Review by Sunetra Chakravati,10/13/2015 9:13:38 AM
Look and feel
Ease of use
iOS 9 great | 3D Touch | Brilliant battery life | upscaled camera | Selfie camera is pin sharp | Live Photos great touch
Too big for some | expensive
By Sunetra Chakravarti
Everyone expected a lot and then they didn't. They said everything would change and also said nothing would. People were ready to joke about how it being a tock year of the tick tock pattern that Apple follow, we would just see a very very tiny upgrade from the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus from last year.
They were right. On the face of it, there was no change, unless you have microscopic vision. But then we saw those adverts on telly, telling us in a breezy characteristic Californian way that 'all that's changed is everything' and we started getting excited about the launch again.
When Apple launched the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, they did away with cheaper but still great phones and this is the second of the 'plus' sized models that have been launched with the first going on sale last year.
And in typical Apple style, the first tentative step was a resounding success. So well did the gamble go that it has almost transformed the footpring of handsets we see now. This year we have seen a surfeit of bigger and more premium versions of phones from other manufacturers. However, I digress. The iPhone 6s Plus is here and this is what we think of it...
If you have looked at an iPhone 6, then you have seen this one too. Not much has changed since last year in the looks department but a closer look at the cold hard numbers show that nothing's the same any more.
Comparing the size and weight with the iPhone 6 Plus, the weight has increased from 172 grams to 192 grams. Not sure what this increase in weight is down to but something tells me it is 3D Touch. And this is not where it ends, the iPhone 6s Plus is also .01mm wider, .1mm taller and .01 mm deep. So same and yet not quite.
The finish is exactly the same as the iPhone 6 and the only way you can find out just by looking at the phones is by the small [S] under the word iPhone on the back of the phone. Our gold model was the same texture and sported the same white antenna lines across the back previous ones. There are four colour options available, one more than the previous version: silver, space grey, gold and the very eye-catching rose gold.
Overall, the look and feel is as chic as always, although with a 5.5-inch screen and the 6.23-inches height, it is more than a tad difficult to hold and use one-handed. During my commute, I was able to stream while holding it in landscape form but it was difficult typing in messages or even writing an email one-handed and in portrait mode.
I am absolutely in love with the display. The apps still float in a very 3D manner on the surface of the wallpaper like it did on the iPhone 6 and the LED-backlit screen has 441pixels per inch. The 1920X1080 resolution has remained the same as it was on the iPhone 6 Plus, Retina display makes it pin sharp, crystal and a joy to stream content over.
However, one of the most interesting of developments or leaps on the iPhone 6s Plus is the Taptic Engine that is packed under the surface of the phone. It sounds very important and quite incomprehensible but what it basically means is that the iPhone 6s family of phones is able to detect the force with which you interact with the screen. So it can tell the difference between a feather touch, a sharp jab and a long hard press. This also means that once you give the screen a sharp poke, it responds by vibrating and bringing up a second layer of menu options that you might need from the app you are tapping.
Still baffled? Well, if you press the photos icon on the screen (example photo below), it will bring up a shortcut menu of options you are most likely to go to next: most recent pictures, favourites and search. It might not seem like much but as far as mobile innovation is concerned, it is definitely a decisive step forward.
Huawei showed off Force Touch on their 128GB Mate S earlier this year, pipping Apple to their announcement by a week and we have just heard that Samsung are currenly working on something similar for the Galaxy S7 that's due to release early 2016. 3D touch is a great addition to the iPhone 6s Plus, especially because it opens up another layer of interaction with the real estate without having to dive into apps, saving battery in the long run too.
It is a whole new story with the camera on the iPhone 6s Plus. Not only is it higher specced, but the selfie camera is vastly improved too. So, in number terms, it is a 12-MP camera instead of the 8-MP one. And the most amazing bit about the camera is Optical Image Stabilisation that it comes with. OIS is not just on the pictures though, it extends to the 4K videos you shoot too! With OIS you get none of the stutter and shake that you otherwise would have with cameras that have digital image stabilisation or none at all on action shots, macro shots or even the ones from when you go clubbing.
