Apple’s new iPhone 6 Plus is likely to be its most polarizing product for a while. It’s a monster compared to Apple’s previous iPhone models—so much taller and wider that it barely fits in many hands, never mind pockets. But my sense is that it is going to find a devoted audience. After using it for a large portion of this past weekend, I’m sold. This is the pocket computer I’ve wanted for a while now.
It’s too big, but in the right way. For the past two years, since the iPad mini launched, I’ve wanted to take it everywhere. But to my frustration, that just hasn’t happened. It’s too big for most pockets, and it feels silly to carry a backpack around just for an iPad mini. My hope for the iPhone 6 Plus was that it would be an iPad mini that I don’t need a bag for. And so far, that’s exactly what it has been.
The screen is gorgeous. It reminds me of the first time I sat down in front of a huge desktop LCD screen. It’s immersive and beautiful. The curvature on the edges of the glass, where you hold it, makes it seem like the screen is even closer to you than it is. And the added width makes the iOS keyboard bigger, roomy enough that it’s significantly more comfortable to type. I dreaded replying to emails on my old iPhone 5. It’s more pleasant on the 6 Plus.
One-handed, on-the-go usage took a big hit. This is the main tradeoff I’ve experienced so far. The iPhone 5 was small enough that I could walk around with it out, confidently gripping it, and single-thumb-navigating and typing. Perhaps I’ll learn a new move, but whipping out the iPhone 6 Plus is a project in itself. It’s possible to balance it and type with one thumb while walking, but it’s a bit scary.
This is one thing that’s gotten me a little excited about the Apple Watch—if it’s not too awkward, perhaps that’s where I’ll do more simple, on-the-fly tasks.
Jeans pockets will need to get bigger. For men and women. This isn’t just an iPhone 6 Plus thing—phones are getting bigger, period, and apparel companies would be silly not to extend pocket depth another inch. Here’s a look at the iPhone 6 Plus barely peeking out from a pair of Uniqlo jeans. I asked Uniqlo about its future pocket-design plans, and while the Japanese clothing company didn’t commit to anything, a rep says, “We are having conversations currently with the product development team regarding technology overall, and how our clothes can provide compatibility from a user perspective. Jean pockets is one of those conversations.”
Most apps need some work. Of the non-Apple apps on my home screen, only a few have been updated to properly support the new display: Twitter and three indie apps. Facebook hasn’t, Instagram hasn’t, ESPN hasn’t. This just means that everything is stretched to be bigger, and nothing is as sharp as it could be. It will be interesting to see how (and how quickly) app makers optimize their apps, and if they build any new features for the big screen. (A separate issue is what will eventually happen to “iPad” apps—phone apps and tablet apps are clearly colliding—but that’s for another day.)
This is Apple’s finest production to date. While I still prefer the look of the iPhone 4 body, the actual physical quality of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is on another level. It makes me especially excited for what lessons Apple can bring to the MacBook Air, which hasn’t been updated in four years. The rumor mill suggests that an even thinner, iPhone-influenced notebook is on its way.
Bottom line: Should you buy it? Having now owned one for a weekend, here’s my advice: If you’re happy with the size and utility of a smartphone up to now, the 6 Plus will probably seem too big, and you should get an iPhone 6 or another similar phone. This is especially true if you use it while running.
If you are more interested in having a pocket-sized computer with you at all times—at the expense of some portability—give it a shot.