Daring Fireball RSS Feed Sponsorship Openings 

The schedule sold out for the summer back in early August, but there are now a bunch of openings on the DF sponsorship schedule for fall. Get in touch if you have a cool product or service you want to promote to DF’s discerning audience. Check out the list of previous sponsors, and look at how many have returned for repeat sponsorships.

In fact, this current week remains open. If you can pull the trigger quickly, let’s make a deal.

Inside Apple’s One-Day Watch Pop-Up at Paris Fashion Week 

Dan Frommer, reporting for Quartz from Paris:

Colette is the sort of high-fashion store that many expect to be a key part of Apple’s retail strategy for the Watch, especially the luxury “Edition” version. In its gadget section, Colette sells an unlocked iPhone 6 for €1,500, and fancy jeweled iPhone 5S devices for as much as €3,100.

Apple has two beautiful retail stores in Paris, at the Louvre and in the Opera district. So that it chose to use Colette for today’s pop-up suggests that the company is tailoring its strategy — and gets fashion pretty well.

Path Places 

New from Path:

Places gives you the power to message your favorite local businesses to request appointments, make reservations, or even check out prices and hours. It’s all by text. And it’s all for free.

Getting answers from a local business is now as easy as texting a friend. Search for Places like your hair salon, favorite sporting store, or the new restaurant down the street. Then send a message asking for anything — a haircut appointment, availability of running shoes in your size, or reservations for 2 at 8PM.

Once you send your message, one of our Path Agents will make the phone call on your behalf, doing all the talking for you. And when they get the response, they’ll immediately text you back with the answer or booking. You’ll never have to wait on hold again.

Sounds amazing, but how can that possibly scale?

‘It Just Works’ 

Russell Ivanovic:

Tim Cook keeps telling us that “Only Apple” could do the amazing things it does. I just wish that Apple would slow down their breakneck pace and spend the time required to build stable software that their hardware so desperately needs. The yearly release cycles of OS X, iOS, iPhone & iPad are resulting in too many things seeing the light of day that aren’t finished yet. Perhaps the world wouldn’t let them, perhaps the expectations are now too high, but I’d kill for Snow iOS 8 and Snow Yosemite next year. I’m fairly confident I’m not alone in that feeling.

From the outside, it seems like Apple’s software teams can’t keep up with the pace of the hardware teams. Major new versions of iOS aren’t released “when they’re ready”, they’re released when the new iPhone hardware ships. On Twitter the other day, I suggested that perhaps Apple should decouple major iOS feature releases from the iPhone hardware schedule. That’s probably untenable from a marketing perspective, and it might just make things more complex from a QA perspective. But something has to give.

(Just today: My iPhone 6 rebooted after I changed the home screen wallpaper. Tapped a new image in the wallpaper settings, and poof, it rebooted. Worse, it never stopped rebooting. Endless reboot cycle. Now I’m doing a full restore with iTunes. After changing my wallpaper to a different image.)

Jony Ive Profile in Vogue 

Robert Sullivan, writing for Vogue:

“Feels nice, doesn’t it?” On my second visit to Cupertino, Ive has finally handed it over: the new Apple Watch. It is more watch than the computer geeks would ever have imagined, has more embedded software than in a Rolex wearer’s wildest dreams. When Ive shows it to me — weeks before the product’s exhaustive launch, hosted by new CEO Tim Cook — in a situation room that has us surrounded by guards, it feels like a matter of national security. Yet despite all the pressure, he really just wants you to touch it, to feel it, to experience it as a thing. And if you comment on, say, the weight of it, he nods. “Because it’s real materials,” he says proudly. Then he wants you to feel the connections, the magnets in the strap, the buckle, to witness the soft but solid snap, which he just loves as an interaction with design, a pure, tactile idea. “Isn’t that fantastic?”

That Sullivan got to see Apple Watch before it was announced is pretty interesting, as is the fact that such access was granted to Vogue, of all magazines. “The Man Behind the Apple Watch” is an interesting headline, too.

The Players’ Tribune 

Derek Jeter:

I do think fans deserve more than “no comments” or “I don’t knows.” Those simple answers have always stemmed from a genuine concern that any statement, any opinion or detail, might be distorted. I have a unique perspective. Many of you saw me after that final home game, when the enormity of the moment hit me. I’m not a robot. Neither are the other athletes who at times might seem unapproachable. We all have emotions. We just need to be sure our thoughts will come across the way we intend.

So I’m in the process of building a place where athletes have the tools they need to share what they really think and feel. We want to have a way to connect directly with our fans, with no filter.

Nice design.

Schrödinger’s Shift Key 

Allen Pike:

In iOS 7.1, Apple changed the design of the shift key. This was the worst thing to happen in the history of software.

Single most surprising thing about iOS 8 to me is that Apple didn’t fix this.

Microsoft Skips ‘Too Good’ Windows 9, Jumps to Windows 10 

April Fool’s joke in 2013, actual news story in 2014.

How iOS 8’s Time-Lapse Feature Works 

Dan Provost, Studio Neat:

On Apple’s website, they claim that in time-lapse mode, “iOS 8 does all the work, snapping photos at dynamically selected intervals.” When I first read this, I thought they were doing something super fancy, like monitoring the frame for movement and only snapping a picture when something changes. On deeper reflection, this would be a bad idea. Time-lapse videos look best when they are buttery smooth, and dynamically selecting intervals in this fashion would create a jittery and jerky video. So what does Apple mean by “dynamically selected intervals”?

Turns out, what Apple is doing is quite simple, and indeed, pretty clever.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder ‘Endorses’ Apple’s and Google’s Data Encryption 

Julia Edwards, reporting for Reuters:

Apple’s new iPhone 6, released this month, and Google’s coming update of the Android smartphone have data encryption so sophisticated that only the user may unlock it. Even law enforcement officers with search warrants would not have access.

“It is fully possible to permit law enforcement to do its job while still adequately protecting personal privacy,” Holder said in a speech before the Global Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse Online.

Holder said quick access to phone data can help law enforcement officers find and protect victims, such as those targeted by kidnappers and sexual predators.

This is no different than law enforcement asking for “quick access” into the locked doors of our homes or offices.

Why Clay Shirky Asked His Students to Put Their Laptops Away 

Clay Shirky:

Jonathan Haidt’s metaphor of the elephant and the rider is useful here. In Haidt’s telling, the mind is like an elephant (the emotions) with a rider (the intellect) on top. The rider can see and plan ahead, but the elephant is far more powerful. Sometimes the rider and the elephant work together (the ideal in classroom settings), but if they conflict, the elephant usually wins.

After reading Haidt, I’ve stopped thinking of students as people who simply make choices about whether to pay attention, and started thinking of them as people trying to pay attention but having to compete with various influences, the largest of which is their own propensity towards involuntary and emotional reaction. (This is even harder for young people, the elephant so strong, the rider still a novice.)

Interesting comparison to second-hand smoking, too:

The final realization — the one that firmly tipped me over into the “No devices in class” camp — was this: screens generate distraction in a manner akin to second-hand smoke. A paper with the blunt title Laptop Multitasking Hinders Classroom Learning for Both Users and Nearby Peers says it all.

