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iPhone 6S review

Andy Vandervell

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Updated:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

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Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Great look and feel
  • 3D Touch adds interesting new dimension
  • Subtle but useful camera improvements
  • Outstanding performance
  • Clever front-facing camera flash

Cons

  • Battery will deter power users
  • No wireless charging
  • Others charge faster

Key Features

  • 4.7-inch, 326ppi LCD
  • 7.1mm thick
  • 143g
  • 1.8GHz Dual-Core
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16/64/128GB storage
  • 12-megapixel iSight camera
  • 5-megapixel Facetime HD camera
  • Manufacturer: Apple
  • Review Price: £539.00

iPhone 6S long-term review

Summer is always a strange time to buy an iPhone. You’ve got much newer phones out like the HTC 10, Samsung Galaxy S7 and LG G5 – there’s even a new phone from Apple, the iPhone SE. And most people know there’s probably going to be an iPhone 7 coming in a few short months.

But the iPhone 6S is still a great phone and one that I’m happy to recommend. It’s the middle iPhone size-wise, and in my mind feels the most comfortable to hold. The SE is limited by its small size, while the iPhone 6S Plus is often ungainly. The 4.7-inch display, which sits above a 720p resolution, is soundly beaten on paper by the Android rivals but it’s compact and still looks good.

Buying an iPhone now also means you’ll get all the goodies that will come with the next version of iOS, which is most likely going to be called iOS 10. Expect to see this announced at Apple’s WWDC which takes place in June, with a release later this year.

Even though it’s been on the market for well over six months, the iPhone 6S has aged well. The A9 CPU and 2GB RAM is still a potent combination that feels as snappy as it did last September. The phone still easily handles all the games and apps I throw at it.

Battery life hasn’t seen a dramatic downturn either. So far, the 6S keeps up with my workload fine. I normally hit 5% by around 10pm on a normal work day, and that’s without using the Low Power mode – that’s around 12 to 14 hours a day.

3D Touch, a headline feature at launch, has slowly been improving without really setting the world alight. More apps use it now, but it’s still limited and lacks a real function. Hopefully the iPhone 7 will take it to the next level. I like ‘3D Touching’ app icons to bring up shortcuts, but beyond that I don’t use it that much.

The truth is that there are better phones out there, but if you’re a staunch iOS user and you simply can’t wait for the iPhone 7 then the 6S is still a great choice. It looks good, performs well, still has one of the best cameras on the market and you know you’ll get iOS 10 as soon as Apple lets it out the door.

You can read our original iPhone 6S review below.

Related: iPhone 7 release date

What is the iPhone 6S?

For all its “fast moving innovation” the tech industry is a predictable thing sometimes. Every other year Apple puts an ‘S’ on the end of its last phone, buffs it up with a few tarty new features and delivers it to splendid applause.

That’s a horrific simplification, of course, but the general point stands. The iPhone 6S is that phone this year, and it adds some clever new ‘taptic’ features, camera improvements and a radically faster processor to last year’s iPhone 6.

You can get it in Rose Gold now if you fancy a change. But whatever your feelings on the matter, rest assured this another excellent phone from Apple.

Related: iOS 10 release date

Watch our iPhone 6S video review:

iPhone 6S – Design & Features

All ‘S’ phones look like their forbears and the iPhone 6S is no different. Even the screen is the same. It’s not the very best there is – Samsung’s OLEDs are in a different league in this respect – but it’s excellent for an LCD.

Contrast is great and colours are natural. Some might argue its 326 pixels per inch (ppi) isn’t sharp enough, but that argument doesn’t hold water with me. It’s plenty sharp enough.

Before I move onto the interesting stuff, however, it bears repeating what a successful design this is. Not only does the iPhone 6S look great, it’s naturally comfortable. Everything just fits.

Related: 13 Best Smartphones and Mobile Phones 2015

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Having lived with the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ recently, it’s a pleasure to return to a phone that’s comfortable to use in one hand, and which has volume buttons I don’t jog accidentally in my pocket.

Beyond the flashy new features and new Rose Gold option, Apple gets the basics right. That matters.

