My iPhone 6 Review

Intro

I got my iPhone 6 on launch day (September 19th) at 8:30 AM.  I opted for the 6 instead of the 6 Plus, because the 6 Plus is just too big.  So far, I am 99% confident in that decision.

Skip to the Impressions/Review section if you don’t care about my ordering, pickup, and unboxing process.

Ordering

I got up at 2 AM on September 12th to preorder.  Turns out, that was a waste of time.  I waited until 3:30 AM, but the Apple store and the AT&T services that iPhone upgrades rely on simply never worked.  Feeling defeated, I went to bed.

I woke up for work at 6:40 that morning and tried again.  The order went through without any issue, which was a little surprising.  My order was for in store pickup, which I don’t normally do.  We had a trip planned with friends starting on launch day, and I didn’t want the phone to be delivered and sitting on my doorstep for the whole weekend.  In store pickup would allow me to go there in the morning, grab my phone, and leave.

I chose the 64 GB Space Gray AT&T model, which they probably never ran out of the whole weekend at the Apple Store, but I wanted it launch day.

Overall, this process was a pain.  It seems like Apple really can’t get their online services right.

Pickup

I woke up at 7:30 on the 19th, grabbed a breakfast bar just in case I’d be in line for a while, and headed to the Apple Store.  I got there at 8:05.  Cars were everywhere.  Nothing else is open at the mall at 8 AM, so every car was there for the iPhone launch, whether it was customers, Apple/AT&T/Verizon employees, or the news crew.  The line wrapped from the front of the Apple Store at the Mall of Louisiana, back to the mall, then around to Jos A Banks.  Probably a minimum of 300-400 people.  Yikes.  The people at the front of the line had chairs and sleeping bags.  There were at least two reporters there.

I walked up to the line across from that line, took a picture of the sign that said “Reserved,” noting to capture both the 15 or so people in that line and the massive line across from us.  Not sure why people like standing in line so much, unless it was out of ignorance of the ability to preorder.  I’m not sure if preorders ever shut down, but they might’ve.

I waited 30 minutes in that line, got called in, and got my phone.  I had to agree to some statement saying that all mobile share lines were going up from $15 to $25 per month.  My entire plan is grandfathered, however, so that didn’t affect me (or so I’m told; I haven’t seen a bill yet).  This was the first mention I saw of this anywhere, and had I actually had a mobile share plan, I’m relatively certain I would’ve had to cancel my order and my entire AT&T account and pay a visit to T-Mobile.

For me, the pickup process was pretty painless.  I pity those that (so I was told) stood in line since midnight, and those that were there when the store opened until undoubtedly at least noon.

Unboxing/Setup

Opening the box, I was surprised to find the phone just sitting there on top, ready to so easily fall out.  Not exactly the best placement, as evidenced by that guy in Australia that dropped his live on TV after being one of the first people in the world to get it.

I restored my iPhone 5 to my new iPhone 6.  The process took about an hour or so (I have a lot of apps and a lot of music).

Impressions

My first thought upon holding the phone was “this is going to be the first iPhone that I drop and break the screen.”  The curves combined with the thinness and new, wider size make it feel less secure in my hand.  But man, oh man, is it pretty.  There is no way to show in pictures how beautiful the curved glass edges are.  I truly and greatly appreciate every last bit of detail in this phone.  I just wish it were possible to have a bigger screen without making the phone itself bigger…but you know, physics and all.

The phone is super thin, and despite the camera sticking out a little in the back, it’s just a beautiful device.  I remember when I upgraded from the iPhone 3GS to the iPhone 4, I thought, “they can’t make this phone any prettier.”  But then the iPhone 5 came out, and they did, and I thought the same thing.  Yet again, they’ve managed to make a prettier phone.  It’s probably ridiculous to keep thinking that they can’t outdo themselves, but I figure at some point they won’t be able to, and I just keep betting on it too soon.

Review

After my initial impressions were formed, we set out on our trip, so I got to use the phone a good bit in the car, and having only the iPhone 6 and my Nexus 7 all weekend, it was a great chance to bond with the new hardware.

