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The Disappointing iPhone 6: Eight Generations of iOS and Bluetooth Still Sucks

Our technology reviews are a little different than the dozens of reviews you’ve probably already seen that read more like Apple press releases. First of all, we typically buy products to actually use. And second, we base our smartphone evaluations on real-world requirements rather than best case scenarios that you’re unlikely to ever experience in the real world.

So we begin our review of the iPhone 6 with the simple question: "Can it make calls?" Funny as this sounds, it’s been a huge problem with previous iPhone models if you planned to use a reasonably priced provider such as StraightTalk instead of one of America’s "Big Four." To Apple’s credit, they finally got it right in the AT&T model of the iPhone 6. StraightTalk works out of the box, something Android mastered years ago. You still cannot manually configure the cellphone provider specs, but at least it now works.

We’re not going to spend a lot of time on Apple’s continuing push to lock users into the Apple universe. Suffice it to say, the lock in marches on with each new release. To some it’s a good thing. To others, it’s not. If you’re going to fork over $1,0001 for an iPhone 6 in order to use StraightTalk for $45 a month, then you’re probably committed to and comfortable with Apple’s ways of doing things. We’re pretty much an observer of the iPhone cosmos except to assure that our VoIP products still work reliably on the platform. On the other hand, our teenager and all of her teenage friends have iPhones, period. Just the mention of Android conjures up visions of nerds hanging from trees to hear them tell it. In other words, lock in is a good thing in their view. All of their apps work exactly the same on every person’s smartphone. All of their emojis are compatible for texting. And messaging is pure Apple with no worries whether SMS and MMS work or not. By the way, messaging is still a mess if you switch between Apple and Android with your SIM card without first disabling iMessage on the iPhone. It’s almost as if Apple likes it this way. 😉

Did we mention that the iPhone 6 is gorgeous? Hands down, it is the best looking smartphone ever. We won’t get into whether it bends or not. Ours didn’t, and we carry it in our pocket like every other guy on the planet. Not sure I’d do it if I rode on a tractor all day but in typical everyday use, it holds it’s own.

We were especially curious about the camera given the numerous reviews documenting that the iPhone 6 is not the megapixel wonder you’ve come to expect with Android phones. We’ve typically been able to take much better real-world photos using Samsung’s Galaxy S4. So we’re including two marsh photos taken with a Galaxy S4 as well as iPhone 5c and iPhone 6 portrait shots to let you judge the quality for yourself. Keep in mind that all four of the images below are screen captures rather than the actual photographs. We came away from the experiment very impressed that the newer iPhones can hold their own against the Android devices with far better technical specs. While it’s still a bit of a knuckle drill to export a photo from your photo stream to iPhoto to email to a download to your desktop, it’s at least intuitive. Bottom Line: We no longer worry about photo quality when we don’t have an Android phone along for a trip.

With the camera testing behind us, that left us with two burning questions: how’s the WiFI and how’s the Bluetooth connectivity with cars?

Not to beat a dead horse, but WiFi typically hasn’t been Apple’s strong suit unless you happen to be using their access points. That seems to be resolved with iOS 8. 5G WiFi connectivity worked great with download and upload speeds matching the limits of our broadband service. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that Bluetooth is still a mess after years and years of problem reports. If anything, iOS 8 is a step backwards judging from the reports on Apple’s own support forum. Our results with one of the latest General Motors vehicles were terrible. While the iPhone 6 could be paired with the vehicle, nothing worked afterwards. No calls, no Pandora, nothing! When every $100 Android smartphone can pair with almost any vehicle and work, we get back to our initial question: "Can it make calls?" Unfortunately, unless you want to step back in time and hold your shiny, new iPhone 6 next to your ear, the answer is a resounding NO. And, yes, we jumped through all of the Apple hoops attempting to resolve the Bluetooth problems even though nobody should ever have to endure that! For $1,000, one would expect all of the basics on a smartphone to function correctly just as you expect your brakes and windshield wipers to work when you buy a new car. The fact that Apple has dropped the ball on Bluetooth for years is yet another reason we won’t be switching from Android anytime soon. In fact, the Bluetooth problem is a deal breaker for us so we’re returning the phone.

Finally, a word to the Apple fanboys. Don’t post comments. We won’t publish them. We are not Apple haters. Quite the contrary, we have more Apple hardware under our roof than any other brand. What Apple has done in the educational arena and to foster the image of technical support as a good thing is legendary. But you can’t drop the ball on the basics and expect people that depend upon technology to be impressed. Drop everything that deals with the shiny new watch for a few days and fix Bluetooth. It’s that important!

Originally published: Monday, October 13, 2014

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  1. Actually, the sales price for the 128GB iPhone 6 with AppleCare+ and sales tax came to a whopping $1,028.59 []


  1. Both the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6 work perfectly with my vehicle radio. No setup required — turn on bluetooth and the car finds the phone and connects it to the in-car system automatically. Hands free, make/receive calls, phone book, etc. it all works great. Maybe the problem is your car, not the iPhone?

