Today, Apple began selling the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in stores around the world. And, unlike past iPhone releases, consumers now have two devices from which to choose.
Since the moment Apple CEO Tim Cook announced the larger iPhone 6 Plus last week, I knew I was interested. (I knew I was interested when it was just in the rumor stage, but the phone only became "Official" last week.) But how big would the iPhone 6 Plus really be? Was it seriously as large as I imagined? Could I hold it in one hand and navigate around the screen using VoiceOver? And, when it came right down to it, would the iPhone 6 Plus actually fit in my pocket? This afternoon, I took a trip to my local AT&T Store to answer these and other questions.
iPhone 6: An Incremental Size Boost
My first impression of the iPhone 6 was that it reminded me a lot of the iPod Touch Fifth Generation (complete with the rear camera that sticks out of the device ever so slightly), but just a bit bigger. I was worried about how thin the new iPhones would be—I had visions of a device so thin that it would feel flimsy in the hand—but the iPhone 6 does not feel "too" thin at all, but rather "just right." It’s bigger than an iPhone 5S, for sure, but not so big that it would be a huge difference for people upgrading from an iPhone 5 or later. While it’s not terribly important to me as a blind person, I did notice that the screen meats the edges of the phone seamlessly—and the whole device feels wonderful to the touch. The rear camera does stick out a little from the device, which means that it would not sit completely flat on a table or other surface; but most people, hopefully at least, would have their phone in a case.
One of the disappointing aspects of the iPhone 5S was how audio distorted at high volume levels. In my (albeit limited) testing of the iPhone 6 with VoiceOver enabled, I detected no audio distortion whatsoever. In my attempts to both get a feel for the devices and yet not take up the display units for too long, I neglected to do a formal side-by-side test of maximum audio volume between my iPhone 5S and the iPhone 6; with that said, however, the iPhone 6’s maximum speaker volume was plenty loud—just without the audio distortion from the iPhone 5S.
iPhone 6 Plus: Big, but Not Too Big
As a blind person, sometimes it’s hard for me to conceptualize how things look based on descriptions—and my perception of the iPhone 6 Plus fits into this category. Rather than confusing you with what I expected out of the device—a very long, unwieldy, narrow thing—I was pleasantly surprised to find that the iPhone 6 Plus was both shorter and wider than I had thought. It felt really good in my hand, although holding such a big device up to ones’ ear on phone calls will definitely take some getting used to. Like with the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6 Plus’ rounded chassis felt wonderful to the touch; it's worth noting, however, that the curved edges of the iPhone 6 Plus do make the device a bit slippery.
As far as speaker performance goes, I noticed a slight deepening in the sound of the iPhone 6 Plus’s speaker when compared to the iPhone 6—welcome news for those hoping for speaker improvements with this year’s models. While it is entirely possible that I simply did not have the volume level on the iPhone 6 Plus set to the maximum, I feel I should mention that I noticed a slight decrease in the maximum volume of the iPhone 6 Plus when compared to the iPhone 6. However, this slight decrease in the maximum speaker volume could very well be my imagination, as my testing conditions—a busy AT&T store—were not ideal for such comparisons. As mentioned above, though, the audio from VoiceOver did sound a little deeper—so it would be interesting to compare music playback on a 6 Plus to that on other iOS devices.
While writing this review, a couple users on Twitter asked me if I was able to hold and use the iPhone 6 Plus with one hand. The answer is "Yes," but with a couple caveats. First, when I use my iPhone one-handed, I reach my hand across the width of the screen—bracing my thumb on one side of the device and my middle, ring, and pinkie fingers on the other side—and interact with the touchscreen with my index finger. Happily, this is still possible for me on the iPhone 6 Plus, and I do not have particularly large hands. Because the device has curved edges, however, it is not as easy to grip the sides of the phone in the manner I described above—so I wouldn’t try this too much without a good case on the unit. (This applies to the iPhone 6 as well.) It’s also worth noting here that, because the phone was connected to the wall display, my range of motion—as well as my perception of the device’s weight distribution—was somewhat limited. Lastly, the device’s screen orientation was not locked—something I always do, as a VoiceOver user—so I had to always try and keep the phone angled so as to stay in portrait orientation. All that to say this: I think it is definitely possible for a VoiceOver user to use the device one-handed, but get a good case before you attempt to do so.
While I was drawn to the iPhone 6 Plus because of its bigger battery, bigger screen (yes, this actually does matter to a blind person, as it makes typing that much easier) and better camera (think optical character recognition apps), all the features in the world would not make the device viable for me unless I could easily carry it in my pocket. Luckily for me, the cord on the wall display was just long enough for me to slip the phone into my pocket where, surprisingly, it fit just fine. The pocket test is the one area where I thought the 6 Plus would disappoint—but, thankfully, I had a lot more room to spare than I expected. I don’t know how well it would fit into my pocket sporting an Otter Box Defender Series case, but, as mentioned above, I was quite impressed nonetheless.
If the iPhone 6 had the same (or better) battery performance as the iPhone 6 Plus, I might have considered buying one. With that said, I will be purchasing the iPhone 6 Plus, because a good battery and a bigger screen is important to me. However, Apple created two devices for a reason, and the iPhone 6 Plus is not for everyone. If you want the latest iPhone but like the size of your iPhone 5 or earlier, then the iPhone 6 is probably likely to be your best bet. When compared to an iPhone 5, the iPhone 6 is not all that much bigger when taken as a whole. (I compared an iPhone 5, in a minimal case, side-by-side with an iPhone 6 and felt that the 6 was not too much larger overall.) If you’ve really been wanting something much bigger, though, then the iPhone 6 Plus will probably fit the bill. In any event, before making any purchases, I highly recommend going to your retailer of choice to check out and compare the two phones for yourself.