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My iPhone 6 Mini-Review

While I love the smooth, rounded edges of the iPhone 6 and the screen is great for looking at things, it is simply not a convenient phone to actually use. The bottom line for me is that the size of the phone makes interacting with it frustrating and it annoys me in various ways throughout the day.

The iPhone 6 is a huge phone1 and, it turns out, I’m not a huge fan. I tried to like it. I really did. At the same time, I had expected this would happen so I shouldn’t be surprised. I have been bemoaning the impracticality of a bigger phone since the rumors first surfaced. While it was an interesting novelty during the first few days, as time wears on, I dislike the iPhone 6 as my main phone for a variety of reasons.

Despite my misgivings about the phone’s size, it certainly has a better “feel” than the Samsung Galaxy S5 (which leaves you with the impression of it feeling like a cheap, plastic piece of crap). And while the iPhone 6’s size remains a major obstacle to my enjoyment and its utility, the inconvenience extends to the app interfaces themselves. Developers will need some time to come to grips with how to adjust their app designs to suit the larger form factor. What was surprising to me, however, is that apps like Mail still have critical controls along the device’s top edge. To reach any top edge interface elements requires two hands or two extra taps (for the ridiculous but sometimes necessary Reachability feature).

The placement of the Power button on the right side of the device is awful. With practice, I am getting better at not adjusting volume whenenver I turn off the display but it still happens far more times than I’d care to admit.

When the phone is lying on my desk and I want to turn off the display, I have to adopt a curious spidery grip in order to hold the phone firmly enough to depress the power button, yet not depress the area where the volume buttons are. Since these buttons are directly opposite each other, your natural instinct is to hold the phone on opposite sides and press. On the iPhone 6, this makes the volume go up and only delivers enough of the remaining pressure on the button to turn the screen off 50% of the time. Despite my complaints about the size, power button placement is the thing I hate most about the phone.

If ApplePay is really the panacea they are making it out to be, it may be enough of a reason to stick with the iPhone 6. However, if ApplePay ends up being another Healthkit (a whopper of a disappointment so far), I may end up going back to the iPhone 5S. I guess that makes me a contrarian. There are worse things to be.2

I will also hold out hope that next year Apple will introduce a new 5S-sized phone to compliment the 6 and 6+. I would love to have a 5S styled like the iPhone 6. I won’t hold my breath though since the trend is bigger and not smaller. I fear we all may be shopping for bigger pants by next year.


  1. The iPhone 6+ is a ridiculously gargantuan phone and I really don’t get the appeal of it at all. The box should read “Hammer Pants Required”. 

  2. Like a guy with really stretched out pockets, for instance. 

Introducing Nerds on Draft - A Podcast

Gabe Weatherhead and I have conversations. Topics include technology, software development, project management, new apps, Apple, family stuff, travel and beer – you name it, we babble about it at some point over the course of a week.

It was during one of those conversations that Gabe suggested we turn all of it into a podcast. The seed of the idea is simple – we get one or two beers that both of us have on hand, open them up and talk about what we think of them. Then we let our conversation range far and wide.

If you don’t like beer, don’t worry. The beer talk is a bookend on the proceedings. If you really only like beer, skip the middle parts.

The whole thing is what we call “Nerds on Draft”, an open and honest conversation about the things that make up our lives in a way that I hope interests you.

iTunes Link - RSS Feed Link

Custom Keyboards - No Thanks

I think Gabe hits this one right on the head.

Despite what I notice as a strange communal sense of relief that custom keyboards have finally come to iOS, when I look into how they work all I see is another vector of attack or misuse of personal data.

For example, if Swiftkey were to get bought by Facebook or Google 1, These companies would potentially gain access to a treasure trove of your information – basically everything you’ve ever typed. And even if Swiftkey were simply storing data about how you write and what you type to help your typing accuracy, having your writing tendencies in Facebook’s possession would provide major assistance in tuning the content (read: advertisements) on your Activity Feed.

Maybe I’m paranoid but giving a company that kind of trust seems like a recipe for disaster.

As a consumer, when you look at the custom keyboards available on the App Store it’s hard to know what they’re doing behind the scenes. As Gabe mentions, we willingly put ourselves in the position of relying solely on the App review process to protect our data and privacy. Since we have seen Apple reviewers allow the release of Pokemon knockoffs consisting of a few screenshots, I worry that they don’t have a tight enough grip to give us an airtight bubble around our personal data. Some of that responsibility falls to us.

