Which iPhone 6 should you buy? Start with this simple question

Almost this big.
Almost this big.
Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
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Apple’s new iPhone 6 and its much-larger iPhone 6 Plus go on sale tomorrow in 10 countries. Apple already has sold 4 million units in its pre-order period, and will likely sell millions more this weekend.

Which to buy? While there are a few subtle differences between the models, there’s really only one that matters—their size. So there’s one essential question that should help you decide: Do you want to carry a very large slab of metal and glass around with you all day, everywhere? Or would you rather not?

Here are a few spatial comparisons that may help. You also can print out these handy templates.

  • The iPhone 6 Plus is about three-quarters as tall as an iPad mini and more than half as wide. Or if you can imagine an iPad Air in landscape mode, three iPhone 6 Pluses standing next to each other would take up about the same amount of space.
  • The 6 Plus weighs 172 grams—that’s six ounces, or a little more than a third of a pound; about the weight of a good hamburger patty. That’s about 50% more than the previous iPhone, the 5S, but about half the weight of an iPad mini. (The iPhone 6 is 25% lighter than the 6 Plus.)
  • The 6 Plus will probably fit in your jeans pocket, but you will notice it. Probably all the time. And good luck strapping it to your arm for running.

(After some deliberation, I’m going with the iPhone 6 Plus. It seems the closest thing possible to an iPad that I can have with me all the time, without having to carry it in a bag. But I’m reserving the right to swap it for the smaller iPhone 6 during the return period.)

iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus
Take your pick: The iPhone 5S, iPhone 6, and iPhone 6 Plus
Image: AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

Why does the size difference matter so much? One survey of 18-to-44-year-old smartphone owners in the US, conducted by IDC, found that 79% of respondents have their phone “on or near them for all but up to 2 hours of their waking day.” That means a real commitment to a very large phone—likely for the two-year duration of an operator contract. If you aren’t excited about that, the iPhone 6 is probably a better bet. It already has a significantly larger display—4.7 inches diagonally—than the old iPhone 5 series, which has a 4-inch screen. And it has mostly the same camera technology as the 6 Plus.

Reviewers report longer battery life for the 6 Plus—with a 5.5-inch screen, it has more space for a larger battery—but size seems like the deciding point for most people. (The 6 also has the added bonus of being $100 cheaper for each level of storage—go for the 64 GB if you can.)

For more reading, some good, first-hand iPhone 6 Plus reviews to consider are Farhad Manjoo’s for the New York Times, John Gruber’s at Daring Fireball, and Nilay Patel’s for the Verge.