But what is flashy and new? After all, if something isn’t new enough, then it’s rubbish, right? The undoubted highlight is 3D Touch. Like Force Touch, which Apple introduced on the Apple Watch, 3D Touch detects how hard you press on the screen, opening up new interactions for app developers to explore.

There are effectively three levels of pressure – the regular tap, a slightly harder press and one further level beyond it. Each one, depending on the context, will trigger a different action.

But the pressure is “analogue” in nature – 3D Touch doesn’t just detect three levels of pressure, but all the points between. This opens up some interesting potential, particularly in games, which I’ll expand on in a moment.

Related: iPhone 8

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Sadly, making room for the new Taptic Engine that helps power 3D Touch means a small, 5% reduction in battery capacity. Apple says that improved power efficiencies in iOS 9 and the new Low Power Mode ensure the iPhone 6S’s battery life is similar to the iPhone 6.

Other serious changes concern the cameras. Apple has increased the resolution of the iSight Camera (rear) and Facetime HD camera (front) to 12-megapixels and 5-megapixels. That’s 50% and over 300% more pixels respectively – not small numbers considering the 6S uses the same size sensors.

This means sharper, more detailed photos – read more about that in the iPhone 6S camera section. It also means the iPhone 6S can record 4K video at 30fps, which will be great for that 4K TV you (probably) don’t own.

Finally, we have a new processor – the A9. While there’s plenty still to learn about the inner workings of the new dual-core chip, a core speed bump from 1.4GHz to 1.8GHz heralds some serious performance improvements.

iPhone 6S – 3D Touch and the Taptic Engine

First, though, 3D Touch. This is, without question, the defining feature of the iPhone 6S. As explained above, 3D Touch lets the iPhone detect different levels of pressure and trigger new actions depending on how hard you press.

It’s the kind of feature that demands exploration and experimentation from users and developers alike. At first, you’ll explore the home screen – pressing harder on icons to see what happens. Sometimes it’s nothing, which is frustrating, but sometimes you’ll be presented with shortcuts to specific actions.

For example, “3D Touch” on the Camera app icon – I can’t help feel “Force Touch” is a better verb – and you’ll get shortcuts to take selfie or shoot a video.

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Try it on the Maps app and you can quickly share your location or get directions directly home. The Music app will launch the Beats1 radio station; the Calendar app will create a new event; the Wallet app will show you your last transaction. You get the idea.

All these little shortcuts are useful, but it’s inside apps where 3D Touch shows real dividends. My favourite feature is pressing down on the keyboard to drag the cursor around accurately. It’s a simple thing, but it makes correcting mistakes and basic editing simple and effortless. You see, basics.

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The other key strand of 3D Touch is what Apple calls ‘Peek’ and ‘Pop’. In short, press hard to ‘Peek’ at the contents of an item (e.g. an email, message or hyperlink) and press harder still to ‘Pop’ that into full screen. Relaxing the pressure, meanwhile, sends you back to where you came.

It that sounds naff and pointless to you, I assure you it isn’t. Mail and Messages are the best examples of how useful Peek and Pop is. Peeking into a message previews its contents without marking it as read, which shortens the irritating flow of checking a message, leaving it and then marking it as unread again to look at later.

(I know that’s what ‘flagging’ is for but how often do you flag emails and just forget them? I do it all the time.)

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Peeking and then sliding the window upwards reveals further actions, such as sending a standard reply or forwarding it to someone else. It’s great for checking a link to see if it’s genuinely useful, or you can slide it up and select ‘Open in new Tab’.

Even in its infancy, 3D Touch is a great and convincing addition to the iPhone. It’ll only grow in potency as developers explore and discover new ways to use it, and they certainly will. The enduring strength of the iPhone is how developers seize upon new features and make them their own.

All of this is enhanced by the new Taptic Engine – a redesigned motor and software stack that delivers subtler, smarter taptic events.

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I like it even more than 3D Touch itself. The way the Taptic Engine delivers short, precise and gentle ‘blips’ adds a new dimension to notifications. You’ll quickly learn the pattern and character of these vibrations, so you can instantly discern what kind of alert you’re getting without looking. You can customise them to an extent, too.

