iPhone 6 Plus

Review: Spigen Exact-Fit iPhone Case

A few months back I wrote up a review on the BookBook case for iPhone, and in that review I concluded that the case just wasn't quite right for me. It didn't fit well with how I used my iPhone. Since then I had to go out and find a case that did fit my needs. I really loved the slim case that came as part of the BookBook case, so I ended up searching for a slim case that was similar. I found one I really like...

I did quite a bit of searching and these were the features that I really wanted:

  • Slim case, needed to add almost no thickness to the phone
  • Slightly raised edges to the case to provide some drop protection to the screen
  • Didn't cover up the base of the phone (easy access to the lighting connector)
  • Provide more "grip" than the naked iPhone to keep the phone in my hand

You would think that the above criteria would describe a huge number of iPhone cases out there, but surprisingly that wasn't the case. There was always one of the features a given case would be missing. But I finally found a case that has all of these features, the Spigen Exact-Fit iPhone case. I bought the iPhone 6 Plus version, but there is also a version for the iPhone 6, the iPhone 6s, and for the iPhone 6s Plus. There is just enough of a thickness difference between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6s that you will most likely need to get the correct case (this is a very tight fitting case with it being so thin).

I've been using this case for several months now and I love it! It is amazingly thin, feels great in the hand and provides that little bit of extra protection that I wanted. If there is one drawback to the case it would be the recessed mute switch and volume buttons. It does make it a little harder to access these buttons, but it also protects them in case of a drop. can't really complain too much there and honestly I don't access these buttons often enough for it to be an issue.

If you are looking for a very slim iPhone case you can't beat the price on these cases and based on my experience with the case I don't think you will be disappointed.

Review: iPhone 6 Plus BookBook Case by Twelve South

I am a big fan of Twelve South products. I owned a BookBook case for my iPad mini (see my review )and it was absolutely the perfect case for me for that device. My wife also uses a BookBook for her 13" MacBook Air and used to use a BookBook for her iPad as well and she loved both of these products. So it was a pretty easy decision for me to make when I got my iPhone 6 Plus to go ahead and go with a BookBook case.

Quality

The quality on the iPhone 6 Plus BookBook case is what I expected from Twelve South...exceptional. One of my co-workers has a BookBook knock-off for his work provided iPhone and it is not real leather and is wearing very poorly. The BookBook wears like a champ. The more you use and carry the case the better it looks. The material used for this case really is similar to that of the old-school leather bound books. In fact, I would argue that the look and value of the BookBook case actually increases over time. This is one case where you might actually want to consider buying the case used, much like you would pay extra when purchasing a baseball glove that has already been broken in.

New Design

Twelve South recently updated the design of the BookBook cases with these new cases for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. These new design changes include:

  • Re-designed removable plastic outer snap-on case for the phone (used to be integrated directly into the case and non-removable). Now it acts like its own stand alone case.
  • New softer non-leather inner material that is more pliable and works better for holding credit cards in place

Functionality

The case worked perfectly as advertised. Credit cards and my drivers license were easily accessible from the card slots on the inside flap of the case. There was more than enough room to carry all the cards I could possibly need, but that might not be the case for everyone. If you have a George Costanza wallet...

...then you might have more items to carry on your wallet than I do. As you put more cards in the BookBook, the case expands outward and becomes more bulky. I have also noticed that if you later reduce the number of cards you carry that the slots, which stretched to accommodate more than one card per slot, may be a little too loose for just carrying one card in a single slot. It is possible for a card to accidentally slide out under certain conditions, so I would recommend against keeping more than a single card in a slot unless you ALWAYS intend to carry 2 cards in that slot.

The black outer mold case that snaps onto your phone is my favorite part of this case. In fact, if I could purchase just this black shell case and use it I would (more on this later). I don't know how Twelve South did it, but they managed to make a very thin profile case that has a substantial feel with very good grip. I can't say enough good things about this black shell case. The only negative to this part of the case is that the finish is starting to wear off in spots.

