Apple’s two iPhone 6 models are the best phones money can buy at the moment.
If your pockets are deep enough — something we’ll come back to in a minute — the question is which one to choose. Should you go for the bigger iPhone 6 or the biggest iPhone 6 Plus?
It comes down to a trade-off between the trouble of carrying the extra size of the iPhone 6 Plus against the benefits of a bigger display.
How does that work in practice?
I spent a month switching between the 6 and the 6 Plus to see if the bigger size is a problem.
At first sight the iPhone 6 Plus seems too big for everyday use. It looks like Apple’s large smartphone wouldn’t fit as well in the hand or pocket as the iPhone 6.
Early on, the 6 Plus giant size proved less of a problem than I feared. It doesn’t get in the way. Being smaller, the 6 sits better in a trouser pocket, but the difference is not enough to get agitated about.
At least not for me. I tried it in formal trousers, work clothes and jeans. The bigger phone is more of a problem when I wear shorts, but still OK unless I wear some something with shallow or smaller than normal pockets.
The 6 Plus is harder going with tight trousers and lightweight clothes. It wouldn’t be a problem with bags and most purses. In practice there might be a gender skew in there somewhere, but the real issue is about what people wear, whether they carry bags and how they live.
The iPhone 6 Plus didn’t bend. It didn’t even flex.
You won’t believe how many people still ask about that.
While the bent iPhone 6 Plus news story was a short-lived false alarm, the misinformation lives on in people’s minds. The incident speaks volumes about brand reputation. A less robust brand than Apple might not have survived such a story.
Two modes of working
The physical gap between a 4.7 inch screen and 5.5 inches isn’t that wide. And yet in practice the mental gap between the two is a gulf.
In a sense the two iPhones fall into close, yet different, device categories. They represent two modes of working.
The Apple iPhone 6 is a traditional smartphone in every respect. It does smartphone things and makes calls. The iPhone 6 Plus is closer to a pocket computer or a tiny tablet. Making calls feels clumsy, not ridiculous.
The sound of one hand smart-phoning
My hands are average size. My fingers are neither slender pianist fingers nor are they stumpy, fat sausages. I can just about get away with one-handed operating on the 6.
On the 6 Plus I might need to use two hands to do most things. Apple recognises this problem and came up with something it calls reachability. You give the home button two light taps and the top part of the display moves half way down the screen making it thumb-reachable.
Every so often the reachability feature stops working. The fix is to restart the phone — a minor pain. It is a known problem so presumably Apple will fix this in an iOS update at some point.
Bigger screen, better productivity
Working with the iPhone 6 Plus shows the bigger screen has advantages. It is better for viewing video, reading documents or web pages and looking at pictures. It is even better for on-screen typing.
You can get more done on the iPhone 6 Plus than any other smartphone. It fits well with the way I work.
The device acid test
Some time ago I developed a simple test to help understand my instinctive reaction to devices. I leave them powered up, with Sim cards ready to go.
Then, when I leave the house I make a snap decision about which device to pick up and carry. All I might need to do is divert calls from my main number.
This isn’t scientific, but it gives me the opportunity to think more about why I make choices and what this means for the devices.
Sooner or later I find I’m avoiding a device or consistently choosing one. A variation on this is how keen or reluctant I feel when moving my main cellular Sim card from one device to another.
Away from the computer
How did the two iPhone’s fare? I found myself picking the 6 without a second thought when I was out of the house for short trips. If I was just doing errands or meeting someone it was the best choice. It works great for evening social catch-ups, sports events and so on.
If I headed into town for a full day, or out-of-town, I preferred to pick the 6 Plus. On thinking about it, the snap decision came down to how long I’d be away from my laptop and how much productive work I might need to do on a phone.
The larger iPhone 6 Plus is closer to a substitute computer. I can be more productive handling emails, writing short amounts of text on the bigger screen.
That’s a useful trade-off against the small inconvenience of carrying a bigger phone.
In hindsight, this isn’t so surprising. What was surprising was that I learnt the iPhone 6 Plus didn’t reduce my iPad use. I know people who traded in a iPhone and an iPad to buy a iPhone 6 Plus. They figured they wouldn’t need the iPad with the bigger screen in their lives.
That’s not my experience. I found I still pick up the iPad to reader longer material.
I’d go further, having the iPhone 6 Plus and the continuity features in iOS 8 mean I now work more often across iPhone, iPad and MacBook. I’m more inclined to use the best device for any given task because moving between devices is easier.
One advantage of a bigger phone is there is room in the case for a more powerful battery. While some of the extra juice is needed to drive the bigger display, there is still enough left to keep the phone running longer.
In my experience an iPhone 5S would get through a typical day on a single charge so long as you didn’t push it too hard. There’s an extra hour or so in tank for the iPhone 6 when used in the same way, or you can push harder.
There’s at least a further hour in the 6 Plus. If I use it as miserly as I learnt to use the iPhone 5S, it almost stretches to two days. Otherwise, there’s enough power to cruise through a long day working at full tilt.
My iPhone 6 Plus choice
Where does this leave me? For the way I work at the moment — mainly from home — the iPhone 6 would be a natural choice. It is more comfortable and it gives me all I need on a single charge.
On the other hand, I’m going through a series of eye treatments which means I sometimes have reduced vision. When that happens, the bigger screen on the 6 Plus is essential. So I’m going to opt for the iPhone 6 Plus. As a bonus, I get longer battery life.
How to choose the right iPhone for you
The issues come down to three things:
1. How you use an iPhone. If you mainly make calls and text, the bigger iPhone 6 Plus may not be essential. If you work all day on the move, that’s going to influence your decision.
2. Does it suit your body? If you have small hands the iPhone 6 Plus may be a stretch too far. If your eyes aren’t that great, you might prefer a big screen.
3. How are you going to carry the phone around? If you mainly wear a jacket or trousers, or if you carry a purse or bag, then the big phone will work. If you travel light the smaller iPhone 6 is a better choice.