A Month or More with the iPhone 6

iOS 8.x & App Compatibility

I don’t want to get into a lot of debate here. I’ve covered my experiences with iOS 8 quite extensively over the beta period and since the mobile OS went GM. You can see them here:

Suffice it to say, there have been, and in many ways, still are a number of different compatibility issues with apps on iOS 8. I’ve seen a number of different app updates over the past week or more (as of this writing). In fact, I’ve seen over 25 app updates out of my library in the past 4 days. This is more that I saw updated out of the same iTunes library just before and just after the GM release of iOS 8. Many of the updates indicate compatibility updates or bug fixes as the reason for the update. It’s clear… iOS 8 is providing its developers with a number of growing pains.

Wireless Radios

With the iPhone 6, wireless communications is a big deal. Much of what the device does – phone calls, internet connectivity – all happens through the device’s multiple wireless radios. There have been some documented issues with not only Wi-Fi but Bluetooth as well. Here has been my experience with the device with ALL of its many radios.

Mobile Broadband

So far, the mobile broadband experience on the iPhone 6 has been solid. I haven’t had any issues with connectivity or internet access while away from Wi-Fi. Calls are generally clear and connect without issues. To date, I’ve only had a small handful (2-4) of dropped calls along an interstate corridor that is known for spotty coverage and problematic tower hand-offs.

The Chicago-land area is generally really great for cell coverage on all of the major carriers. However, there are a few known problem areas on each service in given areas. The BNSF Railway runs along the I-88, East-West corridor in the city’s Western Suburbs. There is one known dead spot and 3-4 areas where tower hand-offs are rough. In those 4-5 areas, you’re likely going to drop calls once and perhaps a couple other times, depending on the time of day and time of year if you’re travelling in your vehicle or on the commuter train between the Chicago Loop and the end of the BNSF line in Aurora, IL.

The performance of the iPhone 6’s call quality has been pretty good. I really can’t complain about call connectivity, quality of service, etc. as far as cellular, audio calls are concerned.

Data connectivity has been equally as reliable as far as the actual CONNECTION is concerned. Once obtained, I’ve pretty much been on LTE here in the Chicago Metro area. Period. Very seldomly do I notice that the speed has dropped to HSPA/HSPA+ (or 4G). I’ve been pretty pleased about that.

Connection SPEEDS however, have been another story. I’ve not been happy with speed results at all while on Mobile Broadband. My results have been as slow as 0.66Mbps Down/ 0.43Mbps Up to as fast as 4.68Mbps Down/ 5.30Mbps Up. My speeds on my iPhone 5 were historically much better, on the same network, (AT&T) on the same towers, in the same geographical area. I have no idea why… though there can be a great deal of interference from any number of different sources and reasons on any given day.

However, mobile network performance was (generally) better on my iPhone 5.

Wi-Fi

For some reason, and I really have no idea why, Wi-Fi issues seem to be universal not only with new iOS updates, but with most Apple updates I general (so, desktop updates, too). With iPhone 6, there are a number of cases of documented instances of the device dropping a Wi-Fi connection shortly after authentication. The device simply can’t hold a connection.

My experience has been a bit better.

I haven’t had nearly any issues with Wi-Fi connectivity. My iPhone 6 doesn’t seem to have many issues at all in finding an access point and connecting to it. Yeah… my Wi-Fi issues are totally different.

The biggest problem I’ve got with Wi-Fi right now isn’t connectivity, its speed. My connection speeds are horrible compared to just about any other device in the house. I have an 802.11-AC wireless router in my house. I get a minimum of 90mBits down and 25mBits up. I’m lucky to get 1/3 of that on my iPhone 6. Funny thing is, I can check speeds at the same time, and same location in the house and get different speed results. I know that on this particular access point, the speeds should be really good. Unfortunately, they aren’t, and I don’t think there’s much I can do about it, except to hope that Apple resolves the problem.

Bluetooth

I’ve written a few articles on iOS 8 and the train wreck that its many betas have been. You can see all of those articles, and the progression of Bluetooth stack development in these articles

Since the release of the iOS 8 Golden Master, iOS has gone through three more general releases (iOS 8.01, iOS 8.1 and iOS 8.1.1), and iOS 8.2 with Watch Kit SDK is currently in beta. During that time, Bluetooth connectivity has gotten a little bit better; but I’m finding that in many cases, its still hit or miss.