On PayPal and Apple Pay 

Ian Kar, writing for Bank Innovation:

Apple and PayPal started talking early on in Apple’s development of Apple Pay, as Apple was setting up partnerships with the card issuing banks and card networks. Since PayPal’s a payments industry leader, it would have been shortsighted for Apple to not reach out to PayPal.

But while these talks were going on, PayPal went ahead and partnered with Samsung on the Galaxy S5 fingerprint scanner, a move that was reportedly forced onto PayPal by eBay CEO John Donahoe. PayPal’s now-former president David Marcus was purportedly categorically against the Samsung deal, knowing that it would jeopardize PayPal’s relationship with Apple. Donahoe won the day, however.

Apple was said to be absolutely furious that PayPal did the deal with Samsung, which led Apple to cut PayPal out of the Apple Pay process entirely. (One source said: “Apple kicked them out of the door.”) This dust up with Apple was a big reason that David Marcus ended up leaving PayPal for Facebook.

Smooth move.

What It’s Like to Fly in Singapore Airlines Suites Class 

As Jason Snell points out, keep the idea of $18,000 plane tickets in mind when it comes to the pricing of Apple Watch.

Update: Fireballed, still. Cached version here.

‘It’s Just a Watch’ 

New branding campaign from Pebble. I like it. The playful, casual, colorful tone suits Pebble well, and the emphasis on price and battery life plays to Pebble’s strengths.

What gives me pause, though, is the “Breathe, Jony” headline. That seems a little petty. Personal, not playful.

Jonathan Hoefler and Tobias Frere-Jones Settle; Terms Undisclosed 

Here’s to hoping this worked out fairly for everyone involved.

The Bézier Game 

Clever game to help you master the pen tool in design apps. (Via Mike Davidson.)

Immutable Mean Mutable? What a Country. 

I’m usually a Mat Honan fan, but his iPhone 6 Plus review was a clunker. Take this:

No matter what Steve Jobs may have said, big phones are better. It’s a great sign for Apple that it doesn’t revere his public statements as immutable truths.

That’s from like page one of the book Ways People Get Apple Completely Wrong. Apple never treated Jobs like a deity whose word was The Truth — neither before nor after his death. He was almost infamous for it. Wired itself ran a list of such statements back in 2010.

Nobody said it better than Tim Cook, though:

“He would flip on something so fast that you would forget that he was the one taking the 180 degree polar [opposite] position the day before,” Cook told Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. “I saw it daily. This is a gift, because things do change, and it takes courage to change. It takes courage to say, ‘I was wrong.’ I think he had that.”

That’s just one small line, but it crystalizes the way the whole piece just seems confused.

Ariel Adams on Apple Watch 

Ariel Adams, writing on A Blog to Watch:

I feel that people need to understand that the Apple Watch is not only a new type of product for Apple, but the first real “cross-over watch” that wades in both the waters of technology and horology. For a moment, I’d like people to put aside their criticisms and complaints, and consider what I believe to be a future inevitability: the dominance of the smartwatch as a necessary tool in the everyday lives of everyday people.

Apple as a company doesn’t like the term “smartwatch” and will not refer to the Apple Watch as such. They didn’t call the iPhone a smartphone, and as far as they are concerned, it is a “watch” produced by Apple — hence the name.

Long piece, full of insightful observations.

Omni 

Big news from my friend (and still, colleague) Brent Simmons:

I start my new job as a developer at the Omni Group today. You already know them and their wonderful products, and I’ve expressed my admiration for them here on my blog many times.

They’re assembling a Cocoa all-star team up there. There’s probably more concentrated Cocoa talent at Omni than anywhere other than Apple itself.

Steve Cheney: ‘On the Future of Apple and Google’ 

Steve Cheney:

System wide network effects are network effects that take hold when adjacent parts of an overall system are built out — e.g. smartphones, wearables, sensor networks etc. Each one of these categories makes the other much more valuable once it’s built out. These network effects effectively unlock compounded value from the previous layers. People expect value from new categories like wearables and sensor networks overnight. But the reality is that the pieces need to work harmoniously, tied together by software. And only after the infrastructure is in place can developers go and create cool new things. Wearables and sensors and connected devices are interesting — but much more so when tied together with killer apps. And platform history tells us that only after infrastructure is laid do developers write software. This was even true for the internet back in the 90’s. It wasn’t until the web browser and email and other killer apps came along that you really understood the value of the internet, even though it had connected people years earlier.

This is a great piece, thoughtful and thought-provoking. I find it surprising though, that Cheney never once used the word privacy. To me, that’s the fork in the road, the chasm between where Apple and Google are taking us.

Literary Lions Unite in Protest Over Amazon’s E-Book Tactics 

David Streitfeld, reporting for the NYT:

Now, hundreds of other writers, including some of the world’s most distinguished, are joining the coalition. Few if any are published by Hachette. And they have goals far broader than freeing up the Hachette titles. They want the Justice Department to investigate Amazon for illegal monopoly tactics.

They also want to highlight the issue being debated endlessly and furiously on writers’ blogs: What are the rights and responsibilities of a company that sells half the books in America and controls the dominant e-book platform?

Andrew Wylie, whose client roster of heavyweights in literature is probably longer than that of any other literary agent, said he was asking all his writers whether they wanted to join the group, Authors United. Among those who have said yes, Mr. Wylie said in a phone interview from Paris, are Philip Roth, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul and Milan Kundera.

So glad the Department of Justice set all this straight by taking Apple to court.

What’s the Difference Between Lucida Grande, Lucida Sans Unicode, and Lucida Sans? 

Glad you asked.

The Talk Show: ‘The Edition Edition’, With Ben Thompson 

Special guest Ben Thompson joins the show for an Apple Watch discussion: what it’ll cost, what it’ll do, how it will be sold, and more. Other topics include “Bend-gate”, Apple’s growing prowess in mobile chip design, and Derek Jeter.

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MacUpdate’s Biggest App Bundle of the Year 

My thanks to MacUpdate for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote their biggest app bundle of the year. Save 90 percent off the regular combined price for all these apps, and get great software, including: Toast 12 Titanium, Circus Ponies NoteBook 4, Tonality Pro, Scrivener, iStat Menus 5, NetShade 6, SimCity 4 Deluxe, and more. Early buyers also get the productivity-boosting Ember, a 2013 “Best Mac App” pick by Apple.

11 great apps for just $49.99. Time is running out, so check out the offer today.

Consumer Reports iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Bend Test 

Consumer Reports:

All the phones we tested showed themselves to be pretty tough. The iPhone 6 Plus, the more robust of the new iPhones in our testing, started to deform when we reached 90 pounds of force, and came apart with 110 pounds of force. With those numbers, it slightly outperformed the HTC One (which is largely regarded as a sturdy, solid phone), as well as the smaller iPhone 6, yet underperformed some other smart phones. […]

Below you can see the pictures of the smart phone carnage, but bear in mind that it took significant force to do this kind of damage to all these phones. While nothing is (evidently) indestructible, we expect that any of these phones should stand up to typical use.

