At first glance, iPhone 6S looks just like its predecessor. Made of metal and glass, its intricately rounded edges compliment its feel and light build come in packaging so pristine that discarding the box hardly even occurs to most users.
Other than a tiny “S” badge on its back, there is barely anything to differentiate the 6S from the hugely popular iPhone 6. There are however, major differences under the hood that any potential buyer would be remiss to neglect.
The three most prominent differences are present in the camera optics — it captures its subjects at 12 megapixels now and shoots 4K video — the processing power specifications and the display properties.
A lot of this is shown off by the impressive work done by the brand new A9 processor and Apple’s all-new 3D Touch feature, but I’ve highlighted a few areas that I feel are important to take into consideration before dishing out the cheddar on this device.
- Design: Although the 6S is extremely familiar on the outside, it is slightly heavier due to the 7000 series aluminum used in its build. This is mostly to thwart the bendgate crisis that plagued many iPhone 6S owners last year. iPhones are famous for being pretty and shiny, but infamous for the slipperiness that comes with that — you really can’t expect that much grip and traction from metal and glass after all — so the general hope is that the weight of the new metal and the 0.2mm increase in thickness will help with this. In addition, Touch ID has been updated and is now twice as fast, enabling users to unlock their phones seemingly by simply pressing the home button once and waking the screen — yeah, it really is that fast.
- Specs: Apple’s alternately released “S” phones are historically known for their relative lack of flashiness that is well made up for by their tendency to be models for game changing features — the S is said to have stood for Speed in iPhone 3GS, Siri in iPhone 4S, and Security in iPhone 5S, brought about by the introduction of Touch ID’s fingerprint reader. The 6S, however shines in all three, and this is all thanks to its 2GHz A9 processor which feels very snappy in everyday use due to its 2GB of RAM. Multitasking rocks on this thing and the device itself scores benchmarks so high, it’s comparable to some laptops (it’s really, really fast).
- Battery: This one is slightly odd, seeing as the battery is slightly smaller at 1715mAh in the 6S and 2750mAh in the 6S Plus. These are lower on paper, but ideally the same, especially with the support provided by iOS 9’s new low-power mode, which can extend battery life several hours with normal use. This feature is actually quite impressive in the way it slows down animations and background processes to save power, as well as in the way it manages display output — if your phone is face-down on a surface when you receive a notification in low power mode, you’ll hear it but the screen won’t light up, because why should it? It’s not like you’re gonna see it.
- Display: In terms of resolution, everything is the same: a 1334 x 750 IPS panel on the 6S, and a 1080p LCD panel on the 6S Plus. The real story here is 3D touch, which enables users to extend and expand the functionality of capacitive buttons and icons by applying varying levels of force to their taps and presses. It uses an intuitive taptic engine to generate a mobile version of the Force Touch functionality that was debuted on the most recently released MacBook in March. By applying such force, users can “peek” at their content at a glance while retaining full sense of their context, and view information provided by apps other than the one currently running. With a little bit of extra force, users can “pop” fully into apps they are peeking at and access their full feature set. It is very important to note however, that although 3D Touch is pretty and full of new possibilities for iOS users, it is still brand new and mostly usable only in Apple’s built in apps and apps made by very prominent developers. Most third-party developers will need a considerable amount of time to take full advantage of it; iPhone 7 might even be out before all of them are safely on the train. So if you’re an iPhone 6 owner and 3D Touch is your only reason for getting the new device, I’d advise a review of priorities; however, if you own anything before and including iPhone 5S or you’re just a lost and curious Android user, please be my guest.
- Camera: It’s safe to say that the world has reached a point where iPhones and iOS are reasonably capable of enough things to actually make Android users do a double take and consider owning them. That being said, the latest thing to come up to par and push this trend forward is the new iSight camera. It has the same colour corrective true tone flash that’s been around since iPhone 5S, and the same camera optics for the most part, but there’s a new sensor with new specs. There is quite a lot to say about what makes the iSight camera unique, but I’ll try and explain without droning. In practice, the utility of a smartphone’s camera is measured on a scale of functionality and a scale of control/usability — if you take a very advanced smartphone camera with a lot of buttons and toggles and hand it to someone on the street, chances are they won’t be able to use it all that well or to its full potential; similarly, a camera that is very easy to use most likely doesn’t take very impressive photograph. The iSight camera is in the habit of finding the right balance between these two criteria with each release. In the 6S and 6S Plus, the difference is not so much in the detail of the shots as in the colour accuracy and image processing brought about by the 12MP sensor, as opposed to the 8MP one that’s been around since 2011’s iPhone 4S. There isn’t a lot of sharpening; colours are warm; photos look natural and possess an impressive amount of detail; and HDR is not aggressive at all — high dynamic range modes on smartphones increase the range of luminosity captured by their cameras. In addition, noise levels are manageable and video detail is great without being overly sharp. The iSight camera shoots videos with excellent exposure and dynamic range, accurate colours and warm tones.
The flashiest thing Apple is selling with the new iSight camera is its ability to capture what they are calling “live photos.” Users can take them by holding still while the iSight camera records subjects’ activity 1.5 seconds before and after it captures the actual photo. I admit that they’re cool and rouse ideas for a great deal of potential, but I can’t help but see them as glorified gifs and short videos after careful consideration; they’re almost gimmicky. They take up the space of two photos, cannot be shared in their full form outside of the Apple ecosystem and are enabled by default. The good thing though, is that they make the coolest interactive wallpapers on the planet and serve as Apple Watch faces. That counts for something, I suppose.
One of the best things about any new flagship device is the fact that it is the first to ship with its maker’s newest operating system, and this is the case with iPhone 6S. Apple is often applauded for their commitment to designing software and hardware hand in hand, and this lack of fragmentation translates to one of the iPhone’s greatest strengths as a product. iOS 9 was designed for the 6S — and vice versa — and it truly shows.
The size of iPhone to go for is a whole other story, as it really does depends on what works best for each individual, and can be sometimes difficult to discern. My advice is to try both devices out for prolonged periods of time, and make sure to feel them properly in the hand.
In my experience, most users know which one they truly want once they’ve felt them both and this includes people who dismissed the plus size as being too big before even touching it, only to change their minds at some point. Just remember that the 6S Plus has a 60% larger battery and a camera that features optical image stabilization.
Unlocked, iPhone 6S is priced at $649 for the 16GB model which really shouldn’t even exist — the thing takes 12MP photos and shoots 4K video for crying out loud — $749 for the 64GB model, and $849 for the 128GB model. Bear in mind that the 6S Plus costs at least $100 more in each category, locked or unlocked.
Honestly, the phone will still be ridiculously expensive no matter what we do, so I suppose we’ll just have to deal with it. And that new iPhone Upgrade Program that Apple announced after debuting the new phones? It could be good if you like to get every new iPhone that shows its face. If you don’t, then I suggest you stay far away from it.
Carrier rates and promotions differ slightly, but the experience has been proven very similar in most cases. At least the phone will be easier to get, now that it has been out for three weeks.
Just make sure you take a look at the new rose gold version of the iPhone in person before writing it off; it might seem like a pale pink but chances are, you’ll fall madly in love with it.