I am having issues with BT-LE connectivity with a number of devices. My Pebble Steel smartwatch may be timeless, but while my iPhone may SAY its connected via Bluetooth and BT-LE in Settings, the Pebble Steel smartwatch APP that must be running on my phone at all times for communication to work…doesn’t always register that notifications (effectively BT-LE connectivity) are setup and working. Now, a reasonable person would think that that is related to a bug in the Pebble app; and I thought so too, but not so much. Here’s why…

I am also having the same type of Bluetooth/ BT-LE connectivity issue with my Automatic car sensor as well. In fact, its probably the WORST offender in the bunch. It often registers as connected in Settings, but the app doesn’t read that it is connected, which is a HUGE problem that I’m dealing with on my end. Half of my trips never show up in the device’s app on my iPhone 6, when it was totally solid on my iPhone 5, even during the iOS 8 beta period. There’s something definitely not right with either iOS 8, my iPhone 6, or the combination of both.

What’s totally weird though, is that my iPhone 6 has a better time connecting to my Kenwood car stereo than my iPhone 5 did with either iOS 6, iOS 7 or iOS 8. That’s a hardware thing; and it really kinda ticks me off.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m glad that my iPhone 6 has a better time connecting now than my iPhone 5 did, but, while my car radio was really created for iPhone 4/4s, there’s no reason why connecting on iPhone 5 would have been so difficult, unless there was a real hardware issue with MY specific iPhone 5… I’ll tell ya… connecting to my car radio – and staying connected to my car radio – with my iPhone 5 was extremely painful.

Camera

I want to take just a bit of time here and talk about the camera in the iPhone 6. The camera has been improved in the iPhone 6 and it’s a bit better than the one in the iPhone 5/5s. The iSight camera is still at 8MP, but the optics are much better than in the iPhone 5/5s. As such, the autofocus is now better than before with a new technology called Focus Pixels. Panorama mode now supports up to 43MP, and the burst mode is, like, CRAZY fast, with nearly 10 photos a second.

iPhone 6

iPhone 5/5s

iPhone 6

iPhone 5/5s

Rear iSight Camera

Video Recording

New 8-megapixel iSight camera with 1.5µ pixels 8-megapixel iSight camera with 1.5µ pixels 1080p HD video recording 1080p HD video recording
Autofocus with Focus Pixels Autofocus (30 fps or 60 fps) (30 fps)
ƒ/2.2 aperture ƒ/2.2 aperture True Tone flash True Tone flash
True Tone flash True Tone flash Slo-mo video (120 fps or 240 fps) Slo-mo video (120 fps)
Five-element lens Five-element lens Time-lapse video Time-lapse video
Hybrid IR filter Hybrid IR filter Video stabilization Video stabilization
Backside illumination sensor Backside illumination sensor Cinematic video stabilization
Sapphire crystal lens cover Sapphire crystal lens cover Continuous autofocus video
Auto image stabilization  Auto image stabilization  Take still photos while recording video Take still photos while recording video
Auto HDR for photos Auto HDR for photos Improved face detection Face detection
Improved face detection Face detection 3x zoom 3x zoom
Exposure control Exposure control Video geotagging Video geotagging
Panorama (up to 43 megapixels) Panorama
Burst mode Burst mode
Tap to focus Tap to focus
Photo geotagging Photo geotagging
Timer mode Timer mode

There have been some big improvements in video performance as well. You can now film at either 30 or 60fps (instead of just 30fps) and take slow motion video at either 120fps or 240fps (instead of just 120fps).

The only thing you have to be cognizant of is that videos taken at the supported, higher frame rates will be twice the size as their lower frame rate counter parts. Twice the frame rates = twice the file size; and while that may not make a difference to most due to the changes in storage sizes (Apple has done away with the 32GB model device and is instead offering midrange 64GB and high end 128GB internal storage offerings.), you will need to be aware of this on the entry level 16GB model. Unfortunately, 16GB can fill up quite quickly when you take a lot of photos and videos.

Apple Pay and TouchID

I’ve been using Apple Pay as often as I can since my initial experience with it the day I took my granddaughter to McDonald’s. I haven’t had any real issues with the payment process at all, except, that is, for once.