Because allowing something to watch what I type isn’t risk free, I’m not going to take the chance.


  1. It would be a match made in heaven. 

iPhone Home Screen: September 2014

I am trying something new with my homescreen this month. It is mostly in anticipation of a new, unwelcome larger iPhone1 the thoughts of how to actually use a phone with that much screen space has been on my mind. After using the Galaxy S5 for a few weeks, the point was driven home – I need to tailor the layout of the icons on the home screen to effectively use the dimensions of the device.

These considerations sound elementary but I consistently see home screens laid out in a way that will require some gargantuan thumbs (or two hands) to operate with a bigger phone no matter what messy interface hacks Apple adds to assist with navigating these massive devices.

Since I keep my phone in my back left pocket, I tend to use the phone with my left hand. The apps that get used most often have their icons closest to the bottom left corner. Launcher apps like Launch Center Pro and Contact Center have their icons arranged that way as well. While this makes my phone very left-hand-centric, when I am in a hurry or have my hands full, this set up helps. By orienting things this way, apps that I need the fastest access to (TV controllers, phone or contact apps, peripheral controllers, Netflix, Touchpad, etc. are right under my thumb when I activate the phone.

All that said, here’s what I ended up with.2

Row One

Fantastical remains my favorite calendar app. I like the presentation across all of my devices and it fits in well with my workflow. I wish they provided a way to view my whole day but I can get that elsewhere (like Omnifocus’s Forecast view or Tempo) so its not a showstopper.

Editorial on the iPhone is hands-down the best text editor on iOS, especially when dealing with Dropbox-based markdown documents. It uses TextExpander snippets, has a very smart keyboard, and supports user-created workflows, writing statistics and tons more. It’s a tour-de-force of iOS development and well worth whatever Ole is charging these days.

The folder is my overflow for things that I’m trying out or have fallen out of favor. If I want to see if I can live without a particular app for a while, I stick it in here.

Tempo has a great day-view as well as a nice week view and unique two-week view for all of my calendar events. I use this to get a bird’s eye view of what’s going on mainly to get a sense of how full my calendar is on a given day. I don’t use many of Tempo’s more innovative features like the phone/contact helper or email data mining because I find it doesn’t do a great job of parsing the phone numbers for the myriad conference call formats I need to commonly use. Fantastical handles it a bit better but I put common conference call numbers into my Contacts app (replete with pauses and menu commands3) and then map them in Contact Center for quick dialing.

Row Two

1Password has become more important than ever given the security issues we have had lately. Gabe told me about Vault sharing and I’ve been using that to share passwords that my wife might need to know in a pinch. With iOS8 on the horizon, integration with 1Password gets even better and one of the biggest excuses most people hold up as an impediment to using 1Password – inconvenience – will evaporate.

VSCOcam has the best filters and the best photo editing capabilities of any iOS app. That said, I stopped looking at new ones once VSCO hit my homescreen because it did all I needed it to. Maybe something better has come along since then but given the width and depth of features that have come to VSCO in recent years, I somehow doubt it.

You Need a Budget is my home budgeting and money management app. The iOS app helps with on-the-spot entry of new transactions and it’s really well done. My wife and I use it every day to keep our accounts up to date and knowing where all the dollars and cents are going has removed a weight of stress that has been on my shoulders for years. I regret not using it sooner.

Awful is where I keep up with the somethingawful forums on beer, homebrewing, Destiny, the Playstation 4 and Buddhism.

Row Three

Tweetbot remains my favorite Twitter client but Twitter itself is on my shit-list. Their dumb decisions in the name of creating a social network I have no interest in will ultimately ruin for those who choose people to follow based on what they actually say, not what Twitter allows me to see them say. A curated feed will mean I stop using Twitter. Once Twitter’s algorithms control what I see, its not what got me to use Twitter in the first place. It has me wondering if we were too quick to abandon ADN or if I need to use a social platform at all.

Slack, o Slack, how I love thee. I mean it. Slack is the best chat and collaboration service on the planet. Finding Slack changed how I collaborate with people on some important projects and it has custom emoji. What more can you ask for?! How about file storage, app integrations, a stellar iOS client, a full featured Mac client, private and public channels, one-on-one chat with other collaborators? If you want any or all of those things, Slack is what you have been looking for.

Pushpin is a great Pinboard client. I use it every day and, other than occasional crash, it does what I ask of it. There are a lot of great Pinboard clients out there but I like this one quite a bit.

