October 29, 2014
Let me start this out by simply saying that I really like the form factor of the iPhone 5 Series. Prior to the reveal of the new iPhone, I was praying that Apple would not shirk the smaller form factor exclusively in favor of a (at-the-time) rumored larger-screen sibling. Then, when the new iPhones were revealed, I found myself disappointed in the fact that Apple was seemingly unable (or, for whatever reason, unwilling) to make the iPhone 6 Series devices in the smaller form factor. Herein lies the rub that makes this post so confusing for me.
I went to the Apple Store this weekend to try out the new iPhones (and, perhaps less importantly to me, the new iPads). My family’s contract is up soon, so we have been discussing possible upgrade paths for everyone involved. I have suggested to my parents and spouse that they get the now year-old iPhone 5S. The 5S is still a lot of things for them: a camera upgrade from the 5, a storage upgrade, and a comfortability upgrade for them. More storage at a smaller price premium is a welcome addition to that list, as well, especially due to Apple’s recent storage shenanigans1. As for me, I was still planning to get a new iPhone because it is moderately important for me to stay abreast of the capabilities of current technologies. So the question became what size and in order to answer that question, I had to hold them.
What I found in testing out the new iPhones for a half-an-hour or so was actually more confusing than I initially expected. I had no doubt that the iPhone 6, with its 4.7-inch display, was going to be comfortable to use, mainly because I have moderately large hands. I can still reach the upper left-hand corner of the screen with a small stretch of my thumb, so while the new Reachability feature is nice, it is probably unnecessary for me in the long run should I decide to get that device. I know quite a few other tech writers have mentioned this part as well: any swipe gesture from the edges of the screen feel absolutely amazing on these devices. The seam between the glass front and the aluminum back is nearly nonexistent and feels smoother than any other phone I have ever felt.
The iPhone 6 Plus with its 5.5-inch display provided more reasons to like it then I would have expected. Turning it into landscape mode and noting that the iPhone 6 did not have the same ability alone, made me want to wonder whether the 6 Plus would actually be better for my purposes. The question that I still have to answer for myself, however, involves what I would use the bigger screen for; would I actually use this phone as more of a tablet device?
I was a big proponent of the iPad, especially when the iPad 2 was released because its design felt fully realized even though the iPad was a young device. Now that the iPad Air 2 has been released, I continue to be a big proponent of the form factor. However, the iPhone 6 Plus offer something even better. The ability to carry one device that has a lot of the software features that the iPad offers, but with the portability that can only come from a mobile telephone. I still don’t really know what it would be like in day-to-day use and I’m still not sure that I’m going to make the jump from my current 4-inch display to a 5.5-inch display, a move that seems like a big jump to me.
What I do know is this: I was more intrigued by the iPhone 6 Plus than I thought I would be. And after using the iPhone 6 and it’s 4.7-inch display for just a few minutes, I already had trouble going back to my daily-driver iPhone 5.
All the above being said, the iPhone 5 is still a great form factor! I continue to be surprised that Apple would choose not to update the internals for the 4-inch display size. My only assumption is that the technology that goes into the iPhones 6 Series could not be fit into the form factor of the iPhones 5 Series without limitations of some kind2. That being said, picking up a iPod Touch with its 4-inch display made me believe that the four-inch form factor is going to be sticking around for a while3, if only in Apple’s lower-end models. For all we know, next year Apple may release three new models one at 4-inches, one at 4.7-inches, and one at 5.5-inches. One can only hope.
The iPod Touch is a true eningeering marvel in that it is now two years old and still thinner than the iPhone 6 Series phones. ↩