In the weeks since the iPhone 6 Plus came around one discussion I’ve seen very little of is the device’s viability as a comic book reader. It’s one of the main reasons I got one.
The phablet’s viability for reading in general has probably been extensively talked about. The iPad’s main original purpose was digital reading. The purpose of the phablet is to be a tablet that fits in your pocket. Reading eBooks on the 6 Plus isn’t a hassle at all with text size adjustment in apps like iBooks, but reading what are basically image files with static words on them is a bit more delicate.
Reading digital comics on portable devices has been kind of a thing at least since people figured out the PSP’s image viewer could display comics that were configured properly. Since then I’ve moved from one screen to another for reading over the years. Looking back I can barely believe I was fine reading comics on something as small as the iPhone 3G. After that came the iPad which I eventually found to be a tad unwieldy. A lot of people will probably continue to believe the iPad Mini (or other small tablet, like the Kindle) is the most optimal digital reading device when it comes to size, especially if it’s got a retina screen. But again, fitting in your pocket is a big plus for the phablet.
Software-wise I haven’t seen a better mobile comic-reading app over the last several years than Comic Zeal, assuming what you’re reading is DRM-free. It’s very good at importing archive files or CBRs and even organizing them. iOS has also gotten pretty good at moving the files around between web browsers, and other apps like reading apps. I can click a download link from somewhere like Image Comics’ website on a mobile browser and have it immediately open in this app. The only problem is trying to bring in large numbers of books at once. Comic Zeal’s developer has provided multiple ways to import comics that are all convenient, but they all only let you import them one at a time. Transferring my 2GB of comics to the new phone was a hassle. I guess just having a cloud keep track of everything is an advantage of DRM-attached services like iBooks, Kindle, DC, and Marvel.
When it comes to the comic pages themselves, one reason people might have doubts about the iPhone 6 Plus in particular is its aspect ratio. Comic pages don’t evenly fit on its 16:9 (or 9:16 when vertical) screen so they have to zoom out. After reading a few issues on this thing, in my experience the text is just big enough to be legible, and the retina screen makes the art show up excellently. I could imagine some with different eyes might have issues with it.
I feel in the end people will go back and forth between using phablets and small high-resolution tablets for this kind of thing. Ultimately it’s going to be about whether you need something that fits in your pocket or a big clear screen. Maybe some people will just have both, but I’m not sure there are enough functions each one does better than the other to justify having both.
We’ll see. The 6 Plus is still young, not a lot of software has been optimized for it. I’m still figuring out what having it does to full tablets. When I first got a 3G it very nearly made my laptop irrelevant.
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