The iPhone 6 arrives running Apple's new iOS 8, available from today on all iPhones from the 4s onwards in addition to various iPads and iPod touch models.
It looks mostly like last year’s radically restyled iOS 7, but if 7 was all about design changes, 8 is all about openness, customisation and communication.
There are immediate benefits to apps such as Messages, which will now let you easily send voice files, photos and videos at the touch of a button in the text area. And below that you'll find the all-new predictive keyboard, which aims to guess which word you’re about to type before you’ve keyed in the first letter. This is splendid and works well. Third-party companies such as the excellent Swiftkey are also now able to produce their own keyboards for the iPhone – something Apple hadn’t permitted until now.
Bigger improvements still include Handoff, which enables you to start tapping an email out on your iPhone keyboard and then carry it on seamlessly on a Mac using the latest Yosemite software. This also means that when a phone call comes in you can answer it on your Mac or on another Apple device – handy if your phone is snuggling on the windowsill where the mobile phone signal is strongest while you’re ensconced next to the TV in the other room. We weren't able to test these features, as Yosemite is still in beta release mode, but we'll update this review as soon as we're able.
Most importantly of all, there’s the new Health app, which allows other apps to contribute to the fitness monitoring that Health collates. This is another feature that’s in its early stages and it’s going to be interesting to see what happens if you have multiple fitness devices which report different step counts, for example. Apple stresses that each app only takes part if you give it permission.
Still, the basic app looks pretty neat, with the restrained, classy styling you’d expect, though Samsung's S Health app looks spiffy, too and both are outclassed by the LifeLog software on Sony’s phones.
And finally there’s iCloud Drive, which brings Apple up to date with the document-sharing capabilities other platforms already boast. Just as with iCloud, which syncs your contacts, calendars and more across multiple devices, iCloud Drive saves documents across all of your Apple gadgets and on icloud.com.
In order to really judge the iPhone 6 you first have to consider what it's not.
It's not a mega-screened wannabe phablet. It's not a 2K-display-packing pixel king. It's not the most powerful phone ever, it's not the most megapixelly phone ever, it's not even the longest-lastingest phone ever. The best Androids still beat it on all these counts.
But that's just specs. What it is, is the best iPhone ever.
It's a real looker, with an amazingly slim and deeply attractive build. It feels lovely in the hand, despite the extra size. It has the best screen of any iPhone - big enough to be useful, with gorgeous colours. It's the most powerful iPhone ever, even if in use all you'll know is that it feels very fast. It has the best battery of any iPhone ever, lasting well into a second day. And it also packs some of Apple's biggest software innovations in years, although we'll have to wait for the likes of Apple Pay to make their way over here.
The iPhone 5s, for all its qualities, didn't do enough to put Apple back on top. It just lagged too far behind its Android rivals in key areas.
But the iPhone 6, with its combination of fresh new form factor, the upcoming links to desktop via Yosemite and the promise of Apple Pay, might just do the trick.