People talk about how an Apple product such as the iPhone having a halo effect on customers. If you buy an iPhone and like it, the theory goes, you're more inclined to buy another Apple device, like a MacBook. This theory has certainly proven true in my experience – since buying my first iPhone (my first Apple product) in 2007, I've bought numerous other Apple products and subscribed to numerous Apple services in the subsequent years. Put another way, I was entrenched in the Apple ecosystem long before I started covering the company for a living.
Recently, a different kind of halo effect has settled on me. I've been using an iPad Pro for the past several weeks, and absolutely love it. Like Federico, the iPad is my computer of choice because of my deep familiarity with iOS and the ways in which working from a touchscreen device makes computing more easily accessible.1 Coming from my old iPad Air 1, iPad Pro has intensified my affinity for the iPad and iOS in general. It has impressed not merely by its technical or software merits, but by one seemingly obvious thing: its screen.
At 12.9 inches, the iPad Pro's display is the best thing to happen to my vision in a long time. Its effects aren't only about pixel density or color accuracy; it's about sheer size. The iPad Pro's screen is huge and has completely transformed how I work. Everything I see on the iPad is better simply by virtue of the big screen, from managing email to browsing the Web to typing on the virtual keyboard. Throw in iOS 9's multitasking features – the app switcher notwithstanding – and I think it's fair to say iPad Pro is the most accessible computer Apple's ever built.
Which brings us to the iPad Pro's halo effect. Using the tablet daily over the past couple of months has taught me that bigger truly is better for me. My eyes love big screens, so much so that I started wondering if I should reconsider my stance on the 5.5-inch iPhone 6s Plus. "If the iPad Pro's screen is so great and the device itself not too cumbersome to handle," I thought, "why couldn't that same logic apply to the iPhone?"
As time went on, I found myself increasingly wanting an iPhone 6s Plus. I wanted it for the same reason I love the iPad Pro: it's so big. My gut said I was going to love it, so I decided to go for it. It turns out the "monster" iPhone is the iPhone I've always wanted, maybe even needed, despite telling myself otherwise.
Why the Change of Heart?
In my review of the iPhone 6s, I said this about the 6s Plus:
Though I may revisit the Plus in the future, its main problem for me today is the Faustian bargain it presents. Yes, the Plus offers me the larger screen and other advantages, but I get an unwieldy phone as a consequence. If my vision were the only disability I needed to accommodate, the choice would be simple. The thing is, I have physical motor issues to consider, too. The Plus is a beast that’s difficult for my hands to tame. Put together, these factors make the question of which trade-offs I’m willing to accept more complicated — agonizingly so, since my eyes love the Plus’s screen.
Right now, the regular 6s is the better choice all around. While I do miss the Plus’s bigger, higher resolution screen, better battery, and optical image stabilization, the regular 6s remains good enough. It’s easier to use one-handed and carry around. Most of all, it still feels like an iPhone, as opposed to the “iPad Nano” feel of its big brother.
In hindsight, that critique wasn't wrong as much as it was myopic.
The problem with my statement was that it was based on longstanding preconceptions of what I wanted out of an iPhone, as well as how those expectations fit with my needs as a person with disabilities. I didn't allow for flexibility in my mindset because I was convinced I needed a phone that allowed for one-handed use and pocketability with a screen that was "good enough" (read: big enough) that I could see. In other words, I wanted nothing but a "Goldilocks iPhone" whose attributes presented the "just right" overall package for myself.
Yet, for as much truth there is in the holistic approach to hardware accessibility, it isn't the only way. It took using the iPad Pro to fully realize it. The fact of the matter is, despite having multiple disabilities, my primary disability has been and always will be my vision impairment. The eyes are a person's window to the world, and mine need all the help they can get. Why shouldn't I make life easier on myself whenever possible? The iPhone 6s is good on my eyes; the 6s Plus is great. Full stop.
While the 6s Plus remains unwieldy relative to its smaller sibling, I've been able to adjust how I use it so that its size isn't detrimental to the point of being insurmountable. Take one-handed usage, for example. I upgraded from my old iPhone 5s to the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 in 2014 partly because I valued using my phone with one hand. The truth is, however, I've hardly ever used my phone that way since then. Most of the time, I hold my phone in my right hand as I interact with the screen with my left. I do the same with the 6s Plus, but now I have a giant screen to boot.
I can say with confidence that I don't think I'd like a bigger iPhone Plus, assuming Apple ever makes an even larger one. That said, the Plus of today suits me well. It's still a beast of a phone, but unlike before, I now know that gaining its huge screen is a trade-off worth making.
What's Great About the iPhone 6s Plus?
The screen is huge, of course, but there's more to it than that.
