Technology, StuffPaul McAleer

iPhone 6 Plus Review

Technology, StuffPaul McAleer

I've owned my iPhone 6 Plus for three years, and I thought it would be time to do a review.

For reference, my phone prior to this was an iPhone 5; for a quite brief time before that I owned a generic Android phone, which was my first foray into smartphones. The 6 Plus has been my main sidekick through a lot, and it's well-deserving of an examination of how it fits in to my life.

Form Factor

Back when I was deciding which phone to get, I really was on the fence between the iPhone 6 (which my wife ended up getting) and the 6 Plus. I chose the latter in part because it really obviated the need for an iPad. My iPad mini was thus sold, and the 6 Plus was going to be my travel companion and general tablet-phone thing.

I somewhat regret this decision.

Listen, I love the big screen. I do. It's fantastic for reading (as fantastic as this type of screen can be) and watching movies. But for anything else, it's a giant pain in the ass. It's big and clunky and awkward. I always need two hands to operate it.

Without a case on it, it's slippery as fuck. I always need to use a case, because the texture of the phone is that of thin, aluminum ice. I've tried operating it without a case, but the likelihood of my dropping this already too-big phone goes way up. And that's not great.

Of note, the phone has been dropped at least a dozen times in the past three years. There are charming little pucks and dents on the bottom. The worst, though, was that last year in Seattle I dropped it face-down on a floor and the screen cracked. There's a hairline crack still there, and I simply haven't fixed it yet. Mind you, that was with an Apple case on. This phone is nice but fragile.

Battery Life

It's bad.

I replaced my battery last November with one from iFixit and, I'm sad to say, that one is starting to decline in life as well. But the original battery started getting to a point where I was getting maybe two hours of use – normal use, nothing silly – before I had to plug in. Random shutdowns were also happening; it was especially charming to witness during a phone call.

Most days, if I'm browsing the web or reading (primary activities), I'll get maybe four solid hours from the iFixit replacement battery. That's an improvement. But it's clear something is amiss with this and the prior battery as well.

Notably, when the shutdowns started happening I took my phone to the Apple Store fully willing to pay for a new battery. At the time I was told no – the battery wasn't broken *enough* for them to fix it. I said, "But I am a consumer and I have money." They said, "No." I was stunned. And pissed, because I had to do it myself.

Anyway. Battery life is not good.

Screen Quality

The screen is pleasant. It's a beautiful, rich color screen. I like it.

Camera

The rear-facing camera is nice. It's not perfect, and I wish it could handle more macro shots, but it does a pretty good job most of the time. The photos are good enough quality to blow up to 8x10 if one chooses to do so; anything more than that is pushing it. You can tell it's a smartphone camera.

The front-facing camera is garbage and might as well not be there. It can't handle low-light, it's fuzzy and low resolution, and it's only good for a pinch.

Software

Over the past three years, my iPhone 6 Plus's performance has significantly degraded. Switching apps, launching apps, even Touch ID responsiveness have all moved from "Damn, this is way faster than my 5!" to "Let me count to 3." Most interactions with the iPhone 6 Plus are punctuated by pauses. Open an app? Pause. Wait. Wait. Wait. There it is. Type in in Messages. Hit the text bubble. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Keyboard.

It, in other words, exhibits most behaviors one expects of a 3-year-old PC. Notably, my 2011 (!!) MacBook Air still feels more up-to-date and reasonable than this phone.

In addition, this phone occasionally refuses to recognize my touch. That was true before the screen crack: sometimes, and I don't know what causes this, the whole screen becomes non-responsive. Swipe, tap, zip, pinch, push, nothing. Only turning it off and turning it back on again works. This happens in any app, and at seemingly random times.

As a bonus, the Touch ID sometimes exhibits this as well. No response from the sensor so I need to press the button and enter my passcode.

But back to software: it's been depressing to see something so high-performing and top-of-the-line become bottom rung in such a short amount of time. iOS 10 and iOS 11 definitely sucked the life out of this thing, and I'm still truly sorry I upgraded to iOS 11.

One of my favorite bugs: if I play audio with an app, any app, sometimes that app's controls will be "stuck" on the home screen. Like right now, my home screen shows controls for a podcast I last listened to two days ago. I can't get rid of it. It may go away on its own. It may not.

Control Center remains a joke and is horrible. I hate it. It's bad. It makes me mad to use it, that people made this and then thought it was good. It is not. It is one of the least usable things Apple has made, and I used the round iMac mouse.

Safari will crash if I zoom in on a page with a lot of graphics on it. Safari can't render Uniqlo's mobile site without crashing, too. There are some things Safari just can't do well, and it's sad to report that modern websites are in that mix.

Other Apple apps are fine, but the ginormous headers in Apple's apps are useless, speaking to a visual hierarchy that isn't really there. (INBOX! ARCHIVE! SETTINGS!) It's a design language that I can appreciate for small screens, maybe, but not large ones. It's unfortunate.

On the plus side, some of my favorite apps are on iOS and that's mostly what keeps me here. Nike+ Running has been my companion for 8 years (and running with this phone is horrible!); Overcast is the best podcast player; Things is the best to-do organizer. WIthout those things I'd be lost.

Summary

The iPhone 6 Plus is big, not very fast, has a decent camera, and runs things I like. The "This is an amazing piece of technology" phase is gone. The "This has improved my life" phase is long gone. In the end, while my phone does what I need it to do, I doubt I'd get a phone this large again. I'm also not certain about my future phone being on iOS, because of how purely terrible iOS has gotten in significant areas.

One big plus: it has a headphone jack. Thank goodness for that small piece of sanity.