Larger iPhones, Larger iPads, and the Future of “Mobile”

I held out for a long time. I was one of the rare few who thought the original iPhone’s screen was a perfect size. When they made it bigger (4″), I thought that was kind of nice, but would make holding it and using it with one hand more difficult. Then, I got one. And within a week the original iPhone felt small.

When the new iPhone 6 came out, my wife immediately went for the Plus. I stuck with the “smaller” 4.7″ screen. I didn’t like it at first. I dropped it on my face when laying down trying to read. I had to stretch uncomfortably to use it with one hand. I routinely used my nose to tap buttons that I couldn’t reach — which made my wife laugh, every time.

Then, I got used to it. It wasn’t too hard to reach the buttons. It wasn’t so bad to use a second hand some of the time. It didn’t create as much friction as I thought. It remained useable.

Last week, I got an iPhone 6s Plus. I loved the 6, but the main thing that created a less-than-perfect experience for me was the battery life. I found myself hurrying to the charger almost every day. Or even worse, getting a popup about 10% battery life, to have the phone completely shutoff and refuse to power on just a minute or two later, still claiming 8% battery life.

Side note — I remember being in awe at how long my iPhone 5 could remain on and functional at 1% battery life. I was on a phone call with my cousin, and we were discussing the new phone, and battery life, and we were joking about how my phone was going to die and hang up on us at any second. And we continued talking. And that phone call was almost an hour long. On 1% battery life. What happened? Now if my battery dips below 20% I begin panicking, watching the percentage tick down by the minute. This is not a good experience. (I’m curious to see if this remains a problem with the 6S Plus, but I haven’t been able to get down to 1% yet. First world problems…)

Every night my wife would go to bed and her 6 Plus would have anywhere from 10%-30% battery life remaining (and she is a pretty heavy user). I was jealous. So I decided that my next phone would be the 6s Plus, solely because of the battery life. I would learn to live with the almost comically large screen. And there’s been some growing pains (no pun intended) getting used to it. But now, already, my iPhone 6 feels small. I’ve gotten pretty used to the larger screen. And honestly, many tasks are much more enjoyable with the larger screen: reading, watching video, taking notes, typing on the on-screen keyboard, all feel noticeably better. And my battery life? It’s been pretty unbelievable. I not only don’t need to run for the charger every day, I routinely don’t plugin the phone at night. This morning I woke up and my phone still had 49%. That is incredibly freeing. A much better experience overall.

I’ve been clinging to the old model of Mac OS X being the “get-work-done” platform, and iOS being the “relax, read, watch, and otherwise consume” platform. But I find myself doing a lot more from my iPhone lately. Taking video courses, writing code, blog posts, email, and tweaking my websites. It eventually dawned on me that now, with an impressive 2-day battery life and larger screen, my iPhone 6s Plus can get some serious work done.

I’ve been using Apple products since the Mac SE. I’ve seen many iterations of hardware and software. I’m an uber geek. Old school. Power user. So I always figured OS X would remain the most important platform for getting real work done. But this is quickly changing. Every year, I see more and more interest from my customers about mobile. I see myself getting more and more serious work done from my iPhone or iPad. And after playing with the new Apple TV for a couple of weeks, I’m starting to see that Apple’s little A-series chips and iOS APIs can do amazing things. Powerful things.

The iPad Pro just went on sale. I immediately wanted to get one, but I have to justify the cost. I will be saving for awhile and hopefully getting one next month. My wife is an artist, so the pencil is immediately desirable, and it makes perfect sense why she would love having such a product. A digital canvas with a true sketching and drawing implement made by Apple themselves is a killer product for artists. But will I find myself using it more than I expect, as well?

I do a lot of things that are, as I write this, much easier to do (or only possible to do) with a Mac OS X computer. Things like:

  • Audio Recording and Mixing
  • Video Editing
  • Xcode (as long as iOS development requires a Mac, OS X can never completely go away)
  • Graphic Design

How long until the hardware in your iPhone or iPad can do all of those things? To be honest, I think we’re there already. If not now, soon. Very soon. How long before Apple makes Logic and Final Cut Pro for iPad? And on that note, where are Apple’s pro apps? There’s not one single app, one shining example of how to do a pro app on iPad right, from Apple themselves. That seems odd to me.

But it’s not all on Apple. When will Avid make Pro Tools for iPad? When will Photoshop in all its glory come to iPad (or, just as importantly, will Pixelmator, or another competitor’s iPad app be released that can do everything I need Photoshop for)? Those days are coming.

Here’s a great line from Stephen Hacket, writing on his blog about this:

I look at this iPad Pro, being updated via my Mac, imagining the horses that were used to deliver materials to Henry Ford’s factory.

The days of “mobile vs. desktop” are shifting, faster than I ever would have imagined. Mobile will soon no longer need a qualifier — an iPhone or iPad will be just as much a “computer” as my iMac 5K. Soon you’ll be able to do all of your work from whatever device you have in front of you. And when the iPhone and iPad can do all of the things I need it to do, with more battery life, and for cheaper than a new MacBook Pro or iMac, will I need one?

Technology is a constant seachange. Keeping up is hard. But it’s clear now that mobile is here to stay, and one day soon, iOS devices will be the most used computers in the world. Best to stay on the right side of that change. I am very much looking forward to witnessing the landscape of professional apps on iOS, and I fully intend to be a big part of that movement.

Ever onward.