- Faster processor and more RAM than predecessor
- Beautiful screen with 3D Touch
- Camera can record 4K video
- Barely adequate battery life
- Single speaker not forward facing
- Non industry standard power connector
Excellent performance and new features like a pressure sensitive touchscreen and 12 megapixel camera help make the iPhone 6s the best phone Apple has offered yet. Still, a longer battery life would have made it even better.
It’s iPhone season, which means it is time for a new phone from Apple, with the iPhone 6s being this year’s offering.
Although this isn’t a complete redesign of last year’s iPhone 6, there are some improvements. It is the first model to debut running iOS 9, but the two most important new features are 3D Touch and Live Photos, which Apple hopes will help convince millions of people to upgrade to this new version. A faster processor and more RAM will help as well.
The iPhone 6s is available now, starting at $649 for a version with 16GB of storage.
Build & Design
The iPhone 6s is close to the same size as its predecessor, but not exactly. It’s 5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 (138 x 67 x 7 mm) and 5 ounces (143 g), which makes it 0.01 inch thicker and half an ounce heavier. Those really looking for it will be able to tell that the new device weighs a smidgen more, but it certainly won’t affect day to day use.
After the release of last year’s iPhone models, there were scattered complaints from users that these devices were too flimsy and easy to bend. Apple used a stronger type of aluminum for the iPhone 6s and tweaked the design to make the casing sturdier. The unit we’re testing isn’t easily flexed, and comes across as sturdy as such a slim product can be.
The edges are all very curved, and the all-metal casing is quite slick, which makes the iPhone 6s comfortable to hold, but raises the possibility that it might be too easy to drop. A case that adds a rubberized texture might be appropriate.
The standout feature of the iPhone 6s’ screen is 3D Touch, which is Apple’s way of indicating that it is pressure sensitive, with it able to detect if it is being touched, pushed on lightly, or pushed with more force. This feature is integrated into the iOS in a way that’s reminiscent of right clicking on something with a mouse — it can bring up a convenient menu of options.
The best example of how this works is in Mail: pressing lightly on a message brings up a preview of it, then pressing harder opens the message. In addition, icons for a number of apps on the homescreen can be pressed on to bring up an option menu. Pressing on the Camera icon gives the user the option to quickly take a selfie, take a regular photo, record a regular video, or record a video in Slo-mo.
Although 3D Touch could come across as a gimmick, there are places where it feels genuinely useful. Our favorite is tapping and holding on a link to a website to get a peek at the page that would open, with a harder press going ahead and opening the page. Drawing software will be able to take advantage of it too, but with just three levels of sensitivity its usefulness to real artists will be limited.
3D Touch is an definite improvement, if not a radical one, and it can make using this phone quicker and easier. But it’s not required, and can even be turned off.
Aside from this new feature, the screen on the iPhone 6s is identical it its predecessor: it is 4.7 inches and has a 1334 by 750 resolution, with a pixel density of 326 ppi. Each pixel is so small that text and images look clear and smooth. Some rival devices have gone for even higher pixel densities though, like the Samsung Galaxy S6 which is at 576 ppi. There’s reason to doubt whether having that many pixels per inch is actually an improvement, however.
A 4.7-inch display is a good compromise: it’s large enough that’s it’s not impractical for ebooks, casual games, and even video, but a screen this size isn’t so big that it makes the whole phone unwieldy. And using the on-screen keyboard is easier than on Apple’s old 4-inch displays, and it’s dramatically better than a 3.5-inch one. Those who want a somewhat larger iOS model can opt for the new 5.5-inch iPhone 6s Plus.
Buttons, Ports, and Speakers
Apple has stuck with the same design standard since the first iPhone, so the Home button remains, and it continues to play a major role in controlling this latest device.
Like the last few Apple models, this button does double duty as a fingerprint scanner for the Touch ID security system. This gives users the benefits of secure access to their phone without the hassle of typing in a password every time they want to use it. In our tests, the scanner worked 100% of the time, always recognizing the fingerprints it was trained for and never giving false positives.
Some things never change, so the iPhone 6s has Apple’s proprietary Lightning charging/data port, and it doesn’t have a microSD memory card slot. That said, there are a number of flash drives that can be plugged into this device’s Lightning port, like the SanDisk iXpand and the Leef iBridge, to add additional storage capacity.
The volume up and down buttons are on the left side of this model, along with a mute switch.
There’s a single speaker on the bottom edge. This is capable of putting out a considerable amount of sound, loud enough for the device to be used in moderately noisy environments. But much of the volume is wasted because the speaker doesn’t point toward the user.