When Apple introduced new iPhones last year, the company made a splash by releasing two flagship models simultaneously: the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. Although differing in size, the two phones share the same proportional design. Now that I’ve owned and used an iPhone 6 Plus for just over five months, however, it’s clear that Apple made two notable and, for me, frustrating mistakes with the design of its larger phone. While one of these mistakes will require a hardware refresh to rectify, at least one of them can be addressed via a software update.
Mistake 1: Lock Button Directly Opposite the Volume Buttons
Both new iPhones are larger than their predecessors, too big to keep the lock button (a.k.a. on/off or sleep/wake button) in its traditional location on the top edge of the device. Leaving it there would make it nearly impossible for most users to reach it while holding the phone with one hand, especially those using the iPhone 6 Plus. Therefore, Apple decided to move the lock button to the right side of the phone.
I don’t take issue with Apple’s decision to move the lock button to the side of the iPhone, but I’m now convinced that the company moved it to the absolutely worst position they could have chosen. As it stands, the lock button sits perfectly opposite the ‘volume up’ button located on the left side of the phone. This creates a nice visual design that I’m sure Jony Ive is proud of, but it makes for terrible usability.
As is obvious, when you want to press a button on one side of your iPhone, you need to provide opposing force of some kind on the other side of the phone. With the lock button’s current location, the most natural place to provide that counteracting force is the volume button area. The result? More than half of the times I attempt to lock my iPhone, I get inadvertent volume changes. It works the other way, too, with attempts to raise the volume far too frequently resulting in unintentional triggering of the lock or sleep function.
This issue was identified by many users in the early days of the iPhone 6’s availability, but the consensus was that we’d all get used to the new button locations and learn over time to move our hands and fingers into the correct positions so as to avoid inadvertent button presses. It’s true that you can contort your hand to apply counteracting force below the volume or lock buttons, but I, and many others I’ve spoken to, find such hand positions to be uncomfortable.
Things are a lot easier with the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 thanks to the device’s overall smaller form factor, but the positioning still isn’t ideal. Historically, the anticipated “iPhone 6s” will feature the same basic design as its predecessor, but here’s hoping Apple can make some tweaks to the location of the iPhone 6 lock button, preferably by moving it more to the center of the iPhone’s right side (roughly where the SIM slot is currently located), allowing for a user to apply opposing force without fear of hitting the wrong button.
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