First Impressions: iPhone 6 Plus
The newest iPhone is out and people are clamoring to get their hands on it. The fact that Apple sold over 10 million units in the first weekend seems to indicate at least some level of consumer interest. If you google iPhone 6 you will find no shortage of reviews about Apple’s newest phone offering. You’ll see things about design and durability. But, like many tech sites, many of these reviews can become quite technical. What you’ll find here are my first impressions of the iPhone 6 Plus, and how I think it can make life easier, or harder, as the case may be.
iPhone 6 Plus – Disclaimer
The iPhone 6 Plus is BIG. I’m saying that from the perspective of a guy who used a 5 inch HTC One (M8) for a period of time, and thought that was big. If you are at all leery about having a huge phone, read no further, the iPhone 6 (with it’s 4.7 inch screen) is your best choice. But if you are okay with a phone that won’t fit in your pocket (unless you bend it!) and a phone that will constantly require a second hand to use it efficiently, read on.
The Cup Half Full
So how does the iPhone 6 Plus make the phone experience better? First off is the design. Compared to the Note4 or LG G3 (two competing phablets), the iPhone 6 Plus is a beauty. It’s super thin. It’s smooth aluminum back and rounded corners are an absolute delight to look at and it feels great in the hand (though I recommend a case to avoid it slipping out of your hand, here’s mine). The long held design of the screen (with an app bar at the bottom, and stat information at the top) make much better use of the space compared to rivals, which only makes the screen seem larger and more useful.
The phone has a larger battery, which should allow for much longer periods between charges. Only time will tell though. The device also has an improved camera with image stabilization. This could be a big deal. In simplest terms, the camera in the iPhone 6 Plus is designed to help those of us with shaky hands. Not a feature to underestimate. Finally, the iPhone 6 Plus has some innovations in the way the screen works, taking full advantage of the larger screen. This means that some apps (like email and messages) will actually look different than the apps on the smaller iPhone 6. Also when the phone is in landscape mode, the “app drawer” will move from the bottom to the side. Seems funny to me that the iPad Mini doesn’t even do that. So there are no shortage of good things going on with the iPhone 6 Plus, but the pendulum still swings both ways, and this is where the device starts to worry me.
The Cup Half Empty
While beautiful in design, the iPhone 6 Plus has one “big” problem. This device is huge. But here’s the trick; it’s supposed to be. It’s a phablet, which is the horrid word somebody came up with to describe a device that is part Phone and part Tablet. When the phablet device came into it’s own with the Samsung Galaxy Note, the device had a very specific purpose. It was a device competing more with the 7 inch tablets than against 5 inch phones. It was and is a device for “power users”. You know the corporate types that used to live in their blackberry screens. The phablet is trying to be more than a phone. In terms of regular consumers, the phablet is a good choice if you don’t already own a tablet device (iPad, Nexus 7, etc.) If you don’t want two devices, the phablet bridges the gap (which is even more relevant when cost is factored in). And that’s what the iPhone 6 Plus is. It’s a phablet. But I worry that through a combination of factors, both on the part of Apple and consumers, people don’t realize this. And that could be a problem down the road. I’ll explain.
By launching both iPhones together, Apple made it look like they were selling two sizes of the same device. When in fact they are selling the next iPhone (iPhone 6) and their first phablet (iPhone 6 Plus). People jumping from the 3.5 inch screen of the iPhone 4/4S or the 4 inch screen of the iPhone 5/5S are in for serious culture shock when they try to wrap their hands around the case holding the massive 5.5 inch screen of the iPhone 6 Plus. I believe that Apple set the precedent a year ago when they released the iPhone 5S and iPhone 5C at the same time. The iPhone 5C was clearly the silver medal to the gold of the iPhone 5S. So most people think the same is the case with the current generation of the iPhones. That reasoning would lead people to conclude the iPhone 6 Plus is the one to get if you want the “best” one. And that’s why the backorders for the larger device stand at 3-4 weeks, where you can get your hands on the iPhone 6 in 7-10 days. And after waiting all those agonizing weeks, these new iPhone 6 Plus users are going to realize that their new phone requires two hands for most of the things it can do. And while we might think that’s a small thing, that’s probably because we’ve grown so accustomed to single handed cell phones we take that convenience for granted.
Both iPhone 6 models have a new feature to help address the increased screen size, and it’s called Reachability. Basically you double TAP (not click) the home button and the screen lowers itself about 1.5 inches, bringing the top of the screen closer to your waiting thumb. On the iPhone 6 this functionality works very well. But based on my hands-on experiences with the iPhone 6 Plus, based on where we generally place our hand when holding the phone, the size makes it virtually impossible to reach either the home button (for the tapping) or the top of the screen (to pull down notifications). You must either move your hand down or up, or use your other hand to tap the home button. And that is a problem that “reachability” on the iPhone 6 Plus didn’t fix.
The Whole Cup Summed Up
So think carefully as you consider the iPhone 6 Plus, over the iPhone 6. While you get increased batter life, a better camera, and a larger screen, you also must contend with a massive phone in your pockets and in your hands. That’s my biggest beef with the iPhone 6 Plus. It’s so much like the iPhone 6, just much much bigger.
Apple has designed a beautiful phone, no doubt, but I believe the 4.7 inch design of the iPhone 6 is the current sweet spot as far as comfort and usability. But if you want the larger screen, the iPhone 6 Plus certainly has enough to offer to make it worth it. Though one of these thumb extenders might come in handy…