Side view of the snap-on case. Some of the finish is starting to wear off.

Side view of the snap-on case. Some of the finish is starting to wear off.

Knowing the excellent Twelve South customer support, I have no doubt that they will fix this issue for me. The most important feature of this black shell case is that is contains a locking mechanism that allows you to not only fully remove your phone from the BookBook case but to also partially unattached the case from the book portion to allow the phone to be tilted away from the case and held in the landscape position so it can be used to watch videos or to make it easier to display when using it with a Bluetooth keyboard.

Case shown in the landscape holder mode

Case shown in the landscape holder mode

It does take a certain touch in order to slide the case in and out of the BookBook so you can either partially detach or fully remove the phone. Even after doing it many times I still find myself having to make several attempts to fully remove the iPhone from the BookBook. Although, I would much rather have this issue rather than having it too easily come free from the case. At least this way I know my iPhone isn't coming out of the case unless I want it to.

The last major feature of the case is the pouch behind the credit card slots that you can use to store cash and receipts. The pouch is not long enough to keep an unfolded bill, you must fold cash in order for it to fit length-wise. I have found that if I am carrying a lot of cash it is better to fold the cash in thirds only s few bills at a time and arrange the stacks of folded bills vertically along the pouch as to minimize the thickness.

Verdict

This may surprise you, but I won't be keeping the bookbook case. It's not the fault of the case design of quality, but this case just doesn't fit well with how I like to carry my phone. I really like to carry my iPhone 6 Plus in mY front pants pocket and this case is just too bulky to do that with (unless you are wearing really loose jeans or baggy shorts). I knew going in that this might end up being the case, but I wanted to see if having such a nice book-style case like this might change how I carry my iPhone. It didn't. 90% of the time I carry my iPhone around with only the black outer shell case and I leave the book portion of the case in my "man purse"

So now I'm in the market for a really good thin profile shell case for my iPhone 6 Plus. Too bad Twelve South doesn't sell a standalone version of their snap-on case...

iPhone 6: Zoomed Mode or Standard?

One of the 1st decisions you will have to make about your new iPhone 6 is whether you want it to run in "Zoomed" mode or "Standard" mode. As I'm sure you have heard by now, the iPhone 6 is larger than the iPhone 5 and 5s and the iPhone 6 Plus is even bigger than the iPhone 6:

  • iPhone 5: 4"
  • iPhone 5s: 4"
  • iPhone 6: 4.7"
  • iPhone 6 Plus: 5.5"

(measured across the diagonal of the screen)

So you have a choice between these 2 display modes. What are they exactly? The "Standard" display mode displays text and application icons at the exact same size as they were displayed on the smaller 4 inch screen of the iPhone 5 and 5s (and even the older 3.5" screens of the the other iPhone 4s and older models). So if you choose the "Standard" mode for the display on the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus you now have extra space. This extra space means an extra row of icons on the iPhone 6 and an extra 2 rows of icons on the iPhone 6 Plus. That is standard display mode, same relative size of everything on the screen as you had on previous iPhones. They do look smaller though because the phone is bigger (its a relative thing).

The other display mode option is the "Zoomed" mode. In this mode iOS increases the size of the text and the application icons making icons a little easier to touch with your fingers on the screen and text a little bit easier to read (for those of us with aging eyes this is kinda handy). So, if you choose the "Zoomed" mode on the iPhone 6 you end up with the same number or application icons on the home screen as you had on the iPhone 5 and 5s, but the icons are larger and so is the text. The larger display and graphical elements throughout the operating system are all larger when you choose the "Zoomed" display mode.

So which one should you choose? This is totally a personal preference call. When I bought my iPhone 6 at the AT&T store the clerk who setup my phone told me he was setting it up with the display mode as "Zoomed", but he told me how to change it back to standard if I wanted. I have left it in the "Zoomed" mode ever since. I did try out the "Standard" mode a few times, but for me I would rather be able to quickly tap on an application icon on the go and know I'll hit it the 1st time rather than be able to squeeze a few more applications on my home screen. I also appreciate the User Interface (UI) elements being larger as well as the larger text. My close-up eyesight is not as good as it used to be so I can use all the help I can get.