Consumer Reports is the outfit that made Antennagate a thing. If anything, their reputation is such that you’d expect them to fan the flames on this, not extinguish them. They’re saying the iPhone 6 Plus is even more bend-resistant than the regular 6. This should put an end to Bendgate — but it won’t, because in the minds of the deranged, the new iPhones bend like a chocolate bar left out in the sun.

Inside the Building Where Apple Tortures the iPhone 6 

Josh Lowensohn, The Verge:

A few blocks away from Apple’s bustling campus in Cupertino is a rather nondescript building. Inside is absolutely the last place on earth you’d want to be if you were an iPhone. It’s here where Apple subjects its newest models to the kinds of things they might run into in the real world: drops, pressure, twisting, tapping. Basically all the things that could turn your shiny gadget into a small pile of metal and glass.

FBI and Police Departments Endorse Apple’s Full Device Encryption 

The Washington Post:

FBI Director James B. Comey sharply criticized Apple and Google on Thursday for developing forms of smartphone encryption so secure that law enforcement officials cannot easily gain access to information stored on the devices — even when they have valid search warrants.

I can’t think of a better endorsement of Apple and iOS.

“Apple will become the phone of choice for the pedophile,” said John J. Escalante, chief of detectives for Chicago’s police department. “The average pedophile at this point is probably thinking, I’ve got to get an Apple phone.”

Well, that didn’t take long. An even stronger endorsement. The pedophile card is pretty much the last resort for these law enforcement types who feel entitled to the content of our digital devices. Fear mongering with bogeymen and an appeal to base emotions.

Eternal vs. Ephemeral 

Nicolas Schobinger:

I could imagine that the Apple iWatch Edition will generate a lot of repeat buyers. A good trade-in program would recycle your precious metal and refund that to you. You could keep the straps. The price for your repeat purchase could be then a fraction of your initial buy. You could constantly renew your statement with the Edition line and stay current. Ephemeral disrupting Eternal.

Even if it’s not upgradeable (being able to replace S1 with an S2), there ought to be a decent trade-in value for the gold alone.

‘Apple Sells Lots of Devices, Pundits See Doom’ 

Busy week for The Macalope:

This is classic Apple derangement syndrome. Because one YouTube video maker bent one iPhone and could not bend one other Samsung device, no products competing against Apple are bendable. Not worth acknowledging is the fact that people who did some more rigorous testing say you kinda really have to try to bend the iPhone 6 Plus.


Now Batting for the Yankees, Number 2

It felt like fall, not summer, last night in the northeast. Chilly and damp, dark already by the time the ballgame started just after seven o’clock. Yankee Stadium was sold out. Full house. Electric with anticipation.

For the last 20 years, a game like this — this weather, this place, this team, this crowd, this autumn smell in the air — meant one thing: postseason playoff baseball. Not this game though. Not this year. The Yankees had been eliminated from postseason contention the night before. The electricity came from the fact that this would be Derek Jeter’s last-ever home game. Remarkably, it would be the first and only home game he would ever play, in a 20-year career, where the Yankees had been eliminated from postseason contention. They call such games “meaningless games”, and Derek Jeter had never played one in Yankee Stadium.

And in a sense, it feels like he never did play a meaningless home game, because with the emotions, the crowd, the palpable sense of the ending of an era, there’s just no way that last night’s game could be called “meaningless”. It was clearly the single most meaningful game the Yankees played all season.

The Yankees today aren’t those Yankees from the first decade of Jeter’s career. But I remember those Yankees, the dynasty years, like yesterday. Joe Torre. Paul O’Neill. Tino Martinez. Bernie Williams. Jorge Posada. Andy Pettitte. Mariano Rivera. Of course Jeter would be the last of them to go. Of course.

The game played out well. Jeter slammed a double against the left-center wall in the first inning, so he’d acquitted himself nicely no matter what he did the remainder of the game. The memories flowed. Jeter came to bat in the 7th inning, with the bases loaded and one out. Tie game, 2-2. A broken bat slow grounder that wound up scoring two runs on a throwing error. Not pretty, but effective. Not a bad final at-bat, it felt like. Go-ahead RBI.

And then all too soon came the top of the 9th. Yankees leading 5-2, their outstanding closer, David Robertson, on the mound. This was it. Jeter’s final moments in pinstripes, on the field at shortstop. His entire life, all he ever wanted to be was the shortstop for the New York Yankees. Two long Orioles home runs, though, and it was all different. 5-5 tie game. There would be a bottom of the ninth. And batting third would be Jeter.

Jose Pirela bats first. Single to left. He’s replaced by speed demon Antoan Richardson. Center fielder Brett Gardner bunts, and Richardson moves to second.

One final time, Bob Sheppard’s voice booms through The Stadium. “Now batting for the Yankees, number 2, Derek Jeter. Number 2.

Winning run on second base. One out. Everyone in The Stadium is standing. I’m standing watching at home. My son, 10, is standing on the couch next to me. The tension is excruciating. First pitch, Jeter jumps on it with his signature inside-out swing. Single to right! Richardson beats the throw to the plate. Yankees win. Yankees win. Pandemonium. My boy jumps off the couch into my arms and we run around the house, hugging, screaming, laughing like the maniacs that we are.

Things like this just aren’t supposed to happen. Real-life endings aren’t like scripted storybook endings. Except with Jeter they so often were. That broken-bat RBI grounder in the 7th was a realistic ending. A spectacular walk-off game-winning single in the bottom of the 9th was not. It felt like the World Series. It felt like the old days.

“This is what it used to be like,” I told my son, “every single year. Something crazy always happened. And then someone for the Yankees always stepped up. Jeter was always in the middle of it. Every year. This is what it was like.” 


Layer Tennis: White vs. Taylor 

Look at the first two volleys in this match. How am I supposed to get any work done today?

Why Now for Apple Watch 

Good piece by Ben Thompson:

The question, then, is why 2015? After all, there are some key ingredients missing in the Watch, the most obvious being the lack of cellular capability. To my mind Apple had three alternatives:

  1. Release an accessory-like Watch today, then transform it into a standalone device once it had its own cellular stack
  2. Wait until the technology was ready and release a fully functional Watch in two or three years time
  3. Release a Watch in 2015 that is designed as if it is a fully functional device, even though for the next few years it needs an iPhone for full functionality

I am largely in agreement with Thompson about Apple having chosen #3.

The confusion about a standalone Watch that is technically not standalone may be too much to overcome from a marketing perspective. I definitely think this is why the presentation was so muddled: Apple wanted to convey that this was a standalone device that would one day be the only device we need all of the time, but they couldn’t actually say that.

That, and the fact that they have chosen to keep much of the Watch’s software secret. I think that’s partly because much of it is unfinished, but mainly out of competitive interests. They expect Apple Watch to be copied just as slavishly as the iPhone was, and don’t want to give their competitors a head start.

Apple Watch as a Standalone Device 

Amir Efrati, writing for The Information (paywall):

Apple doesn’t want to risk cannibalizing sales of the iPhone with a SIM-equipped watch.

