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Apple's iPhone 6 First Impressions

Wall Street Journal:-The iPhone is no longer really a phone.
Smartphones have been heading that way for a while. But with the iPhone 6, Apple Inc. AAPL -0.14%  has made phone calls a third or even fourth-level concern, after sending messages, taking pictures—even paying for a cup of coffee.

My initial impression is that the iPhone 6 catches up on most of the things we've come to expect from competitors, while expanding what we've come to expect from a "phone." I'm particularly intrigued to try Apple Pay, a technology that allows you to replace a wallet full of credit cards with your iPhone.

This transformation is a good thing for most of us, though turning the iPhone into a multi-faceted minicomputer required some compromises.
The biggest change is the size of the iPhone 6—it measures 4.7 inches diagonally and its big brother, the iPhone 6 Plus, measures 5.5 inches diagonally. You can still buy the iPhone 5S if you prefer the classic size.

All that extra screen space allows you to do a lot more with the iPhone 6. My morning train commute probably will be more productive—I can read more emails, view bigger pictures and type more easily. The screen is brighter and offers higher-resolution than existing iPhones.

People who do a lot of work on the go will likely be drawn to the larger iPhone 6 Plus; it feels like a big leap forward.

But it also means average thumbs will get a workout. The 4-inch screen on the iPhone 5 and 5S was designed so that you could operate it with just one hand, with your thumb able to reach almost across the entire screen.
With an iPhone 6 that I played with after Apple's keynote on Tuesday, my thumb could reach across just over half of the screen; and with the iPhone 6 Plus, I could reach just about a third of the screen. The larger model is only a bit smaller than an iPad Mini, and can be hard to grip tightly. It fits in my pants pockets, but some people who favor tighter jeans may have more difficulty.

Apple is aware of this compromise, and rounded the edges on its glass display to make it feel more comfortable in your hand. It didn't, however, add waterproofing like on the Samsung Electronics Co. 005930.SE -0.74%  's Galaxy S5, which would have made it thicker.

Apple also worked in some modifications to the iPhone's operating system to ease one-handed use, features not found on other large-screened smartphones. Press lightly twice on the iPhone 6's Touch ID button, and whatever app you're using instantly becomes half-screen sized, so you can reach stuff at the top of the screen, like the icon to start a new email.
In the Messages app, you can send a voice note with just your thumb by pulling up a quarter-circle sized control in the lower-right side. Samsung allows you place apps in a smaller window or shift the size of the keyboard in its latest flagship phone, but it isn't quite as elegant.

I'm interested to see how helpful these controls turn out to be during everyday use. Can I tweet with a 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus while holding on to a subway pole?
Another compromise Apple had to address was battery life. A larger screen takes more battery power to keep bright, especially with all the apps we increasingly are using throughout our day.

The iPhone 6 has a bigger battery, but is it good enough? Apple says the iPhone 6 will get slightly better battery performance than its predecessor. Yet where it really matters, performance appears to be about the same: When Web browsing over a high-speed LTE network with the iPhone 6, you'll get 10 hours, just like with the iPhone 5S.

Many iPhone owners, including this one, know that 10 hours still isn't sufficient, especially as the phone ages and the battery gets weaker.

Designing computers the size of a phone or a watch is about compromises. Fortunately, Apple seems to have made some good choices. In in a few months, many of us will wonder how we ever used such a small "phone" before.

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