“The only thing that’s changed is everything”
That’s the tagline Apple went with for their new iPhone 6s. But if you look at the phone and its big brother, you wouldn’t notice any changes whatsoever. The phones look exactly like their predecessors, and on the surface, they are the same. But you know what they say, it’s the inside that counts, and that remains true in this case.
Everyone knows that I’m not a big fan of Apple, whether it’s their Mac lineup or their iPhones. I carry an iPod Touch around for music, an that’s generally as far as I’ll go. But when the iPhone 6s was released, I jumped at the opportunity to try one out and here’s why: when it comes to Apple’s s products, they’re generally iterative upgrades from the previous model, with a cool new feature thrown in here and there. But as far as the 6s goes, it definitely feels like a big leap from the iPhone 6, with upgrades found largely across the board. Has Apple finally created an S-model worth upgrading to? Let’s find out. Thankfully, the guys over at AT&T were able to provide me with a 6s to try out for a while. Here are my thoughts on the device.
As far as design goes, the iPhone 6s falls in line with Apple’s typical way of doing things. As an S-model, the design is pretty much unchanged from its predecessor, featuring the same 4.7” Retina HD IPS LCD screen, the same aluminum design and and plastic antenna strips in the back, and the same large bezels in the front. All the buttons and ports are the same as well, everything looks the same. The only difference is the new Rose Gold color option, which is what I was equipped with. Most people I’ve come across just call it pink, which… I mean let’s be honest, that’s what it is. The 6s is only very slightly thicker than the the 6, at 7.3mm instead of 6.9mm, and I’ll get to that in a second.
Here’s where we get into why Apple went with their slogan for the 6s, because pretty much everything on the inside has changed. The phone sports a new A9 chip, which is stated to be up to 70% faster than the A8, with 90% better graphics performance. There’s also 2GB of RAM (more than any previous iPhone), a new six-core GPU, and support for LTE Advance. We also get an updated cameras with a 12MP rear and 5MP front-facing. The biggest difference of all though is probably the new touchscreen technology, and the reason the 6s is slightly thicker than its predecessor: 3D Touch. It’s Apple’s evolution of Force Touch technology found on the Apple Watch and Macbook, able to detect more levels of pressure. It’s a neat feature, though not terribly useful. For more on this, see my previous article on the iPhone 6s where I talk about my use of 3D Touch.
Using the device has been a shockingly pleasant experience for me. Remember, I’m not an Apple person, and I’ll take about any chance to bash an iPhone. But this phone is so darn fast, I couldn’t really believe it. Opening apps was almost instantaneous, and the OS was overall extremely responsive. Playing graphically intensive games like Need for Speed was also a breeze, and I experienced zero lag and no crashes. It makes my 5th iPod Touch feel ancient (which, let’s be honest it kinda of is) and sluggish. In fact I don’t wanna use it now anymore, but unfortunately with only 16GB on the iPhone 6s (not recommended for anyone), I decided to keep my music off the iPhone. But I was still able to access all my tunes, thanks to Microsoft’s Groove Music app, which let me play my entire music library from the cloud. In terms of the speaker, it was surprisingly loud, though not too much so, and music and videos sounded clear and crisp, especially in the lower frequencies. Videos also looked great, and even though I would’ve wished for a higher resolution screen, colors were vibrant and pixels were pretty much non-existent for the most part.
Calls also sounded great, and I never seemed to run into any problems on either side. AT&T’s LTE network had exceptional reception everywhere I went, and call quality was excellent. The iPhone 6s seemed to fare much better then on the LG G4, which gave me many problems on both ends. I even got a chance to use Wi-Fi Calling, which was made available on AT&T’s network a couple weeks ago, and works just fine.
Touch ID was another feature that surprised me because of how fast it worked. A tap of my finger and the screen would unlock almost immediately. When compared to the iPhone 6, friends of mine who have the phone said that Touch ID wasn’t nearly as fast on their phones. I wasn’t very convinced on the necessity of fingerprint scanners, but now that I have one I don’t know if I can go without it.
Battery life has been pretty good, and despite the slightly smaller capacity in the 6s when compared to the 6, I get a good day and a half on normal use, and that’s while using the camera, playing a few games like Need for Speed and Kim Kardashian: Hollywood (don’t judge), and constantly scrolling through Twitter and Instagram. There’s no quick charging on this device either, but it still seems to charge fairly quick despite.
Speaking of the camera, the iPhone 6s has a very good one! The bump up to 12MP was long awaited, and even though you can find more robust megapixel counts elsewhere, the 6s doesn’t disappoint. Photo quality is among the best I’ve seen, especially in good lighting conditions. Colors are crisp and images are sharp. The lack of OIS does present itself when capturing darker areas like shadows, with the end result somewhat lacking when compared to other devices. Live Photos is also a thing, which is more or less Apple’s nod to Nokia’s Living Images, which captures quick video snippets before and after a photo is taken to give them context. But honestly I hardly noticed the feature. For a look at the photos I’ve taken with the iPhone, check out my photo gallery, or check out David Imel’s video comparison on the iPhone and his Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge plus and Galaxy Note 5. In terms of video quality, the iPhone is capable of shooting 4K video, though due to memory consumption, I’ve largely stayed at 1080p. There’s also slow mo capture at 240fps which is a neat feature, though one I haven’t spent too much time using.
Selfies look a lot better now that the camera has been bumped up to 5MP, and there’s even retina flash for especially dark environments, which really just uses the screen at max brightness to light up your selfies. It’s kinda useless though unless you’re in an especially dark area, and selfies tend to suffer from a lot of noise in this case.
All in all, the iPhone 6s is a great phone, and is unlikely to disappoint, especially for the devoted Apple fans out there. While it may not offer an onto-core processor or 41MP camera, the 6s is no slouch and offers speed, a great camera, and some good features all packed into a sleek design. The usefulness of 3D Touch remains to be seen for me, but with some android manufacturers now scrambling to get the tech on their phones, this may just be the beginning.
As an avid iPhone hater, I can honestly say that I’m sad to see this phone go, and I was particularly surprised at how attached I got to it. For those of you who are looking to purchase one, save yourself a world of headache and make sure to stay away from the 16GB option.