Overcast is an interesting animal. I didn’t want to like it and seriously doubted that anything would unseat Downcast as my favorite podcast app but I find that Overcast finds a sweetspot between features and usability that Downcast sometimes lacks. The Smart Speed and Voice Boost options are worth the price alone and I find the web page integration for playing podcasts while on my Mac is adequate. It isn’t perfect but it does a good job and I’ve been using it since release. It has unseated Downcast. Unbelievable.

Row Four

The Phone app is there for convenience and to display voicemails or missed calls.

OmniFocus has just gotten an iOS8 facelift and it remains my go-to GTD task manager. Despite my misgivings with some of their recent decisions, Omnigroup still makes the app that best suits my needs for getting things done.

Dark Sky still works its magic with uncannily accurate hyper-local weather forecasts. I recently used it at a barn party (yes, this is something I do now) when people were wondering when the rain would arrive. When Dark Sky predicted it to the exact minute, I am sure the Forecast.io folks sold a few more copies.

Mail is a necessary evil. I use the stock mail app for work Exchange email. By segregating it from my personal email, it allows me to use any innovative email app I choose for things like Fastmail.

Row Five

Contact Center is a new addition. I’ll admit I was confused when Contact Center was released – is this like Launch Center Pro Lite? The answer is “not quite”. It uses the same interface ideas put forth in LCP but focuses squarely on making things easy to keep in touch with your friends, family and colleagues. Adding a contact “folder” makes an icon for them in the app and when you tap that icon, it opens up options for ways to contact them – iMessage, phone, Facetime Audio, etc. I tried to recreate this using LCP but found that it was much harder and more time consuming that I wanted to deal with. Buying Contact Center added an icon to the Home screen but it has quickly become one of my most-used apps.

Safari. It’s great and made even better with Duck Duck Go integration. I’m no longer using Google in any facet of my phone use and it feels pretty good.

TapCellar is an interesting project that exists and this is a beta of the app. More on that later.

Dispatch is not really perfect for how I handle my email these days. Using Sanebox for dealing with my email has really kept me sane and using it has meant that my Inbox actually contains email that I should read. The downside of Dispatch is that I can’t quickly see the Sanebox subfolders and their item counts like I can in Boxer. Unfortunately, Boxer doesn’t play well with the iOS8 beta so I’ll stick with Dispatch for now. It has some great features but that folder issue is a real bummer.

Home Row

Launch Center Pro is great and it’s spot in the bottom left on the Home row should make it clear that it is something I go to often for important functionality. It’s the Swiss army knife of apps and once you build the muscle memory, you will come up with all sorts of ways to integrate it into your app use.

Messages is easily my most-used app. There are anecdotal tales of people having an awful time with it and I have friends who can’t get it to work consistently. That said, I still find it incredibly useful and I am relieved to report that it works fine for me. There isn’t really a chat client that comes close to it in terms of convenience. The next app on the Home row comes close though.

Trillian is my platform agnostic chat client for people unfortunate enough to be using Android phones or using Windows machines at work. Lately however, Skype has been in use more than Trillian so Trillian might lose its spot on the Home row if the last two or three contacts I chat with move over to Skype or iMessage as well.

Drafts is an app I should probably use more. I understand that it can shuttle text into most apps that I use and I can just type everything there and ship it off where it needs to go but I don’t use it that much. I’ll use it to note locations, jot down quick things that I’ll need in a digital format later (since the Field Notes have taken over a lot of things that get jotted down quickly). Drafts waxes and wanes in usefulness for me but it still is used often enough and ubiqitously enough that it seems stuck to my Home row for good.

* * *

A lot of apps have changed but iOS 8 is going to change everything. With the ability to extend apps to interoperate with other apps, the field will once again be wide open and ripe for innovation and I can’t see how things change over the next few months.


  1. I can hear you asking “Then why get one?” The short answer is that I use iPhones for work. We need to test and use the latest versions and get a feel for the UX and how it relates to our app. And, yes, we’ll have a few iPhone 6Pluses taking up large tracts of desk space too. 

  2. That is, indeed, a Field Notes background – Shelterwood Edition. 

  3. When editing a contact on the Contact app’s editing screen, hitting the key with the ”+ * #” opens up the doors for solving this particular dialing dilemma. The pause key will insert a comma into the text field collecting your digits which represents about a 1 second pause. The asterisk and pound/hash do what they say on the tin – they will insert those at the appropriate moments in the conference dialing script.