My Corner of the ‘Net

The iPhone 6: The phablet that might be a little too phat

Posted on | April 17, 2015 | No Comments

I work with great people.

It’s a great office to work in, and we chat, compare weekends, and have lunch together. One of them recently purchased an iPhone 6 Plus and gave us all the guided tour, including showing off the improved bezel (it feels like satin), and the fingerprint scanner (vaguely felt like an awesome spy movie prop), and even the new OS (auto-correct is the best wingman ever).

But the most impressive part of the phone was of course its size. While there are larger SmartPhones, the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 for instance, it’s hard to top the superior interface design that lies in iOS 8 and the extended battery life that the bigger battery within the phone’s casing permits. In fact the new sizing, 158 x 78mm pushes the screen size into the territory of a Mac Mini table, which is 200 x 135mm. Truly, this phone is worthy of the title “Phablet”.

The moment I saw Mark’s phone at work I was impressed. I saw it as the culmination of a long lineage of development in portable computing, with the A8 processor at its core allowing for better graphics on that big retina display. It was something I immediately planned on getting. I had been looking forward to purchasing something to fill the gap between phone and tablet and eReader that had been plaguing me since the retirement of my Nook.

And then I held it…

Just to preface, I’m on the large side. At 6′ 1″ I’m above average in the size department, and accordingly my hands are closer in dimensions to the Hulks than Taylor Swift’s. But when I put the 6 Plus in my hand, and held it up to my head…yeah…

It was just too darn big.

I vainly wanted it to somehow be comfortable, twirling it in my fingers and testing its portability by putting it in and out of my pocket, but to no avail. It was just too cumbersome, too oversized to be elegantly moved in and out of my pocket like my iPhone 5 is.  After slipping the phone into the generous confines of my cargo pants I felt one side protrude from along the curve of my thigh as I sat. Again, not exactly a svelte body party by any measure.

This testing went on for some weeks with me measuring it, trying to see if the sizing was going to work for me, even though my own piecemeal usability testing kept telling me otherwise. Mark even went so far as to occasionally pluck my iPhone 5 out of my hand a lunch and replace it with his 6 Plus, aptly stating that a hand like mine needed a decent sized phone it in. But even with the two of us being ardent AppleGeeks and proponents of good hardware and good design, I just couldn’t bring myself to buy one.

But it wasn’t until recently when I came across an article talking about the next iPhone, and how there was going to be a 4-inch screen version, that it became obvious that I wasn’t the only person who thought the 6 was oversized.

Maybe there’s just something about that ergonomic sweet-spot that the iPhone 5 inhabits that can’t be improved upon. Perhaps through Apple’s constant enlarging of their phones they’ve finally bounced-off the upper limit and can now take a step back, going on to diversify their line with new innovations in apps and hardware instead of brute-force gigantification (after all, they have yet to put out a phone that can double as a tricorder).

Perhaps true ease-of-use might live in a place that’s not always more, but when a design rests on it laurels at a juncture that’s maybe a little bit less.

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