In early December I upgraded from an iPhone 5 to iPhone 6. It has a new form factor, with a larger screen, Touch ID, and an improved camera. I have used iPhones since the original model was released in 2007, but this is the probably my most notable transition when switching to a new phone. The new screen size, power button placement, and Touch ID all break years of muscle memory. Despite this retraining, I really enjoy the iPhone 6. Here’s why.
The larger screen is harder to use than previous iPhones, but the increased amount of visible content completely makes up for it. I notice that I have to shift my hand around constantly to reach different parts of the screen and do what I want to do.1 However, the fact that I don’t care says a lot about how useful the larger screen is. I finally understand what Android users have been saying for years. Increased information density is worth a little more cumbersome handling.2
When I go back to my iPhone 5 (now my dedicated iOS beta device) it feels so nice in my hand, but more toy-like in actual use because so much less is displayed. The larger screen is a big win for me, however, I did not choose the 6 Plus. I tried to like it everywhere I could get my hands on one. It’s just too big. There’s no way to use it comfortably one handed and since I don’t need a phone to do double duty as a self-defense weapon I went with the 6.
Visually, I prefer the striking look of the iPhone 4/5 form factors to the iPhone 6. Something about the edges and refined details really make them stand out to me. The iPhone 6 hearkens back to the original iPhone’s design and just doesn’t look as sharp to me. However, once I got it in my hand my quibbles seemed unimportant. It’s so much nicer to hold. Using gestures to swipe from the edges of the screen feels great. The rounded edges seem necessary in these larger phones since sharp corners could prove more painful to handle over time if the user’s hand is already stretching more than before. So, in my view, the iPhone 6 doesn’t have the same visual appeal as its predecessors, but this backwards step serves to fill a more important functional need.3
I don’t have much to say about the camera. I like that its images are sharper and better exposed in more situations than previous iPhones. All the cool features are software features. Burst mode is great with kids, the videos are well exposed and sharp, and slow-motion video is fun. It’s a good all around camera. That said, my 4 year old GF1 takes better stills in the same situations as my iPhone (or any phone) almost every time. The iPhone may beat dedicated cameras by always being with you and its software features may present a lost opportunity for Canon, Sony, Nikon, etc. However, when I know I want good photos I’ll still be reaching for a real camera.
Touch ID was first released with the iPhone 5s, so I hadn’t had the chance to use it until this month with the 6. In short, I love it. I’m sure it has been handy from the beginning for getting past the lock screen and making iTunes purchases, but with the release of iOS 8 it has come into its own. I use it with a variety of apps and 1Password’s extension is hugely helpful in day to day use. I haven’t had a chance to use it with Apple Pay yet, but am looking forward to it.
The iPhone 6 is my favorite iPhone so far, and by a long shot. I feel like my upgrade was more significant this year than it has been before. It’s a well-considered piece of intelligent industrial design that has improved how I use mobile devices and what I get out of the experience.
I know about Reachability. I don’t really use it. I don’t have any problem with it and think it’s a fairly benign compromise to improve usability, but I just never think to do it. ↩
Apps that are not yet updated for the larger screen sizes do stand out, in a bad way. If I had switched to the iPhone 6 back when it launched I definitely would have made more of an effort to update Mind Vault for the new screen sizes before November. ↩
Speaking about edges, what’s the deal with the protruding camera lens? I’m not saying Apple should make an inferior camera to make it sit flush with the phone’s body, but I’d happily trade a couple millimeters in phone thinness for a device that lays flat. ↩