Everything We Hate About Stephen Fry's iPhone 6 Review

By Gerald Lynch on at

ALL BOW AT THE ALTAR OF APPLE! HAIL THE SECOND COMING OF JOBS! DO NOT LOOK UPON THE FACE OF OUR LORD IVE!

Few events in the tech calendar inspire the same zealous response as an Apple launch and, with three new devices to mull over, last week's iPhone 6 unveiling drew heated debate from both stalwart Apple and Android fanboys alike. Undeniably attractive phones, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus seemed also undeniably to be a reactionary response from Apple, pushing out bigger phones years after Android competitors proved there was a market for them. They're refined to exceedingly high standards, but to call the new iPhones innovative would be quite a stretch.

But, whether it's fear of Apple's notoriously draconian PR teams or otherwise, the iPhone 6 reviews that landed yesterday, with a few notable exceptions, were stomach-turningly gushing. Reviews that noted failings with the phones, yet pushed them under the carpet and still stuck five shiny gold stars at the end.

Chief among the sycophants was Stephen Fry, who shared his thoughts with the Guardian in a self-penned piece. A self-confessed Apple fanboy, needless to say Fry falls over himself with praise for the new phones, and even turns Apple-apologist at one point. Speaking of those that point out Apple's failings in alleviating shoddy factory worker conditions, he remarks:

“How disgraceful are the working conditions in which Apple devices are manufactured!” – oddly leaving out Samsung, Sony, Dell, LG, HTC and all the other companies who have their devices made in the same factories.

Surely missing the point that, as the wealthiest and best known of all consumer tech brands, it has a responsibility regardless of its competitors' actions. Can every Joe Bloggs on the street name an LG or HTC phone? Probably not, but they can all point out an iPhone, and the way that these devices are made should not be forgotten just because of their ubiquity.

Fry later quotes the late Steve Jobs, saying:

“We wanted to wait until we had the best smartphone multitasking system in the world,” Steve Jobs said on unveiling the iOS 4 operating system in 2010, and no one can doubt his team achieved that goal.

I'd say the army of Android users can "doubt" that pretty confidently. From the drop-down Notifications Centre to the paned-view for app multi-tasking, iOS has been cribbing ideas from Google's mobile OS for some time. Apple's control over both hardware and software often means the two run silkily smooth together on its devices, but Apple's reluctance to fully open up the OS to developers and users means that (unless you dig in to the jailbreaking scene) the full potential for multi-tasking on iPhones is dulled a little by comparison.

Fry recognises Apple allows itself to be late to the game, but his justification seems weak. He again gets hyperbolic when talking about the overall build of the new devices:

Once again, Apple wanted to wait until it got the perfect merger of processor, battery life, resolution, materials and OS workarounds. Being first isn’t the point, being the best is.

Well, for starters, Apple's iPhone 6 A8 chip lags behind Samsung's Galaxy S5 in benchmark tests -- 17th against competitors if you're looking specifically at the GPU. Overkill or otherwise, neither the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 or larger iPhone 6 Plus can match the display resolution of the LG G3. And if I'm being more frivolous, the iPhone 6 definitely wont beat out my Nokia 3210 in a battery test, and on early reports at least seems only a match for Sony's Xperia Z3. Even if we're taking Fry's words as to mean the best balance between all these components, it's hard to say that it's definitively "the best".

Fry waxes lyrical about "the superb iOS 8", which he describes as "an operating system leap forward for the iPhone and iPad, blessedly backwardly compatible all the way down to the 4S." As we discovered to our horror yesterday, you shouldn't let your 4S anywhere near iOS 8, and that "leap forward" requires roughly 4GB of storage space being free on your device. That wouldn't be such an issue if Apple devices had expandable memory or a decent file manager. But the Apple media ecosystem, with iTunes its clumsy overlord, actively encourages you to keep pretty much every digital file you have on your device at once (or at least makes it a chore to navigate iTunes and have it any other way). 16GB iPhone and iPad users are tearing their hair out trying to juggle apps, music and photos as I write this in order to accommodate the update.

"It only needs for me to leave with the confident prediction that these phones will prove through sales, as I believe them to be, the best and most beautiful mobile telecom technology ever yet produced. So sue me if if I’m proved wrong," is Fry's syrupy sign off.

But perhaps the most pertinent comment of all is this one:

Apple [has headhunted] the brilliant Australian designer Marc Newson (over whom at the launch I spilled some horrible green wheatgrass and spirulina drink that would otherwise have gone all over P Diddy).

Picture the scene -- Stephen Fry, rubbing shoulders with his fellow A-listers at the Apple event, being waited on with pricey bourgeois health drinks, attention lavished upon the most important and influential of VIPs. Fry's attained "national treasure" status in the UK, a regular on our TV screens (if not the world's) and owner of one of the most-followed Twitter accounts in existence. His voice will be heard above many others when it comes to the perceived benefits of owning Apple's gear. Fry's entitled to an opinion just like anyone else, and I too consider myself a big Apple fan -- I'm typing this out on a Mac, with an iPhone 5 in my pocket and an iPad Air in my bag. But Fry's elevated soapbox means he has a responsibility to be as balanced as possible in his critique -- especially when published on a trusted publication like the Guardian. With anecdotes like this suggesting Apple wines and dines its favourites (of which Fry is certainly one), he'd do well in the future to make it clear his voice hasn't been outright bought.

Image Credit: Stephen Fry from Shutterstock