What makes the 6s Plus so appealing to me involves two things. First, the Plus's large canvas gives me the ability to see more content at a glance. It saves on scrolling, but in accessibility terms, it saves on eye strain and fatigue. I find that my eyes don't work as hard using the Plus because its screen is so large. I can even hold my phone a bit farther away from my face because my eyes are comfortable with the large space.
Secondly, it feels as if iOS is "enlarged" on the 6s Plus. This is due to being presented on a big screen, but what I mean is iOS feels easier to navigate, even in Standard View.2 Anything that I can see on screen – text, UI elements, photos, emoji, whatever – is more visually accessible. 3D Touch in Mail is a good example. "Peeking" into a message on the Plus feels better than it does on the regular 6s because of the big screen. The preview is easier to read, and I'm more efficient at checking my email. Likewise, looking at Instagram photos is easier because not only are the images larger, but I'm able to see more of an image's details.3 As a bonus, the 6s Plus makes it easier for me to make on-the-fly edits to works in progress in iA Writer, and well as watching Netflix or YouTube. I typically shied away from these tasks on the 6s.
In practice, using the 6s Plus reminds me of the large-print textbooks I had in school. These books were the same titles my classmates were using, only mine were much thicker and heavier.4 In a similar vein, the 6s Plus is a "large print" version of the iPhone. I did fine with the regular 6s, just as I likely could've done with a normal-sized textbook and a high-powered magnifier as a kid, but the 6s Plus is more conducive to my visual needs. As with the large-print textbooks being necessary despite their gargantuan size, the Plus's upside in readability trumps any concerns over its gargantuan size.
Sitting On Opposite Ends of the iPhone Spectrum
An interesting aspect of my journey toward iPhone 6s Plus enlightenment are the disparate perspectives me and my girlfriend have when it comes to our respective iPhones.
As I've learned to embrace the Plus, my girlfriend has repeatedly said she prefers a small phone. She's been using my old iPhone 5s for a long time, having inherited it from me when I upgraded to the iPhone 6. As happy as she is with the 4-inch form factor, she asked if she could try out my iPhone 6 to see what the bigger screen is like. I obliged, and helped her set up the new device.
As of this writing, it's been roughly two weeks since she switched phones, and her feedback is mixed. She likes that the 6 shows her more stuff and likes the longer battery, but isn't thrilled with the phone's overall size. She often complains that the 6 is harder to hold, especially when using it one-handed. I told her about the reports that Apple is planning to release a modernized version of her old 5s, and her eyes lit up like a kid on Christmas morning. Suffice it to say, the "iPhone SE" will, in all likelihood, be her new phone whenever it comes out.
I mention this anecdote because my girlfriend's views were mine not long ago. There were moments during the year that I used my 6 when I thought about going back to a 4-inch phone, as I longed for the Goldilocks scenario I wrote of earlier. It's fascinating, then, to see us on polar ends of the iPhone spectrum. I've changed my beliefs on giant phones, while she remains steadfast in her beliefs on smaller ones after jumping over the fence for a bit.
As the saying goes, the grass isn't always greener on the other side.
Though I put up strong resistance, I've transitioned to the
Dark Side Plus Club.
This process of giving the iPhone 6s Plus another chance has been rewarding in a couple of ways. It's not only revealing in terms of appreciating the device, it's also taught me a lot about myself. The key lesson has been to be more honest with myself about which disabilities I should prioritize. My vision impairment and cerebral palsy both affect me every second of every day, but my low vision is the one that is arguably most important. As I wrote earlier, the eyes are how I view the world, and I should accommodate them the best I can. The 6s Plus does that. I've been able to use both phones for a good period, and after careful consideration, I've decided that the 6s Plus is the better phone for me.
As with the 42mm Apple Watch, from now on I can see myself opting for the Plus model iPhone. I'm so glad I decided to give it a second look, because it really is a fantastic device. Moreover, this experience is proof that the iPad Pro is transformative in more ways than one.
As my pal Stephen Hackett put it, Myke was right.
- There's a directness inherent to iOS that isn't present in a "legacy" OS like OS X. The former was designed around touch input, whereas the latter was built around keyboard-and-mouse input. Multitouch is the clear accessibility win for myriad reasons, and it's why iOS devices are loved by people of all ages and abilities. It's simply easier to tap and swipe than it is to point and click. That isn't to say someone like me can't use or doesn't like the Mac, just that I prefer an iPad most days. ↩︎
- Introduced with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, iOS has two display options: Standard and Zoom. Standard is the default choice; choosing Zoom will enlarge the entire system. iOS prompts users to select a view during setup, but you can change it at any time by going to Display & Brightness > Display Zoom. (The iPad Pro has this too.) ↩︎
- I'd be able to see even more detail if the app supported pinch-to-zoom. ↩︎
- And I had to carry several of them in my backpack to and from school every day. Imagine that. ↩︎