The iPhone 6 Plus is one of the most curious devices Apple has built in recent years. The largest iPhone ever built, it evokes a sense of awe, confusion, and concern. In some ways, it suffers a bit of an identity crisis in the iOS family, as it behaves like an iPad sometimes, but is also clearly an iPhone.
After carrying it for a month, I’ve returned to my beloved iPhone 5s as my carry device. Since most reviews are written after only a few days of usage, I thought it would be interesting to share some thoughts on the iPhone 6 Plus after using it exclusively for over a month.
I’m in the unique position of possessing an iPhone 6 Plus that I don’t own. I would probably be more biased toward the device if I had paid money for it. It’s liberating to be able to evaluate the phone without worrying about the regret that would come with a purchase I don’t like. I’m also very grateful to be employed by a company that is excited to explore new devices and technology, and that paid for the phone.
To be clear: the views and opinions contained within are mine alone.
The Good: Camera, Screen, Apple Pay, Battery
The camera is absolutely wonderful. Without question, the camera is what kept me from ditching the iPhone 6 Plus sooner. The camera produces the most vivid colors I’ve ever seen from a phone, and rivals a lot of the pictures we’ve taken with our DSLR. With minimal effort, it can capture moments precisely and beautifully, which is incredibly important and valuable to me as a parent. I snapped some wonderful pictures of my children this past month, and they’re some of the best photos I have in our library.
The screen is staggeringly large, which makes the experience of some apps simply wonderful. I watched nearly all of the Dollhouse series on Netflix with the iPhone 6 Plus; it’s a fantastic device for watching TV shows, and is much more comfortable to hold than my iPad mini. The detail in HD content is astonishing, and the backlight has no problem producing a blindingly-visible image in almost all lighting conditions.
Over the course of a month, I had a few opportunities to try Apple Pay, and was always pleased with how simple it was to use. I’m excited for the future of payments with NFC, and I have enough confidence in the security of Touch ID to use the feature in places where credit cards have previously given me pause. 1
What I’ll miss most from the iPhone 6 Plus is the battery. I could carelessly leave the device unplugged overnight without a second thought; I routinely went over two days without charging the device, especially when using my desktop to stay on top of my Twitter timeline. The battery life is incredible.
The Bad: Size, Flickers and Glitches
The biggest2 problem with the iPhone 6 Plus is the unwieldy size. One-handed use is almost impossible for me, even with my typically-large adult male hands. I found myself constantly worrying about dropping the phone, which is something I’ve never had much concern over with my smaller phones. Of course, this anxiety probably lead to the increased fumbles I had with the phone.
The weather in Austin has finally cooled down enough that I’ve been wearing jeans for the past month. The iPhone 6 Plus fits uncomfortably in my jeans pocket. I don’t notice it when I’m walking around, but have to take the phone out when I sit at my desk, drive, or play with my kids. It presses into me when I sit, and is impossible to take out of my pocket once sitting. For somebody carrying a phone in a bag or purse, this probably wouldn’t be an issue, but using an iPhone 6 Plus from a pocket is awkward at best. I’ve always carried my iPhones without a case, and while a case may have alleviated some of the fumble anxiety, it would undoubtedly make the pocket experience even worse for me.
The phone also doesn’t fit in a lot of places that are convenient to set a phone. Two of my favorites are cup holders in the car and the small tray on HEB shopping carts. Cup holders make a great bullhorn while I use Maps to navigate my new city, and the shopping cart trays safely cradle my phone while shopping3, keep me from fumbling the phone in and out of my pocket. Neither of these stashes worked with the iPhone 6 Plus, simply because of the size.
While the dimensions of the device can’t be changed, there are some other issues that Apple can fix with software updates. The iPhone 6 Plus exhibits more flickering views, rotation glitches, and animation stuttering than I’ve seen with latest-generation hardware, even when running the latest iOS release.4 In fact, I’d dare say my 5s feels consistently smoother.
One of the most frustrating issues I ran into was the inability to swipe open the camera from the home screen; when I would try to open the camera, the home screen would slide up about half an inch, and then drop back down to fully-locked. I missed more than a couple photos because I couldn’t get the phone unlocked soon enough. This may have to do more with iOS 8 than the iPhone 6 Plus, which I’ll understand better as I get back to my 5s as a daily carry.
In a lot of places, the curved edges of the phone enhance the user experience. Swipe gestures to go back in the view hierarchy are wonderful on the phone, when they work. More than a few times, I had trouble getting the gestures to recognize, which is an issue I’ve rarely experienced on my 5s. The fit and finish of the device is really wonderful, and it compliments the software in a way only Apple can.
My Favorite Size
I’ve seen a lot of praise for the iPhone 6 Plus, and most of the favorable reviews echo what I found: the screen if beautiful, the camera captures stunning images, and the promise of simple, secure payments is here with Apple Pay.
I’d love to see Apple roll the great things about the iPhone 6 generation into a hybrid with the last generation: smooth edges, thin profile, expected camera improvements, and stunning battery life. In some ways, that’s pretty similar to the 5th generation iPod: thin, smoother edges, aluminum back, and a manageable size. A reasonable mix of the things universally loved with a compromise on the physical size would be a welcomed upgrade for me. Until then, I’ll stick with my trusty 5s.
Oh, and reasonable storage. 16 GB is nuts.
Mysterious crash-on-launch for iOS Mail solved: storage full.
— Thaddeus Ternes (@thaddeus) December 8, 2014