In the days leading up to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 launch, I wasn’t alone in making cardboard cutouts of the new iPhones to test the feel of the different sizes. I knew the iPhone 6 Plus was big, and that the iPhone 6 was really designed to hit the smartphone “sweet spot.” But I was drawn to the larger model because of the 2,900 mAh battery and optical image stabilization. Besides, I have friends with Galaxy Note and other large phones who insist that they quickly got used to it.
So I preordered, and lined up before dawn yesterday, and picked up the apparently scarce iPhone 6 Plus (64 gig silver). My first reaction to the real thing in the store was, “It’s ludicrously large.” Similar reactions awaited at my office. But how do I feel now, after a day or so of using it?
It still feels really big. It’s a tangibly different device than the iPhone 5/5s was, or any of the earlier iPhones, really. While this is a device category that owners of large Android phones have known for a few years, going from 4″ diagonal to 5.5″ is a real change for Apple customers compared to people who’ve seen their screen sizes slowly grow with each annual upgrade.
I’ve seen the iPhone 6 Plus in the hands of people with large, basketball-grasping hands, and in that context it looks fine. Challenges might remain when it comes to tight or shallow pockets, but those are challenges that purse or satchel carriers can ignore. I’m sure some people will do just fine with 5.5 diagonal inches of glass.
But I have little girlie hands. With the iPhone 6 Plus in my palm, resting comfortably against the base of my left thumb, my three lower fingers barely get up around the far edge. My pointer finger, meanwhile, is just lost underneath.
And in this “safe grasp” position? My thumb barely gets to the third column of icons. Yes, Reachability mode is cool, bringing down the screen vertically, but for me, the horizontal span is the challenge. I randomly tapped the standard keyboard with my thumb, and U, H, and B are the furthest right I could reach without stretching.
And stretching not only hurts after a while, it’s dangerous.
It’s hard not to go for those keys and icons on the right side of the screen when you’re on a roll, getting stuff done while grocery shopping, waiting in line, or cooking. You just shimmy your hand a little this way, tilt the phone a little that way, then stretch your thumb to hit that ‘Submit’ button. But you know you’re taking your chances, and the satisfaction of doing it is quickly chilled by the recurring nightmare about the day your shimmy and tilt will inevitably release your expensive new phone to the ruthless, constant pull of Planet Earth.
I love the huge upgrade in screen real estate on the iPhone 6 Plus. Photos look great, videos even better, and you can get more information in a glance than ever before. (Well, if your apps are optimized for larger screens, because otherwise everything is just enlarged to the point of “comedy gold.”) And using two hands? Typing and scrolling and jumping from app to app feels almost magical. The thinness of the iPhone 6 Plus relative to its area makes this long-time Star Trek fan really feel like he’s living in the future.
The battery life is great, too… at least on day one. After a typical Saturday morning browsing around and listening to podcasts, I could be down to 50 percent by lunch on my iPhone 5s. The iPhone 6 Plus was at 89 percent when I went to pick up my wife at work at 2 p.m.
And as the camera has always been the number one feature of the iPhone for me, I’m very happy with the optics on this giant phone. I’ve only played with the 240fps slow motion, but it’s impressive, and with hardware-driven optical image stabilization, I look forward to better low-light performance (perhaps the one achilles heel of previous iPhones).
But the iPhone 6 Plus is definitely part iPhone and part iPad. It’s a hybrid that comes with a lot of advantages, and a few drawbacks. The easy one-handed use of all previous iPhones is something I took for granted, but now appreciate. And until I get better at knowing whether or not to start something that is better done with two hands, I’m afraid that I’m going to keep taking chances, and that someday my luck might run out.