After years of mocking rivals for producing larger and larger screens, and sticking to its pocket-sized principles, Apple finally caved in last year, introducing not one larger-screened model, but two: the iPhone 6 with a 4.7in screen, and the iPhone 6 Plus with a 5.5in screen. It's quite a climbdown on Apple's part, but it had to do it: another year with only a 4in screen on its flagship phone and consumers would have voted with their feet, steadily trickling away to Samsung, HTC, and LG's larger-screened alternatives.
In reality, Apple shouldn't have been so frightened to make the move, because neither of the new phones feels out of place in today's large-screen-obsessed smartphone market.
The iPhone 6, the smaller of the two phones, is the one that works best. Apple has gone back to rounded edges this time around, moving away from the dead straight sides of the previous four handsets (the edges of the glass on the front are slightly curved, too), and this works to create an impression that the phone is smaller than it is. It's comfortable to hold, doesn't feel too slippery in your hand – an accusation I could level at the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s – and the 4.7in screen size feels just right.
If you've been worried about the jump in screen size from the 5s' 4in diagonal, you'll wonder what all the fuss was about once you get your hands on the iPhone 6. Yes, it's taller, wider and a touch heavier than its predecessor at 129g, but it's far from unwieldy, even when slotted into one of Apple's wraparound leather cases. In fact, the extra size means it's easier to use in some respects: typing accurately, for instance, becomes far easier thanks to the larger onscreen keys, and using the iPhone 6 as a satnav in the car is a far more pleasurable experience with the extra screen real estate.
The sheer thinness of the handset makes it pretty comfortable to hold, too. It measures only 7.1mm from front to back, 0.5mm slimmer than the iPhone 5s, and in the current smartphone market it's out-skinnied only by the skeletal Huawei Ascend P7 (6.5mm).
Apple has put some thought into helping those who just don't get on with the size of the new phone: a light double-tap on the home button slides the whole screen down, allowing one-handed access to icons, buttons and address menus located in the top half of the screen. However, after several months of use, I don't really think it's needed. I can count the number of times I've deliberately engaged it on the fingers of one hand; in fact, after a while I simply forgot the iPhone had grown, and got on with life. I certainly wouldn't want to go back to the tiny iPhone 5s.
Aside from the size, there are a couple of other physical changes to take note of. The power button has moved from the top edge of the device to the side, simultaneously making it easier to reach and also a little easier to hit by mistake when picking up the phone. The volume buttons are long and slim instead of circular, which makes them a touch easier to find without looking, and there's now a single speaker grille on the bottom edge of the phone, where the iPhone 5s had a pair.
The oddest change to the design, however, is the protruding camera lens, which sticks out around a millimetre from the rear of the case. In everyday use, you probably won't notice it: it doesn't stick out far enough to catch on the lip of your pocket when sliding it in and out, you won't feel it when holding the phone and if you put your iPhone 6 in a case the point is moot anyway.
The only major concern is for those who prefer to enjoy their iPhone in the metal; with the lens bearing the brunt of the impact every time you slap the phone down on a flat, hard surface, I have concerns about how long it will last.
The sleek industrial design is accompanied by a swathe of upgrades to the hardware inside, but it's the screen that makes the biggest impact. Along with the increase in size, Apple has boosted the iPhone 6's resolution to 750 x 1,344, giving a pixel density of 327ppi (a mere fraction higher than the iPhone 5s' 326ppi), and it looks pin-sharp.
Brightness, contrast and colour accuracy are also all exemplary, with the iPhone reaching a maximum brightness of 585cd/m2, gaining an eye-popping 1,423:1 contrast ratio, a highly impressive colour accuracy rating with a Delta E of 1.74, and sRGB coverage of 95%. That contrast ratio is particularly impressive, and a significant improvement on the 5s' 972:1, lending onscreen images a little more depth and dynamism.
There's one small caveat to all this, however. On my review sample model, I noticed a dim strip around 5mm thick running along the top of the screen. Initially I didn't spot it thanks to the clutter of menus, but when I dropped into the full-screen reading view on the Kindle app, it became immediately apparent. It's a shame, since aside from this, the iPhone 6's display is as good as we've seen on any smartphone.