After driving a thousand kilometres, spending three days in Dresden, Germany and sleeping not more than ten hours total, I’m sitting on a sofa, soaking a Red Bull and so tired that I can’t be even bothered to go to bed. I’m also a bit sick. I hope I don’t bore you with my story and limited perception, but it was one hell of a trip. Or so I’ll think about it after I finally get some proper sleep.
My wife and I decided to go to Dresden early, on the 17th of September — a Wednesday. The reason for this was our plan to get some sightseeing done — Dresden is a beautiful city and while we’ve been there before, we’ve never dedicated the time to actually see it. The trip from Warsaw took us a little under seven hours, with frequents breaks to help fight the monotony of the motorway. We checked in pretty late and got up early for our Genius Bar appointment in the Apple Store located in Altmarkt-Galerie.
My wife’s iPhone 5 had a speck of dust on the lens, behind the sapphire glass. It’s a bit of an unlucky phone — the battery was faulty and exchanged under warranty just before the year ran out. It returned for a lens cleaning a few months later — there was some dust on the edge of the lens, but not visible when composing a shot on the screen. I suspect it was introduced during the battery exchange. This year’s speck of dust was however clearly visible in every photo she took. The Genius — Thomas — was extremely helpful as usual and remembered us from our earlier visits. At first he said that he will not attempt to clean it again, stating that we could upgrade to an iPhone 5S for €250 instead. While tempting, Iwona’s iPhone 5 will most probably go to a family member. I said as much and asked for him to reconsider just giving it a thorough cleaning with compressed air — I didn’t want the new owner to have a camera he or she would be frustrated with. Thomas asked to wait for a few minutes and returned with a new iPhone 5 (refurbished I assume). Our surprise must have been obvious and he gave us a smile. After we restored her iCloud backup, I asked him about their procedures for the iPhone 6 launch. He said nothing was set in stone, but that two lines were going to be formed — one for pre-orders and one for walk-ins.
We spent the day sightseeing and I hopefully got some good shots — I used a few as illustrations for this piece. Anyway, we returned to our hotel in the evening and my wife went to sleep while I decided to spend some time with my friends who were already lined up for the iPhone 6 due to not being able to secure a pre-order. Luckily the sunny weather held up and the evening was warm.
The line outside Altmarkt-Galerie was over a hundred strong in the early evening hours already. It consisted of two kinds of people — fans who actually wanted the devices and “capitalists,” who were going to sell them anywhere and everywhere they could. The fans were mostly Germans and Poles, with a few other nationalities mixed in. The rest consisted of Arabs (mostly Palestinians), Chechens, Ukrainians and (sadly) Poles too — I did not see a single person from that second group (apart from our small group of Polish friends) interested in the phone itself, only in the money they could get from it. I watched Casey Neistats film about the “Chinese Mafia” on YouTube today and this is our European version of it, only much much worse. Since I was in New York City in 2011 during the iPad 2 launch, I actually got to see it first hand. The last few years in Germany were not as bad as this year — the queue had at least seven hundred people in it in the morning and of those at least two-three hundred were in it for the quick buck.
John Gruber was quick to state that buying a phone just to flip it is in fact not illegal. Quite frankly, I don’t care. From what I remember from NYC and previous years in Germany, the line was mostly calm and friendly, despite people just wanting to make some money. The events that transpired in Dresden were anything but, coming close to dangerous at times. This only unnecessarily creates bad press for Apple, while the people who actually want to buy a phone for themselves have to leave empty-handed, wasting days and lots of money on travel.
I was one of the lucky few who had a pre-order, but I did stay up a bit with some friends who didn’t get theirs. There was constant fighting between the Arabs in the line, security were manhandling innocent bystanders, including Marcin Gruszka, a spokesperson for Play (fourth largest mobile carrier in Poland). He came down for the fun of it since he’s an Apple user and after almost getting beat up he said that he’s fed up and not planning to come back anymore, probably ever. The saddest part of the night, and I really feel sorry for those guys, was for the people who were in the front of the line and got pushed back by security for no apparent reason — while this was happening a few dozen Arabs squeezed past and got in line in front of them. They returned home without a phone. I could probably go on for a few thousand words about what happened during the night, but perhaps it will be sufficient if I mention that over ten vans full of policemen were stationed just around the corner and a few actually tried to control the lines. There were also two ambulances out on the street. The short clip I shot (embedded below) was just the tip of the iceberg.
As I stated earlier, I don’t care if this is legal, illegal or whether the buyers are “capitalists,” or mafia — this is just plain wrong and Apple is not doing much about it. Furthermore, I don’t care what their nationality or race is — I’m not racist. Yes, the pre-orders actually allowed me to get my iPhone 6, but many people didn’t just because they chose not to use force when assaulted. And many people will probably not bother to buy one in the future. These sort of events can spiral out of control very easily for everyone involved.
And I wouldn’t be surprised if someone gets seriously hurt in Dresden in 2015. I know I won’t be travelling anywhere without a pre-order anymore.
iPhone 6 — First Impressions
Today, as I write this section, is my sixth day using the 6. I went for the white model (I still refuse to call it silver), with 64 GB of flash storage. I would have gone for the 32, as it offers ample room for my needs, but unfortunately Apple didn’t double the storage of base model which is a shame — I understand this from a business point of view, but not as a user. The gratitude Apple could have earned from that move isn’t quantifiable and worth much more than a slightly higher ASP and a few hundred million dollars. Anyway, back to the matter at hand…
I do take notice of great packaging. The unboxing is always my first experience with a product and a great first impression is hard to beat. I simply love the new white boxes with the subtle logo on the side (available in different colours, matching the device inside) and the embossed iPhone on top. Minimal, clean and simply beautiful.
