is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Principal Designer at Adobe, Design Chair at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. Refer to the advertising and sponsorship page for inquiries.+
When I bought my iPhone 6 Plus last fall, lots of friends and acquaintances wanted to know what I thought of its absurd girth and did I regret my purchase? I intended to write up a critical appraisal, but time is not kind to procrastinated product reviews and much of what I would have written was eventually said better by other writers: it’s a really big phone but not so big you don’t get used to it quickly; its screen is a gorgeous luxury that makes using other phone sizes feel like peering through peepholes; its landscape modes are a nice bonus that don’t seem critical until you try to rotate other phones and realize they’re not available; its battery life is reasonable but far from spectacular; it’s far easier to carry around with you in the winter when you have more pockets than in summer when you have fewer; etc. Nothing particularly insightful.
And now a new set of iPhone models are already available for purchase, which you would think further obviates any review I might write of the 6 Plus. That’s true except for one thing; it’s the single most important thing I learned about the the phone in my ten months of owning it, and in my mind the most important thing to consider when evaluating its direct successor: the iPhone 6 Plus has just 1 gigabyte of memory, and 1 gigabyte of memory is just not enough.
Being old, I recall a time when that much memory seemed like a lot—especially for a device you carry around in your pocket! But in practice, it’s not nearly enough for the 6 Plus (and maybe not for the 6, either; I have no firsthand experience). Apps are constantly getting dropped from memory as I switch between them. If I load a page in Safari, jump to Maps to plot a trip, then turn back, the whole page needs to reload. If I’m reading a book in iBooks, switch to Messages to reply to a friend who has a question, switch to Mail to check on the answer, then return to iBooks to pick up where I left off reading, I’ll have to wait for the iBooks library view to reload and then launch the book all over again. And so on and so on. It makes for many irritating, unpleasant experiences, especially if I’m in a rush and need a series of quick answers from the contents of my phone.
Mercifully, Apple has apparently decided to double the RAM in the iPhone 6s Plus, as detailed in this article at Ars Technica. If you want one of these two oversized phones, I would strongly encourage that you buy the 6s Plus for its RAM alone. As it happens, two gigabytes is what’s available in my iPad Air 2 and I rarely see unwelcome app refreshing on that device, so hopefully this will remedy the situation on the new phone too.
Still, it’s my opinion that the 6 Plus should never have shipped with just 1 gigabyte. What’s more, the whole thing makes me more skeptical than ever of Apple’s decision not publicize their mobile devices’ memory specifications. The implication is that users shouldn’t have to worry about counting RAM anymore, and while that may be closer to being true than it ever was before, it’s still not quite realistic. The amount of RAM that Apple shipped with the iPhone 6 Plus last year was just enough memory to get by in 2015; what they should have shipped was twice that. The same may prove true of the 6s Plus; as apps get more and more ambitious, it may turn out that 2 gigabytes of RAM will barely cover what we’ll need for the mobile computing we’ll do next year. Whatever the case, in order to really get away with deprecating this particular specification, Apple should be shipping more than enough, rather than just enough.+