The first thing I noticed while typing was that I would have to relearn to type.  Initially, I thought the phone was lagging, but it turned out I was just tapping too close to the center of the screen.  Muscle memory from years and years of typing on a phone whose width never changed was keeping me from typing properly on the new, wider phone.  So I spent a day relearning my typing, and that’s all it took.

The glass on the front of the phone is different, somehow.  My friend remarked that it looks like the screen is closer to your finger, which makes sense if the glass is thinner, but there’s something else to it.  It feels different when you rub your finger across it than the iPhone 5.  I think it may be more oleophobic, which might explain the different feel.

Of course coming from a 5 without Touch ID, that was something else to get used to.  My T-Mobile Test Drive phone was a 5S, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the fingerprint authentication device, I just didn’t have a lot of experience with it.  I really like putting my finger over the button, pressing down quickly, holding it there for just a second, and having an unlocked phone.  It’s so much niftier than entering a passcode, but that’s old news.

Moving the sleep/wake button to the right side of the phone was necessary and welcome.  Unlike some Android manufacturers, Apple curiously seems to put this button within reach, but sort of uncomfortably so.  With previous models, you need to stretch just a little to reach the button , and the same is still true.  I have to assume this is to prevent accidental presses, as Apple certainly could’ve lowered the button on the 6 and 6 Plus to make it comfortably easy to press.  This isn’t really a bad or a good thing, it’s just an observation.

Despite the whole Bendgate/Bendghazi thing, the iPhone 6 is a solid, sturdy phone.  That ordeal affected iPhone 6 Plus users, but I personally feel the issue was overblown and stupid.  It’s rare, it’s not the first phone that bends, and it won’t be the last, but I’m not going to sit here and apologize for Apple’s design flaws.  This wouldn’t happen if the phone wasn’t as thin as it was, and if those volume buttons weren’t there, and probably a host of other issues.  I can’t see Apple trying to go much thinner in the future due to this, and quite honestly, any thinner is just unnecessary.  The 5 was really already thin enough.

The camera is pretty amazing, but the iPhone has always been one of the best phones to take pictures with according to certain tech reviewers.  This trend probably continues on with the 6 and especially the 6 Plus, but my experience here with other phones is admittedly lacking, so I’ll leave it at that.

There is something oddly more satisfying about the way the Lightning adapter clicks into the bottom of the 6.  I’m not sure what it is, but I like it.

As an actual phone, the 6 performs as its predecessors did (unless you upgraded to 8.0.1, yikes).  But who uses their phone as a phone, right?

Finally, I didn’t want to talk much about the software since that’s not iPhone 6 specific, but I’ll touch on a few points.  iOS 8 has been a solid shift in the way that Apple controls the platform.  It opens up the already familiar iOS 7 to many more possibilities with extensions and 3rd party keyboards and whatnot, but none of this is really new in the market or really even super interesting to me.  I’m not that big on phone customization, which is evident by the fact that I haven’t even tried to jailbreak since the iPhone 4, which I then un-jailbroke because I didn’t care.  I am happy that Apple is allowing more customization and features to developers though, as long as they’ve done it right (hopefully they have).

Final Thoughts

My favorite feature of the iPhone 6 is undoubtedly the screen, but that is also my least favorite feature.  I miss the width of the 5, but love having a bigger display.  If you have small hands, I feel kind of sorry for you, since no one really makes a smaller phone anymore unless you want last year’s technology (Apple does still sell the 5S and 5C).  Otherwise, the iPhone 6 is a solid upgrade, and might just be my favorite iPhone to date.

I really hope that the market doesn’t trend toward even bigger phones.  I think we need to stop here and realize that at a certain point, it just gets ridiculous.  Let’s call 5.5″ the cutoff, even though that’s already a step larger than my pockets can take.  Sorry, Lumia 1520, you’re just way too big.

As of now, I’m happy with my decision to stick with the iPhone platform.  If you read my blog, you probably know that I was thinking of switching to Android, and for now, Apple has made me more than happy enough to prevent that switch.

Books, Phone, Watch

I’ve been reading some really great books.  All sci-fi, strangely enough.  I mean, yeah, I’ve read sci-fi before, but looking at what I’ve read since I got my Kindle, I don’t think there was any straight up sci-fi in there.  I read “The Windup Girl” a while back, which is sci-fi, but more specifically, it’s like “bio-punk” or something along those lines.

