iPhone 6 in Review

Too big, too small, or just right? Sizing up the iPhone 6 Plus

iPhone 6 Plus
Credit: Apple

The 5-5-inch screen makes for one gargantuan smartphone -- too big for its own good?


OK -- all those folks who've been whining since the iPhone 4s that Apple needed a 5-inch-or-bigger smartphone now have what they want. Today, you can preorder the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus, which ships a week from now to those who get their orders in early. But do you really want one?

I got a few minutes of hands-on time at Apple's iPhone 6 debut earlier this week (this is not a formal review). I prefer the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, as it's my Goldilocks size: not too small, not too large, just right. But it's clear that a considerable percentage of the population -- especially in Asia -- likes the really big smartphones known as phablets (phone/tablet crossover).

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I have to say the iPhone 6 Plus, like the iPhone 6, is a gorgeous piece of technology. Samsung's Galaxy line looks and feels cheap by comparison. The new Moto X isn't bad, but it has none of the premium feel of the iPhone 6's seamless melding of glass and aluminum.

The iPhone 6 Plus feels lighter than my (puny) iPhone 4s from 2011. That's partly because the iPhone 6 Plus is thinner and partly because its large size spreads out the weight more, distributing the pressure in a sort of tactile illusion. The truth is that, at 6.07 ounces, the iPhone 6 Plus weighs 26 percent more than the 4.83-ounce iPhone 4, even if it doesn't feel that way.

But the reason you get a phablet is its big screen, and the iPhone 6 Plus's screen definitely feels more like a small tablet than a smartphone. No wonder that Apple apps such as Mail, Stocks, and Messages show the iPad-like two-column layout when in landscape orientation. (Developers have to enable that view, which I call iPad Mini mode, in their apps -- it's not automatic.)

If you want a smartphone that can double as a tablet, the iPhone 6 Plus works quite nicely, as long as the apps are updated to use the larger screen intelligently. Otherwise, they simply get bigger.

One issue I have with phablets is pocket fit -- or the lack thereof in a standard men's shirt pocket. Technically, it fits, but not comfortably or securely. I keep my phone in that pocket, both so it's handy and so I don't accidentally damage it while sitting. But jacket pockets, lab-coat pockets, and purses all are quite able to hold a phablet. If you're new to phablets, I strongly recommend you go to a store and see how the iPhone 6 Plus or any Android competitor fits with your attire.

Another issue I've had with phablets in general is that they're hard to use one-handed -- you simply can't stretch your fingers to the opposite corner unless you're Plastic Man or maybe Lurch. Apple's soution is to double-tap the Home button, which pulls the app halfway down the screen, so now you can reach its top. The bottom half, of course, is off screen, so you definitely don't stay in this pull-down mode for long. I didn't care for it -- it felt like a hack from a company that doesn't do hacks.

Samsung does a better job with its One Handed Mode setting for its Galaxy Note II and 3 phablets, moving some common features like the dialpad and keypad closer to the lower corner you specify. It also has an option to shrink app screens (most of them, not all) to a smaller size -- basically making them run at the 4.7-inch screen size of an easier-to-handle smartphone. But then why have a big screen if you're running an app in a smaller window?

Ultimately, if you want a big screen, you need to assume you'll use both hands to work it. One-handed modes can be helpful in a pinch, but they're not for long-duration use.

Like I said, the iPhone 6 Plus is too big for me. But for the first time, Apple has a phablet that brings the goodness of iOS to people who want a smartphone that can do it all. It's worth sizing up.

This article, "Too big, too small, or just right? Sizing up the iPhone 6 Plus," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Galen Gruman's Mobile Edge blog and follow the latest developments in mobile technology at InfoWorld.com. Follow Galen's mobile musings on Twitter at MobileGalen. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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