That’s not why Apple Watch doesn’t have a SIM card or standalone Wi-Fi. Modern Apple has never been afraid to release products that cannibalize their own products. The iPad has clearly eaten into MacBook sales. The iPhone turned the iPod from Apple’s flagship product line into a small niche. (A company worried about cannibalization would have made a smartphone that required a tethered iPod for music playback.)

A few years down the line, I expect Apple to have a Watch that can replace your iPhone. The tech just isn’t there yet. Apple is already setting expectations for single-day battery life for the Apple Watch, at best. Adding cellular networking would make that significantly worse — and add physical heft.

Joanna Stern Reviews the BlackBerry Passport 

Joanna Stern:

BlackBerry says the apps and the store selection are being updated everyday. But the company’s chief operating officer Marty Beard admits many BlackBerry users also carry an Android phone or iPhone. In fact, that number is close to 40% — and includes billionaire adventurer Richard Branson.

Yet even if I did carry two phones, I wouldn’t pick the Passport. The bulky, awkward design and the unfamiliar keyboard make it hard to justify finding space for it in a pocket or bag.

Not good enough to be your second phone? Ouch.

‘Stacking Silly Pundit Tricks to Burn for Warmth’ 

The Macalope:

Look, all you need to do is get an Android phone from HTC for build quality. Then get an Android phone from Sony because their cameras are so good. Then get a Galaxy Note from Samsung for the largest screen. Then get a Nexus from Google to get a decent software experience. Finally, get a phone from Hauwei because they’re cheap. Then mash them all together and you’ve got one phone that’s better than the iPhone!

Afterlight 2.6: Support for iOS 8 Photo Filtering Extensions 

Joseph Keller, iMore:

You can now use Afterlight’s filters and editing tools without leaving the iOS Photos app. Simply open the available extensions when editing a photo, hit More, and turn Afterlight on. You can use Afterlight’s crop, rotate, color, and filter tools, among others.

The app has also added manual camera controls for taking pictures within the app, and has been optimized for the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Afterlight is one of my very favorite iOS photography apps, and the first one I use that supports the new iOS 8 photo filtering extensions.

The Verge Reviews the BlackBerry Passport 

Dan Seifert, The Verge:

Below the screen is what makes the Passport a true BlackBerry: it has a honest-to-goodness physical keyboard, something no other modern device offers. It’s a throwback to the keyboards that made BlackBerry smartphones so popular in years past, and BlackBerry says it’s essential for efficient productivity on the go. But the Passport’s three row layout isn’t as good as the older designs. It’s too wide, making it all but impossible to type the simplest words with one hand. And for some reason, the spacebar is jammed up into the third row of letters, splitting the keyboard and causing all kinds of confusion for my thumbs. I never got used to it and I remain a far faster and more accurate typist on a good virtual keyboard. It’s not clear to me why BlackBerry didn’t just make the Passport slightly longer to accommodate a fourth row of keys — it’s already a big phone, another quarter-inch wouldn’t make much of a difference in size but would go a long way to improving the keyboard.

Man, if the keyboard doesn’t make people happy, I’m not sure what the point of this is.

Weird Verge-ism toward the end (italics added):

Nobody would really argue that iOS is a super productive platform, but my iPhone offers the tools I need to get my job done, and the Passport does not.

Apple Releases, Then Pulls, iOS 8.0.1 

Juli Clover, reporting for MacRumors:

Following the release of iOS 8.0.1 this morning, numerous of users found that their cellular service was disabled, reporting “No Service” messages after updating. Affected users also appear to be experiencing problems with Touch ID, which seems to be completely non-functional. […]

Apple has pulled iOS 8.0.1 from the Developer Center and it is also no longer available via an over-the-air download.

Embarrassing.

Update: If you already upgraded and are seeing any of these problems, Rene Ritchie has instructions for getting back to iOS 8.0.0.

Credit Where Credit Is Due: Ming-Chi Kuo Nailed It 

Sometimes claim chowder comes out tasting good. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo absolutely nailed both new iPhones all the way back in April:

In line with previous rumors, Kuo believes the new 4.7-inch model will come with a 1334 × 750 Retina display at 326 pixels per inch, while the 5.5-inch will see a 1920 × 1080 screen at 401 PPI. Both devices will have the same aspect ratio to the iPhone 5, meaning apps will not need to be redesigned for the second time in three years.

The iPhone 6 will include a new A8 processor, 1GB of RAM, Touch ID, a narrower bezel by 10 to 20 percent, and the phone to be thinned to 6.5-7.0mm (the current iPhone 5 is 7.6mm thick). He also expects Apple to finally include NFC chips in its smart phones.

So far as I can tell, Kuo was the first person anywhere to say 1334 × 750 for the 4.7-inch display, and the pixel math worked out perfectly. I disregarded his 1920 × 1080 dimensions for the 5.5-inch display because the math shows that such a display doesn’t even come close to working out at either @2x or @3x. What I failed to even consider is what Apple actually did: a 2208 × 1242 virtual display size that is scaled on-the-fly to 1920 × 1080. As I wrote in my review of the new iPhones, though it sounds like a recipe for blurriness, in practice, the pixels on the 6 Plus are so small that everything looks perfect. I haven’t seen any complaints from iPhone 6 Plus owners in the wild, either.

Kuo’s last-minute predictions were pretty close to the mark too, although he thought perhaps Apple would delay the release of the 6 Plus because of its supply constraints.

Chipworks Disassembles Apple’s A8 SoC 

In broad strokes, Chipworks’s analysis backs up what Phil Schiller told us on stage: the A8 is smaller, faster, and more efficient than the A7. And the competition still hasn’t caught up with the A7.

Smaller is the improvement that interests me most, because of that other product Apple announced two weeks ago.

WSJ: ‘iPhone 6 Is the Most Durable iPhone Yet’ 

Nathan Olivarez-Giles, writing for the WSJ:

The new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus may be the largest iPhones Apple has ever made, but they’re also the toughest, according to SquareTrade, a gadget insurer that publishes a “breakability” index.

Having put the new iPhones through its gauntlet of durability tests this weekend, SquareTrade found that the iPhone 6 holds up impressively well in drops, spills and slips — despite the fact that the new, thinner iPhones are tougher to hold onto given their smooth edges and bigger screens.

The iPhone 6 Plus fared well, too, managing to beat out Samsung’s Galaxy S5 as “the most durable phone with a screen larger than five inches.”

No word on the “sat on it in my ass pocket all day” test.


On Switching and Lock-In

This piece by Joshua Brustein for Businessweek — “Hey, Android Users, Don’t Buy the New iPhones” — is profoundly shallow:

For a Galaxy Note user, then, going over to the iPhone 6 Plus means building up again from zero. And for what? Apple’s operating system may be more intuitive to someone who has never touched a smartphone before, but it’s not going to be any easier for people who have spent over an hour staring at their Android phone every day for the last two to four years. Any benefits are probably outweighed by the drawbacks to abandoning the investment someone has already made.

