six colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

This week's sponsor

Protect your privacy and decipher iOS 11 network features with a new book by Glenn Fleishman. Get 25% off with code SIXCOLORS.

By Jason Snell

iPhone 6 Plus: It’s not an iPad nano

iPhone 6 Plus on iPad mini

When Apple announced the iPhone 6 Plus on Sept. 9, I entertained the idea that it might be a replacement for my iPad mini. At last, the promise of a single device small enough to fit in my pocket, but big enough to satisfy my productivity needs.

Then I used the iPhone 6 Plus. And while it will have its fans—in fact, I’ll wager that the iPhone 6 Plus will have rabid fans—it’s just not for me, because I wasn’t seeking a bigger iPhone. I was seeking an iPad nano, and that’s not something the iPhone 6 Plus is willing to be.

Sure, there are some similarities. Most notably, when you rotate the iPhone 6 Plus into landscape orientation, interesting things happen that don’t happen on other iPhones. The home screen rotates, a first for the iPhone, with the Dock zipping around to the right side of the screen to be displayed vertically for the first time. And Siri’s available in landscape mode on the 6 Plus, too.

Then there are the split-window views, another first for Apple’s standard apps on the iPhone. Many apps, including Notes, Mail, and Messages, pick up views much more akin to the ones on the iPad when you rotate them, with a scrolling list of items on the left side and the actual content on the right side.

But unless you’re watching a movie or playing a game, the cinematic 16:9 aspect ratio of the iPhone seems more like a liability than an asset when you’re holding it the long way. With iOS 8’s QuickType suggestion bar turned on, the notes app displays 7 lines of text, compared to 12 on my iPad. It just feels cramped.

Speaking of cramped, there’s the iPhone 6 Plus keyboard. By iPhone standards, it’s huge. By iPad standards, it’s tiny—slightly more than half the physical height of the one on the iPad mini. The typing targets are much larger on the iPad mini keyboard, which the iPhone 6 Plus simply can’t afford to do—it’s already displaying so little content above the keyboard as it is.

Even the split-window views seem less about being helpful than about doing something with all the extra width so that the main content area isn’t ridiculously wide. (In Notes on the iPhone 6 Plus, there is an option to collapse the list of notes and only display the content, an option not available on the iPad and a concession to the tighter space.)

Apple also seems to have decided that some iPad features simply won’t fit on the iPhone 6 Plus, even with the larger screen. The four-finger gestures that let you navigate around an iPad without clicking the Home button aren’t there. Nor is the iPad’s split keyboard, which might be a helpful option to make it easier to type on the iPhone 6 Plus without really streeeeeetching your thumbs. And let’s not forget the ultimate iPad litmus test: You can’t buy a Smart Cover for the iPhone 6 Plus.

I’m not saying the iPhone 6 Plus is wrong for not being an iPad. Not at all. What I’m saying is, it’s not an iPad—and that I think people who expect it to be one are going to be disappointed. If the question is, “Big iPhone or small iPad?”, the answer is clear: The iPhone 6 Plus is called iPhone for a reason, and it’s not the Phone app. Choose your preferred iPhone model with that in mind.

[If you appreciate articles like this one, help us continue doing Six Colors (and get some fun benefits) by becoming a Six Colors subscriber.]