There’s a Meijer Super Center near my house, and while they don’t take Apple Pay specifically, they do take NFC payments via Tap to Pay, and so, Apple Pay “works,” but you still have to interact with it a lot more than you would with a system that directly supports Apple Pay. That is to say, after the system has your card number/ payment info from your iPhone 6/6+, you have to interact with the store’s payment console as well as sign.

I stopped off at Meijer’s because I needed gas, and they were offering regular unleaded at $2.58 a gallon, so I decided to fill up. I’ve used Apple Pay at the pump before and it worked just like it did in the store, so I pulled up to a pump, pulled my iPhone out of its cradle in the car, opened the gas tank closure and got out of the car. I walked up to the pump, flashed my iPhone 6, verified via Touch-ID, and then began interacting with the pump to prove I was an authorized user of the card I just “tapped.” I entered in my 5-digit zip code and waited for the pump to tell me to choose a grade and start filling up.

Instead, I got an error message that the card number wasn’t valid.

Wait? What..??

I tried again and got the same results. I also tried a third time; after which, I gave up, pulled out the ACTUAL card that I was using in Apple Pay and slid it into the magnetic card reader at the pump. The transaction went through without an issue. I haven’t been back INside the actual store to see if this is a store-wide, Meijer’s thing or if this was perhaps a glitch with the individual pump I was using. I have been watching my bank account for more than one purchase at Meijer’s and I haven’t seen any duplicate charges; and I haven’t gotten a call from my bank about multiple attempts to charge something on my card, so… one can assume all is well.

It WAS really weird, though; and this has been the only burp in the Apple Pay experience that I’ve had thus far…

The device’s TouchID system is really pretty cool. This is my first exposure to it, as the iPhone 5s was the first device to introduce it, and I had an iPhone 5 before this. I like the fact that I don’t have to enter in a pass code to unlock the device. TouchID makes the device much more convenient to work with.

However, the one thing that I don’t like is that – legally speaking – law enforcement can compel me to unlock the device with through TouchID, but not through the 4 digit pass code that might be on the device. Somehow, it seems backwards, but I think I understand the law behind it…

I think. Though it still seems stupid to me…

Interestingly enough, TouchID isn’t completely infallible. It can still fail to read registered fingerprints and occasionally does on my iPhone 6 and on those of my wife, daughter and son-in-law. It doesn’t matter if I’m trying to simply unlock my device or use Apple Pay. Sometimes, TouchID doesn’t read things correctly.

Thankfully, it hasn’t registered a false positive yet. Meaning that it hasn’t read an unregistered fingerprint – either one of mine or someone else’s’ – and mistaken it for one of my registered fingerprints. I also haven’t heard of anyone experiencing a false positive read on an iDevice with TouchID.

Conclusion

The iPhone 6… In a word – WOW!

Yes, I really like this device. Its thin. It’s got a big, gorgeous screen that is MUCH easier to see and to read (especially for someone like me with bad eyesight). It’s also got some really great hardware with its new camera, improved Bluetooth and brand new NFC payment options in Apple Pay. The iPhone 6 is turning out to be a real winner for me, especially now that the Bluetooth connection to my car radio is actually not misbehaving like it was with my iPhone 5.

While the device is svelte and thin, and I appreciate its thin profile, I really wish I had a bit more confidence with it standing up to a bit more physical pressure. The Otterbox Defender Series case that I have this in is really nice, but it’s way too bulky and I don’t like that I feel I have to carry it around in this ugly, bulky brick of plastic and rubber. While the Otterbox Defender does a great job of protecting my iPhone 6, it’s not attractive and more than triples the profile of the device. I really need to find a more affordable and much thinner case for this thing.

Apple Pay has been a huge win for me. I find it secure, and very convenient. I am looking forward to more merchants and stores accepting it, going forward. I just think it’s really cool; and with the improved still and video camera, I don’t think my granddaughter stands a chance of me NOT getting her in the photo shots that I want.

The increased storage on the device is proving to be a huge boon. At this point, I have no idea how I was able to survive on the 16GB in my old iPhone 5. While I’m nowhere NEAR capacity of the 64GB in my iPhone 6, I know I’m well over 20GB full, and I’d have to cut a lot of stuff out of my content selections on my old iDevice.

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