In order, I read “The Forever War,” followed by “The Martian,” and am currently on “Wool,” which is the first in a series.  All amazing, especially “The Martian.”  Probably the best book I’ve read in the past decade.

I looked into getting an Android phone earlier this year, but decided against it.  There’s no point for me, because a phone is a phone and they all do the same thing.  Since my 2 year old iPhone 5’s battery is starting to show its age (it must have thousands of load cycles by now…), I’m looking forward to getting an iPhone 6 (or whatever they call it).  I really just want a bigger screen, better front facing camera, and some extra battery couldn’t hurt.  That’s all it would take to make me happy, and most of that is rumored anyway.

I also need a new watch (one of my Weekenders stopped working), but I’m going to wait and see what Apple does with its rumored wearable before committing to a purchase.  I am honestly not too impressed with the category right now, as all of the devices are ugly, huge, don’t do much, etc.  The only one that interests me is the Moto 360, which is still pretty large, and I can’t use it because Android Wear is only compatible with Android.  If Apple’s device is as ugly as its competitors’, I’m done waiting, and I’ll buy a nice regular watch.

The OS wars

There was a point in my life when I really, really cared about which operating system was “better.”  I spent so much time discussing the virtues and pitfalls of OS X, Windows, and GNU/Linux on forums back in the day (by which I mean like 6 or 7 years ago).  I guess you could say that my interest in that kind of stuff has waned, but I still follow it all very closely, as it’s important to me, both personally and professionally.

I am subjected to discussions on the subject somewhat often still, and I find it humorous to see how passionate some people are about their love/hate for a company and their products.  It reminds me of those old online debates.  As if a company copying a feature is actually a big deal.  Implementation is what’s most important.  We used to take shots at Microsoft for that so much, while turning a blind eye to the fact that every tech company does it: Apple, Google, and Microsoft included.  This year’s WWDC was a slew of new iOS features, many “copied” from Android, while Google I/O had many new features and design elements “copied” from Apple.

And it’s funny that people are still sitting around, slinging insults back and forth about which is better.  You can go on and on about all of the technical shit you want, but in the end, iOS and Android are pretty much the same thing.  Windows and OS X are pretty much the same thing.  Sorry guys, but unless you’re a developer, it doesn’t really matter if you use iOS or Android since you’ll probably just be browsing the Internet, texting people, making calls, and posting dumb shit to your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram.  Both operating systems are exceedingly good at doing this.  And wouldn’t you know, with a few tweaks to that last statement, the same holds true for OS X and Windows.

It’s fun and normal to have preferences, but preferring something doesn’t mean you have to hate/insult its competition.  I prefer OS X, but I use and enjoy Windows (well, maybe not so much Windows 8, but I think that’s getting better now).  Back when everyone was hating on Windows Vista for no good reason, I was defending it and even wrote a column in Tiger Weekly about how it didn’t suck (people are so very quick to blame Microsoft instead of 3rd party developers).  My daily driver phone is an iPhone 5, but I love my Nexus 7 tablet.  I’d even considered getting a OnePlus One or a Nexus 5.  Instead, I’ve decided to wait and check out what the iPhone 6 (or whatever they call it) looks like.

As much as I want a new MacBook Pro, I can’t help but admit that the Surface 3 would be incredibly tempting if it was usable with the type cover in your lap while sitting on the sofa.  I have seen some really nice-looking Windows laptops with touchscreens that are super appealing, and some of them are ridiculously cheap.  It would be stupid of me not to admit there are trade-offs involved with buying a Mac, just as there are with buying anything else.

People just get too caught up in differences.

Nexus 7/Android initial review

I’ve been considering a Nexus 7 install in my car for multiple reasons: as I’ve mentioned, the standard nav unit in the BRZ is terrible for basically everything, and to be able to put an updateable and clean replacement in there would be sweet.  Most head units have resistive touchscreens, and they’re just terrible.  That, plus the lure of a tech challenge, drew me into wanting to try the car install.  Then, T-Mobile went and announced 200 MB of free data per month to any tablet owner, so I bit the bullet and bought a 2nd generation Nexus 7 with LTE.  I am still planning on putting it in my car, but I did end up liking it a lot for it’s intended purpose as a non-car device.