I wouldn’t say it’s easy to switch from Android to iOS or vice versa, but looking at the history of personal computing, I think it’s easier to switch platforms today than ever before — in either direction. The move to cloud-based storage and syncing makes a lot of things less sticky. Gmail is Gmail. Dropbox is Dropbox. You can even access your iCloud email from Android, because it’s just IMAP. Add to that the fact that the overwhelming majority of mobile apps are free or extremely cheap.

Apple has posted a guide on switching from Android to iPhone, and it’s really pretty straightforward. Google could just as easily post a guide on switching from iPhone to Nexus. Brustein’s advice, to me, seems like an endorsement of laziness, ignorance, and tribalism.

Phone manufacturers make it hard to switch on purpose: They want you locked in forever. That’s the idea behind the Apple Watch and Apple Pay, which don’t work for Android. (Ditto for Samsung’s Gear S watch and Gear VR headset, which are made to work with the company’s other devices.)

This is just completely and utterly wrong. It’s shallow thinking. Lock-in is certainly something Apple (and Google, and Samsung, and everyone else) thinks about. But lock-in has nothing to do with why Apple Watch will only work with iPhone, or why Android Wear devices only work with Android phones.

Apple Watch can only work with iPhone because it does things that require the two be developed together. The hardware and software on both the Watch and iPhone all work together. Apple could make a watch that supports both iPhone and Android, but that watch wouldn’t work anything like Apple Watch, because it would be severely limited by the common features shared by iPhone and Android. And the same is true of Android Wear — it doesn’t work with iPhone because there’s no way Google can provide software that runs on an iPhone to do what Android Wear devices need their paired phone to do.

Pebble watches are cross-platform, but look at how severely limited they are in functionality compared to Android Wear and Apple Watch. And that’s not a slag against Pebble. They’re shipping. They’ve been shipping. And they have some devoted and happy users. And by doing so much less, they’re able to measure battery life in days instead of hours. But functionality-wise, something like Pebble is what you get if you set out to create something that works across iOS and Android, limited by the sandboxing rules for third-party apps. Apple Watch and Android Wear require software on the phone at the operating system level. Mobile apps can only provide shallow integration. To get deep integration requires software (and hardware) designed in coordination. Brustein’s argument is not too far removed from saying that we should be able to buy a Toyota Prius with a Tesla engine — like you can just mix and match these things like Lego bricks.

It’s a pipe dream to think that Apple Watch and Android Wear could be cross-platform without a drastic reduction in functionality, or to argue that they’re platform-dependent simply out of competitive spite in the name of platform lock-in.

Postscript: Keep in mind too that Google’s and Apple’s rivalry is asymmetric. Google is a very active, very popular developer of native iOS apps. They don’t treat iOS as a second-class platform — if anything, they’re more interested in iOS users because they’re a more lucrative demographic for advertisers. Apple’s only Android app is the one they bought with Beats Music. I think Google would support Android Wear from iPhone if they could, and who knows, maybe I’m underestimating just how much a background app can do in iOS 8. But even if Google unveils iPhone support for Android Wear, that too would only prove that Android Wear has nothing to do with trying to lock users in to Android. 


The iPhones 6

The Big Picture

A few days into testing the new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, I accidentally left my personal iPhone 5S on a desk next to the iPhone 6 Plus. While my back was turned, the Plus tried to eat my 5S. It’s a monster.

I kid, but only sort of. The 6 Plus is ginormous. And it wants to be your only mobile device.

Last week after the announcement event, Apple provided me with review units of both iPhones 6 (a white/gold regular 6 and a white/silver 6 Plus, both running on Verizon, which allowed me to pop my personal SIM card into both phones for testing). I spent the first three days using the 6 Plus as my full-time phone, and the next three days using the 6. I wish I’d had more time with both phones before writing this, but my high-level take is very simple, and would not change with more time:

  • If you simply want a bigger iPhone, get the 4.7-inch iPhone 6. That’s what it feels like: a bigger iPhone.

  • If you want something bigger than an iPhone, get the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. It feels more like a new device — a hybrid device class that is bigger than an iPhone but smaller than an iPad Mini — than it feels like a bigger iPhone.

  • If you don’t want a bigger iPhone — and in recent weeks I’ve heard from numerous readers who still pine for the 3.5-inch display iPhones — you might be disappointed by this year’s iPhone lineup, and should consider sticking with the iPhone 5-class models. (Note that Apple is continuing to sell two models of the iPhone 5S: 16 GB for $99, and 32 GB for $149. That 32 GB model to me looks like a hedge on Apple’s part.)

The Plus is a remarkable and striking device. Its 401 PPI display is the first display I’ve ever used on which, no matter how close I hold it to my eyes, I can’t perceive the pixels. Typography has rendered great on all retina displays to date; type looks perfect on the iPhone 6 Plus. I’m jealous that the 6 Plus camera has optical image stabilization. The bigger physical size makes the Plus a pleasure to thumb-type on.

But I have no desire to use an iPhone 6 Plus as my personal phone. I ordered an iPhone 6 for my own use. And if the iPhone 6 Plus were the only new iPhone this year, I probably would have stuck with the iPhone 5S.

But some people are going to absolutely love it. Like I wrote at the outset, the 6 Plus wants to be your only mobile device. If you want to leave the house — or at least just leave your desk — with just one computer, the iPhone 6 Plus is it. For many people, it might replace not just an iPad, but a MacBook, too. It’s that big, and iOS devices are getting that powerful.

Me, I don’t want that. One week in and I’m still unsure about the size of the iPhone 6 relative to that of my iPhone 5S, but I’m very sure about the size of the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus: it’s too big for my taste.

Here’s what I wrote two years ago, reviewing the iPhone 5, the first iPhone with a larger display:

There is no argument that some people really do like these big closer-to-5-than-4-inch Android and Windows phones. I was in a Verizon retail store yesterday (long story; don’t ask) and overheard a relatively small woman buying a Galaxy S III. A companion asked if she wasn’t worried that it was too big, and she said no, big was exactly what she wanted, because she doesn’t have a tablet and wanted to do a lot of reading on whatever phone she got. She even said she was thinking about the 5-inch Galaxy Note (which Verizon doesn’t carry). It was like a conversation out of a Samsung commercial. Such people surely think the iPhone 5’s display remains too small. But, trust me, there are going to be many long-time iPhone users complaining that it’s too big after they upgrade.

In an ideal world, perhaps Apple would offer two iPhone sizes — like they do with products such as MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, and iMacs. A smaller one with the classic 3.5-inch display, and a larger (say, 4.5-inch?) one for people who want that.

That holds up pretty well, except that my personal bias1 towards smaller devices skewed my proposed sizes. Roughly 4.5-inches isn’t the big iPhone in a two-size lineup, it’s the small one. But what was clear to me even two years ago is that no single size could please everyone; the iPhone needed to come in at least two sizes. In my piece two years ago, I continued:

But there’s another factor. I believe many people would choose poorly. Bigger looks better. It’s like the old chestnut about TV sets in big box stores — side-by-side, standing in the store, people tend to choose TVs that are oversaturated, the ones with the boldest colors, rather than the ones with the better, more accurate colors. I can’t help but think that many people would choose the big-ass iPhone in my hypothetical two-sizes scenario, and later regret it with tired thumbs sore from stretching. (My thumbs feel sore just by looking at photos like this one of the LG Optimus G.) Design is making decisions, and Apple has always decided what the best size is for an iPhone display.

