Returning the iPhone 6 Plus

Added on by Rick Stawarz.

John Gruber:

If you want something bigger than an iPhone, get the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. It feels more like a new device — a hybrid device class that is bigger than an iPhone but smaller than an iPad Mini — than it feels like a bigger iPhone.

And:

The increased size of the iPhone 6 makes it worse when using it one-handed. But it makes it better when using it two-handed.

Jim Dalrymple:

Of course, the easiest way to use the iPhone 6 Plus is with two hands. My experience with the 6 Plus became much more enjoyable after I gave up trying to see how it worked with one hand and used two. One-handed operation can be done, two-handed is optimal.

Josh Ginter:

The iPhone 6 Plus is my ideal desk phone. I spend the majority of my days working at a desk, which means I have more opportunities to use the phone with both hands. The nature of your life and work may urge you to purchase a one handed phone. If, like me, your phone acts as a text/email/telephone conduit at your desk, you’ll be thankful to know that the 6 Plus excels as a desk phone.

You no doubt picked up the common refrain in reviews of the iPhone 6 Plus: It's fantastic for those who regularly use an iPhone with two hands. I've been using an iPhone 6 Plus for three weeks, and I'm not so sure I'm willing to concede even that much to the Plus.

Screen categories

In the kingdom of Apple, screen size dictates what kind of input device you use. The name of a device is irrelevant. Apple's product lineup is essentially different sizes of beautiful, retina screens. If the screen is small enough to hold, it's touch. If the screen is too big to hold, it's on a desk with a keyboard and mouse.

Touch screen devices are split into two subcategories: one-hand devices or two-hand devices. It's a subtle, but key, distinction. These iPhone 6 Plus reviews are drawing out the tension of a device that doesn't fit strongly into either of those subcategories. Is it a one or two-hand device? As Gruber points out, it feels like a hybrid. We all know that he's being kind. Another word for hybrid is compromise.

Compromises

Most everyone agrees that the iPhone 6 Plus is awkward to use with one hand. Some will say that Reachability eases this problem. No, Reachability adds more friction to using half the iPhone's screen. It's a step backwards.

I think most reviews are being too kind to the new iPhone 6 Plus. Not only is it a poor one-handed device, but it is also a poor two-handed device.

It is still limited by only being able to fit two thumbs. Typing on the iPhone 6 Plus is no faster than the iPhone 5.

Typing with two thumbs is a way to speed up typing on a one-handed device. It is a limitation of the device if typing must be done with two thumbs. If you're going to be typing with two hands on an iOS device, you might as well grab the iPad and use more than just your thumbs, right?

Typing is not the only point of friction for the iPhone 6 Plus. Plenty of apps have buttons at both the bottom and top of the screen, which again, demands two hands. iPad apps welcome two-handed controls. iPhone apps weren't designed with this in mind.

Tweetbot, Mailbox, and Messages are examples of this. Each of these apps have key elements at the bottom of the screen, but also have the Compose button at the top. The 5.5-in screen insists two-handed operation while the apps assume that one-handed operation is the dominant way.

Before buying the iPhone 6 Plus, I already knew it wasn't going to be usable with one hand. What I didn't realize is how much I would not like using it with two hands, either. Several times over, I would set down my iPhone and move to the iPad for typing, reading, or casual gaming.

I realized that I want the iPhone to be the best one-handed device and the iPad to be the best two-handed device.

Is Plus for you?

Not everyone will feel the same way I do. I suspect the iPhone + iPad combination will evolve as a pro solution, much in the same way many heavy users have both a laptop and desktop.

For people who aren't heavy iOS users and don't enjoy having multiple devices to keep track of, maybe the hybrid 5.5-inch device is a great solution. If that's you, you don't glance at your iPhone as much and are content keeping it in a jacket pocket or day bag. You should take inventory of how you use your phone before purchasing the Plus.

  • What pocket do you keep your phone in?
  • Do you use your favorite apps with one or two hands?
  • Are your apps optimized for swipe navigation? (Swiping the edge of the screen to go backwards instead of relying on a dedicated back button.)
  • How much typing do you do on your phone?
  • If you're hoping to also replace your iPad with an iPhone 6 Plus, do your iPad apps also require two-hand typing?

The answers to these questions will help illuminate whether or not the Plus is for you. My guess is that the iPhone 6 Plus will attract casual users who don't have an iPad.

As for me, I want the best device for every situation, not a hybrid which achieves most tasks with mediocrity. Now a 13-inch iPad -- that would be nice.