    [WM: I’d tend to agree with you if we didn’t have 8 other phones that work perfectly in this 2014 vehicle. Considering the fact that GM uses the same technology in all of its vehicles, you’d think it wouldn’t be that difficult to at least test one new GM car or truck since they’re the largest vehicle manufacturer in the world! 🙄 Glad to hear things are working for you. Wish you had included the type of vehicle. That would be more helpful to other readers. Thanks.]

  2. My iPhone 4 worked great in my 2011 Subaru Forester. My iPhone 6 must be manually connected every time I start the car.

    I’ve read that this is a known problem, specific to certain vehicle Bluetooth stack, and should be fixed in an upcoming OS release. For now it’s frustrating.

    Otherwise the phone is great, and a fantastic upgrade from my 4-year-old phone. I’ve used Android devices, and I can’t stand the UI, so I’m sticking with Apple. But it did switch from ATT to Verizon – because I despise them both for their billing and customer support, but Verizon still supposedly has better cell coverage.

    [WM: Funny you’d mention the Android UI. We have the exact opposite preference. Flipping through a half dozen screens of random apps to find the one you want to use is downright awful in iOS. And having to do a search for an app every time you want to use it is even worse. Would an alphabetized list be that difficult to implement? Oh, but wait, there is no way to differentiate favorites from the whole app enchilada, unlike Android. DSFDF. ]

  3. Your comment about your bluetooth issue made me wonder something… This is from GM’s "total connect" website:

    "GM vehicles allow up to five Bluetooth®-enabled devices to be paired with a vehicle at once."

    If you have 8, perhaps that is the source of the problem. Have you tried deleting all the pairings and starting over? I was helping somebody with bluetooth and their car on a new iPhone, and they had restored their phone from a backup of their old one. It was showing up to the car as if it were the old phone. I changed the phone name and voila!

    [WM: Thanks, Matthew. We don’t have 8 paired now. But we’ve tested the vehicle with 8 different types of phones. Good suggestion though.]

  4. For what it’s worth, bluetooth on my Vzw first gen Moto X with android 4.4.4 only works great until I throw Bluetooth LE devices into the mix. Then it starts bugging out, pairing unreliably, and requiring reboots in order to get back to a reliable state for BT 2.x devices (eg my VW).

  5. "“At this point, General Motors is not seeing any increased volume of customer Bluetooth issues related specifically to Apple’s latest products and operating systems,” wrote Stuart Fowle in an email to AUTO Connected Car News. “If our customers have a question about pairing a Bluetooth device, they are encouraged to visit their dealer’s Certified Technology Expert…most GM vehicle owners at General Motors offices have not had issues with iOS 8 and or iPhone 6/6+".


    I have personally had no issues with our 2011 Ford Edge, 2012 Mercedes, or 2013 Ford Mustang…your mileage my vary! 😉

    [WM: We actually contacted both GM and our dealer before writing the article. Some of the comments in the referenced article suggest that GM may be underplaying the problem a bit because of existing relationships with some of the carriers. In any case, Bluetooth doesn’t work in our 2014 vehicle as we have noted in the article. Thanks for the link.

    UPDATE: Just spoke to another GM rep who said that a USB connection was now necessary to get complete functionality with the iPhone 6. That’s a polite way of saying Bluetooth is broken.]

  6. Bluetooth has been solid in my 2011 BMW 335i since Beta 1 of iOS 8 on my iPhone 5. With my iPhone 6 Plus it was fine with iOS 8.0 release, and still solid with the current 8.1 beta. I don’t think the total blame goes to Apple because if it was a fundamental flaw in their Bluetooth then I would be seeing it too. I don’t think you are bashing Apple, but I don’t think you’re completely accurate in your assessment either since it doesn’t affect everyone.

    [WM: Never suggested that it affected everyone. I suspect part of the blame lies with GM. Starting to wonder if perhaps GM is making Bluetooth less reliable as a way to encourage migration to their new dedicated AT&T car service. Coincidentally, it includes features such as Pandora.]

  7. “When every $100 Android smartphone can pair with almost any vehicle and work, we get back to our initial question: ‘Can it make calls?’ … For $1,000, one would expect all of the basics on a smartphone to function correctly.”

    Do Android smartphones really cost $100 outright or is that the contract-subsidized price? No one needs to pay $1,000 to get an iPhone if they’re willing to sign a service contract.

    [WM: Been to WalMart lately? Here’s an LG Android phone for under $60. There are many others. As for "no one needs to pay $1,000 to get an iPhone," the big IF of course is signing a 2-year contract and paying at least double the monthly cost with the potential for huge overages on your data charges. The article noted that the $1,000 cost was based upon a desire to use StraightTalk with its unlimited data plan and AT&T’s cellular network.]

  8. Hmm, odd – I hadn’t heard about all the bluetooth problems but it sounds terrible. I have had no issues pairing iPhone 5, 5s and 6 to both 2013 RAV4 and 2014 Harley Ultra Limited, nor have I heard of any major issues from anyone else. YMMV. I sold a 2 yr old iPhone 5 for more than the upgrade cost of the 6 on AT&T. The new plans are so dang confusing I really am not even sure what my monthly bill is going to be. They end up screwing you one way or the other, though, so I just went with yet another 2 year contract.

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