The iPhone 6 Plus has a content problem

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Date: Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014, 03:19
Category: iOS, iPad, iPhone

WIRED Magazine is only available on the iPad, and that's a problem - Jason O'GradyI purchased an iPhone 6 Plus on Friday to replace my iPhone 5s and an iPad mini Retina. I figured that the large, 5.5-inch screen on the 6 Plus would allow me to consolidate two devices into one.

It turns out that while the concept of an iPhone-6-Plus-as-an-iPad (think iPad nano) sounds good in theory, it fails in practice.

The iPhone 6 Plus ships with a different build of iOS 8 (12A366) than the iPhone 6 (12A365) which allows it to do a few new tricks that aren’t possible on its smaller 4.7-inch cousin. Most notably, the iPhone 6 Plus home screen can be rotated to a horizontal (or “landscape”) view with the dock running along the right-hand side.

Another new trick: the 6 Plus home screen be flipped 180-degrees (another first) to the delight legions of commuters that connect Lightning and/or audio cables into the bottom of their iPhone only to promptly stick them into their vehicle’s cup holder upside-down. Sadly the UIs for Apple Maps and Google Maps don’t rotate 180-degrees (but Waze does).

Most of Apple’s first-party apps (including Mail, Calendar, Messages, Settings and Clock) feature a new dual-pane mode when rotated into landscape mode on the iPhone 6 Plus, similar to how they behave on the iPad. It’s a nice trick that I hope that more iOS developers integrate into their apps.

While the new rotation options and dual-pane apps are nice touches, the 6 Plus is lacking in the content department, specifically when it comes to magazines.

The iPhone 6 Plus features a gorgeous 1920 x 1080 Retina HD display with substantially more pixels than the iPad, iPad 2 and iPad mini (1024 x 768) yet it won’t display magazines purchased in Newsstand on an iPad. I attempted to re-download Wired and Rolling Stone magazines on Newsstand on my 6 Plus over the weekend and both were missing. So, although I subscribe to both magazines, and read them on my iPad, they’re artificially restricted to the iPad hardware at present.

To better understand the iPhone 6 Plus’ resolution I recommend reading iPhone 6 Screens Demystified.

It’s a shame that Apple restricts magazines (and “iPad only” apps) from the iPhone 6 Plus. Apple’s new hotness clearly has more than enough resolution and screen real-estate to support reading magazines, so why are they blocked? My friend Louis Gray calls it #fragmentation, and I tend to agree with him:

As for why magazines are locked to iPad hardware, I’m guessing that it’s a holdover from the iPhones-are-too-small-for-magazines era. Apple tries to provide a seamless (read: idiot-proof) user-experience, and at some point decided that it doesn’t want iPhone users downloading full-size Newsstand titles on iPhones. Perhaps it would result in more complaints, support calls and/or returns? Tough to say.

The real answer might be the dreaded “fragmentation” problem that people have attempted to blame on Android. Apple now has multiple screen-sizes in its iPhone lineup and although the iPhone 6 Plus is more than capable of displaying magazines, it’s still technically an iPhone, effectively eliminating a wide swath of content from being read on it.

Compounding the issue are developers that publishing “iPad only” apps that won’t install on an iPhone, even on the iPhone 6 Plus. Apple segregates apps into either “iPhone” or “iPad” and while both can install on the iPad (iPhone apps can run in 2x mode), iPad apps cannot run on the iPhone. Microsoft Word and Excel for iPad fall into this camp and can only be installed on iPads.

Apple needs to open Newsstand content to all devices (specifically the 6 Plus) and developers need to update their iPad-only apps so that they work on the iPhone too.

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3 Responses to “The iPhone 6 Plus has a content problem”

  1. So… does the iPhone 6 Plus do what you had hoped? Eliminate the iPad mini ????

    Can the 6Plus really be a replacement for a 5s / iPad mini combo????

  2. Are you sure it is Apple doing this? I can view PC Pro on both my iphone and ipad yet Empire only on the iPad. Seems to be the magazine producers rather than Apple making the decision.

  3. I was looking for Wired today also and, 2 months on, it’s still not available. I think this will gradually change and I also believe it’s the content guys themselves…not Apple. The App Store can publish different apps for different versions of the iPhone so shouldn’t it be possible to publish mags for the 6+ only??