For Apple’s newest iPhones, taking ‘upgrade’ literally

October 1, 2014, 3:59 AM UTC
Courtesy: Apple

“Bigger than Bigger” is the tagline Apple adopted to describe its latest iPhone lineup. Indeed, the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are bigger than last year’s models, the 5C and 5S, which have 4-inch displays. The new models have 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens, respectively, but there’s much more to the pair than just screen size.

Sure, there’s a new processor, the A8, which promises to be faster and more power-efficient. There’s the new M8 co-processor, which tracks your activity using the phone’s myriad sensors, including a barometer to measure elevation changes. There’s the new display, which promises improved contrast and wider viewing angles, even while wearing polarized sunglasses. And there are the tweaks to the software that powers its 8-megapixel camera: improved face detection, auto-focus, video stabilization, and slow-motion capture.

The list of iterative improvements is long. There’s little doubt that the new iPhones are the best Apple (AAPL) has ever made.

But that’s not the goal of this latest crop. Apple’s new iPhones are, perhaps for the first time, openly courting the Google (GOOG) Android users who walked out of Apple’s garden when iOS devices turned stale, looking for a taller glass of milk.

Samsung, the Korean company that has come to bedevil Apple in recent years, first released a larger-format phone in 2011. People scoffed at the Galaxy Note, which carried a 5.3-inch screen, because it didn’t fit the mold at the time. Was it a phone? Was it a tablet? The answer: a “phablet.” The name was as ugly as the phone was perceived to be.

Quite a lot of people like using a phone with a bigger screen, it turns out. Each of Samsung’s Note models has broken the 10 million unit mark in the last three years. Total Galaxy Note sales are over 50 million. The Note 4 is expected to debut on October 17, no doubt further support for a new trend in which large-screened phones—sorry, phablets—eat into tablet computer sales.

And guess who sells an awful lot of tablets?

There’s a lot riding on the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus. The larger format presents new problems for Apple. The devices’ predecessors were perfected for one-handed use. The new models must rely on software to compensate for the extra screen real estate.

For example, the new devices allow you to swipe in from either edge of the screen for easy navigation, forward or backwards, within a mobile application. Developers can now add a two-pane view to apps, activated when you rotate the iPhone 6 Plus into landscape mode. The new view is similar to what you’d see on an iPad, only smaller.

“Reachability” is another feature that you would not have seen on earlier, smaller iPhone models. Activated by quickly tapping (not pressing) the home button twice, the feature pulls the top half of the screen down and places the furthest on-screen buttons or icons within a thumb’s reach. The point of the feature, which I initially had pegged as a gimmick, is to eliminate the need to use two hands to manipulate the larger device. In testing, I came to appreciate it, especially on the larger iPhone 6 Plus.

In a bid to woo those coveted Android users, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS 8, incorporates widgets—the term used for miniature applications that draw on information from larger ones—in its Notification Center. The absence of widgets in iOS is something for which passionate Android users have long mocked about their iPhone-wielding peers. With the new iPhones, Apple finally evens the score.

The new phones also come with support for Apple Pay, the company’s new mobile payments service. Unfortunately, the feature won’t go live until later this month, so I was unable to test it.

And what of battery life, you ask? Satisfactory for both. During testing, I was able to pull the iPhone 6 through a day of heavy usage with enough juice left over to carry into the early lunch hour on day two. The 6 Plus, meanwhile, was able to power through the same amount of time with a couple of hours to spare. If you’re a frequent traveler, you’ll be pleased with the phones’ performance—just don’t cry foul when one doesn’t fit into the cup holder of your rental car.

Which brings me to my final point: portability. If you’re an iPhone 5 or 5S user, the larger iPhone 6 requires only minor adjustment to your habits. It should slide right into the back pocket of your favorite pair of jeans, at least for most people.

The much larger iPhone 6 Plus is a different story. It doesn’t completely disappear into a back jeans pocket, and you’ll be promptly reminded of that fact when you forget to remove it before sitting down. (And for those of you who are concerned about bent iPhones, I say only this: No iPhones were harmed in the making of this article.)

Both models fit just fine into the breast pocket of my suit jacket as well as the front pocket on a pair of slacks.

With larger sizes and a collection of minor improvements, can Apple’s latest iPhones woo Android users back into the fold? It’s possible, though Apple’s new devices seem to merely close the gap between the two warring factions.

In truth, I wonder about Apple’s millions of existing customers that will be forced to upgrade to a larger phone. As I tested both devices, I found it a struggle to retrain my mind and hand to adapt to using a larger device. It’s a matter of personal preference, and I’m told it gets easier with time. But if phone-tablet hybrids truly are the future of personal computing, count me out, at least for the time being. I just can’t wrap my hand around it.

Logged In” is Fortune’s personal technology column, written by Jason Cipriani. Read it on each Tuesday.