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Apple iPhone 6s review

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Does a stronger construction, better battery life, voice commands and new ways to interact with your handset add up to a phone that’s worth your hard-earned pennies?
iPhone 6s review

Pros

  • More robust aluminium construction than iPhone 6
  • Support for 4G+ networks means faster browsing and downloads
  • Impressive 12MP camera with excellent quality video recording

Cons

  • Design is nearly identical iPhone 6, but slightly thicker
  • A crisper, higher-definition screen would have been welcome
  • Longer-life battery would have been even more welcome

First Impressions

  • Heavier than the iPhone 6. But only negligibly
  • Much more robust
  • Feels like a premium phone, but still light and thin

With an almost identical design as its predecessor the iPhone 6 and no change in the screen size options available, Apple’s new smartphone appears to be more of the same.

But as we’ll see, that’s an impression that’s misleading. There are some significant changes afoot.

Perhaps the biggest news is the inclusion of genuinely novel 3D Touch technology that Apple promises will allow you to interact with your phone in new ways and access your most-used features faster.

That’s not all, though. This year’s model also promises to bring us more helpful and more useful voice commands and compatibility with faster 4G+ networks for super fast downloads.

And as you might expect if you’re familiar with previous iPhone updates, the 6S is more powerful than the iPhone 6 too thanks to the addition of the brawnier A9 processor. The upshot of that is that it ought to operate with a bit more snap and handle multi-tasking and 3D gaming better than before.

So that sounds like a excellent handset on paper, doesn’t it? Sure, it does. But what’s it really like? Read on for our verdict.

At 143g the iPhone 6S is noticeably heavier than the iPhone 6, which came in at 129g. That’s down to Apple’s decision to use tougher 7000 series aluminium.

The difference is even more apparent in the 6S Plus, which has bulked up to 192g from the 6 Plus’s 172g. It’s a surprise, and for some of you probably a real disappointment, to see a new-generation phone that’s weightier than its predecessor.

Not so, here. We think it’s a price worth paying for a more robust phone that isn’t prone to bending in users’ pockets.

What’s more, despite the extra weight around the middle, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus still feel pretty featherweight and they’re comfortable to hold too.

Design

  • Same rose gold colourway as the Apple Watch for the first time
  • Looks are unchanged from iPhone 6S
  • As is the button layout

The positioning of the buttons is completely unchanged from the iPhone 6. Present and correct are a home button beneath the screen and volume buttons, a lock-switch and SIM card slot on the side.

The bottom of the handset houses an earphone jack, as well as a port for Apple’s charger-cum-laptop-cable, the Lightning Connector, and a speaker.

As for looks, the iPhone 6S features the same iPhone 3GS-style curved edges as the iPhone 6, the same metal back and is available in the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch size options. All of which, we think, adds up to a fine-looking smartphone.

design

  • Build: glass and tough 7000 Series aluminium alloy
  • Weight: iPhone 6S is 143g. iPhone 6S Plus is 192g.
  • Dimensions: iPhone 6S is 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1 mm. iPhone 6S Plus is 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm

Screen

  • Same screen size and resolution as the iPhone 6
  • So-called 3D Touch technology lets you interact with your phone in new ways and access key features fast
  • Display has been toughed to withstand bumps and scrapes

To match the tougher aluminium build, the iPhone 6S’s screen has been bolstered too. Apple claims it’s the toughest smartphone display on the market. But whether that’s true or not will only become apparent in the fullness of time. What is apparent is that a higher resolution, crisper screen would have been welcome. Instead the iPhone 6S retains the same 1334 x 750 resolution display as the iPhone 6. That equates to 326 pixels per inch. In case you’re not familiar with phone jargon, the more pixels packed into a screen the sharper the images you’ll get.

Things are similarly unchanged with iPhone 6S Plus. With 1920x1080 resolution, it’s pixels per inch count remains at 401.

Both handsets’ displays still look crisp enough. Text is sharp and the contrast between blacks and brighter colours is impressive.

But for all that, they don’t really boast the kind of eye-stroking ‘visual punch’ as some high-end Android phones, many of which are equipped with screens with quadruple the resolution as Apple’s new effort. The screen’s real ‘sell’, though, is the 3D Touch technology that it now incorporates. This is pressure-sensitive technology that can tell how hard you’ve pressed the screen. Press down lightly as you do normally and your phone will respond as normal. But hold your finger down a bit longer and you’re presented with s different set of options.

One of these is Quick Actions. As its name suggests, this is drop-down box that features shortcuts to the functions you’re most likely to want to use and which you call up with a longer, deeper press on an app icon. Along similar lines is Peek and Pop. This lets you preview a link (or ‘peek’ at) image a friend has sent you in an email without having to leave the app and enter the browser.

