There was literally nobody on the planet more excited for Apple’s first phablet than me.
As soon as rumours started popping up that Apple was going to make a 5.5-inch iPhone, I knew I was going to buy it. I had been using a Galaxy Note II, which has a 5.5-inch screen, at home as a mini-tablet, and I thought it was great. I prefer iOS, so I was happy Apple going to jump into the phablet market.
Sure enough, on the day the phone was available for preorder, I woke up and ordered the iPhone 6 Plus.
It arrived Wednesday, and my initial impression — 30 minutes in — was positive. The big screen is flat-out gorgeous. It’s thin, and the device looks good.
But, after ~12 hours with it, I have more mixed emotions. I am now wondering if this phone is too big for me and my day-to-day usage. I am wondering if in a week I’ll be at the Apple Store, returning the phone.
What’s the problem? I had no idea how important one-handed usage is with a smartphone until it was basically taken away from me with the iPhone 6 Plus.
I am 6-foot-1, and I think I have the hands that correspond with that size. I use medium-size grips on my golf clubs, if that helps add perspective. To be precise: It’s not as if I have freak baby hands.
Wednesday, while I was setting up my phone, I was eating dinner — sausage sandwiches with potato chips, because I like to eat healthy. As a result, I did the whole thing one-handed. That wasn’t too bad, but I did start to feel like my left hand was getting disjointed trying to bend my thumb around to hit various buttons.
But that was an exception, right? Setting up the phone is a one-time thing. What about normal usage?
Well, I was sitting on my couch watching TV, and it turns out I use my phone with just one hand a lot! More than I ever realised. And I felt as if I had to pop my thumb out of its joint to move around the phone.
Here’s the best analogy I can think of for describing the new sort of motions needed to navigate this big phone: Have you ever tried to move around on the ground without using your arms? You end up shuffling using your butt.
Likewise, when trying to move your hand around the 6 Plus, you use your palm to move the phone, and slide your fingers from side to side.
My iPhone 5S was sitting next to me on the couch, and I started picking it up. I had a newfound appreciation for how small and easily used it is. I could zip around the screen, no problem. And it’s not that small, really. I could see what I needed to see. The screen on the iPhone 6 Plus is beautiful and big, but it doesn’t feel like that much of an improvement, at least, not right now.
When my wife came home, I showed her the iPhone 6 Plus. She hated it. She treated it as if it were covered in disease, immediately handing it back to me. I took it, tried to shuffle it in my hand to unlock, and I dropped it on the floor. Happily, nothing happened to it. But, I am now hyper aware of how easy it is to drop the thing.
The one-handed thing came up again when I was getting ready to go to sleep. I’m one of those pathetic losers who can’t do anything without looking at his phone. So, when I brush my teeth, I like to check Twitter. And I could do that with the 6 Plus, but it was slightly uncomfortable.
Thursday morning, walking to the train, I wanted to whip out my phone to see if I was running late. But there is no whipping out of the iPhone 6 Plus. There is only careful removal, because the risk of dropping it is real.
Other things about the 6 Plus that I find odd:
- Apple moved the power button to the side, but it’s too high on the side.
- I still have to slink my hands into position to hit it.
- In Safari, if I want to open a new page or a new tab, I have to slide my thumb all the way across the phone.
- The reachability mode from Apple is not all that useful. Apple has this new thing where you double tap the home button and the screen slides down. 1) It’s hard to get my thumb to the home button. 2) I don’t even know how this helps.
To be clear, I am not returning it — at least not yet. I’m going to be giving the phone a week before making up my mind.
The problem for me, and perhaps for anyone who buys the 6 Plus, is more mental than physical. In my head, this is an “iPhone,” and so I expect it to behave like an iPhone. But in reality, it’s something totally different.
If Apple named this the iPad Nano, I would probably have no complaints. I would just think of it like I think of the iPad Mini. I don’t complain about one-handed usage with an iPad Mini because I don’t expect it.
It’s a new category of device, and so I will have to use it in new ways.
The question, which I will be revisiting in a week, is whether I figure out a new way to use the phone. And whether it’s worth whatever compromises I have to make in using the phone in a new way.
The big screen is gorgeous, but after 12 hours with it, I’m not sure it’s worth the trade-off of a truly easy-to-use little mobile phone.