Wed. Mar 22nd, 2023

When I first heard about the iPhone 6 Plus during Apple’s announcement last month, my mind immediately jumped to the 3DS XL. That 2012 update to the portable platform made 3DS games both more comfortable to look at and the system itself much more comfortable to hold in adult hands. The supersized iPhone 6 Plus does the same for what has become one of the most popular gaming platforms ever, breathing new life into games that can feel a little cramped on smaller iPhone screens.

Of course, Apple isn’t the first to discover the mobile gaming potential of a larger screen: Android and Windows Phones have had screens the same size or larger than the iPhone 6 Plus for years. While those platforms are slowly catching up with iOS in game selection and features, the iTunes Store still has some major gaming exclusives and a huge back catalog of great games, making it the platform of choice for mobile gaming.

After our very own Andrew Cunningham took a deep dive into the iPhone 6 Plus’s capabilities as a productivity and communication device, I put the phone to the test as a portable gaming machine. After a week of tapping, swiping, and tilting through dozens of games, I found the iPhone 6 Plus a little unwieldy for games designed to be played with one hand, but a solid improvement over previous iPhones for just about everything else .

Too big for one hand

Let’s get that major flaw out of the way first: the iPhone 6 Plus is just too big to comfortably hold and manipulate for most one-handed games. On the iPhone 5, I can easily and firmly grasp the sides of the phone with my fingers, allowing my thumb to reach from one corner to the other with relative ease.

Similarly, playing games on the iPhone 6 Plus is an exercise in frustration; it’s just too wide to get the same grip while still keeping the thumb movable (at least in my hands). The best solution I’ve found is to rest the back of the phone on my fingertips and tilt the phone almost parallel to the ground so that gravity holds it in place. It’s not a safe way to hold a phone, and it gets less secure the more you move your thumb (and the weight of your hand) to actually tap the games.

The iPhone 5 (left) and the iPhone 6 (right) are played with one hand.

The iPhone 5 (left) and the iPhone 6 (right) are played with one hand.

Plus, the expansive screen real estate makes it difficult to reach from one corner of the screen to the other with the same thumb holding the device. In practice, this wasn’t too much of a problem: the action in most of the one-handed iOS games I tried focused on the actual tapping and swiping in the center of the screen. And some one-handed titles, such as Run Templefunction controls that allow swiping anywhere on the screen, making position even less important.

That said, I often found myself clumsily trying to shift or adjust the position of the phone in my hand so my thumb could reach a distant tap target. Sometimes I found myself unknowingly raising my unattached hand to hold or stabilize the device, or placing the phone against my chest to adjust my position. The “Accessibility” feature of the iPhone 6 Plus does work with games and can be useful for turn-based titles such as Words with friends or Bookworm heroesbut it’s far too inefficient to be of any use for games that require reflexes.

How big is this drop in one-handed gaming? Of course, that depends on the kind of iPhone games you play and the situations in which you use the phone. Personally, I found myself regretting the bigger phone when trying to play a quick round Bejeweled Blitz while holding a bag of groceries in a line at the checkout or swiping through a game Super Monsters ate my apartment while holding a sleeping baby in the other arm. These and many other games were perfectly playable if I had two hands free — one to hold the device, the other to tap and swipe — but if that wasn’t an option, the iPhone 6 Plus was actually worse than the iPhone 5 I usually keep playing.

Bigger is better (with two hands)

While testing the iPhone 6 Plus’s gaming potential overall, I was surprised how many of my favorite iPhone games actually require two hands, even when played on a smaller phone. A game like Fruit Ninja or Desert golf technically you may only need one finger to play, but in practice you hold the device with one hand and swipe with the other index finger. And if you have two hands free, almost every game has been significantly improved on the iPhone 6 Plus.

In general, I’m not a fan of iOS games that use an on-screen “virtual control panel” and button overlays as the control method. In addition to requiring players to cover valuable screen real estate with their thumbs, the tight space and lack of tactile feedback made these options clunky at best and unusable on older iPhones at worst. The iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t completely solve these problems, but it does mitigate them. The increased physical size of the controls on games like Super Crate Box, League of Evil, Pix N Love Rush, And Dead tractor led to more comfort and less mis-tap when moving from the iPhone 5 to the 6 Plus (weirdly, I couldn’t get it Age of zombies to run at all on my 6 Plus, even though it worked fine on an iPhone 5 running iOS 8).

Playing <i>Pix N Love Rush</i> on the iPhone 6 Plus is nice and comfortable…” src=”×426.jpg” width=”640″ height=” 426″ srcset=” 2x”/><figcaption class=
Enlarge / To play Pix N Love Rush on the iPhone 6 Plus is nice and comfortable…
...while playing on the iPhone 5 is much tighter and causes your thumbs to block more of the action.
Enlarge / …while playing on the iPhone 5 is much tighter and causes your thumbs to block more of the action.

Plus, it’s less annoying to have your fingers stuck to the on-screen controls when more of the overall screen space is left uncovered (see above). Even games with “two-sided” tap controls, such as Duet or Pinball machinetake advantage of the fact that proportionally less of the screen is covered by opaque thumbs.

Many other games also make great use of the extra screen real estate. Elis And Elis Infinity are the best examples I’ve found. I’d long ago given up trying to break apart and merge the circles of these games on the small iPhone screen, opting to play on the iPad instead, but the larger screen size on the 6 Plus, they can suddenly be played on a pocket-sized device. For other games, such as Desert golf or Super Hexagonit’s just easier to see and react to what’s happening without squinting, thanks to the larger screen.

For another set of games, inclusive Pinball machine, Zen bound, Smash hitAnd Monuments Valley, a bigger screen just makes it easier to admire the high-res retina graphics. The effect isn’t quite as noticeable as playing on an iPad (or even an iPad Mini), but it’s still nice to have the extra graphics space in a more convenient and portable form.

I also noticed some benefits of playing tilt-based games on the iPhone 6 Plus; titles like Aaaaaaa!!! A reckless disregard for gravity, knightmare tower, or Tilt to live 2 felt a bit more accurate and easier to position on the new phone compared to the iPhone 5. I can’t really tell if this is because of the 6 Plus’ addition of a second accelerometer for more precise tilt sensitivity or if it’s just easier to get more accurate , finer-grained shifts when holding a thinner, larger device with a few grams more weight. Either way, it’s hard to go back to the iPhone 5 for these games.

It’s a shame the iPhone 6 Plus is too big to use effectively for one-handed gaming, because for everything else it’s quickly become my go-to mobile gaming device. The 6 Plus strikes a good balance for gaming, being large enough to avoid the “fat-fingered” issues somewhat inherent in gaming on previous iPhones, but it’s not quite as unwieldy as an iPad or iPad Mini for on-the-go gaming. And then I haven’t even mentioned how the longer battery life is a godsend when playing graphically intense games. If you’re interested in using your iPhone as a gaming device, consider an upgrade.

By akfire1

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