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Spending One Month with the iPhone 6s Plus and My Take on it.


I have been a fan of technology for as long as I can remember. In fact my job for the past several years deals directly with the efficient and effective use of technology in education. Being a fan of tech it might be interesting to note that I have never owned an iPhone. I have owned several Apple products including an iPad, but I haven not had that for several years now. iPhones and iPads are owned and used in great numbers by educators and people everywhere and they often have questions or issues with these devices like any other.



I have been thinking I should probably own and use an iPhone so I can more quickly and easily help others when they have questions and issues with their iOS devices. I have been on a family plan with Verizon for a number of years and recently I was able to get a Project fi sim and try Google's new cell service. Because this is so inexpensive, less than $30 a month, I decided to put an iPhone 6s Plus on my Verizon line so I could get familiar with it.

I ordered the iPhone on Pre-order Day and just a few days after it arrived the new Nexus Phones were announced and up for pre-order as well. I made a rash decision to sell my Nexus 6, pre-order the new Nexus 6p, and go all iPhone and iOS until the new Nexus arrived.  That turned out to be an entire month, but it gave me the time to really get to know the iPhone and iOS.

Important Details: 

I am a Google power user, both my personal and work lives all involve using Google products all of the time. I really believe that Google's openness to being as platform agnostic as possible is really outstanding and while many Google services work better on Android I believe that is mostly due to Apple and iOS's closed nature. That may sound like I'm digging on Apple, but it does give people choice and that's really important. A closed ecosystem has it's benefits and it's detriments.

Therefore it's important to note that I didn't use many of Apple's built in Apps. Basically if there was a Google App replacement I used that instead.

The Good

Battery Life

One of the most incredible things about the 6s Plus is it's battery life.  I never finished a day with less than 50% battery life and have even gone more than two days without charging the battery on the phone. I have never used any phone previous to this one that had this kind of battery life. I had heard from many people in the past that iPhone battery life was less than stellar, but Apple really did an outstanding job with iOS9, and its newest iPhones.  

I used the 6s Plus for work, personal and a business account and I always leave everything on including WiFi, location, and Bluetooth. While I would say I use my phone more than some people, I don't typically need it while I'm at work as everything comes through my computer.  I do use it frequently when I go to meetings to take notes or to answer emails, texts, and chats while I'm on the go for work and personal life though.  I don't really play games much, but I do listen to music often and frequently use my phone to cast music and stream video to other devices. If your usage is different, then experiences with battery life will be too.

Screen

The iPhone 6s Plus has a great screen. The colors are accurate, the black levels are solid and I was able to read the display outside. There is not much more to say about the display other than it's great. I read articles and posts frequently on my mobile device, and I never felt any eye strain or unhappiness with the 6s Plus. You'll love it's display!

Build Quality

There is no question that the build quality of all Apple products is great and the 6s Plus is no exception.  Everything from the build materials to the speaker were excellent. I did have a few instances where I covered the speaker with my finger on accident and couldn't hear anything though. The side switch to put the iPhone into vibrate mode was nice as well, though I did accidentally switch it a few times. The only thing that felt less than premium to me was the Home button. It just felt like eventually it would wear out from usage. I don't know if that is true and with Taptic Engine, I'm not sure why Apple just didn't make that a solid piece of glass like their track pads.

Cameras

The cameras on the 6s Plus are both pretty solid overall. Throughout this post is a sampling of some of the pictures that I took using the 6s Plus (Photos taken of the iPhone were taken with a Nexus 6p). I really enjoyed both the panoramas and the slow-mo options on the iPhone. They were easy to use and generally things turned out well. It's a solid camera on a phone. Is the the best camera? I couldn't tell you as I haven't used every single phone on the market. I can say that it is a great camera.

Speed

The iPhone 6s Plus also was pretty snappy overall. I never really had issues with the phone feeling slow or laggy. There were times where I felt the scrolling would have been smoother that I experienced. I have always felt that scrolling was one of iOS's greatest features. This didn't happen often though.

Needs Some Work, But Has Potential

iOS

First, it's very important to understand that I live in the Googleverse.  Not everyone does and many people are firmly entrenched in the Appleverse and in iOS. So my perspective comes from several years of being on Android which is a platform that I really enjoy.  This section is all about the things that I was frustrated with at times, but could become much better in the future if Apple chooses to implement some of theses changes which it likely may not. 

Notifications

Notifications on iOS are really frustrating if you have come over from Android. In Android, when an action is taken in an app the notification goes away. When you archive of an email or the check Twitter the notification for that item in the notification shade disappear.  On iOS it's still there even after I have taken action on that item. That is annoying and ridiculous and something Apple needs to fix.

Along with notifications not disappearing, the fact that you cannot take action on most of them from the lockscreen really makes the notifications on the lockscreen sort of useless. While this also happens in Android if your screen is locked, when you press the notification in Android, it asks you to unlock and poof your in the app doing what you need to do. I did not find this to be the case with iOS. Every Time I unlocked, I was at the home screen. That was also frustrating.