This is my first Android device, so I will be comparing it a lot to iOS.  I’ve never had an Android device because I never had a desire for one, and the car install was really the perfect application of Android, as iOS is simply not as customizable as I would need it to be.

First, the hardware is really solid.  It feels like a good device when you hold it, and that’s important to me.  It’s light and thin, and it’s easy to hold with one hand or easy to type on with two hands the same way I’d type on my phone.  My first generation iPad is not easy to hold with one hand, nor is it easy to type on in that orientation.  The 7″ form factor may be a little small for some people, but it is honestly the perfect size to hold.  In comparison, I went to the Apple store today and held an iPad mini, and it felt just a little too wide.  Not a big deal for two-handed typing, but it is harder to hold with one hand unless you have huge hands.

The Nexus 7 does not have any physical buttons other than the sleep/wake button and the volume button.  This makes the face of the device harder to orient if you’re picking it up when the screen is off, and it is also pretty inconvenient to have to press the sleep/wake button on the side to wake the screen.  I think the device could benefit from a front button to give the user some orientation of top and bottom, and also to wake the screen with less effort.

As far as the operating system goes, I’m still getting used to it and I’m constantly picking out little details that I like or don’t like.  For example, to select a space between characters in iOS, you have to place your finger over the space and a little magnifying glass pops up under your finger so you can see what you’re selecting.  Oftentimes, this turns out to be highly inaccurate, and right as I find the space I want to select, I let go and the selection changes at the last second.  On Android, you begin the same way, but an arrow is placed under the space.  You simply let go and drag the arrow to the space you want to select.  This is, in my opinion, a vastly superior way to handle this task.

The touch screen is very accurate on the Nexus 7, and the device is very speedy, but yet, scrolling seems jumpy, and zooming oftentimes is not very smooth.  On iOS, scrolling and zooming are booth fluid.  It may seem like a little thing, but this honestly needs refinement on Android.

The Google Play store is…interesting.  The first app I tried to download turned out to be a trial app, and I didn’t even realize it until I opened the app.  This is my fault for not completely reading the description, but it took me by surprise.  Some of the apps are ridiculously sketchy, too.  I downloaded a live wallpaper that – when I opened it – would’ve made me scared if it was a website and I was on a PC using Internet Explorer.  It looked and felt like malware.  This is just not an experience you get on iOS, which, of course, has its ups and downs.  Apple’s “walled garden” is nice for feeling safe, even if you know that some things can still slip by Apple.  You also know you’re not getting a shitty app, for the most part.  It may not be a good app, but it won’t look and feel like malware.  This, of course, also means Apple can say no to a lot of really good apps for whatever reason they want, which is bad.  On Android, you don’t have to even use the Google Play store to install apps.

Many apps instantly pop up a changelog when you open them on Android.  In iOS, the changelog is available in the app update screen.  The more user-friendly and less intrusive approach here is Apple’s, hands down, but I feel like a lot of techies probably would prefer Android’s method.  I personally only sometimes look at changelogs and much prefer Apple’s method – the option to look only if I choose to look.

I’m torn on whether or not widgets are awesome or awful.  They’re essentially the entire reason I am using an Android device, since they make a “car interface” possible without a dedicated app or programming skills.  On the other hand, some of them are just…bad.  They don’t seem to stretch like you’d expect them to when you resize them, and the ones that do pixelate badly.  I feel like this may be due to some widgets being developed for smaller screens (phones), so this is probably an example of Android’s fragmentation causing a poor user experience.  On the flip side, I’d rather be able to use the pixelated widgets than be told I can’t because they’re not “compatible” with my device.  I feel like there must be some kind of middle ground here, but I don’t see either Google or Apple moving toward it since both of their models are working for them.