It’s a far cry from the iPhone 5 and 5S, which rumbled fiercely with all the subtlety of a small, yappy dog. Once you’ve used the iPhone 6S and experienced the difference, you’ll wonder how you ever put with that racket. It’s great.

The only disappointing aspect of 3D Touch are Live Photos. Although nominally a part of the Camera app, it's a barefaced tech demo for the 3D Touch feature. Basically, when enabled Live Photos record a short snippet of video along with a photo. Pressing on the photo activates the 'Live' version, but quickly grew bored of the feature and turned it off.

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Dead Words

October 2, 2015, 9:18 pm

Pretty good review. I won't be picking one up but that's not really important.
I would like to point out however that the Lumia 830 had wireless charging before the Galaxy S6 did and the AT&T version was the first phone (that I know of) that had support for both Qi and PMA wireless charging standards built in (the Galaxy S6 being the second). Also, Nokia (now Microsoft) has been rocking the wireless charging for years.

Paul

October 3, 2015, 4:07 pm

Another lustful Apple victory

ElectricSheep

October 4, 2015, 3:51 pm

And Nokia has been 'Live photos' for a while now.

Yoshi

October 4, 2015, 9:51 pm

Pretty good review

Dead Words

October 5, 2015, 11:18 am

There's that too.

John Smith

October 5, 2015, 9:11 pm

I'd say it was poor.

calden74

October 9, 2015, 7:07 pm

Can someone take a few moments out of their busy schedule and answer a few questions. I'm really interested in the new iPhone 6s but after owning an iPhone 5s for all of three days I have some misgivings.

It's an absolute must that I'll be able to run a terminal in the background during trading hours, about 9 hours. The iPhone 5s would terminate my connections after a short period of time running in the background, has this changed?

Has the file management situation in iOS approved any, I absolutely hated that my files were located under the apps that created them. Also searching for files just simply ducked. I'm looking for something similar to my BlackBerry Passport in which I just have to start typing, Global search starts and searches my entire device, including my cloud storage as their mounted as local assets. Than from there I can open the file with any program installed, even install a new app because suggestions are listed at the bottom, I can zip the file before sending, upload to a cloud storage, all from this search Global Search.

Can I stream a movie to my TV and still be able to use my phone?

Can I change my default apps, I have absolutely no interest in using any of Apple's included apps as I only use apps that are crossed platform. So when I click on a link that's in an email or document it will open the browser of my choosing and not Safari, same goes for the email client.

Does iOS still require you to login to iCloud for every single app that supports it, I had to do this like 40 times on my iPhone 5s, not intuitive at all. Even when I first setup the phone I had to login to every single Apple service individually, even though I have just one user. Basically what I'm asking is it finally like Android where I just need to type in my Google credentials once and than have access to their services within every app that supports them, without having to login again and again and again.

Finially, when I connect my iPhone up to a monitor does it automatically detect the resolution an aspect ratio, not only for the desktop but every app installed. I couldn't stand that desktop always looked like crap on my TV, not only was everything excessively large but there were these black bars that took up like 20 percent of the screen. Can you change the DPI to reflect that of a normal desktop UI. What I'm getting at is, I use my One Plus One not only as a phone but my desktop computer as well. I have a dock with HDMI, two USB, Mini USB for power and Ethernet. The second I plug my phone in a third party app by the name of Second Display starts, the resolution is set correctly, the DPI is changed, the display is extended, not mirrored and a Launcher by the name of Andromium OS starts, it turns your phone into a Windows like desktop, windowed app, similar app tray, the whole 9 yards. I would also like to be able to play games, specifically emulators, I have USB retro game controllers for N64, SNES and Sega Genesis.

Anyway, any help with these questions would help. I'm waiting for the new Blackberry Priv to use as my business phones but I need a private phone as well, if the iPhone 6s still hasn't fixed any of these issues I think I'll probably go with the new Lumia 950 XL because of Continumm, also both of thse phones have SD Card readers which I still very much like using, especially no that I have a new 200GB card.
Thank you in advanced.

adrianeds

January 9, 2016, 8:17 pm

You two have hit the nail on the head. Sweet.

Dena

March 7, 2016, 11:09 pm

iPhone 6s, 6, 6 plus and more is now available for a huge discount only at NewSmartPhoneDeals:com

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