Below is a comparison of the "Zoomed" mode view of my iPhone 6 home screen (on the left) and the "Standard" mode (on the right).

It's not a huge difference, but I just like the look of the "Zoomed" mode so I'm sticking with it. You will also notice in my screen shots below that I have filled the top row of my home screen with folders. I did this because I wanted my most used and generally quickly accessed applications at the lower right of my home screen. iOS only lets you have applications at the bottom of the screen if you fill the entire screen with applications. So I decided to replace my upper row of icons with folders and move my most often used apps in the lower right-hand corner (apps like the camera app, messages, OmniFocus and FitBit). Why did I choose folders for the top row instead of just keeping the least used apps at the top? I can't access the top row of the iPhone 6 with my thumb while holding the phone one-handed. I have relatively normal-sized hands but pretty short fingers. These are folders that are important, but when I use the apps in these folders I am generally doing so when I have more than a few seconds to use my phone so I am able to do so with both hands. 16 applications on the home screen is plenty for me, in fact the 4 apps I mentioned above (as well as the 4 in my dock) are the ones I use 90% of the time anyway.

It is interesting to note that Stephen Hackett over at 512 pixels took the opposite approach from mine. He left the bottom row of his home screen empty because he likes a little "breathing room." Yet more proof that it is simply a matter of personal preference. You can see Stephen Hackett's home screen over at Mac Sparky.com.

Returning the iPhone 6 Plus

I wrote a post last week about choosing between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus. Not to hold you in suspense any longer, I chose the smaller of the two (the iPhone 6 with the 4.7 inch screen). Since I wrote that post I have read and heard a lot of commentary about the iPhone 6 Plus. I am convinced that Apple is going to see a rather large return rate on the iPhone 6 Plus. This won't be because it is a bad device, but because people chose the device for the wrong reasons. What do I mean by this?

  • Bigger is not always better
  • It's not always about which device has the most features or best specs
  • Apple can't design a user interface that fixes the fact that a 5.5 inch phone is physically a very large device

So much of the discussion I have seen and heard focuses on the bigger and higher pixel density screen of the iPhone 6 Plus. The iPhone 6 plus also has mechanical image stabilization and some "hybrid" display options (dual pane views within apps) that take advantage of the larger screen. And of course last but not least...longer battery life. Of course it has longer battery life, the device is considerably larger so even with drawing more power for the larger display there is enough extra size on the battery that it has a lot more "juice" than the 4.7 inch version. My point to all of this is that most people that struggled with this decision were already iPhone users. iPhone users have not really had a choice up until this point with respect to screen size, so by default iPhone users were not "gigantiphone" or "phablet" users. If a larger device were that important than they would opt to get something other than an iPhone. I am concerned that a large number of people are going to put their trust in Apple and decide that bigger is better and pull the trigger on the iPhone 6 Plus. Many of these people are going to realize that Apple designed the iPhone 6 Plus as a device for users that want a large phone, not for the average iPhone user that just thinks having a larger display would be nice. Apple can't fix the fact that you know have to lug around a very large device. They can optimize the user interface to take advantage of the larger screen and they can even add features that allow you to do most functions with a single hand. But the one thing they can't design away is awkwardness of carrying around a small tablet-sized device in your pocket.

My favorite feature of the iPhone is that it is the device that I ALWAYS have with me. That feature would be significantly compromised (based on how I personally use the phone) if I were to go with a 5.5 inch phone. I could see myself taking it out of my pocket while sitting at my desk for a long period of time (just purely for comfort) and then leaving my desk and forgetting to take it with me. I also tend to leave my iPhone in my pants or shorts pocket even when I am at home. With a bigger phone I think I would offload it to a counter as soon as I got home, which means if I wanted to quickly check something or enter something and I was on the couch the device would now be across the room and not with me.

