It took nearly two months of waiting, but my precious pre-ordered iPhone 6 Plus finally arrived last week. And where was one of the first places I took it? Why, Walt Disney World, of course! When Apple’s supersized smartphone debuted back in September, this Techcrunch article on using the new “phablet” inside Disneyland caught my eye. Since theme park reporting is one of the primary reasons I upgraded my iDevice, I wanted to write this companion piece sharing my initial experiences using the iPhone 6 Plus at WDW’s Magic Kingdom.
Yes, the iPhone 6 Plus is freaking ginormous, especially for the first few hours you hold it. Then it starts to seem normal, and your old phone begins to look puny in comparison. While riding attractions, the phone fit fine in the front pocket of my not-so-skinny jeans, and emerged again afterwards with nary a bend in sight.
I never found the phone’s size a hinderance while navigating the park, and though typing one-handed is much trickier, the greater legibility of the larger screen more than made up for it.
As an added bonus, the new screen also looks less reflective, meaning it’s more legible in the direct sunlight which is often found in abundance at Orlando’s attractions.
Walt Disney World’s widely distributed Wi-Fi system is more robust than the one at Universal Orlando, but my old iPhone would still sometimes struggle to maintain an internet connection in the park, especially when entering and exiting buildings. Though I can’t quantify the improvement, the iPhone 6 Plus appeared less likely to drop back to LTE service, and was quicker to reconnect to Wi-Fi when it did.
The increased battery capacity of the iPhone 6 Plus is its best feature, but it has also been a bit oversold. After five hours of constant in-park photo-snapping, video-recording, and tweet-sending, my battery went from 100% to below 40%. That isn’t exactly the 2 full days without recharging some reviewers have reported. But it is a substantial improvement over my old iPhone 5S, which I could completely drain (along with a pocket-sized external battery pack) in about 4 hours of heavy theme park usage.
The iPhone 6 Plus’s extended battery life means I’ll spend less time searching the Magic Kingdom for an accessible electrical outlet. That’s a task made tougher by the removal of the charging station that was located in Cosmic Ray’s over the summer (though I was told by the device’s distributor that they may return), and the continued inoperability of the USB charging ports installed at Fantasyland’s Tangled rest area. Luckily for wall-hugging users of legacy iPhones, the charging stations in Storybook Circus were still functioning fine at last check — plus, the former FastPass+ service area where they are located is almost always empty.
The biggest selling point of the iPhone 6 Plus for me was the upgraded camera, which features optical image stabilization and faster autofocus. I don’t have an iPhone 6 to compare it to, but the iPhone 6 Plus camera is a noticeable improvement over my iPhone 5S, which was already quite good for a smartphone snapshooter.
The new continuous autofocus really shines in video mode, which also boasts improved “cinematic” video stabilization. You can see the result it this footage I shot of the Jingle Cruise; note how the camera handles shifts from foreground to background focus, as well as exposure changes from light to dark areas.
Even better is the still camera’s performance, especially in low light situations with camera motions — like inside one of the Magic Kingdom’s classic dark rides. Obviously, no point-and-shoot lens will ever equal a dedicated DSLR in difficult shooting conditions, but these are by far the best flash-free dark ride photos I’ve ever taken with a camera phone:
Pirates of the Caribbean:
Under the Sea: