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iPhone 6 Plus, cannibalised keyboard and the orange teapot

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After a week with the iPhone 6 Plus I have grown to love it. No longer do I harbour dark thoughts of returning it to Apple in favour of the 4.7in model. On the contrary, I am revelling in the extra screen size, the superb resolution and crisp text. My one criticism of the overall appearance of the 6 Plus is that it is a bit too long and not quite wide enough. The chosen 16:9 letterbox screen might be good for viewing videos but for my sort of work it offends my sense of perspective. On the other hand, the relative narrowness means that it fits into pockets more easily.

For reading, the 6 Plus is a delight. Somehow the text looks much more crisp than on all other iOS devices. I find I can read small font sizes more easily than on the iPad mini, for instance, and certainly better than on the iPhone 5S. I throttled the Kindle font size down a couple of notches and am enjoying the greater amount of content on screen with the reduction in page turning.  I have also been pleasantly surprised by the Readly app which keeps me constantly supplied with magazines. At the outset I feared the publications would be unreadable on the 6 Plus. However, this isn’t so. The experience is not quite as good as with the iPad mini but is more than acceptable, especially in landscape mode. 

I am not discouraged by the larger footprint of the 6 Plus and I find it quite comfortable to hold. It fits easily in a shirt pocket or the inside pocket of a suit coat. It even fits it into the front pocket of a pair of jeans but this will be something for next summer. Over the winter there will always be a nice jacket pocket to house the phone. I have adapted to two-thumb typing, as with the iPad, and it works well. The experience of typing is undoubtedly enhanced by the new predictive text facility of iOS 8.

Undoubtedly I did the right thing in exchanging the smooth, slippery leather Apple case for the rubbery silicone version. This makes the phone much more secure in the hands. It feels good, with just the right amount of resistance, and it helps prevent slipping when the phone is propped up on a table. 

Life without the iPad mini

As a replacement for my iPhone 5S and iPad mini combination it is more successful than I could have hoped. The tablet has not been switched on for a week. However, I do have some reservations about the way iPhone apps behave on the 6 Plus but I will come to that later.

The only thing I really miss from the iPad mini is the Logitech Keyboard folio which I have been using for the past several months. While it creates a rather bulky package, the folio turns the mini into a perfect little laptop for writing and browsing.

Keyboard options for the iPhone 6 Plus are so far almost non-existent. I found the iWerkz folding keyboard and stand but the price is high at Amazon UK. So my thoughts turned back to the Logitech folio which I already own and which has now become redundant. The keyboard is just the right size, any smaller and typing would be a pain. So why not use it for the new iPhone? This would be cheaper than buying a new keyboard.

Cannibalised keyboard

I carried the folio keyboard around for a couple of days just to make sure it would work with the phone. It did. So the next step was to cannibalise the folio by pulling the keyboard away from the cover. It is held by glue and comes away cleanly without any nasty residue on the bottom of the keyboard. 

The first impression is how thin this thing is. And it is featherweight at only 125 grams. Functionally, it works just as it did when encased in the bulky folio. To prevent it moving around Starbucks’ tables I added two small adhesive rubber pads at the top left and right. It now sits firmly on a flat surface and feels just right for typing.

I particularly like this keyboard because it has a physical on/off switch unlike, for instance, the Apple Wireless Keyboard which is controlled by various presses on one button. It is never clear when this device is on or off. If the keyboard is not switched off before replacing it in the bag you find that the phone is still connected and no virtual keyboard appears. Worse, the live keyboard in the bag will constantly wake the phone and could result in unwanted actions and battery wastage.

This cheap and impromptu bodge with the Logitech keyboard is working really well. All I need is some form of clip stand to attach to the keyboard to provide a secure rest for the phone. In the meantime, I can usually find a suitable bit of tableware to prop the device. The best so far is the small orange teapot in the picture. 

The one device

Carrying just one device instead of two has many advantages, not just in weight saving which I cover later. It also ensures seamless working and avoids synchronisation failures when the second device is pulled out in a no-signal area, such as in the depths of the London Underground. With just one device to worry about, all apps are in the state you just left them when above ground. 

Strangely, I find myself using the 6 Plus all the time, even when relaxing at home. Previously I have felt the iPad mini or, even, a larger iPad Air to be essential. Now I am not so sure. I could get tired of the smaller screen but, for the moment, this is truly The One Device for me. 

App mishaps

Earlier I mentioned the current problem with some apps. This is both in general and specifically in relation to landscape mode. This iPhone 6 is not a small iPad and currently it is not possible to run iPad apps (which are mostly customised for the larger screen and for landscape mode). Instead, existing iPhone apps are scaled up and this sometimes results in extra-large type and, sometimes, a black border at top and bottom of the screen. Also, many of my productivity iPhone apps do not work in landscape (such as OmniFocus, Reeder, 1Password) while others do but are currently unsatisfactory (for instance Writer Pro). It is annoying when working in landscape mode to open another app and find it stuck in portrait format, sideways on.

I hope that over the next few weeks most of these applications will be updated to make better use of the larger iPhone 6 screen estate. I would also love to be given the option to run iPad apps on the 6 Plus but I am not sure this is physically possible given the different proportions of the 6 Plus and iPad screens.  

Battery life

I am impressed with the battery life of the 6 Plus. When I decided to make it my one device, replacing both phone and iPad, I feared the worst. I make very few phone calls but I am a power user when it comes to writing, browsing, texting and emailing. My iPhone 5S was always running out of juice late in the afternoon and I often found the iPad mini down to the red bar when I returned home in the evening. 

So far, the 6 Plus has been a revelation. Bearing in mind that it is out on its own, just the one device and the one battery, it stands up to the daily grind better than the 5S and the iPad mini combined. In a week of constant use it has never fallen below 50% battery capacity. Today, after being out for eight hours, during which time I have been working on the phone more than usual, I have returned to base with an impressive 77% of battery remaining. This is unprecedented for any device and it gives me the confidence that the battery will stand up to a full year’s hard labour without too much effort.

Weight loss

Life before the Six Plus meant carrying around an iPhone, in a leather case, and the iPad mini in the keyboard folio case. That lot totals 770g. Now my burden of 6 Plus and tiny keyboard comes to a far more comfortable 320g. What’s more, this combination does exactly the same job.

I do have reservations about the updating of apps to work in landscape mode. And I hope that Apple will concede that the iPhone 6 Plus is probably better suited to iPad formatting than to iPhone, if feasible. Until that happens, the 6 Plus is not a like-for-like replacement for the iPad. But it does well and I am happy to accept a few compromises in return for the halving of weight and the generally greater portability.