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My Week With The iPhone 6

September 28, 2014

I know you’ve been thinking about getting an iPhone 6, but have been holding off. When is the official Nothing Was Delivered review going to drop? you ask. Well wait no more. 

The first thing you notice about the iPhone 6 is that it’s big. Not enormous, but it fills your hand in a way previous iPhones never did. One thing to remember is that the iPhone width has stayed pretty much the same for the past 7 years. Your fingers would wrap around the iPhone 5S nearly the same way as the original. 

The 6 changes that, adding width while shaving off depth. Apple tries to distract from the increased size by moving away from the monolith shape. The new phone is rounded on all sides. Even the glass on the front curves down to meet the front. It feels really nice but also really slippery. I am afraid I’m going to drop the 6 in ways I wasn’t afraid before. In practice, I have only dropped it once so far, but it will take some getting used to. 

The larger screen still seems wasted. Nice for looking at photos or watching videos, or even for the occasional responsive web site. But most of my apps still seem to be just scaled up versions of their iOS 7 predecessors. Even among those that have updated their apps for the new iPhones, no one seems to be doing much with the extra real estate. 

My big complaint, however, is with one-handed use. My hands seem fairly unremarkable. They’re not particularly large, no are that especially dainty. I grip my phone somewhat loosely with my right hand, the right side nestled in my palm, my pinky providing support in the lower left hand corner, my ring and middle fingers gripping around the side, and my pointer finger propping up the back. The entirety of the screen that I can therefore comfortably interact with is within the arc of my thumb. 

If I position my phone in this usual set up, then I can easily reach the home button, the dock, and all but the top rows of apps. I can (barely) reach the top right app, but the top left is an app too far. Apple’s primary solution is Reachability, which is, unfortunately, kinda gross. What I used to be able to reach easily with my thumb now requires two taps on the home button, then a swing all the way back towards the top of my reach. What was one motion is now three. A terrible kludge. 

Luckily, the item that is most often in that upper left corner is a “Back” button, and Apple had one last trick up their sleeve. Swiping in from the left edge of the screen is now generally treated as a “Back” gesture. Still, I am going to make sure my most useless apps fill that top corner, because it’s generally not worth the effort. 

(note to self – come up with a placeholder app that doesn’t do anything, just sits in the top left corner of your iPhone. Step 3, profit). 

When all is said and done, this is a great phone, but the compromises are clear. Apple decided that the public wanted bigger phones (don’t get me started on the 6 +). And judging by their opening weekend sales, they’re probably right. But honestly, I kind of wish they made a phone with the 6’s internals and a 4” screen. That’s not going to happen this year, so I’ll have to somehow get by with a magic 4.7” computer that fits in my pocket. If there’s any lesson to be learned here it’s that screen sizes are going to keep changing. One day the fashion will no doubt swing back to smaller screens (iPhone Nano, anyone?). Till then, I welcome our new gigantic iPhone overlords. 

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