After spending a week with both phones, I think my concerns above were premature. When people see the iPhone 6 Plus in the flesh, their opinions are polarized. Either “Wow, that’s huge. I would never want a phone that big,” or, “Wow, that’s huge. I can’t wait to get one of those.”

As for Apple making decisions so we don’t have to, I think the difference between the two devices is so vast, so obvious, that it’s not really an issue. To me, choosing between the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is far easier than choosing between the 11- and 13-inch MacBook Airs, or the 13- and 15-inch MacBook Pros. It’s more like choosing between a 13-inch MacBook Pro and the old 17-inch “lunch tray” MacBook Pro.

Again, they’re more like two different device classes than two variations of the same device. My understanding, talking to people at the event last week, is that Apple’s industrial design team mocked up prototypes of every single size between 4.0 and 6.0 inches, in tenths-of-an-inch increments, and from those 20 sizes selected the two that best hit the sweet spots for “regular iPhone” and “ginormous iPhone”. We might never see new iPhone sizes again — or at least not bigger ones.

How Big Is Too Big?

The most important question regarding both of the new iPhones is the same: Is it too big? If you want a ginormous iPhone, one that’s almost as much “iPad Nano” as it is iPhone Plus, I don’t think the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus is too big. My guess is that it’s just right — but I really do just have to guess, because this device class is not for me.

The more pressing question for me is whether the iPhone 6, at 4.7 inches, is too big to serve as the standard-sized iPhone. “Too big” mainly pertains to two separate issues: one-handed usage and pocketability.

One-handed usage has been the rallying cry for me, and other fans of smaller phones, for years. So centered on it was I that it almost wholly informed my (clearly wrong) prediction that Apple would never make an iPhone bigger than 5 inches. But here’s the thing: one-handed usage isn’t everything. I needed to remind myself what I so often remind others: design is about trade-offs. No doubt about it, one-handed usability suffers greatly on the iPhone 6 compared to the iPhone 5 series — and the 4.0-inch iPhone 5 displays are themselves less one-hand-able than the classic 3.5-inch iPhone displays. But there are advantages to the larger display of the iPhone 6. I find myself typing much faster and more accurately. That’s a function of physical size, not any improvements to the keyboard in iOS 8, because I’ve been testing iOS 8 on my iPhone 5 all summer long.

In short: the increased size of the iPhone 6 makes it worse when using it one-handed. But it makes it better when using it two-handed.

For people with anything smaller than extra-large hands, the iPhone 6 Plus is only usable two-handed.

Reachability — the new feature that pans the whole screen down to better enable you to reach buttons at the top of the display — is pretty clever. It’s a one-handed shortcut, not a mode, and that makes a big difference. When the screen pans down, it only stays down there for one tap. Reachability might make it possible to do everything you want while holding the 6 Plus one-handed, but it’s nothing at all like using a 3.5- or 4.0-inch iPhone in one hand. (Clever detail: Reachability on the 6 Plus moves things further down the display, percentage-wise, than it does on the 6 — it’s all about moving the top of the display to a typical thumb’s length from the bottom of the device.)

Pocketability is going to vary based on your pants and pockets. (I’ve been wearing Levi’s jeans every day I’ve been using both phones.) With the regular iPhone 6, I haven’t had any problems. The fact that it’s so much thinner than the iPhone 5/5S, and now has curved sides, makes it easy to slide into a pocket. The overall volume of the device just doesn’t feel that much bigger in hand or pocket.

The iPhone 6 Plus, however, makes itself felt in your pants pocket. It is pocketable, at least for me, and I wouldn’t call it uncomfortable. But when I switched back and forth between different phones this week, I’d never forget when the iPhone 6 Plus was in my pocket. (I would sometimes forget whether I had my 5S or the regular 6 in my pocket.) For security purposes I don’t think Apple Stores (or carrier stores) let people try putting display models in their pockets, but in the case of the iPhone 6 Plus, maybe they should. It’s going to be an issue for some.

An additional pocketability problem: I found myself inadvertently toggling the silent switch on the 6 Plus while pocketing and un-pocketing it. This happened several times, and even after I became conscious of the problem, it kept happening — particularly while pocketing/un-pocketing while sitting down.

In summary, I don’t know how to say it better than I did at the outset.

The regular iPhone 6 feels like a slightly bigger iPhone. I’m not entirely used to it yet, but I suspect after a few more weeks, I will be, and I’ll be perfectly satisfied with the tradeoffs involved with the larger size. Being able to see more emails, more tweets, more text at once is really nice. I’ve never been one to read e-books on my iPhone, but I might start. 4.7 inches feels a little bit more practical as a “small page” for reading.

The iPhone 6 Plus is fascinating and gorgeous — I’d love to have the higher pixel density on the regular iPhone 6 (but I totally understand why it doesn’t: see my section on battery life below, and note that the iPhone 6 Plus is already on a 3-4 week backorder) and it pains me to think about the optical image stabilization in the camera — but it feels like a new device, bigger than the iPhone but smaller than the iPad Mini. One size doesn’t fit all, and a 5.5-inch display is just too big for my taste.

Seriously, the 6 Plus Is Really Big

An original 2007 iPhone fits entirely within the display, just the display, of an iPhone 6 Plus.

Weight

  • iPhone 5S: 112 grams
  • iPhone 6: 129 grams
  • iPhone 6 Plus: 172 grams

Those are the numbers from Apple’s own tech specs. In practice, however, the iPhone 6 doesn’t feel any heavier in hand than the 5S — I think because it’s less dense. It’s kind of uncanny comparing them side-by-side. The 6 Plus is obviously heavier, but only in a way that feels commensurate with its vastly increased volume.

Design

The rounded sides and pill-shaped profile of the iPhones 6 is a sharp departure from the right-angled puck-like form factors of the iPhone 4(S) and 5(S). It’s been a while since I used a rounded iPhone. It’s nice. With the iPhone 6, I’ve found myself reverting to a habit I formed back in 2007 with the original iPhone: slowly spinning it around in my hand, over and over, side over side, like one of those “worry stones” that were popular back in the 1990s. It just feels nice in your hand. (The 6 Plus is too big for me to do this with.)

There’s one use case where I think I prefer the flat-sided iPhone 4/5 design: using the iPhone as a camera. In hand, the flat-sided iPhones simply feel more like thin cameras. And, those flat sides allow the iPhone to be carefully stood on its side. On the whole, though, rounded feels better, and also feels nicely unified with the current iPad lineup.

The rounded glass edges of the iPhones 6 are a great touch. It’s very hard to feel the seam between glass and aluminum. Examined closely, it’s just a phenomenally nice enclosure — tolerances seem tighter than ever before.

After seven years, it is hard, really hard, to get used to the new side placement of the sleep/wake button. Clearly it’s the right place to put it for the 6 Plus, and I see the appeal of matching the placement on the regular 6, but man, reaching for the top right corner of the phone to hit that button is too hard a habit to break in just seven days. Long-time iPhone users should expect to be weirded out by this change.

