Thursday, October 8, 2015

My iPhone 6s and iOS 9 Experience

Restoring from my iTunes backup didn’t work the first time. It didn’t put all the apps back or put them in right places. I wiped the phone, and the second time it worked perfectly.

The iPhone 6s definitely looks larger than my 5s. Within a day or so, the extra row of icons, and having more screen space in general, feels normal. Reading is much better than on the narrower screen. Typing is a bit easier. Going back would feel constricting.

It does not feel normal in my hand, though, and every day I miss the 5s’s size. There are so many times, especially with Safari View Controller, where I need to reach the top of the screen, and this just feels awkward. The Reachability double-touch—which must be very light—feels less convenient than a hand shimmy. Perhaps it would work better with a dedicated hardware button. It’s just not as easy to use one-handed as the 5s.

I have always used my iPhones caseless. For me, at least, this is no longer possible with the iPhone 6s. Improved or not, the metal surface feels slippery. Between that and the thinner, smoother shape, I found myself gripping the phone much more tightly. It’s strange because the 6s looks curved—is actually curved—but it feels almost pointy, digging into in my hand; the 5s has edges that look sharp, but it sits lightly in the hand, the edge feeling more like a texture than a blade. Every other iPhone has felt good in my hand, some better than others, but all good. The 6s was so uncomfortable that I would have returned it if I couldn’t find a case that I liked. Secondarily, the camera bump is unsightly and unpleasant to touch, and having case mitigates that.

I wanted to like the Apple silicone case because it is very grippy and has several great color options. Unfortunately, it is way too grippy for everyday use. It sticks going into my jeans pocket, and pulling out the phone turns my pocket inside-out. The silicone case also collects dust and lint like crazy.

I settled on the Apple leather case. It changes the phone’s shape enough that it feels comfortable in my hand. It’s grippy enough, but it still slides in and out of my pocket easily. With the case, the 6s feels much larger than the 5s. Unlike with the 5s, it sometimes gets situated in my pocket such that it digs in when I bend to sit or stand. (I’m on the slim side but don’t wear skinny jeans.) The lip at the top of the case collects dust, but the rest of it does not. For the first few days, the leather irritated my skin a bit, but now it’s fine. I don’t mind the leather wearing, but I’m slightly worried that it will get smelly or grimy over time. Had I known about the Evutec Karbon before buying the leather case, I might have gone with that instead.

I’m not happy with the buttons compared with previous iPhones. Without a case, the buttons seemed too easy to press. I would power off the phone by accident. With a case, the power button is almost too hard to press if I don’t get the spot exactly right. I also don’t like its position on the side, opposite the volume buttons. Often, I’ll grab the phone to turn it off, bracing against the volume side while pressing the power side, and I’ll accidentally change the volume.

The speaker seems much better. I’ve found myself playing music or podcasts from my pocket if my Bluetooth headset is charging or not handy.

The Touch ID sensor is much faster, not instant, but so much faster that I sometimes unlock the phone by accident. I intend to turn on the screen from the Home button, then swipe up to access the camera. Instead, the phone unlocks, and I end up at the home screen. Now if I want to get to the camera, I tap the Home button with the tip of my finger to prevent it from unlocking.

The battery life definitely seems shorter than on my two-year-old 5s, but this is not a serious problem for me. I’m not sure whether I have the Samsung or TSMC A9, and I’m skeptical that there is much difference in battery life.

Overall, phone reception seems better. I often have two or three bars in locations where I previously had one or two. Unfortunately, I’ve had lots of problems with the phone not ringing. At first I thought this was because I had misconfigured Do Not Disturb. But then it failed to ring when I asked someone in my “Disturb” Contacts group to call. And it has also failed to ring outside of the Do Not Disturb hours.

On the software side, the overall speed is incredible, though it all too soon becomes expected. San Francisco is great. Apps are finally listed alphabetically in the Notifications screen in Settings, so it’s much easier to find them.

I love being able to move the cursor around with 3D Touch and trackpad mode. Unfortunately, this does not work with third-party keyboards. Peek and Pop are useful and reduce the need to reach to go back. I like being able to hard-swipe from the left edge to switch apps. I can finally print to PDF by peeking and popping on the print preview, and there is also a “Save PDF to iBooks” action. Not every app can print, though, so it’s still nice to have PDF Converter (App Store).

“Hey Siri” works again, and it’s surprisingly useful when the iPhone is unplugged. I find myself using it from across the room.

The camera is much improved, although I would say not as big an improvement as with previous two-year periods. The Camera app does seem to open a lot faster, which is great. It’s still infuriating that the camera doesn’t remember that I always want to use HDR.

I like the idea of Live Photos but find myself not using the feature. This is partly because they don’t automatically import well into Lightroom. Lightroom sees that the movie and photo files have the same basename, and it imports the movie file with the photo as an invisible sidecar. To see the movie and photo separately, you have to rename one or the other before importing. That’s easy enough to do with a find and replace, but it can’t be done within Lightroom, which means an extra step or two. The other problem is that Lightroom seems to set the movie’s date to when the movie was imported, rather than when it was recorded, which means that the movie-photo pairs don’t sort together.

There’s an unfortunate bug where the music or podcast stops playing when I open the Camera app. This is related to Live Photos, but it happens even if Live Photos is disabled. Apple told me that a fix is in the works.