There are certain things about Android that you can change that you can’t even begin to affect on iOS without jailbreaking your device.  You can root your Android device, but I don’t plan on doing this.  I did replace the stock launcher app, though, which gives me the ability to add gestures and hide the dock, which you can’t do on iOS.  I’ve done the whole jailbreaking thing back in the 3GS days, and though you gain functionality, you lose the refinement and stability of the device.  While I may not lose refinement that doesn’t really exist on such a pedestal on Android, I am concerned about stability – especially since the Nexus will be mounted behind my dash panel, as long as I go through with the car install.

All in all, it’s a great device.  And if you’re buying the 16 GB Nexus 7 without LTE capability, unless there’s some reason you need iOS, I can’t see any reason to pay almost double for an iPad Mini ($229 vs $399).  That said, I’m still of the opinion that iOS provides a better user experience.

WWDC 2013

I’m moderately excited for OS X Mavericks and iOS 7. I think the changes in both look good, and since I was kind of worried Apple might try to make OS X more like iOS, I’m relieved to have had my worries quelled. Perhaps they learned from Windows 8 that there’s a limit at which consumers will accept changes designed for touchscreens on non-touch devices.

My mid-2010 unibody MacBook Pro (Melfina) is finally out of warranty. I’m pretty happy that the lifespan of the money I spent in 2007 on my first MacBook Pro has lasted this long, but I wonder if I would’ve bought a new laptop by now if Apple hadn’t replaced it under AppleCare in 2010 with a brand new model? I have zero performance issues with my current laptop, especially with the Intel 330 SSD in it, so I don’t foresee a laptop purchase in the near future unless mine breaks. Those new Haswell MacBook Airs look nice, but until I have a need, I’ll keep enjoying Melfina.

I do occasionally think of building a new desktop or buying a Mac Mini, which would be a justifiable use of money to replace my desktop that I built in 2007, but I only use my desktop connected to the TV to watch media. I suppose a Mac Mini would still be justifiable considering the use case, but I’m holding out on that as well.

Nerd things

Well, iPhone 5 is pretty nice.  It’s noticeably lighter than my iPhone 4, and it’s nice to have a fully functioning home button again.  The front-facing camera is pretty spiffy, and I feel like I can probably take decent pictures with it now that are a lot less grainy.

The biggest issue so far is the new dock connector (Lightning) – which, don’t get me wrong, I really like it, but I am used to having four dock cables plus the built in one in my Nissan.  Now I have only one and can’t use the iPhone 5 in my Nissan to play music.  I guess somewhat fortunately, the Alpine head unit in there is old and starting to have issues anyway (sometimes when I touch it or hit a bump, it turns off and turns back on), so I just went ahead and bought a new one rather than shelling out $30 for the dock/Lightning adapter, and now the new head unit should charge my phone (old one didn’t) and also do Bluetooth calling, which means I will actually be able to make phone calls in that car now.  Driving a manual is pretty prohibitive of holding a phone to your ear, which I guess is a good thing in its own way, but sometimes you have to make calls.  I guess I’ll just need to buy another Lightning cable, and I’ll be all set.

And LTE is pretty awesome.

Of course, the speed depends on where you are, and it’s much slower/sometimes not available at my house, but the speed above is pretty awesome considering my home Internet is about 13 Mbps.

I also bought an Intel 330 SSD for Melfina and two 4 GB sticks of RAM.  It’s been a really long time since I’ve bought computer parts, especially for legitimate upgrades to my main computer.  I’m really happy with Melfina, but the 80 GB capacity on my Intel X-25M G2 is not cutting it anymore, and RAM is just so cheap these days ($36 total) that there’s really no point in not making that upgrade, especially now that I’ll have the disk space for the larger swap file.

Also…I started playing World of Warcraft.  I managed to avoid that game for like eight years, but Sam plays it.  It’s something to do together, and those things come in short supply with the distance between us.  Playing an MMO brings back memories of Ragnarok, but I have been having those recently anyway due to the best new anime of the last season, Sword Art Online, which I highly recommend.

Oh yeah, and I got a new job that I start this week.  :D

iPhone 5

I ordered an iPhone 5 on pre-order launch day at 6:40AM.  Of course, this was already too late, and instead of receiving mine tomorrow, I won’t be getting it until early October.  My order status says “ships October 5th,” so we’ll see.