Display Quality

The regular iPhone 6 has a 1334 × 750 pixel display, and to apps it reports itself as 1334 × 750. Like all other iOS devices, in other words, the display is what it claims to be, from an app’s perspective.

The Plus, though, works differently. Physically, it is a 1920 × 1080 display with 401 pixels-per-inch. Virtually, however, it appears to apps as a 2208 × 1242 display with 463 pixels-per-inch. Those latter numbers should sound familiar to regular readers. The iPhone 6 Plus automatically scales the 2208 × 1242 interface to fit the 1920 × 1080 display. This on-the-fly downsampling sounds crazy — it sounds like something that might be slow, and that might lead to fuzziness on screen with small text or fine lines. In practice, it just works. Text and fine lines appear sharper on the 6 Plus than on the regular 6 (or any other iPhone with a 326 PPI display, like the 5’s). 401 pixels per inch is high enough that things still look great even if they’re not pixel-perfect. I was deeply skeptical of this on-the-fly downsampling when I heard about it, but having used it for a week, I’m sold.

(When you take a screenshot on the iPhone 6 Plus, you get a 2208 × 1242 image — you get a screenshot of what the app thinks it is displaying, not a screenshot of the actual pixels on screen. If you really do care about pixel-level precision, I’m not sure how you can tell what is being rendered on screen other than to examine the actual iPhone display using an optical loupe.)

But why is Apple doing this? It’d be simpler, for sure, to just use an actual 2208 × 1242 display and to continue rendering truly pixel-perfect interfaces. Well, simpler conceptually. In practice, though, there would be trade-offs. More pixels would consume more energy, and higher density displays are harder to manufacture. There are diminishing returns to packing more and more pixels per inch — and having used the iPhone 6 Plus for a week, I can’t complain about a single aspect of this downsampling design. I can definitely tell the difference between the pixel density of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. I’m not sure at all that I’d be able to tell the difference between the actual 1920 × 1080 6 Plus and a hypothetical next-generation model with an actual 2208 × 1242 display.

(There is one thing I’ve seen where animation on the iPhone 6 Plus sometimes gets jittery: the animation in Safari when you hit the Show Tabs button, and all open tabs glide into a scrollable 3D view. Sometimes, but not usually, this animation has jittered slightly on the 6 Plus. I haven’t seen the same thing on the regular 6.)

As for other display-related topics, I don’t know what to say other than that both displays look incredible. Colors are bright, vivid, and accurate. Viewing angles are noticeably improved over the 5S. The new polarizing filter works like a charm — previously, if you wore polarized sunglasses, iPhone displays would often suffer from all sorts of gross color shifting and banding. With polarized sunglasses and the iPhones 6, everything on screen pretty much looks just like it does wearing non-polarized sunglasses.

I’ve seen some speculation that Apple might have somehow cheaped out by going with a 1920 × 1080 display. That line of thinking goes something like this: 1920 × 1080 is the standard size for 1080p, so Apple probably just bought these commodity-sized displays because they’re cheaper, and now iPhone 6 Plus users, who paid a $100 premium for their devices, are being forced to suffer scaled graphics because 1920 × 1080 doesn’t work out well as a native (non-scaled) display size for a 5.5-inch iPhone. This is misguided for several reasons. First, as outlined above, the on-the-fly scaling looks great. It doesn’t look like a scaled UI, it looks like a crazy super-high DPI UI. I don’t know if it’s distinguishable with the naked eye from that of a true 2208 × 1242 display, but it’s certainly the best display I’ve ever used. But more importantly, Apple doesn’t use off-the-shelf displays. 1920 × 1080 is a common display size, but I don’t believe any other phone on the market has a display like this.

It’s interesting to me that Apple is referring to both iPhone 6 displays as “Retina HD”, even though only the iPhone 6 Plus display is running at a higher pixel density and using @3x UI graphics. That they’re already qualifying the iPhone 6 display as “Retina HD” makes me more dubious that we’re going to see a 2001 × 1125 4.7-inch display with @3x graphics in the next iPhone generation than I would have been if they’d only used “Retina HD” to refer to the iPhone 6 Plus display.

Display Zoom

Both models of iPhone 6 offer a new feature: display zooming. Go to Settings → Display & Brightness, and there’s a new option: a choice between Standard and Zoomed. The difference is the numbers of points (not pixels) used to render the display. In standard mode, the 6 Plus runs at 2208 × 1242 virtual pixels, which at @3x resolution works out to 736 × 414 points.

The regular iPhone 6 in standard mode runs at 1334 × 750 pixel resolution, which at @2x resolution comes to 667 × 375 points.

In zoomed mode, the 6 Plus acts like a virtual iPhone 6 (non-Plus) display, albeit running at @3x instead of @2x retina resolution: 2001 × 1125 (virtual) pixels. Divide by 3 (because it’s running at @3x), and you get: 667 × 375 points.

In zoomed mode, the regular iPhone 6 acts like a virtual iPhone 5(S) display: 1136 × 640 pixels, 568 × 320 points.

In short, zoomed mode makes each iPhone show the same UI as the standard mode of the next smaller iPhone, scaled up to fill its bigger display. It’s a great solution for anyone who wants a bigger iPhone to show larger content instead of more content. On the iPhone 6, zoomed mode looks a little fuzzy to my eyes. Not bad at all, just a little fuzzy. It should be unnoticeable to anyone whose vision is such that they’d want to use this feature. On the iPhone 6 Plus, it looks nearly perfect. I’m not sure I detect any fuzziness at all. Using the downsampling technique that allows the 1920 × 1080 display to masquerade as a 2208 × 1242 display in standard mode, in zoomed mode, the 401 PPI density and @3x retina graphics allow it to just work, and look nearly perfect, masquerading as a 2001 × 1125 display. It makes sense — in both modes, standard and zoomed, the iPhone 6 Plus is scaling down at @3x, not scaling up at @2x.

Scaled Apps

When you run existing apps that have not yet been updated for iOS 8 and adaptive display layout, you simply get a scaled up version of the 1136 × 640 version of the app. It actually doesn’t look too bad, even on the 5.5-inch 6 Plus, where they’re really getting scaled quite a bit, and at @2x instead of @3x. But it doesn’t look good either, and scrolling is a bit weird, and the keyboard is too tall, which makes typing feel wrong. With apps that are updated to support these larger displays, typing is better on both new phones than it was on the 5S, simply as a function of the keys being larger targets, but not so large that you have to move your thumbs too far to get to them. With scaled apps, the keyboard is too tall, and it does feel like you have to move your thumbs too far to reach the top row.

Visually, these scaled apps are far better than @1x apps running on the first retina iPhone (the 4) back in 2010. And they’re less annoying spatially than the letterboxed apps running on the first 16:9 iPhone (the 5) back in 2012. But simple scaling does not magically make them look sharp or feel properly sized. Developers should update their apps to support these new displays as soon as they can.

(Games shouldn’t matter as much. No rush there, I think.)