There is 4K video recording option under the hood too, but you won't be able to access it from the camera menu. It is to be found under the main settings and by default the phone will record videos in 1080p at 30fps which can be increased to 1080p at 60fps as well as 4K at 30fps but this will put massive pressure on, not just your battery and processor but also phone memory.
A 1 minute 4K video will take up about 375MB of your phone's storage space. But once you record something in 4K, it will be an absolute delight to watch on the phone. The iPhone 6s does not render streaming content or apps and photos in 4K but if you record something in that higher resolution and native 4K content will play in that resolution. Also worth remembering is that if you want to 'throw' 4K recordings to your TV via Apple TV, it will again not be in 4K because Apple's streaming device does not support 4K videos.
When you take pictures with Live enabled, you are basically taking a 2 second video with the picture somewhere embedded in. Go back to the album and hard press on the thumbnail and the picture comes to life. You can then set the animated picture as your phone wallpaper as well as Home Screen background. Wake the phone up and long press on the background for it to show you what it was like taking the photo. As a parent, I love the feature. I have a picture of my son as the wallpaper and when the going gets tough, I only need to glance at it to bash another 500-words out on the latest review I am writing.
As much as we would like to say that Apple have broken new ground here, this trick isn't new to phones. Samsung have an animated GIF feature on the Galaxy S6 where you are able to take 20 photos close together and then convert them into a GIF and also send them to others and HTC have had their Zoe camera feature since the One M9. There is a niggle with Live Photos though, they are not shareable.If and when you send them to others, the recipient will recieve just a plain old photo.
A really crisp and well-lit one, but not one that moves like a newspaper from the Harry Potter movies.
The front-facing camera on the iPhone 6s Plus is probably one of the best selfie cameras I have ever tested and I have tested a LOT of them. Intensely crisp without any heavy-handed airbrushing, the 5-MP iSight camera focuses in an instant and the flash is more of a white light that momentarily blinds you to take some of the best lit photos on inky dark nights. It has the ability to go from chalky white to beige to make sure you are the star of the photo you are taking.
The much-anticipated A9 chip makes its debut on the iPhone 6sPlus. Still with the 64-bit architecture, it delivers super fast speeds with the M9 motion processor slapped on as well. Activity tracking is much improved and Siri more empowered. Apple have also upgraded the touch sensor and even though it will still not work when you are washing up and have wet hands, it is faster.
iOS 9 brings a new font with it, low power modes (at 20% and 10%) that cut down on background app refreshes and email notifications. The passcode is now 6-digits long, instead of just 4 and in your album, there will be separate folders for selfies, Instagram, screenshots as well as moments, years and collections.
Also new with iOS 9 is spotlight search, new-look Notes, instant access to music from the home screen and the ability to switch between apps through a 'Back to ... (app)' button at the top right corner of the display. It takes you back to the previously used app by just clicking on it but can also be irritating as it replaces the network strength bars and the battery icons.
Battery life has become incredible on the 5.5-inch phablet with the addition of not just the two low power modes but because the battery has always been very impressive on the 'Plus' models. On our review sample, after streaming and downloading all day over 4G, we had to charge it once every 1.5 days.
This is a fabulous phone. It delivers everything you would expect from a top manufacturer at the top of their game, and a phone that they sell for top dollar. The camera with Optical Image Stabilisation is staggeringly good and there is 4K video recording. Apple have not talked about it, but videos exist that show it to be water proof. iOS 9 makes small but impactful changes to the system, making using the phone easier, more intuitive and a feast for the eyes.
The size is, for me, ridiculously large but if you are taller than 5'3" and play FIFA 2015 endlessly and hoover up streaming movies, then this is the phone for you, not just because of the on-point display and the powerful processor but also because of the great battery life.
This is also a very expensive phone and one that you will not be able to casually slide into your pocket and use one handed while being squashed on the Underground. But if you dont have to fight for your life (almost) during your morning commute and don't mind spending a touch over than the other flagships out there, you will love it.
In our review of the iPhone 6 Plus, we said: A step into the unknown for Apple, but not the leap it could have been. The iPhone 6s Plus is a very definitive and confident step by Apple in a direction they know they will succeed on, and almost a leap.
The review sample was supplied by Three UK.