Further, with Android I can both trust devices and places to keep my device unlocked for a period of time or while the trusted device is connected. For example, my Android Wear watch keeps my phone unlocked and the location of my tablet at home keeps my tablet unlocked after I enter the passcode for 4 hours. This is a real time saver even with advances in fingerprint technology.



Lastly, iOS groups your notifications in bundles, but then shows the entire message for each one. This not only takes up tons of real estate, but also makes it difficult to quickly triage your notifications.  Basically iOS notifications are pretty useless. Of course, you always have those great red bubbles to tell how many notifications you have as well. Those also don't always go away when you have taken care of all of your notifications either.

Notifications can be fixed on iOS, but are mostly not as useful compared to what is on Android. This is a personal preference to some degree, but Apple could make things much better on this front.

3D Touch

3D Touch is a new feature on the 6s line of phones allowing you to press harder to get a popup menu of things you might want to do quickly.  Things like posting to Instagram, taking a photo, or peeking inside of something.
Since I basically didn't use any of the Apple apps, this feature was largely a non-starter for me. I see potential here, but it did cause some issues for me when I wanted to rearrange my home screen as I often pressed too hard and activated 3D Touch instead. I see some great potential for this feature inside of apps, but that will require app creators to implement it. Once that happens, I think it will be a pretty cool feature.

The Not So Good

I had several issues when using the 6s Plus and iOS 9. Some had do do with software, some with hardware, and some with me and my attachment to Android.

Software

For some reason I always thought that Android had issues in it's software that requires you to restart your device once in awhile to keep things running well and iOS didn't. I was wrong about that. I had several occasions where I needed to login to something like WiFi at a conference and the keyboard just wouldn't show up. To be completely transparent, I also had Swiftkey installed as a keyboard, but iOS seems to always switch to the standard keyboard, I'm guessing for security, to enter passwords for things. However, I even removed Swiftkey to see if that was the issue, but my keyboard still didn't come back. I had to restart in order to get that to work. I'm not sure I have ever had that issue on Android in 5 years.



I also had issues at times where things were just janky and I had to restart in order to get everything to work correctly. Staying connected to Apple TV using Airplay and Chromecast to present or for music and video was often difficult.  Further, he app switcher is pretty terrible. I often closed the wrong apps on accident. Along with that when  apps are inside of a folder and you press the home button you go back to the folder. I just wanted to go to the home screen. Overall, iOS just left me feeling a little underwhelmed in these areas.

I also used my iPhone with a Huawei Watch running Android Wear and my Pioneer head unit in my car that was able to use Car Play. I had less that awesome experiences with both of these, but I plan to do separate, shorter, posts about both of those items. Just know that they both worked, but need lots of work. The Android Wear part is not surprising of course, but Car Play should be better than it is.

Lastly, iOS is simple and that is good for people who use it. Having icons on a home screen is nice
and all, but I really love the widgets in Android. They are useful and really take the place of what 3D Touch does in many respects while often providing more information. For those that don't know what widgets are, and many Android users are in this boat too, they are mini versions of their full apps that show you things like the weather, your calendar appointments and your feed in social media apps. The are great and something most people don't even know exist. iOS could benefit from widgets living on the home screen instead of the notification shade.

Hardware

I liked everything about the iPhone hardware except for the Home button. Of all of the things that could have used 3D Touch, and the Taptic Engine in a useful way, that would have been it. Why have a physical button that will break down over time? Couple that with the Fingerprint reader that mostly works, but requires a full press instead of just a tap and you lost me Apple. The Home button also makes a large phone even larger. So build the reader into the bottom fifth of the screen itself and use 3D Touch to get you back to the home screen. It makes the phone smaller, makes it easier to unlock, and uses 3D touch usefully. Do that and you would have something truly innovative. 

Conclusion

I'm really glad that I got to use the iPhone 6s Plus for a month and that I'm in a place that I can keep it and have an Android phone too. It was great to see how iOS worked and I understand why people like the hardware and many of the features of iPhone. In the end, I drove my colleagues completely nuts complaining about the issues I had with the iPhone 6s Plus. Thanks for letting me do that! I learned that I really appreciate that there are different platforms for different people. Android is for me, but it's not necessarily for everyone. 

I don't see many huge differences between the platforms overall, but for people who live in the Googleverse, things just work better on Android. If you are heavily invested in iOS, it's hard to make a switch. That is the lesson I learned here. It's really unfortunate how we get locked into one thing or the other. I still prefer things that work anywhere and are not closed, but doing things that way does provide great benefits like cohesion and security.  

The iPhone 6s Plus is a solid computer in your hand and it's likely anyone who uses it will really love it. However, if you get a chance to try multiple platforms you should. At the very least, it will make you appreciate the things you take for granted a little more.

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