Tap the link and a window appears giving you a taste of what you’re being asked to open. If an impression or quick glance is all you need, you can then go back to whatever you were doing in the app.

If your interest is piqued (sorry) to investigate further, though, you can push harder to activate the ‘Pop’ function. This opens the link or image in full, so you can get a proper look at it.

Is it a time saver? It can be. Sometimes the preview image or link didn’t really give us enough of a flavour of what we’ve been sent. The result was that we just went ahead and opened up the link anyway, just to be sure. But when Peek and Pop did work it was pretty cool and proved a bit of a boon when helping to clear our full-to-bursting inbox. Not just that. It’s fun to use too.

Of course, Peek and Pop are also bound to become more useful when they become a part of more apps in months to come.

screen

  • Size: 4.7-inch and 5.5-inches.
  • Resolution: iPhone 6S is 1334 x 750 pixels. iPhone 6S Plus is 1920x1080 pixels.
  • Screen: technology: Retina HD with 3D Touch

Camera

  • 4K video recording means you get crystal clear, crisp footage
  • LivePhotos is new too and lets you take fun ‘animated’ photos
  • But they’ll both take up a lot of storage on your handset, so you might have to use them sparingly

Apple has upgraded the camera from eight-megapixels to 12-megapixels.

That’s very welcome after years of fairly minor tweaks to the iPhone’s camera. And it means you get more light in your photos and a slightly more powerful zoom.

Users can also now shoot video in 4K – a TV technology that means you get footage that’s very high resolution. The result is superb. But you’ll need to watch it back on a 4K TV to get the effect.

Luckily, the HD footage that you can shoot, both with the front-facing five-megapixel camera and main camera, looks almost as impressive. And you can enjoy its sharp image quality right there on your phone.

The Live Photos feature is new too. This captures a second and half of video footage and a snippet of sound before and after you take a still image. The idea is that it brings your image to life. It’s a nice novelty. But we felt that, like the slow-motion function on the iPhone 6, that’s all it is.

It’s also worth noting that Live Photos take up twice as much space as a standard photo. So if you’re short of space or have a lower-capacity iPhone 6S you won’t have too much room to store your experiments.

camera

  • Main Camera: 12 megapixels
  • Front camera: 5 megapixels
  • Unique features: Live Photos with animation and 4K video

Performance and battery life

  • More power means it’s faster than iPhone 6 and handles multi-tasking with aplomb
  • Battery life hasn’t been improved from iPhone 6
  • But low-power mode is handy and helps eke out battery
  • Apple has upgraded the camera from eight-megapixels to 12-megapixels.

That’s very welcome after years of fairly minor tweaks to the iPhone’s camera. And it means you get more light in your photos and a slightly more powerful zoom.

Users can also now shoot video in 4K – a TV technology that means you get footage that’s very high resolution. The result is superb. But you’ll need to watch it back on a 4K TV to get the effect.

Luckily, the HD footage that you can shoot, both with the front-facing five-megapixel camera and main camera, looks almost as impressive. And you can enjoy its sharp image quality right there on your phone.

The Live Photos feature is new too. This captures a second and half of video footage and a snippet of sound before and after you take a still image. The idea is that it brings your image to life. It’s a nice novelty. But we felf that, like the slow-motion function on the iPhone 6, that’s all it is.

It’s also worth noting that Live Photos take up twice as much space as a standard photo. So if you’re short of space or have a lower-capacity iPhone 6S you won’t have too much room to store your experiments.

performance

  • RAM: 2GB
  • Battery capacity: 1715 mAh
  • Storage: 16/64/128GB
  • OS and version: iOS 9

Value for money

The iPhone 6S isn’t cheap. But for your £40 or so per month outlay, you’re getting a handset that is a premium product in every department.

As with all iPhones, it’s also certain to hold its value. So you can expect a fair return if you decide to sell it or trade it in.

Verdict

  • Shame there’s no improvement to battery life
  • 3D Touch is functional and fun
  • Same design as the iPhone 6S. But hey it it ain’t broke…
  • LivePhotos are a great novelty feature and 4K video looks crisp.
  • The iPhone 6S is more of an upgrade than previous ‘S release’ phones.

From 3D Touch to 4K video to super fast browsing if you’re on a network that offers the tech (that’s only EE in the UK at the time of writing), there are some undeniable improvements here.

But although the iPhone 6S is more robust, it’s notable that there are a number of problems with the last-gen iPhone, such as disappointing battery life and a relatively low-res screen, that haven’t been tackled this time around.

Make no mistake this is still a great phone. If you’ve got an iPhone 5S or earlier, you won’t be disappointed if you upgrade. But if you’ve got an iPhone 6, we’d recommend you hold fire for the next-generation model.

Category: Reviews

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