When Apple’s Tim Cook finally announced the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, he was greeted with rapturous applause from diehard fans, snarky attack ads from sour competitors, and an unlikely #bendgate controversy about skinny jeans warping the slick devices.
Coming in at 4.7 and 5.5 inches across, these behemoth new screens are much more than a status symbol, copycat tactic, and structural liability—they also open a brave new world for developers, designers, and user experience / user interface (UX/UI) strategists.
How will apps adapt to the new real estate, and how will users respond? The outsized screens present both a challenge and an opportunity for the future of mobile design.
New Territory: A Lot of Space to Fill
While the new phones are appreciably bigger, on first glance, you may not realize just how many more pixels have been packed in: the 6 features 38% more space than its 5s predecessor, while the 6 Plus adds a whopping 68% increase.
Devs and designers will jump at the chance to give users more content and information, without crowding the interface and throwing off iOS’s trademark simplicity and Zen-like minimalism. They can also use the opportunity for more detailed graphics and bigger fonts. That’s great for readability, but what about reachability?
Solutions for Sore, Stubby Thumbs
An iPhone 5s sits comfortably in the palm of your hand and allows easy access to every corner of the screen—perfect for subway rides, multi-handed multitasking, and texting on the go. As this handy (heh) graphic shows, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus are a little less accessible. This places many navigational tools—typically at the top of an app—inconveniently just out of reach.
Apple’s solution? Reachability, a feature launched by a double-tap on the home button that brings the top half of the screen to the bottom. Interesting idea, but some UX/UI experts are already declaring it “hacky and completely unintuitive.” A better approach may be moving the nav buttons down below deck and integrating more gestural controls.
As bigger screen sizes continue to gain popularity and become the new normal, designers will be forced to innovate, reinvent, and rethink the way our digits and digital devices interact.