks like browsing the Web or my email inbox were easier. The 6 Plus eliminates the need to constantly pan and swipe around your smartphone's screen; no matter what you're working on, you can simply see a lot more of it at once. Other smartphones such as Samsung's 5.7-inch Galaxy Note 4 offer higher-resolution displays, though.
Now for the bad. For starters, you can mostly forget about using this phone with one hand. When cradling the device in my right hand, my thumb didn't even come close to reaching the upper corners of the screen. I couldn't even reach the left side of the display, which presents some pretty serious usability issues; many apps require you to swipe in from the left edge to reveal a hidden menu or simply navigate to the previous page, as in the Safari Web browser.
The iPhone 6 Plus's display is actually thinner and taller than most competing phablets, a fact that annoyed me whenever I tried to type on the device. When holding the phone in portrait mode, the touch screen keyboard was still a bit too scrunched up for accurate and comfortable typing. And when I held the phone sideways, I had to seriously stretch my thumbs to tap the keys in the middle of the keyboard.
The iPhone 6 Plus isn't just bigger than previous models. Alongside the standard iPhone 6, it actually sports a totally new design, with smooth, rounded edges and striking accent lines on the backside. It's a welcome change from the squared-off edges of the last few iterations. Overall, the glass-and-metal design makes the iPhone 6 Plus one of the best-looking smartphones on the market.
It's also an incredibly slim device — so much so that it's actually hard to hold onto at times. I never actually dropped the phone, but it often felt like it was about to take a tumble while I reached for one of its far corners. I much prefer the feel of the smaller iPhone 6, which is easier to grip.
Apple wisely repositioned the phone's power button from the top of the phone to its side edge, though I still had difficulty reaching it with my right thumb when I wanted to lock the screen. Fortunately, as with other iPhones, you can wake up the iPhone 6 Plus just by pressing the home button.
The baseline model comes with a measly 16GB of onboard storage, which most users will fill up fast. And like other iPhones, it lacks a microSD Card slot, so don't expect to upgrade your storage later on.
Fortunately, Apple integrated a few handy features to help you navigate the iOS interface on such a big device. Take Reachability, a feature that lets you double touch (not click) the home button to shift the active part of the screen down about halfway, so you can reach the top of an app when you're holding the phone in one hand. It's a genuinely innovate and useful feature that I would love to see other phablet makers emulate. Shifting the screen around constantly is a bit cumbersome, but it's a fair trade-off for such a big screen.
Meanwhile, some apps have a new dual-pane mode when you're holding your phone sideways. For example, the Mail app shows a persistent navigation pane on the left side of the screen that lets you easily jump between your inbox, sent messages and drafts, without tapping through hidden menus. Dual-pane mode is also supported by the Messages app and the Web browser, among others.
Dual-pane mode is a nice touch, but I wish that Apple had gone even further and implemented a true multitasking mode to let you run two apps side by side — a feature you'll find on Samsung's phablets. It would have gone a long way toward justifying the iPhone 6 Plus's large screen size, and really boosted the phone's potential for productivity.
The iPhone 6 Plus is powered by Apple's new A8 processor, the same chip that's in the iPhone 6. It's a powerful 64-bit processor that provides zippy performance and snappy multitasking. I was able to load and exit apps quickly, smoothly switch between apps and zoom around the interface without a hitch. The iPhone 6 Plus is more than powerful enough to satisfy most business users.
The typing experience is still one of the worst parts about iOS. Apple did add a predictive typing feature, which learns your typing style and suggests words as you write, but the stock touch screen keyboard itself is still incredibly basic. While Android keyboards let you long-press on letters to input symbols and numbers, Apple's keyboard forces you to constantly switch between the letter and number view. Another quibble is that the keyboard always shows capital letters on the actual keys, so you have to constantly glance over to see if the shift key is selected. That's especially annoying when you're typing in case-sensitive passwords.
Fortunately, iOS 8 finally adds the ability to install more feature-rich third-party keyboards, but it's far from a perfect fix, since Apple has placed strict limitations on keyboard developers. For example, text dictation is automatically disabled when you're using a third-party keyboard. And the ability to long-press letters for numbers and symbols is also not available, even for keyboards that offer that functionality on Android. Keyboards such as Swype and SwiftKey are still worth checking out, though, for features like gesture-based swipe typing, which is faster than tapping out words letter by letter. But these issues, on top of the size-related usability issues I mentioned earlier, make typing on the iPhone 6 Plus an uneven experience at best.
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus both ship with iOS 8, which includes some new, productivity-boosting features. That includes a revamped notification drawer, where you can install widgets. Widgets are like miniature apps that let you view information like the weather, stock updates and calendar appointments at a glance.
There's also a new way to act on incoming messages. When a new text message arrives, for example, a small window will appear at the top of your screen. Swipe down to reveal the keyboard, then type and hit send to fire off a quick reply — without ever launching the dedicated Messages app.
But iOS 8's best new features are the ones that help your iPhone work together with your iPad or Mac computer. For example, you can start composing an email on your desktop computer, then pick up your iPhone to keep writing on the go. You can even link your iPhone to your other Apple devices to take phone calls right on your computer or tablet.
The iPhone 6 Plus has better battery life than any iPhone before it. It lasted about 10 hours on our battery test, which involves continuous Web browsing over LTE. That's an hour and a half longer than the smartphone average of eight hours and 30 minutes. And it easily beats the standard iPhone 6 (7:27) and long-lasting Android phones like the Samsung Galaxy S5 (9:42).
Other smartphone makers are finally starting to incorporate fingerprint scanners into their devices, but Apple's Touch ID scanner is still the best there is. Just press your finger against the home button to scan your fingerprint and easily unlock your device. It lets you keep your work phone on lockdown, without fussing with password screens. And it's a lot more reliable than Samsung's fingerprint scanner, which often fails to read your print.
The ability to lock individual apps using Touch ID, new to iOS 8, is also great for business users. For example, if you use the Mint app to track your spending, you can lock it to ensure your data isn't tampered with. It also works with Evernote, E-Trade and many other apps, with more to come.
The iPhone 6 Plus is a premium smartphone at a premium price. The absolute cheapest model costs $299 with 16GB of storage with a two-year contract. The 64GB model costs $399 and the 128GB model is $499. You can also pick the device up for $749 with no contract via T-Mobile. Compare those prices with the standard iPhone 6, which costs $100 less for all models.
The iPhone 6 Plus is a tremendous business phone with a few glaring drawbacks. Once you work on its huge, beautiful display, you'll never want to go back to your puny old 4-inch iPhone. It's fast and feature-packed, and its sleek metal design adds tons of premium appeal. But the iPhone 6 Plus isn't for everyone. It can feel totally unwieldy at times, and it lacks some key features such as split-screen multitasking and expandable storage. Regardless, it's one of the best phablets around.