Phablets hard to use with one hand? Blame software not hardware

I was reading on Mashable how most are happy with their iPhone 6 Plus, a few are undecided, and a few returned it for the 6 — usually after only a day of use. That’s interesting because many who are happy with the 6 Plus needed a week or two to get used to it. Once they did, they loved it. That too was my experience with the OnePlus One.

The biggest reason for not liking the 6 Plus is that it wasn’t ideal for one handed use. Which I find fascinating, because the reason for that is not hardware — i.e. size per se — but software.

I have two modes with smartphones: productivity mode and consumption mode. The former requires two hands, even if the size of your phone is 3.5-inches. That includes extensive typing (messaging, email, URLs, etc.), photo editing, playing games, etc.

Consumption mode is what we normally associate with one handed use, and here your choice of apps will make a big impact. Flipboard, for example, is completely usable one handed with a phablet. Many other news apps are not. Instagram, Google Maps and feecha are also easy to use with one hand on big phones.

The reason why so many apps are horrible to use one handed is because many designers blindly apply what they know from websites to apps.  That’s why the “back” and “next” buttons are often found in an app’s top corners — because that is the convention from websites. Even the minimize, maximize and close buttons are in the top corners of programs on Mac and Windows.

It comes down to whether developers have the foresight to design for one hand use, and why that’s something I specifically look for in choosing which apps to use. Good designers will use a combination of gestures, good organization and clever button placement to make an app usable with one hand, even on phablets.

That’s why for feecha, we placed the back button on the bottom.


A lot of people misunderstand iPhone 6’s reachability feature. That’s not to compress the interface, but meant to be an easy way to hit those corner buttons.

Android naturally works better on phablets for one handed use because its universal back button is on the bottom of every phone.

The home screen grid of icons on iOS is also bad for one handed use. The arrangement of icons are fixed, which means icons have to be placed at the top before they can be placed on the bottom.

Compare that to Android, where you can place icons anywhere on the screen. I like to put widgets on top to display information, and the apps I want on the bottom — within easy reach of my thumb.


So if you hate that the iPhone 6 Plus is not great one handed, don’t blame the hardware. Blame the software.

One thought on “Phablets hard to use with one hand? Blame software not hardware

  1. Great article, and I find your posts very informative as well as very well thought out.

    I wish app developers will put more effort into making their apps more gesture based. That was, with movement of your fingers, you can do most of the navigation, and stuff, like Flipboard, which I love to use to just quickly catch up on news.

    Simple things like twitter compose button, it will be so much easily accessible if the compose button was located on the bottom of the screen rather than top, like it’s computer cousin.

    I 100% agree that what developers develop for computer should be redrawn to make it more efficient on their phone/phablet cousins.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s