Apple’s products create a huge amount of emotion around the world, unlike virtually any other product. The new iPhones are no different. There’s been no end of mocking of Apple adopting a new larger size, both from other manufacturers and other mobile fanatics. There’s also been Bendgate which probably hasn’t done Apple any harm either, given the follow up research. Saying that, Apple’s continued desire to control the whole world’s media probably has left a sour taste in some people’s mouths, even if it probably hasn’t affected sales one bit.
Back to the new iPhones though! The first thing I noticed is that Apple have changed the packaging. Gone is the picture of the handset on the front of the box, instead we have a raised outline of the iPhone instead. It’s very white, plain, and minimalistic. I can’t say I like it much. It feels more like you’re buying something knocked off, in a plain box, rather something ‘special’ and worth hundreds of pounds.
Apple does do emotion like no one else though. Whether it’s love, hatred or jealousy, Apple provokes a level of emotion which no one else can replicate. Picking up a new iPhone 6 or 6 plus repeats that experience. There’s a moment of excitement, and then admiration of the phone when you first pick it up. They are beautiful, and there’s no getting away from it. The gentle curves of the body of the phone and the glass curves on the edges which meet the metal do exert some sort of gadget lust, as does the way that the curved glass reflects light. It’s completely irrational, and yet here I am writing about it. Two weeks down the line and I’m still just picking up my phone and looking at it. Admiring it.
Whilst I’m talking about admiring, I must also mention the screen. It’s beautiful. There’s something more immediate about it. It’s crisp, clear, bright, very low reflection when the screen is on, and it’s in your face, closer to you. I’m not sure how this illusion is achieved, but it does tie you into the emotional experience once again.
The magical reality distortion field is rudely broken though when you switch the phone on and try to restore from an old iCloud or iTunes backup. From iCloud, I failed to restore all the apps, and from iTunes I failed to download my music playlists. Restoring and syncing became an ordeal which reminded me of the things I dislike about Android. This was not ‘it just works’. This was ‘I want to throw something’. I have no idea how Apple finds this acceptable. I know when I bought my first Macs and iPods, I felt the money was justified because I didn’t have to deal with bugs and glitches like I did on Windows at the time. This is so untrue now of most of Apple’s products. Sticking to the iPhone, we have seen problems with Bluetooth, freezing screens, disabling Wi-Fi, and deleting iCloud data to name a few. I could rant about the problems I’ve had with my retina Macbook Pro and Mavericks, but that’s another time…. Apple needs to stop working to product cycles and make sure things just work once again, otherwise more and more people will question the premium they pay when purchasing Apple products.
Whilst I’m being critical, I should also mention other issues I have. Firstly keyboards. It’s implementation is half arsed, to be polite. You find yourself switching keyboards depending on where you enter text, and then you also find that switching from Swiftkey, for example, to the emoticon keyboard and then back again becomes a trial. I’ve stopped using emoticons as a consequence. I also find the animations in Safari when opening a new tab are very old fashioned. Not modern in the least. Nor is Apple’s pull down, pull up, lack of real widgets approach. Having used mostly Android over the last two years, I do find it’s a lot more immediate in accessing certain options and information. I do think Apple has failed in this aspect.
Where I do find Apple has succeeded though is through the ecosystem. It works. It’s not a ball ache like Android, and apps don’t suddenly freeze, crash, become incompatible because you’ve got the wrong type of handset or have done an OS update. I also wonder about the use of live app icons. I oddly like watching the second hand of the clock icon going around on the iPhone, but wonder what could be achieved if other apps could provide live animations…
Getting back to the iPhone 6 plus. It can be summed up in one word. ‘Wow’. There are two things which hit you. Firstly the size. It’s massive. There’s no way round it. I wanted to like this one over the iPhone 6 because of it’s bigger, better screen, Optical Image Stabilisation, and bigger battery, but I can’t. I remember reviewing the HTC ONE MAX many moons ago and complaining about the size. I come back to some of the same problems with the iPhone 6 plus. Whilst it is slim, svelt, light and comfortable to hold, it’s just too big to use with one hand. Apple did recognise this, and have used the double touch of the home button to enable reachability mode, but it’s a bit of a fudge, and I find using the iPhone 6 far easier and slicker.
iphone 6 , LG G3, iPhone 6 plus, Oneplus One
The LG G3 has the same size screen and yet it’s far easier to use one handed. This is because Apple has a problem. It’s ‘iconic design' with the home button. Whilst over generations, the side bezels have become slimmer, the top and bottom bezels haven’t. This is because of the symmetry needed to keep the large home button at the bottom and be reflected on the top. HTC suffers a similar problem with it’s front facing speakers (which incidentally are much better than the iPhones’). Apple needs to eat some humble pie and start copying some of LG’s design tricks. The home button needs to go on the back of the phone, and bezels need to disappear on the side, and become a lot slimmer on top/bottom. This would make the 5.5” screen far easier to use and also stop the odd weight distribution of the iPhone 6 plus, which does make me fear that it will slip out of my hand as I’m only holding the bottom, and there’s so much more phone I can’t hold.
I should also mention that whilst the iPhone 6 plus does fit into even slim jean pockets (with a case on), it does become more of an operation to put it in and take it out of my pocket then I’m used to, or feel comfortable with.
The second thing which hits you with the iPhone 6 plus, is the battery life. It’s phenomenal! I can get two days solid use out of it without having to plug it in. I’m normally pleased if a phone gets me home at the end of the day, but this is just spectacular. I know other phones can match it, but they tend to be mid-tier spec handsets which compromise on power and screen size/resolution, to give you better battery life. This is the first top end smartphone which gives me such impressive battery life. There’s not even any use of battery saving modes. You can use your phone as much as you like and know it will last two days.
The iPhone 6 is less impressive. It will last 24 hours under the same usage. That’s still pretty good, and meets most people’s basic requirement, but next to the iPhone 6 plus, it’s a bit disappointing. Whilst I’m talking about battery life, I should also mention charging. One thing I’ve noticed is that both phones, and the 6 plus in particular, take ages to charge if you use either your computer, or the included plug. What is particularly irritating, is that if you use Apple’s 12W plug for the iPad, it charges a lot quicker. Nearly all manufacturers are guilty of this these days, but they tend to include underpowered chargers with their phones, and expect you to buy a better plug separately. Stop it.
Speaking of the iPhone 6, it’s a bit of a gem. Given the larger and larger size of flagship handsets these days, it’s in fact the screen is in fact the size of the original HTC One and the Sony Xperia Z3. It is beautiful, easy to hold, has a wonderful screen, but doesn’t have the battery life or OIS of it’s big brother. I do find the lack of OIS hasn’t affected me compared to the iPhone 6 plus. I know the OIS should make a difference, but I’ve not really noticed it in everyday use. I’m sure someone’s written a review about it, but I find myself not really hung up about it. I do notice however that I do have to zoom in on webpages with a lot of text on, whilst I don’t have to on the 6 plus.
I do find Apple’s adoption of the two sizes a little odd. One being too big, whilst the other possibly being too small. The Goldilocks size for me, if Apple’s going to continue it’s same design language, is 5”. It gives a bigger screen, but remains easy to use one handed. 5.2” is just about acceptable. 5.5” would be great, but Apple does need to change the design. I’m not sure how they’d feel about that, especially as the Plus is apparently outselling the standard 6.
So. What have I done? I’ve decided to keep my iPhone 6 and return my iPhone 6 plus. I’ve found it enjoyable coming back to iOS after two years, and despite my grumbles, find things like Touch ID and integration between iOS and OSX to be killer features for me at this moment. Despite the 6 plus having immense battery life, and possibly a better camera, as well as the better screen, it’s just too big to use as your main phone.
Please do share your thoughts and experiences.