I'm not ready to give up my favorite feature just yet for a few extra "specs" and a larger screen.

iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus?

This is the decision tech geeks from all over are pondering right now...which screen size do I get? I've always thought the really large smartphones that have been cropping up the last few years seemed way too large and I never really had any desire to have a bigger phone. But after watching the Apple's keynote last night (yes, I'm a little slow but I've been on travel) I actually started thinking about going for the iPhone 6 Plus. After all, who doesn't want a larger screen?

So when I got home tonight I printed out the handy little iPhone comparison template from Ars Technica and proceeded to cutout the paper representation of the iPhone 6 Plus. I then took a cardboard box I had in the garage and cut a few layers of it out using the iPhone 6 Plus outline and taped them all together. Its not perfect, but it gave me a pretty darn close estimate of what the iPhone 6 Plus would be like to carry around. Even more importantly, I could try it out in various pockets. Here is what I found:

  1. In my shorts pockets the iPhone 6 Plus was not an issue to carry around. I wear pretty baggy shorts with rather large pockets. No issues here.

  2. Next up, my dress pants for work. No issues getting the phone into my dress pants front pocket. The problem was that it looked like I was carrying a surfboard around in my front pocket. It wasn't that the phone was too thick, but it's length was a real problem. It looked really tacky with my dress pants.

  3. I tried walking around with the iPhone 6 Plus mockup in a few of the front pockets of my jeans. Slipping the phone in and out of the front pocket was a bit harder to do than the dress pants because the jeans are a little bit tighter and the material not as slick. But just like with the dress pants, the real problem was the sheer size of the phone in the front pocket. It really felt strange walking around with such a large device in my pocket. Then I tried to sit down. This did not go well. The phone is just too long to sit down without it riding up the length of your leg and into your waist as you sit down. It just wasn't comfortable.

  4. On the weekends I am out riding around on my road bike and I always take my phone with me. So I tried out the iPhone 6 Plus with one of my bike jerseys. I have an iPhone 5s now and I can put it into one of the pockets in the back of the jersey sideways. Can't do that with the iPhone 6 Plus. In all but one of my jerseys the only way the iPhone 6 Plus would fit is if I slip it in one of the pockets in the vertical orientation (so the top of the phone is peeking out of the top edge of the jersey pocket). One of my jerseys actually had pockets that were wide enough to fit the iPhone 6 Plus in sideways (but this was a really wide pocket and not the norm). So I would need to ride around with the phone in the vertical position while riding. The phone is quite long and extends a surprisingly large portion of the way up my lower back. The pockets in my jerseys are deep enough however that the phone is in no real danger of coming out while riding. It just felt big going that far up my back.

  5. The last test was to see how it would feel in an armband when I go out for my run. I use the motion chip in my 5s to keep track of distance and calories burned when I run now using an armband and would want to do the same with the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. The iPhone 6 Plus is huge when I strap it to my arm. I can't imagine running with that thing. It technically would work, but it wouldn't work well. Maybe if I had bigger arms...

So the decision for me was quite simple. I am going to order the smaller iPhone 6 (the 4.7 inch version). The larger 5.5 inch iPhone 6 Plus was just too big to carry around in my pocket all the time and it was way to big to run with. I intend to get the Apple Watch when it comes out next year and I want to be able to run with it as well (which means I also need my iPhone on me somewhere). The iPhone 6 Plus was not designed for athletes in mind, of that I am certain. If you plan to exercise with the Apple Watch then the 4.7 inch iPhone 6 is the way to go. I suspect Apple designed the 4.7 inch screen as the largest screen someone could carry around comfortably in a pocket. The iPhone 6 Plus was for customers who are more concerned about screen size than portability. If you are one of those people then you already know this and will really enjoy the large screen of the iPhone 6 Plus. For the rest of us I think we will find the 4.7 inch iPhone 6 to be plenty of screen square footage while at the same time being pocketable.

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