Wednesday, 17 September 2014

iPhone 6 or 6+ buying angst.

New Apple hardware means it’s time to upgrade. But should I choose the big boned plus size phablet?

The Apple announcements caught me at my most vulnerable. My iPad is deceased, my iPhone is creaking under strain of the new iOS, and my MacBook needs a spinning beach ball time out every other mouse click. So I’m ready to spend. And it seems that I’m not the only one, as there have been 4 million pre-orders in the first 24 hours.

However, to replace like for modern like, would cost more than I can conceal from my DW. But there’s one more thing: Apple has listened to my predicament, and has created a phablet, which surely can take place of both phone and tablet, and save me the cost of buying both! At least that’s what I was hoping. Let’s examine the proposition, and how it works for me.

Starting with cost: well, there’s no comparison. iPhone 6 + iPad Air = £1178. iPhone 6+ = £699. Ah but hang on, it’s not just the 6+, is it?

Fundamentally, it’s still a bit Dom Joly stupid to hold an object the size of a phablet to your ear to make calls. So I need a Bluetooth headset as well. And you can’t whip it out of your pocket every time your fingers feel gadget withdrawal, so I’ll need to get an Apple Watch too (so glad it’s not an iWatch) at $349 (=£349). Then there are the additional costs of getting a new case because of the new form factor, and of going from universal connector to thunderbolt in chargers, connectors, blah. That £479 difference may not last too long.

What about features? The 6+ only does a few things better than the 6: it has optical image stabilisation so has the promise of better photos, and the battery is bigger, so the expectation is 2-3 hours additional use time. Oh, and it’s bigger.

I’m still not sure that bigger is actually better. I’ll need a bigger pocket, a man-bag, or I’ll have to stand stiffly to attention at all times to avoid unintentionally folding the phone. But then bigger is what I’ll need if I’m to forgo my iPad.

What about design? This is the part that disappoints me the most. The curved edges seem like a completely retrograde step, going right back to iPhone 1. I like the straight sides of my iPhone 4, it gives my fingers an edge to feel, and so tactile definition to the phone. The edges might have been mandated because of the need to eek out every cubic millimetre of volume, but it also looks modern, futuristic even. Blackness to the chamfered edge of a perfect monolith is very 2001. A curved edge, especially one so thin, doesn’t feel as comfortable. It also looks old. Let’s hope that my impressions change hands-on.

So cost advantage is marginal, features are handy, size is ambivalent, design is old. But how will it fit with how I want to actually use the device? The three main things I do with my iThings are: emailing, playing games, and reading comics (calling is a little way down the list). All three of these use cases would be improved with the size, speed and resolution improvements over my current iPhone 4 (and lack of iPad). And using the same logic, I think all of these use cases would be improved with the 6+ over the 6.

So there you have it, I think it’s the 6+ for me. However, I’m a tactile buyer, and I’ll need to fondle it before I’m convinced. What about you?

A closing thought: With the launch of the latest iteration of iPhones, Apple has shown that is no longer a pointer to new markets, but for the mass market. This hardware form factor change was due in 2012, but the iPhone 5 turned out to be an inbetweener that in retrospect, only achieved making the lives of developers more difficult. They now need to test multiple of versions of software that that support multiple display resolution and iOS version combinations. This is the type of software fragmentation that Android suffers from, that Apple has been able to resist – until now.

But you know, not being first to market is alright. After all, I didn’t buy the original iPhone, but waited until the 3GS. I also thought the phablet form factor was stupid back in 2012, but now think it’s reasonable. It seems that Apple has grown a bit middle aged, and like me, needs a couple of years to warm up to an idea.

Read my thoughts on the Apple Watch here.


  1. Using the same reason, I think altogether of these use cases would be better with the Apple iPhone 6 + over the 6.

  2. Hello Isabelle, thanks for your comment. I agree with you, and indeed still have my 6+ that I bought back then. In the three years since, I still haven't found the need to buy an iPad as well, because the phablet did its job really well. Perhaps that should be the topic of a future post...


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