iPhone 6 Plus: Nightmare at the bedside
This morning I opened my eyes and saw the full enormity of the iPhone 6 Plus as it stared accusingly back at me from the Belkin dock on the bedside table. What a monster, especially at a close range of twelve inches.
Truth be told, I spent most of yesterday wondering if I had done the right thing in choosing Apple's phablet over the more modest iPhone 6. It is definitely different, neither iPhone nor iPad. It is awkward to use as a phone, for starters, and difficult to work with one hand. On the positive side, it is less bulky than I imagined and it fits easily in the front pocket of a pair of jeans (not too-tight jeans, mind), a shirt pocket or the inside pocket of a formal jacket. It definitely goes in places the iPad mini cannot even dream of. It is also light at 172g compared with the 112g of the iPhone 5S. I don't really notice the difference in weight.
The screen of the 6 Plus is the best I have seen on any Apple iOS device. Text is super crisp and reading is a pleasure. The Kindle App, for instance, is a triumph.
Not all Apps work perfectly on the Plus, however. Most, at the moment, are not adjusted for the larger screen and rely on a scaled-up version of the smaller iPhone display. It's similar to what happens when you use iPhone apps on the iPad and press the x2 button. However, it works much better than that (there is no degradation in the image) and it takes a while to realise that the large type you are seeing is a result of this scaling. In some apps, however, the type is larger than needed and it would be helpful to be able reduce font size in return for more content on view.
Currently few apps are adjusted for landscape viewing and this is a problem because the Plus lends itself very well to landscape use, especially for reading and browsing. Safari works in landscape mode, as do Day One, Instapaper, Kindle, Evernote and Contacts among others. OmniFocus, Reeder, 1Password and many others have not yet been optimised. Fantastical is one such but, as on the iPhone, landscape mode is available for week view only. I imagine that most apps will eventually be optimised for the Plus.
It would be good to have the opportunity to choose whether to use the iPhone or a scaled-down iPad app in applications such as OmniFocus. Many iPad-specific applications make better use of the larger screen real estate, particularly in the use of sidebars, and would work just as well on the Plus.
While the Kindle app works well on the Plus, either in portrait or landscape mode, landscape does not yet permit double-column view, something that I find preferable on larger screens. On the positive side, Kindle's long-standing ability to scale fonts works just as well on the Plus and it is therefore possible to optimise the display for the larger screen. I liked book reading on the iPhone 5S and the Plus has just taken the experience to new heights. I can see this becoming my book reading device of choice.
I am warming to the 6 Plus and have no immediate thoughts of swapping it for the smaller iPhone 6. I still have a few days to make up my mind. But I do feel it is worthwhile spending a few months, at least, with the Plus in the interests of research. It is growing on me and I will probably come to prefer it. Not having to carry both iPhone and iPad is a major benefit and I will appreciate this every day of the year.
Of course, battery life, good as it is initially, could become a problem if one device is used for everything. Under the old regime I did most of my browsing and writing on the iPad. While the iPad seldom ran out of juice during the day, the iPhone 5S was often on its last legs by late afternoon. I will have to see how the Plus fares under the sort of extensive use I dole out. As ever, though, the solution is an external battery pack which I tend to carry as a matter of course.
One nagging worry is that by adopting the Plus as a replacement for both phone and iPad, I am losing the great abilities of my Logitech keyboard folio. Over the past year I have grown used to pulling out the iPad, folding back the cover and using the device as a small laptop. It works really well. So far I have seen no obvious solutions. There are plenty of suitable Bluetooth keyboards but none with an integral device stand which is absolutely necessary. For the time being I will carry around the Logitech keyboard and fold back the cover to act as a sort of impromptu stand for the phone. However, I have no doubt that we will soon see many ingenious solutions to the keyboard problem.
So should you buy a 6 or a 6 Plus? This is very much a personal choice and you need to handle both devices in your local Apple store before making up your mind. If you still make lots of telephone calls then I suspect you will be happier with the iPhone 6. If, like me, you make few calls (I am down to just one or two a day) then the iPhone 6 Plus is a great compromise between the smaller phone and the larger iPad mini. I have solved the phone call problem by using the cheap Bluedio headphones. If the phone rings in a pocket or bag I can pull to the earphones and press the button. It works well.