Whether you believe every crazy leak to surface about Apple’s impending iPhone 6, there is one thing we can all acknowledge: iPhones are getting bigger – Much Bigger. The change for Apple is significant, but it will be far more so for long-time iPhone owners used to upgrading their handsets and picking up where they left off. Not this time.
I’ve owned five iPhones, and now I use a Nexus 5. This isn’t about Google over Apple; it is about dimensions because according to leaked iPhone 6 schematics, the 4.7-inch model will be virtually identical in size and weight to the Nexus 5:
No weight was leaked for the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, but its dimensions represent a 16% volume increase on the iPhone 5S. Ignoring the expected switch from a glass to metal chassis, a handset that is 16% heavier than the iPhone 5S would weigh 4.55oz (129g). The Nexus 5 weighs 4.59oz (130g)
I have owned the Nexus 5 for 10 months, I have written a long term test and I have learnt a lot about big screen phones and moving to them from an iPhone in particular. Here are my key findings:
Many horror stories will come out after the iPhone 6 launches – how it is unusable, how the increase in size is too much, how iOS now sucks. For some these problems won’t go away, but for many their reactions will be based on issues of muscle memory.
The big change is that current iPhones sit still in your palm and your fingers move around the screen. This doesn’t fly with a big screen phone. Instead you move the phone position up and down your palm to ease reaching the top corners. It’s very strange at first but soon becomes second nature and it is just enough to keep the phone usable with one hand for most things.
Despite learning this new ‘palm dance’ (better terms welcome) it will become impossible to ignore that a ‘reverse-L shape’ of the phone’s screen is easiest to access and you will need to move around your most used apps to reflect this.
On my Nexus 5 the upper left corner became an area for a To Do list widget, on another home screen it is a calendar widget. Apple will bring widgets to iOS 8, but they will be in the notifications bar. Regardless, you will find that however beautifully arranged your current iPhone home screen it will have to change.
Many times the most comfortable and productive way to operate a big screen phone is to give in and use two hands and – unless Apple adds more gesture-based navigation in iOS 8 – the placement of the back button in the top corner of iOS means this will be doubly so for iPhone 6 owners.
And this sparks a strange mental phenomenon: walking and using a phone one handed is fine, but walking and using a phone two handed is far more difficult. I’m no biologist, but this seems to come down to two things:
1. You can’t carry anything you are already carrying easily when using two hands
2. It affects the action of your hips and this shakes the phone around more as you walk
Try it. There’s very little you can do about this, so get used to stopping more often when you use your phone. Just also get used to standing out the way while you do so.
While one handed use will be easier for men than women due to larger hand size, carrying around an iPhone 6 will be more of an issue to men than women. This is because many women carry their phones in bags, but men put them in their trouser and suit pockets and the Nexus 5 – and therefore the iPhone 6 – is just fractionally too large for many of them.
It isn’t a width or thickness issue, but height that causes the problem. Your iPhone 6 will stick out the top of pockets and even when it doesn’t you will find storing it in your trouser pocket and bending over or walking up steps to be inconvenient. Some of your favourite clothes will drift to the back of your wardrobe and you’ll check pocket size in everything you buy from this point onwards.
The extra stretch required to hit the ‘Q’ or ‘P’ will become a thing. The swipe typing method Apple has added which mimics Swiftkey and Swype will become popular, but it is unlikely to be enough for many triggering switches to ‘cool’ third party keyboards.
This can mean superficial changes like keyboards with customisable colours, but also clever new functionality. For example Swiftkey (which will launch fully with iOS 8) lets you shrink the keyboard and lock it to either side of the screen depending on which hand you use. Android users have long been passionate about their choice of keyboard and this will be another step forward in the nerdification of the world.
You will have noticed throughout this post I have not mentioned the even larger 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Apple is expected to announce, and that is with good reason: no-one will try to use it like an existing iPhone.
Like it or not, there is a threshold to phone size. Some will say it is the 4-inches of the iPhone 5/5S, others that it is 4.7-inches or even 5.2-inches if the bezels are as compact as the LG G3. Regardless of where the threshold lies, 5.5-inches is beyond it. Samsung Galaxy Note owners, for example, love their phablets and often say they do the job of both phone and tablet but they don’t pretend it is a standard phone.
The same will be true for the 5.5-inch iPhone 6. The shock factor at its dimensions – rumoured to be either 6.22 x 3.03 x 0.275 inches (158 x 77.12 x 7mm) and 5.94 oz (168.5g) or 6.22 x 3.06 x 0.279 inches (158 x 77.79 x 7.1mm) and 6.51 oz (184.6g) – mean it will instantly feel alien and different usage patterns will be expected.
Consequently the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 will be the one most people will buy and the one upgrading iPhone uses will have no choice to ignore. But there is good news: having switched to a big screen phone I can tell you the time spent adapting will prove well worth it, though that’s a topic for another post.