According to Apple chief executive Tim Cook, the reason iPhoneusers have had to wait until now for a 4.7in (12cm) and larger screen is because Apple wanted to do it right: keep the phone thin and light, and keep the screen quality up.

Without doubt the iPhone 6 achieves this. The screen quality is excellent, both for brightness and colour quality. The battery life is better than the iPhone 5S. And the phone is even thinner than its predecessor, and pleasant to hold.

Before the iPhone 6, the nicest phone I have held was Nokia’s Lumia 800, its first model, which had rounded side edges, and was instantly at home in your hand. But the Lumia 800 had a flat top edge; the iPhone 6 does it better. It’s rounded everywhere.

There are no sharp edges. What Appledoes, and what it charges for: design. Jony Ive’s team has had eight previous goes at designing phones, and now they’re getting a real design language together, particularly about roundedness. Spending a day or two using the iPhone 6 makes its predecessors feel overweight.

The most noticeable thing, besides the thinness, is how smoothly the curved screen rolls over the edges – so swiping from the left edge to the right, or from the right edge to go left (which we do at many navigation points, including in Apple Mail) is a tactile pleasure. On the 5S and the 5C, that gesture finds the chamfered or plastic edge – but at least it isn’t uncomfortable. On the 6 and 6 Plus, it’s lissom.

Compare that to the new Moto G, Samsung Galaxy Alpha or LG G3, and the differences that set Apple’s design apart are revealed.

The Moto G is fabulously cheap and with high specs, but the plastic back feels as though it’s made from recycled milk containers. The Galaxy Alpha has been described as Samsung’s “most beautiful” phonebecause, well, because it has metal edging?

The edging shaves away your fingers, the backplate apparently uses the “dead flesh” that graced the buttons of the ZX Spectrum keyboard, and while it is nominally thinner than the iPhone 6, that’s achieved by allowing unsightly bulges for the headphone jack, micro-USB port and camera on the back, which looks like a metal wart.

Sure, the iPhone 6’s camera protrudes – by about a millimetre, and that bothers some people. But overall, in comparison to the iPhone 6, the Alpha feels like it came out of a cut-price Christmas cracker.

The LG G3? Far nicer, and beautifully finished. But the front edges are still aggressively sharp, and while it’s less wide than the iPhone 6 Plus (the 5.5in model) it’s also thicker, which means you can’t stretch your hand around it (say, to hold and swipe) as on the larger screen.

As expected, the power button moves to the right-hand edge because it would be unreachable on the top, but somehow manages to feel the same size as the previous 5S – until you pick up the 5S, at which point you wonder how you used such a small screen. Anyone with smaller hands may disagree, and struggle with the width of the handset – in which case the smaller iPhone 5S and 5C are still on sale.

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