The iPhone 6 Plus Makes Designing Apps for Physical Comfort More Difficult — and More Important — Than Ever
Several months ago I wrote a post about the ingredients that make an app feel comfortable. This post is more applicable now than ever.
I’ve spent only a few days with an iPhone 6 Plus and it’s clear that the designs of many popular iOS apps are inappropriate for a display this large. It may be a huge phone, but the iPhone 6 Plus is still a phone. You should be able to comfortably perform common actions in your favorite apps with just one thumb.
I absolutely love the huge display. Five and a half diagonal inches are better for many things: web browsing, reading RSS, watching movies, and more. It’s misguided to suggest that the size of the display is what needs to change. The problems are caused by the misuse of interface elements that were designed to fit constraints imposed by smaller displays.
Cancel and Accept – Modal screens presented via navigation controllers are particularly frustrating. The most important buttons on many screens are also the most difficult to reach. I can’t cancel or accept a new tweet, or dismiss a web browser, etc. The back button is by far the most difficult to reach, which wouldn’t be as big of a deal if it wasn’t for the next issue:
Going Back – The native iOS screen edge gesture (for popping a screen off a navigation controller stack) is unwieldy. Sometimes it’s practically impossible to use. In some apps, when going back I have to deliberately bring all scrolling to a halt so I don’t accidentally trigger another scroll event thereby canceling the back gesture. This is something I spent an inordinate amount of time on in Unread1.
These are just two of many problems the new devices have introduced. My experience is with a 6 Plus, but I have long fingers. From what I have read, people with small or average sized hands have similar complaints about the iPhone 6 (non-plus).
Solutions to these design problems are waiting to be found, but they will not be obvious. What I know for sure is: we can do better.
There’s a heuristic in Unread that favors vertical scrolling over horizontal panning. I don’t remember the exact ratio (It wasn’t 50/50. I tried many ratios until it felt right). Most of the time you’re just trying to scroll through a list of stuff. But when a dismissal is determined to be the user’s likely intention, the dismissal pan gesture overrides all other panning gestures. The result is buttery, responsive navigation. ↩