I’ve heard that even with iOS 9.0.2, there may still be a bug where apps use cellular data when they’re not supposed to. At least judging by iOS’s self-reported statistics, the switch is working for me.

Lastly, it’s frustrating that Contacts groups don’t work better. The groups are not sorted alphabetically, and there is still no way to create a group or assign a contact to a group from the phone (except via the Web interface).

Update (2015-10-21): The bug where audio pauses when you open the Camera is not fixed in iOS 9.1.

26 Comments RSS · Twitter

This works great for those of us who don't want to use a case.

It's so grippy, in fact, that I let my 8 and 10 year old sons handle (and use) my phone all the time without worrying about it slipping out of there hands.

And, even though it's grippy, it slides in and out of jeans pockets without getting stuck.

@pinkoos Thanks, however although I don’t really want a case, I think I need one to make the edges of the phone comfortable and to surround the camera bump.

I settled on a Spigen case (still waiting for it to arrive). It looks promising.

I installed a little app that informed me my phone has the Samsung chip. I'm curious to find out whether battery really is an issue with it and if a recall happens. Doubtful, but I'm still looking out for it.

I too, have been bitten by the bug of music stopping when I open the camera. Looking forward to that fix.

And as for TouchID, I've learned to use my pointer finger if I don't want to unlock the phone. Both my thumbs and index fingers are programmed with TouchID. I can't do my pointers because both of them have oddly become calloused to the point that TouchID doesn't like them.

I bought the Spigen wireless charging case (Tough Armor Volt), which is different from some older wireless charging cases in that it doesn't add much to the height of the phone because the Lightning connection is on a removable cable stub (which actually only has contacts on one side); you aren't restricted to micro USB. It's heavier than I would want and has the stupid cutout for the Apple logo on the back, but it does work well. It has large button overlays for the volume/power buttons which I find are actually helpful. The edges of the cable stub were painfully sharp the first week or so, but they have smoothed out with use and no longer bother me when I touch them (this seems like a simple change to make in manufacturing, so it may have been fixed already.)

It charges in my car's builtin Qi charger (in the center console) on short trips, though on a 5 hour trip with GPS/cellular permanently on for navigation and music streaming, either the iPhone, case or charger would cycle on and off, likely because of heat. I'm going to get a Qi charger for my bedside as I will be able to take the phone on/off easily in the dark; probably will still get a dock for my desk so I can see the screen. I did buy the new Apple Lightning dock but unfortunately it isn't compatible with a case as thick as the Tough Armor Volt.

I have medium sized hands (surgical glove size 7.5 if that means anything to anyone reading this :-) and found the 5s just about perfect size-wise. I had some hand cramping my first few days with the 6s (which I've had with larger phones in the past, first one I found to do it was Google's Nexus One). More than the size difference seems to be the weight difference, though; it really is *much* more noticeably heavier. When I pick up my old 5s now feels like it's made of air.

I did not have much luck with the prepaid T-Mobile-through-Straight Talk service I currently have, but some of that is specific to my location; I hope to put up a blog post about that as I've not found much concise information that discusses the tradeoffs involved. Happily, unlike the AT&T contract I was previously stuck with, I just paid for a month and will be switching carriers in a couple weeks.

Like you, Michael, I'd prefer to use my iPhone 6 without a case, but the curved sides are just too slick for me. I have two cases I switch back and forth with. This one from Anker is really nothing more than a glorified bumper with a clear back. I also use a Magpul Field Case. Both have offered good bump protection on the corners of the phone, and the Field Case is raised ever so slightly around the edges of the screen, providing a sliver of drop-screen-flat protection. I also have a Zagg InvisibleShield installed, and that's already proven worth the price with one free replacement from a drop. The Zagg took the damage, and the iPhone screen had nary a scratch.

"It’s strange because the 6s looks curved—is actually curved—but it feels almost pointy, digging into in my hand; the 5s has edges that look sharp, but it sits lightly in the hand, the edge feeling more like a texture than a blade."

(my bolding.)

Jony Ive Unbound!

I actually carved and sanded down the sharp edges of a MPB at one point...

"I also don’t like its position on the side, opposite the volume buttons."

It's probably the poorest design decision in the soap bar design for the iPhone 6 and 6s.

Isn't the Samsung/TSMC issue only with the 6s+? I don't think it affects the 6s.

I notice a huge battery difference with my 6s+ after my 5s. How much of that is just to the natural battery cycle on the 5s I can't say. Like you this isn't a big deal since I plug it in religiously whenever I'm in my office, at home, or in my car.

I really miss sharp edges of the 5/5s to the curve of the 6 series. But it's not that big a deal. I don't have a case yet. I ought get one. Weirdly I find I like the cheap silicon cases best as they seem to offer the best protection on dropping.

Of course what I'd really want is to go back to the 3.5" size. That was perfect for one handed use. Even with the 5/5s I found my thumb feeling strained or having to do weird hand distortions. With the 6 series I knew one handed use was completely out. Since it wouldn't work I figured why not just get the biggest one since they were all too big for my preference. No complaints thus far. I do wish that the multitasking the Air 2 offers would be available for the 6s+ since it's definitely big enough.

@Clark The articles and photos I’ve seen seem to be referring to the 6s. I was thinking about that argument for getting a 6s Plus as well—do away with my need for an iPad—but it definitely wouldn’t fit in my pocket.

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