I’m one of the 4 million people who pre-ordered a new iPhone 6 this past weekend. It arrived earlier today, and I wanted to share some observations after using it for the first couple of hours.
This is a big upgrade for me. I’m upgrading from an iPhone 4, which feels absolutely ancient. At one point, I’m sure it felt amazingly quick, but not anymore. (I have to remind myself that someday this iPhone 6 is going to feel just as slow.) To give you an example, sometimes my iPhone 4 was so slow that it missed incoming calls because sliding to answer wouldn’t happen before voicemail picked up the call. Needless to say, the new iPhone 6 is crazy quick in comparison.
Like most people, I was torn between ordering the iPhone 6 or the 6+, sight unseen. There is a pretty big size difference between the two, and some functionality is lost by choosing the 6. I made some cardboard cutouts to help make my decision easier. The cutout for the 6+ felt way too big in my pocket, so I decided to go with the more comfortable 6. Now that I’m using it, I’m really glad I didn’t order the 6+. The 6, even as the smaller option, is so much bigger than previous iPhones. This is especially true coming from an iPhone 4. I have space for 2 more rows of app icons on each home screen, which is great.
One-handed operation is pretty tough though. My first instinct when trying to reach the top of the screen with my thumb was to shimmy it down in my hand. Well, that’s a big mistake, because I almost dropped it while doing this. So then I tried using the new action that Apple built-in, to double-tap the home button to shift the screen contents downward. This helps a lot, but it’s going to take some time before I have the muscle-memory to do this without thinking about it. I’ll probably use it two-handed most of the time.
As an app developer, I think we are in a bit of a transition when it comes to choosing the best location to place often-used buttons in the user interface. Up until now, the top navigation bar was a good location to put navigation controls. However, with devices becoming larger, that may no longer be the case. Instead, it might make more sense to have a more prominent toolbar on the bottom of the screen. I know I’ll be spending a lot of time thinking about this over the coming months.
One last note on the size I would like to bring up is with respect to the depth. It’s amazing to physically grasp just how thin the iPhone 6 is as a phone. It’s almost difficult to pick up off a table because there isn’t much depth to hold onto. Once you are holding it though, it feels very solid and comfortable.
Moving on, this morning was the first time I’ve used TouchID. I don’t know how I lived without it. Actually I do: I would avoid the inconvenience of a delayed unlock process by not setting a password on my devices. TouchID makes security easy by reading your fingerprint on the home button to unlock the device, and I can’t wait for more 3rd party apps to make use of it in iOS 8.
Speaking of buttons, the power button is now on the side rather than the top of the device. My first impression of this change isn’t good. More than once I’ve tried to tap that button to turn off the phone, and instead did a combo press with the volume button on the other side. The OS gives the volume button priority (which is probably the best choice) and the device stays on. Taking screenshots using the home/power button combination is more difficult too. Aesthetically, the power button placement is nice (both with respect of having a clean top panel, and also having the side buttons laid out symmetrically), but usability would be greatly improved if the button wasn’t directly across from the volume buttons.
Finally, I was originally going to use the iPhone 6 without a case, but due to a few of my observations above I think I might change my mind. The device will be easier to pick up off a table if it has a little bit more depth, which a case would add. And with the almost-drop due to using it one-handed, I would feel more comfortable if I had some protection if the worst was to happen and I actually did drop it on a concrete floor or other hard surface. I’ve never really dropped a phone in the past, but I’m not sure my luck will hold with this model. The third reason buying a case is a good idea is due to the extended camera lens on the back of the device. When setting the iPhone 6 down on a table, it is resting on the camera lens. That invites the possibility of scratching the glass, which as a photographer I would hate to have happen. I will use it for a few weeks before making a final decision, but I expect I’ll be plunking some money down for a case in the near future.
Overall, the iPhone 6 is an awesome upgrade and I couldn’t be happier right now. It’s just going to get better as HealthKit comes online and Apple Pay starts rolling out to commercial locations next month.