It seems people were disappointed with the announcement of the 5, but I don’t understand why.   I mean, what were they expecting?  Was it supposed to shoot lasers or something?  I mean, the Javascript engine is literally twice as fast as the 4S (and faster than every other smartphone included in that test, including some of the top Android phones).  The screen is bigger, the battery is better, it has LTE, 1.2 MP/720p front-facing camera, you don’t have to worry about breaking the glass on the back of the phone anymore…sounds good to me.

And I realize a lot of phones on the market already had most of these things, but they’re not iPhones.  Whine and complain all you want, but when it comes to usability and polish of the OS, iPhones are just the best.  Windows phones look nice too, but I couldn’t see myself getting an Android phone at any point.  I don’t need to root my phone or customize the crap out of it.  I want to text, talk, take pictures, browse the Internet, download the occasional cool app – that kind of stuff.  And that’s what iOS is good at.  Its fluidity cannot be beaten.  That’s not to say that iOS is the best for everyone; it just depends on what you need, and that kind of thing isn’t important to some people, but it is to me.

So of course, it’s a bigger upgrade going from my iPhone 4 than it would be from a 4S, but it’s a nice upgrade either way, and it’s not like Apple is forcing you at gunpoint to give them your money (Apple isn’t the government, after all :D).

I’m a little upset that I have to wait an extra two weeks for my 5, but it’s not a huge deal.  I’m probably write more about it when I get it.

Where have all of the tech posts gone?

I used to write and think quite a bit about technology stuff, but that just hasn’t been the case lately.  I still keep up with tech news and developments, but whereas four years ago I would’ve run home, partitioned a hard drive, and installed Windows 8 Consumer Preview, I haven’t even touched it yet other than downloading it when it came out months ago.

I remember constantly thinking about new computer parts I wanted, or new computers I wanted, or being really excited about hardware/software releases, but lately I’ve just been pretty content with my five year old desktop and my two year old laptop.  My laptop would also be five years old if Apple hadn’t given me a brand new one in 2010, but I think I still would be happy with my old MacBook Pro too.  It’s weird to me to think about that, but the only real upgrade I’ve done on any computer lately was the SSD in my laptop, and right now, that is the only upgrade I think about (my 80 GB SSD just isn’t big enough anymore, and I want an Intel 330 series drive because they’re faster and cheap for solid states drives with the Intel brand).  I mean, I want an iPhone 5 or whatever they’ll call it, but I feel like I would have been a lot more excited about it a few years ago.

I attribute this lackadaisical attitude to a few things:

  • Perhaps being a systems administrator has sort of dulled my desire to pursue really technical stuff outside of work.  Alternatively, maybe keeping up with server technologies has just taken priority over consumer technologies.
  • I’ve found a lot of other hobbies recently (some of which are old hobbies that I’ve gotten more into, and some of which are new): politics, cars, male fashion, and writing, though I am trying to make the latter into more than a hobby.
  • Consumer technology seems to be converging so much that’s it’s hard to find specific things to care about anymore.  In late 2006, you could’ve found me promoting OS X and Windows and hating on Linux pretty often.  I still think Linux (any flavor) is annoying and feel like OS X is the best consumer operating system, but Windows is a really close second, and I just don’t think it matters to most people anymore.  I spend most of my time in Chrome on OS X or Windows.  The main reason I prefer using OS X is because it has better/more polished/more intuitive multitasking (Mission Control/Exposé/hot corners), but I could almost as easily switch over to Windows and not really care a whole lot, as long as I could find a PC laptop that wasn’t ugly as sin (like most of them tend to be).

I guess I just find it interesting how that particularly part of my life has evolved.

Also, Mac OS X Mountain Lion is pretty sweet and was only $20.  Pretty awesome for an OS upgrade.  Thanks, zombie Steve Jobs.

Genius Bar Again

Went to the Apple Genius bar yesterday for the first time in a while.  Guy asked me what was wrong.  Pulled out my MacBook Pro, opened it, already had an Apple website open.  Said “I’m having a known issue with the NVidia 330m graphics.”  Let him read the Apple article on the issue.  Said “there’s three crash logs on the desktop.”

Dude then ordered a new logic board for me, no questions asked. :) I love Apple customer service.