Unfortunately, the design of the 6 is not of the same sort as the iPhone 5 and 5S. The previous models look expensive, like fashion items or jewellery. I actually have my white 5S in front of me as I write this and it’s simply gorgeous go look at. The 6 and 6 Plus look like… well… normal. You can’t mistake them for anything other than an iPhone though, due to their trademark details like the Touch ID button and balanced proportions, but they don’t look as good. The back antennas are especially tacky. However, this is all subjective and quite frankly, there are more important things to write about. I’m also pretty sure that next iPhone redesign will make this generation look good again in perspective.
I always complained about how the 5S sat against my skin. Those sharp edges irritated it after a while. Happily this problem has gone away — the new design is extremely comfortable despite the increase in size. I’m sure the additional thinness helps, although I personally would have a preferred a slightly thicker case so that the lens would not have to protrude from the back, which would in turn also allow a slightly larger battery. I still haven’t gotten anywhere near my battery tests yet, but yesterday was quite promising — 6 hours of usage and over 40% left at 21:00.
Traditionally, the quality of the phone is top-notch. There is nothing that looks cheap about it, the materials used are of the highest quality and the attention to detail is crazy. For example, the slightly curved screen edges are not noticeable until you start using the back or forward gestures, which are of course executed from the edge of the phone. This is something I will most probably use at least a few thousand times over the next year or so and it’s already grown on me.
What struck me most was the new screen. Not the resolution, which is higher but still at 326 PPI. Not even the great rendering of colour which I always try to verify on my own photos. I still remember when Apple managed to fuse the display with the glass covering it — I believe this was in the iPhone 4 — and my shock at first seeing it. Well, history has repeated itself. I still cannot comprehend how they managed to make it look even better now — content really does appear to be painted onto it. I did spend some time comparing the displays of both the 6 and 6 Plus, and while the latter has higher density screen (401 PPI), I could not see the difference. Then again, my eyesight is not what it once was. I am however pretty certain that a lot of people will be able to see it…
I wasn’t happy when iPhones went from 3.5” to 4” — I constantly had issues hitting the top left corner when holding it with my right hand. This is naturally amplified in the 6 with it’s larger, 4.7” screen. I haven’t adjusted my grip yet — I hold it in the exact same position as my 5S. Perhaps that’s the problem and even though I can appreciate the larger screen displaying more content, I was running around town yesterday and that’s when using it one-handed became problematic. I did have to resort to using Reachability and while I hate the name, it indeed does what it’s supposed to. I would however prefer not to have to use it at all. To summarise — the new size is a bigger compromise for me than the 4” form factor and I look forward to a newer size in the future, around the 4–4.3” mark. The phone is definitely usable though, despite having to take more care to not drop it.
iPhone 6 Plus — First Impressions
I spent significantly less time with the 6 Plus due to a misplaced pre-order. I guess I can consider myself lucky I got anything at all. However, my friend Tom who trudged around town with us, managed to secure his and gave me the opportunity to use it for a while.
First of all, the new UI still has a lot of bugs which hopefully Apple will quickly resolve with an iOS update. I can see how the new landscape mode will most certainly make the Plus more productive in certain situations. It was also immediately apparent that this 5.5” behemoth will not replace an iPad mini. Despite the large screen there is simply not enough space to cram some of the apps that I use into a comfortable package. Perhaps a few developers will prove me wrong with time — I hope that they do — but I today I simply wouldn’t be as productive. Another issue nobody has yet pointed out is that Newsstand magazines won’t be anywhere close to being as readable as they are on both iPads.
I mentioned about taking care when holding the iPhone 6 one-handed. I actually tried various grips before I settled upon one which is not exactly safe, especially while moving around town — I held it like an iPad, in my right hand, with my fingers supporting the back while my thumb rested on the edge. I wouldn’t dare typing one-handed though — Tom wouldn’t forgive me if I dropped his new “pocket camera.” I would definitely consider this a two-handed device and strongly recommend actually using one before purchasing.
iOS 8 on iPhone 6 / 6 Plus
The biggest issue with iOS 8 is the current lack of optimised apps. There are but a handful, including the wonderful Vesper, Overcast, Evernote, PCalc and Day One [App Store links]. All my other apps, optimised for a 4” 1136×640 resolution, are upscaled and a little blurry on the 6. This in itself is not an issue since they’re all entirely usable. The problem is with the keyboard — the older apps have a different one from the iPhone 6 optimised ones and hence, typing is a mess since the keys are in different locations on the screen.
Hopefully this situation will get resolved quickly, with developers submitting updates as soon as they can, but in the meantime I have to wonder why Apple did not just overlay the new keyboard on the upscaled apps — in theory this should work properly.
Despite the iPhone 6 being a bigger compromise in terms of one-handed usability, I instantly fell in love with the new screen and great camera. There’s finally some sun today, so I’ll be grabbing the 6 and 5S to do a more specific comparison, but I think I can safely say that it will be a great camera, especially with all the new manual controls that Apple added in iOS 8. Just don’t bother going for the 16 gig model —
32 64 is the minimum that is of any use.