I’ve had the luxury of some time with both iPhone 6 models, and they’re both very slick devices.
The first and most obvious consideration is size. Even the iPhone 6 is considerably bigger than the 5, but the fact it’s so light and thin means it slips into a pocket very easily and you quickly forget it’s a ‘bigger’ device. Thickness has been honed down: 6.9mm for iPhone 6 and 7.1mm for iPhone 6 Plus. The 5s were all 7.6mm thick, so even the Plus feels impressively slim in the hand.
But whereas the iPhone 6 quickly just feels like your new iPhone, the 6 Plus is just big. You can – just – put it in your jeans pocket, but then you can’t really sit down. You certainly can’t hurry anywhere with it there – running is not possible. For a bag or a lab-coat pocket, no problem, but I tend to put my iPhone in a jacket or jeans pocket, myself. Some jackets handle the big Plus, almost no denim pants will, safely, unless you’re a giant or you have different to normally-place big enough pockets.
I was sceptical the Plus would even be comfortable to hold like a telephone – to the side of your face, I mean (right) – and I started to understand why I see people these days walking along chatting at their phone held out in front of them. Actually, though, the 6 Plus is so light, it’s not a problem to hold it like a phone to your face, although if you have particularly small hands it might be. It’s certainly not heavy-feeling.
But bigger screens pose usability problems which Apple has tried to address. One is that the top-right Sleep button has been moved down onto the left side, near the top. You can still reach it with a digit while holding either phone in one hand. Another thing is that – for right-handed use, anyway – a double-tap (not click) on the Home button drops the screen into range of a right-thumb-sweep. Double-tap it again (or click the Home button once) to go back to full-screen. To further facilitate this thumb-sweep, the edges of the glass all around are fared into the case so there’s no hard edge. (This does add to the slightly slippery character of the iPhone 6s, though. They really need cases.) To suit the new slimmer designs, the volume and sleep buttons have been elongated.
I should reiterate that to the hand, both these new phones feel strong, beautifully engineered and very pleasing. (By the way, Apple sold ten million iPhone 6s in a few days, and there were nine complaints about bent phones. The odds are pretty steep that you’ll bend your iPhone, but seriously, if you put a Plus in your back pocket and sit on it, of course you can bend it.)
There has been a steady rise in iPhone screen sizes:
iPhone 4 — 3.5-inch display — 960×640 — 614400 total pixels
iPhone 5 — 4-inch display — 1136×640 — 727040 total pixels
iPhone 6 — 4.7-inch display — 1334×750 — 1,000,500 total pixels
iPhone 6 Plus 5.5-inch display — 1920×1080 — 2,073,600 pixels
(Inch measurements are diagonal)
Better picture — A new display features in both, and the blacks are really black now. This makes everything look super crisp and clear, including games, movies and images. More impressive is the viewing angle – it’s extreme. Two people watching a movie on a 6 Plus, say on a plane, is now eminently doable, and besides, it’s dramatically superior to any display currently on commercial airliners.
Processing prowess — They almost need their own video cards, you’d think, with screens that are so much bigger. But these are 64-bit computing machines after all – I don’t believe any other smartphone has reached this processing plateau. The others are all still just 32-bit. This level of chip development has a processing payoff that Apple has cannily been benefitting from: the new A8 CPU in the 6s is the second generation of this architecture, and results in smooth action sequences since the CPU never has to step down to conserve battery power. There isn’t an actual GPU, of course, but the A8 includes an Apple-designed image signal processor component that enables advanced camera and video features.
What to do with all these pixels? It’s definitely a better viewing experience whichever way you look at it (ha ha), but if you just want ‘big’ due to eye problems of one sort or another – bigger icons, bigger text all round – you can use the new iPhones in Display Zoom mode. Although I need glasses myself these days, I would be hard pressed to use this option, simply because I perceive this as a waste of those excellent tiny high-definition pixels. For the same reason, I always run my Mac monitors on the maximum possible resolutions. But if you need it, it’s an excellent accessibility feature.
Another benefit of the larger screen is that the iPhone 6 Plus has a horizontal mode in some apps – for example, Mail gives you a more Mac-like two-column view, which would be a boon to those using this heavily as an email communications device, and Messages does the same.
Motion — The 6s also have the M8 motion co-processor is mostly beneficial to health apps, of which there aren’t many yet, but it’s a market that’s set to increase dramatically. The M8 continuously measures motion data from the accelerometer, gyroscope, compass and the new barometer, which senses air pressure, providing relative elevation. (I live at 24 metres above sea level – netter check that global warming chart but I think I’m pretty safe.)
If you add a bodily few parameters (height, weight, body mass etc) into the Health app, you will start to get the benefit of this, and more so when more apps using the HealthKit API come onto the market.
Pluses — Awesome, deep, crips and clear screens. More finer pixels. They’re bigger, but well-engineered. New 64-bit CPUs. Benefits to come with the Health tech.
Reservations — Slippery. The big Plus is too big for me, even though I think Apple did a terrific job of making this work.
— This is part 1. Part 2 will concentrate on the cameras … and wow! —
More info — Apple Inc.