Thinnest is not always best!

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Before I get into the details of my 10 cents worth on this, I need to categorically state that yes! I am an iPhone 6 Plus owner myself. Having just recently returned from two weeks in Iceland, I was a little behind the curve on reserving my phone, and had to travel to Watford to secure the model I was after - this last Tuesday in fact.

 

By happenstance, on the same day I acquired said phone, ’Bendgate’ was just starting to rear its ugly head, and this is before the ’bricking’ issue of the iOS 8.0.1 update release, which Apple hastily recalled without further explanation or excuse.

 

I have to say that I really like the phone, but more of that later... the thing is, I’ve never really understood this obsession with being the thinnest, particularly with phones - more understandable for laptops and desktops. Weight is an important consideration, as is feel and practical usage - wafer-thinness, is certainly not conducive to the best touchy feely experience - I really don’t think the phones need to be any thinner. In fact, I could stand a couple of additional millimetres if this made for a better battery life.

 

From an engineering / structural standpoint, making something thin and long means it has inherently added flex, and more propensity to buckle - particularly for a non-elastic metal like aluminium, which is relatively brittle compared to most carbon steel alloys. Airplanes / airplane wings are made from thin aluminium, but they have ribs, braces, membranes and struts to give them added strength and rigidity. Apple could also have utilised more advanced lamination techniques to increase the strength of the phone chassis without adding too much weight or thickness.

 

Apple is of course new to the large phone form factor, and it sounds like insufficient stress testing has been done on these production models - of the type that Ikea does:

constantly to test wear and tear / longevity of its many furnishings. Product launch cycles are relatively short these days, and I can easily understand how something like this may have been missed in general population testing. My phone is in a lovely Apple leather case which gives it further protection, but I will not be putting it to any stress tests myself. I have an aversion to tight jeans (as I’ve noted previously), and rarely carry my phone in trouser pockets, certainly never the rear pocket. There is obviously some issue here, and a definite point of structural weakness at the position of the lower volume rocker, which tends to be the fulcrum of the reported buckling. I think this is a little bit a storm in a teacup and points more to the careless nature of certain phone users rather than an actual defect in the production of the phone. It’s simply that long slim things are more fragile than short stout objects - simple physics really. If you choose to treat an £800 mini computer carelessly - it’s really largely your fault when it breaks.

 

As for the rest of the phone experience, as I said, I’m getting on with it swimmingly. Some have decried the larger form factor as being unwieldy and impractical. My hands are quite moderately sized, and I have no difficulties in operating the phone. The larger screen size is a wonderful browsing / reading environment, and my previous phone screen now looks quite trivial and nonsensical in comparison. For most things I need to do, the new phone is a joy to operate, it is large yes, but relatively lightweight and relatively easily portable too. The occasional jacket pocket is too small, but most fit just fine. From a software standpoint, it is quite evident that a lot of the iOS 8 goodies are still in the works - a prime example is the empty shell of the Health App. Only relatively few apps also take any advantage of the larger form factor - particularly for landscape viewing, but this will change quite quickly.

 

Battery life is certainly improved, but not nearly by the margin it needs to be. I can now use the phone much much more than before, but it is still a case of daily recharging. The worst thing about this new release is the fact that Apple still haven’t resolved the iTunes syncing issues. With the new phone and latest version of iTunes, I was still getting corrupted mp3 (dotted) files and missing playlists - I picked up the following trick on a forum to solve this:

  • When connected to iTunes go to Music tab for iPhone Device
  • Uncheck the top ’Sync Music’ option
  • You will get pop-up asking OK to Remove All Music? - Click Yes
  • Then immediately check ’Sync Music’ option again
  • Finally hit the ’Sync’ button at the foot of the tab - this should restore all the missing music files + playlists to your phone, like it did for me!

For iPhone followers these are just niggling issues / snags which software-wise should be cleared up relatively quickly. Some will see this as a reason not to buy the iPhone 6 Plus, which yes has a structural weak point, but then so do most objects in life. I don’t believe Apple will issue any recalls or do anything about this current model’s weakness - it requires further engineering, which means that changes will find their way into the next production models. The iPhone 6 Plus really is the best iPhone yet, and it has numerous operational advantages over its sibling - with of course some sacrifices made to portability and durability.

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