Is Bigger Really Better?

For years I have been openly bashing the notion of phablets. I find it crazy that anyone could hold that big a device up to their ears and have a conversation. It’s like people are buying phones like they buy TVs…

After lot of conversations and heated debates with friends on social media, I decided to delve in and try it for myself. I needed the insider view on the subject.

So finally bought the iPhone 6S Plus late last year. I did that via the new Apple iPhone upgrade program. That way I could switch within a year if I wanted. Frankly, this is an experiment with this form factor and the rest of the post is about my assessment so far after approximately 4 months of use.

One Handed Use

This was downright the hardest thing to overcome for me. I had gotten very efficient using the 5S with one hand. Not only figuring quick access to apps but response to frequent actions had become lightening fast. However not so with the 6S Plus. What made it harder was having a case. No matter what case I tried, it increased the width of the phone and made it even harder for a one handed use. I finally had to give up on all the cases and use it bare. So far I have been able to get one handed usage working with some quick actions available from the bottom slide out menu.

I also had to rearrange the app icons (see below) to get the most frequent ones on the bottom of the phone, which I am guessing most people do.

Yeah you read that right. Only 4 emails! I am an Inbox nazi :-)

Reading

This one has received mixed reaction from me. For most blogs, Medium and news, reading during the day works great. The large screen makes it incredibly easy to read. Very much like a kindle or an iPad. The only improvement required is on the part of content publishers. They really need to think about making experiences as immersive and easy as Medium or Facebook instant articles.

However night time reading while lying in bed doesn’t work so well. This puts me back on the one handed use case, where I find that the phone keeps falling out of the hand. Using both hands here is not an option. Interestingly enough, I haven’t had this issue with an iPad mini. So it has to be something around the weight/dimension of the 6S Plus and how it sits in my hand.

Watching Videos

This by far is the best thing on such large devices. The screen allows for far better experiences which was expected. However the unexpected piece is the ability to have better control on the videos. Forwarding and rewinding content is far easier as the large screen allows better control.

Battery Life

Now as you might know, I don’t measure such things with specs. I measure them with impact to user behaviors. I used to charge my 5S every night when going to bed and have the same need with my 6S Plus. Now this might be specific to this device as I’ve heard it has a slightly smaller battery size compared to the predecessor. However until this changes for me, like charging once in 2 days, I won’t be impressed.

Muscle Memory

For the first few weeks I noticed that my hand and body had trouble dealing with a bigger device. Like new pair of shoes it took about a week to get fully adjusted. Now over the past 3 months my body has gotten used to the bigger device and I notice myself doing new things to adjust for the bigger form factor.

For instance to facilitate one handed use, I now use the support of my chest or abdomen to adjust the position of the phone in my hand. Be it to slide the device up or down in my hand or to be able to access the corner diagonally opposite to my thumb. I find it very interesting that an involuntary behavior was created through repeated use of the device.

What I Wish For

Eventually we all will have foldable, projectable or hologram-able screens. However until then I would like to see couple things happen to keep the screen size to content ratio manageable.

  1. Improved screen technology: Just as Retina changed the experience tremendously. I’d like to see physical improvements which could deliver more in the smaller form factor
  2. Better content rendering: Frankly mobile web still sucks. Also many content apps still haven’t made it immensely easy to read and consume content (looking at you FlipBoard). Get rid of the banner ads, silly animations etc and just give access to pure content.

Conclusion

So to wrap up, I am still not convinced that big screen is the better way to go. As of now the cons outweigh the pros (at least for me). On day-to-day use, it’s still a bit of effort to work with this form factor. Now that I don’t have a case anymore, I have the additional burden to ensure that I don’t drop it by mistake :-).

I still have most of this year for this experiment to conclude. I’ll post back as and when I learn more and get used to the device.

What bothers me is that I may not be able to make the journey backwards in screen size. I’d love to hear from anyone who has done that. Hit the Heart button if you agree or send it to a friend who may want to debate me on the subject ;-)

Image credit: Apple and htxt.co.za