Apple’s demonstrator laid an iPhone 6 and an iPhone 6 Plus side-by-side on the coffee table. He asked “which do you prefer?” My instinctive first answer was to pick the smaller iPhone 6.
Yet once the hands-on testing got underway I found myself returning repeatedly to the iPhone 6 Plus.
You can read in-depth reviews of both phones elsewhere, here I explore the largest iPhone as a work tool for a journalist on the move. No prizes for guessing it’s all about the screen size.
We still measures screen sizes in inches. Apple’s iPhone 5S had a four-inch screen, the iPhone 6 is 4.7 inches while the 6 Plus measures 5.5 inches.
The iPhone 6 screen is 18mm larger than an iPhone 5S screen across the diagonal. This may not sound much, but it means close to 40 percent more viewable area. Apple boosted the pixels from 1,136×640 on the 5S to 1,334×750 on the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6 Plus has almost 90 percent more viewable area than the iPhone 5S and 1920×1080 pixels. That’s roughly two million pixels compared with one million on the iPhone 6.
You’ll notice the difference immediately when looking at pictures or videos. The iPhone 6 has the same pixel density as the iPhone 5S, the iPhone 6 Plus cranks things up a notch to 400 pixels per inch. It doesn’t matter how close you hold the phone to your eye, you won’t see individual pixels.
You can view a few more words on a single iPhone 6 screen when compared to an iPhone 5S. Or you can pump up the text size and squint less. The extra screen real estate on the iPhone 6 Plus makes it feel like a small iPad.
What this means in practice is that I do more on the iPhone 6 Plus than I did on the 5S. Previously I would skim emails when on the move, dealing only with urgent stuff. Generally I’d park long or complicated emails to read later. Now I can read them in full.
Well-designed responsive websites worked fine on the iPhone 5S. Many did not. A few still display poorly on the 6 Plus, but in generally there’s less need to send pages to Pocket to read on a bigger screen at home.
PDFs were a real pain on the 5S, they can still be awkward on the iPhone 6 Plus. For some reason almost everyone standardises on an A4 PDF page, this made sense in the paper era, but is impractical on a phone. Either way, while there was little chance of reading most PDFs on older phones, it’s possible to read some and skim others on the iPhone 6 Plus.
A larger screen means a bigger onscreen keyboard. This makes it easier to reply to messages. Typing is still difficult when compared to a laptop with a keyboard or even a 10-inch tablet, but it is easier than on a small screen phone.
I still leave long replies for when I can get to a keyboard, but again, I can now deal with most messages while I’m on the move.
What about writing a story? After all, I’m a journalist, that’s what I spend most of my time doing.
Apple’s Pages works surprisingly well on the iPhone 6 Plus. When caught between appointments I drafted part of a feature I was writing on the phone while in a café. It’s not something I’d want to do everyday, but if I was at a news event, it would be good enough for a quick report back to base.
If anything WordPress’s iPhone app is even better than Pages. I wrote some of this on the iPhone 6 Plus using the keyboard. Likewise Byword seems wonderful on the iPhone 6 Plus. I plan to give these writing tools and others a more comprehensive test later. For now let’s just say I can do a lot more writing on this phone than on any earlier ones.
One thing I’d love to see is a live-blogging tool designed to make use of the bigger phone. If you know of one please get in touch. I still struggle to proofread on a phone, although the bigger screen means fewer errors than before.
Writing is only part of the modern journalist’s work. These days we’re expected to take pictures and even shoot video. The iPhone 6 Plus does both these better than any other phone.
If I’m honest, I’m not the world’s best photographer. I find getting good shots, particularly from a phone camera, is hit and miss. My usual trick is to take plenty and hope there are hits among the misses. The iPhone 6 Plus takes a lot of the misses out of the hit and miss equation. That’s in part because it has great built-in anti-shake and image stabilisation. The second of these is important when it comes to getting decent shots in low-light conditions — for my work that’s most of the time.
When the new iPhones first went on sale in the US there were complaints app developers hadn’t tweaked their designs to take advantage of the extra pixels. For a while some apps showed stretched layouts which meant text and images could show less sharp. There are still a few where that happens, but many had updated by the time the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus made it to New Zealand.