Two Weeks with Two iPhone 6es

For the last two weeks, I have been using an iPhone 6. In almost every conceivable way, it’s been an upgrade from my iPhone 5. The larger size is the first noticeable difference, but I have gotten used to it and even come to appreciate it. Reading is more pleasant, and I am generating fewer typos because of more spacious keyboard layout. However, I am now working on my second phone. After about a week of using the first one, I noticed a dead pixel that warranted a replacement.

Three O’Clock… In the Morning?

Buying an iPhone on launch day is a vicious cycle. Because I am always eligible for an upgrade around the time a new iPhone form factor comes out, such as iPhone 4, iPhone 5, and now iPhone 6, there’s little reason for me to wait to get a new phone. It also helps that I start getting paid from my teaching jobs in mid-September after a three-month payroll drought over the summer months.

Like I did in 2010 and 2012, I set an alarm for the morning Apple started taking pre-orders at 3:00 AM Eastern Time. Every hardcore Apple fan knows Apple starts taking preorders for the newest iPhone and iPad at midnight Pacific Time. Another bit of wisdom that many of us have learned over the years is that the best way to preorder your shiny new device is to forgo visiting and to instead use the Apple Store app. I’ve done it at least three times, and I’ve never had to contend with broken HTTP connections or timeout errors. “It just works.”

Three-Hour Wait

The iPhone 6 was released two weeks ago on Friday, September 19. I was pretty busy that day route marking for Escape New York and starting the arduous process of packing up my stuff in Long Island City, with the help of my parents. Thus, I was unable to pickup my phone from the Grand Central Terminal Apple Store at 8:00 AM. The earliest I could get there was at 2:00 PM, and when I arrived, it was a veritable clusterfuck. The line for people looking to buy a phone without a preorder was at least a few-hundred persons deep. Even the line for people with preorders, according to the blue-shirted employee who guided me to the appropriate queue, required about three hours of your patience. I decided to leave and try back later.

I was spared from waiting in a line like this one at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

I was spared from waiting in a line like this one at the Fifth Avenue Apple Store. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

I returned to the same store at 8:00 PM that night, and the lines were gone. The store had sold out of phones, and there were people sitting on flattened cardboard boxes, apparently waiting for the next day’s supply to arrive. I explained to the security guard outside Grand Central Terminal that I had a reservation to pickup my phone. After he inspected the message on my Apple Store app indicating that my order was ready, he whisked me upstairs to get my phone. I was in and out in less than five minutes.

You’re Using it Wrong

I realize how crazy it might sound to go through all this trouble to get a new phone when the one I had before, a two-year old iPhone 5, was perfectly serviceable. Is it that “buying a new phone is part of a broad and serious American affliction?”

Paul Roberts has been hawking this Postmanesque diatribe. According to Roberts, most people who get new phones resemble those who “amuse ourselves to death” and measure “the extra productivity of a new device by ‘how many cat videos you can watch in an hour.'”

Sorry, but I am not most people. I use the shit out of my phone. After two weeks of using it, I have noticed some significant improvements in the iPhone 6 over the iPhone 5.

The larger form factor had made it easier to type. I can’t accurately measure this, but it seems like I am making fewer typos with the new phone. The only thing that gets in the way is the predictive typing, which I thought was really nifty on my iPhone 5 for the two days I had iOS 8 on it before upgrading to the newer phone. But now it feels like I can type faster than ever before. I am even better at typing my 1Password passphrase, which is very, very long. But I don’t need to type that as often because…

Touch ID has changed my life. Do you remember how we lived our lives without a search engine to find out whatever we wanted to know? I don’t. That’s how I feel about Touch ID. It took about two days to forget what it was like to not have this feature. How did I ever get by without it? It has saved me so much time, and I can now easily unlock my phone on the bike, though never while riding. I stop, pull out the phone, unlock it, respond via dictation, put the phone back in my pocket, and ride on… all in less than thirty seconds.

Incremental improvements add up. The battery gets me through a whole day and then some. The camera is significantly better, and I feel a little less anxious about shooting in low light. However, I still wish I could close the aperture for better depth of field like I can on a dedicated camera. And the screen is also much better: brighter with richer colors.

Bigger battery means more uninterrupted work. On Monday, I forgot to pack the VGA adapter for my MacBook Pro, although I do have a Lightning to VGA adapter as my EDC. I had no way to present my slide deck other than to use my iPhone. It worked flawlessly and I still went the rest of the workday without reaching for a charging cable.

The phone appears to hold up better to cosmetic damage than my iPhone 5. After only a month or so, my iPhone 5 already had visible scratches and few dents! It’ll be interesting to see how the new phone holds up after a month or two… and then a year or two.

iOS 8 is a really nice upgrade to the iPhone experience. There have been a lot of changes from the phone I was using in early September to the phone I have now. But many of those changes are based on the new iOS 8 software. If you have an iPhone 5c, or 5s, you already have a lot of benefits, such as:

  • Notification Center Widgets in the Today screen;
  • Extensions, such as those for 1Password and Day One;
  • All your photos in iCloud;
  • Siri that is actually useful with live dictation;
  • Third-party apps can authenticate you with Touch ID;
  • Messages, Safari, and Mail, the three apps I use the most, are significantly improved, and I love the new features.

I will be able to use Apple Pay. I am anxiously awaiting for this service to launch in October, and because it needs the NFC hardware, the only way it will work is with an iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, or an Apple Watch. And as much of an Apple fan boy as I am, I am unsure why I would need one. I’ll stick to the phone in my pocket as my personal computing device for now.

One Pixel in a Million

After about ten days of use, I noticed something. My new iPhone 6 had a dead pixel. It took me so long to notice it because it was right over the Phone app icon, in the top-left corner of the app icon grid, and who ever uses that app? For a while I thought it was a scratch. These new displays make it the screen content look like it sits on the screen not beneath it so I thought I could wipe it off. I couldn’t.

After some kvetching, I figured it would be worth it to take it to the Apple Store to get it checked. They confirmed that it was a dead pixel. The usual protocol to fix this issue is to replace the screen, but since the phone is so new, they didn’t have replacement screens. They had to treat my phone as DOA and gave me a new replacement for free.

It seems petty to get a whole new phone over a dead pixel (or two). After all, this phone has a million pixels (1334 x 750). Back in the mid-1980s, it was almost unthinkable to have a computer that had a megapixel display, and I myself wouldn’t have a computer with that much resolution until the early 2000s. But this is something I am going to use every single day for the next two years. That’s a long time to look at something dead.

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