Cameras

Phil Schiller only spoke for about 30 minutes at last week’s event. That’s all the stage time that the iPhones 6 got. And an inordinate amount of that limited time was spent talking about the iPhone 6 cameras. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I’d rather have an iPhone that couldn’t make phone calls than one that couldn’t take photographs. It’s far more of a camera to me than it is a telephone, and I think that’s true for most of us.

A full camera review is beyond the scope of this review, but suffice it to say, in my testing, everything Apple has proclaimed about the iPhone 6 cameras is true: they focus faster, they work better in low light, and they shoot better video. 240 FPS slo-mo footage is really pretty cool.

Ah, but then there’s The Bulge. Both iPhone 6 models have a camera lens that protrudes from the back of the phone. It’s noticeable, and, let’s face it, a little gross. But this was foreseeable given that the presciently-designed iPod Touch from two years ago had one too. (The iPod Touch is just 6.1mm thick, thinner even than the iPhone 6.) This is a conflict with the laws of physics: image quality improves when the lens is further away from the sensor (which allows for physically larger sensors), but devices feel better in hand and weigh less when they are thinner. Apple’s only options for the iPhone 6:

  1. Use a camera with worse optics that would sit flush with the rest of the case.

  2. Make the entire device thicker to sit flush with the camera lens.

  3. Allow the camera lens to protrude from the back of the camera.

The first choice is unacceptable. Image quality is too important to allow it to suffer — and Apple certainly couldn’t allow image quality on the iPhone 6 to be worse than on the 5S. So the choice was between #2 and #3, and as a fan of smaller thinner devices, I can’t say I disagree with Apple’s decision to go with #3. It’s reasonable to argue that the iPhone 6 would have been better if Apple had gone with #2 (and filled the additional volume with a slightly thicker battery), but that’s not really Apple-like.

Things I Didn’t Get to Try

Apple Pay isn’t going live until October, and though Verizon is supposedly set to enable VoLTE when the iPhones 6 ship, it’s not enabled yet. I do think regular voice calls sounded better than usual, but that could be my imagination or just good luck finding a strong signal.

Battery

I didn’t run any battery-specific tests or comparisons, and I’m curious to read the results from other reviewers who did. I simply used both phones, extensively, for three days each. Battery life for the iPhone 6 seemed as good or better than that of my iPhone 5S. Battery life for the iPhone 6 Plus seemed noticeably improved. I was in San Francisco for a few days after the Apple event. All-day battery life in the SOMA neighborhood, without any mid-day recharging, is pretty unusual for me, but the iPhone 6 Plus did it, without even reaching the red zone. For anyone on the fence between the 6 and 6 Plus regarding physical size, the 6 Plus’s extended battery life may well prove the deciding factor.

As I suspected before the product announcement, I don’t think the iPhone 6 is large enough to fit a battery that supplies sufficient energy to power an @3x retina display. I hope that changes eventually, but I don’t think it’s possible today.

Good Vibrations

I don’t know if it’s that the nerves on my right thigh have started dying through over-stimulation or what, but I miss an awful lot of notifications and sometimes even phone calls when my iPhone 5S is in my pocket in Silent mode. The iPhone 6 has a noticeably stronger vibrator to me, and with the iPhone 6 Plus, it’s so powerful it’s actually a bit noisy — the sound made by the 6 Plus vibrator is so strong, I wonder if there are going to be complaints that it’s not “silent” at all.

As someone who runs his iPhone in silent mode much of the time, I definitely appreciate the stronger vibrator.

Touch ID

I never had many problems with Touch ID on the 5S. It worked pretty well for me right from the start, and it got even better after a few updates to iOS 7. Touch ID on both new iPhones 6 is even better. Faster to set up, and more accurate and faster to unlock on a regular basis.

Widescreen Split Views

In just about every built-in iOS app where it makes sense, in landscape mode on the iPhone 6 Plus, apps use an iPad-style two-column split view. Two-column view is available in Mail, Messages, Notes, Reminders, Calendar, and even Settings. At first I thought it might be a gimmick, but after playing with it, I think it’s legitimate. But the thing is, I personally almost never use my iPhone in landscape orientation.

The extra keys on the keyboard in landscape mode are cool, but the regular iPhone 6 gets many of them too. Most notably, the left/right arrow keys for precisely moving the insertion point. (Pro tip: Engage caps lock and the arrow keys will extend and shrink the text selection. This doesn’t work while pressing and holding the Shift key, for some reason.)

Update: There’s one “let’s take advantage of the larger screen” iOS 8 feature on the Plus that I really wish Apple had added to the iPhone 6 too: avatars in the list of messages in Messages. There’s plenty of room for that on the regular 6, and it really helps when you’re switching between several message threads at the same time.

Pricing and Storage Tiers

Pricing decisions are sometimes subjective, but to me it feels just right that the 6 Plus costs $100 more than the regular 6 at each storage tier. The superior display quality, optical image stabilizer, and larger battery seem like a fair deal for $100. This also means this is the first year ever in which I’m not buying myself the most expensive iPhone.

I’m glad to see Apple double the middle and high storage tiers, from 32/64 to 64/128. I like to store my entire music library on my iPhone, but with “only” 64 GB of total storage, that meant I kept running out of space as I shot videos and took photos. (I love panoramic photos, but they’re very large.)

But I don’t understand why the entry level storage tier remained at a meager 16 GB. That seems downright punitive given how big panoramic photos and slo-mo HD videos are, and it sticks out like a sore thumb when you look at the three storage tiers together: 32/64/128 looks natural; 16/64/128 looks like a mistake. The original iPhone, seven years and eight product generations ago, had an 8 GB storage tier. The entry-level iPhones 6 are 50 times faster than that original iPhone, but have only twice the storage capacity. That’s just wrong. This is the single-most disappointing aspect of the new phones.

(Don’t even get me started on the 8 GB iPhone 5C.)

Conclusion

If there’s a certain flatness to this review, a lack of enthusiasm, it’s not intentional. Apple keeps repeating that the iPhones 6 are “better in every way”, and as far as I can tell that really is the case. Better fit and finish, better feel in hand, better display quality, faster CPU and GPU performance, better still photos, better video, better battery life, faster Wi-Fi and LTE networking speeds. I don’t know what more we could ask of Apple from a year-over-year improvement over the iPhone 5S, which remains an astounding device. And I’ve barely mentioned iOS 8, which I think is an improvement over iOS 7 in nearly every regard, with a strong focus on improved utility and no unnecessary gimmickry.

I’m not yet completely sold on 4.7 inches as a replacement for 4.0 as the standard iPhone size, but give me a few more weeks and I suspect I will be. I love the old iPhone size so much, and I’ve spent so much time with it, that it’s going to take longer than a week to adjust to a new size — especially so when I spent half the week using the ginormous iPhone 6 Plus.

The most amazing thing about the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus is how utterly un-amazing it now seems to see Apple pull off this level of year-over-year improvement year after year after year. 


  1. I’ve used an 11-inch MacBook Air since 2011, but just this week ordered a new 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro to replace it. I wanted the smallest possible MacBook with a retina display. I’ve used an iPad Mini as my iPad for the last two years. 


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