An editorial on productivity on the iPhone 6S and a general overview after 2 months of ownership
It’s been about 2 months since I started my digital pivot away from devices that were mostly long-term review units and just started outfitting my own kit with the best gear available. Into my secondary phone slot went an Apple iPhone 6s 128GB, space gray. My new requirements had become 128GB of storage, large screen, and maximum battery life; digital ink where available. I originally had plans on an iPhone 6s Plus to meet the large screen requirement, but my other smartphones are pretty huge, so I felt that the more lithe iPhone 6s was a better device to add in order to have some gadget diversity. With sufficient space for my entire digital music collection, the 6S does not have the super-extended battery-life of the 6s Plus, but it still exceeds the endurance of my Google Nexus 6P and Samsung Galaxy Note 5. I love the curve of the glass away from the screen at the edges and how it rolls into the bezel. A solid camera meets my needs for snapping photos of the kids with only seconds to capture whatever silly thing they are doing. But my main requirement when I did the shift was that my phones and tablets had to enable me to get absolutely the most work done in the shortest amount of time while on the go. Browse, Search, alerts, play, write: these are the things that define a lot of my life outside of my day job and whenever I’m in motion or dislocated from home, and I need mobile devices that get those things done with masterful efficiency.
Storage and battery-life define my productivity experience more than anything on the iPhone 6s. While it is often not considered as a factor in productivity by many of those who write in the digital space, music is key for me, and having the space to store all of mine is a Louisville Slugger of a capability. How productive I am is often driven by the music I listen to, which is more defined by what music I have available on a given mobile device. The freedom to plumb my entire music collection on the go gives me the ability to pick and choose whatever I think will propel me forward, or to simply occupy the parts of my brain that might otherwise get distracted by letting it focus on an album I am not familiar with. There are, surprisingly and unfortunately, a very small number of smartphones being produced today and readily available in North America that have a 128GB SKU in the lineup. And expandable microSD cards are not a suitable substitute, because of how different phones and event different apps can interact with them. On the battery-life front, I typically go to bed with somewhere between 35 and 50% of battery life left on my iPhone 6S. That is for a 20 hour day, often with heavy IM’ing or extensive music play, and connected to a Microsoft Band 2 and Jawbone UP 2. Needless to say, I never worry about the iPhone going unavailable on me because I could not manage its battery drain during the day.
I talked a bit last year when I reviewed the Huawei SnapTo about how a smaller phone sometimes resulted in me getting more things done, because there were scenarios that I would have just waited to do something on a larger phone until I had two hands free rather than try and pull it off one-handed. This notion runs counter to what even I normally propound, which is that more screen real-estate typically means greater productivity. The iPhone 6s definitely supports the thesis of the former. Additionally, my user experience is at a high level because of the rock-solid reliability of the apps. Pulling up a note-taking app on the iPhone 6s presents little worry that my note (or notes) is going to get eaten. There is some funkiness in apps and the overall UX because of the fact that the iPhone does not have a “Back” button, as this often results in developers doing wacky, non-intuitive things to let you get back to a previous screen. Or, worse, they don’t let you go back and you have to pop to the beginning of the workflow and traverse the thing all over again.
Right now, my note-taking app of choice is Color Note. The iOS app is a far cry away from the functionality of the Android app of nearly the same name (the two apps have no relationship to each other and come from two completely different developers), but it’s still pretty tight. Because I juggle lots of data across multiple devices, color differentiation between objects is a huge factor for me in note-taking apps. I often go looking for something I need to recall in seconds and I’m looking for it by the color of the note. My calendaring app, which is probably the second-most important thing in my kit, is Tiny Calendar. Again, less powerful than a straight Google Calendar application, but pretty solid short of that. I know that Google provides its own Calendar app via the App Store, but I’ve been wanting to experiment with what third parties have out there. I’m now mixing in bits of Evernote for note-taking and organization. I’ve been a long-time user, but generally for speed I try to use non-cloud apps for notes that I think will be of short shelf-life. But despite its cloud orientation, Evernote is pretty damned fast on any mobile device. Almost as fast as Keep, which Google does not provide an iOS version of.
Rounding out my primary app kit on iOS are my comms solutions. Communicating with others is, obviously, also a key part of productivity. FaceTime provides one of the best ways to get in touch with my mother and get the kids on-screen. Getting her and I both on an iOS device is one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. Of course, I talk to the rest of the GWW staff using GroupMe. While I do not like the client on iOS nearly as much as the Android variant, it’s still pretty solid. Twitter is in the mix, and, again, the lack of a Back button kills me here, especially when I get into a conversation actually using Twitter’s Reply function (I know, rare) and need to get back to see the conversation represented as a thread rather than disconnected tweets and Mentions. Finally, the wifey and I have gone to using WhatsApp rather than SMS. You don’t get as many display options as you do on the Android version (no option for Pop-Up notifications), but, again, what else are you going to do? I’m not interested in using some third party solution that hooks the WhatsApp API, so native app it is.
While I am immensely satisfied with the iPhone 6s as a productivity device in these first two months, it would not be my go-to device necessarily if I had to grab a phone on no-notice and race out the door. The Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is probably my go-to project and task-tracking phone. There is just no beating the Note 5’s ink-note takingcability, which provides a quick-reaction response to drive-by tasking from anyone in the office, from the web, or in my house. But the max storage on a Note 5 is 64GB, so for a week-long trip, I’d prefer the iPhone 6s, because I could work with all of my music available, while the Note 5 is fine for a day at the office. But if you can only go with one phone, or your primary need is multimedia or social media interaction as a priority over productivity, the iPhone 6s seems to be proving out to be a good choice. And it’ll help you get some work done, too.