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iPhone 6S vs iPhone 5S: Should you upgrade?



iPhone 6S vs iPhone 5S: Is now a good time to upgrade?

With most of us signing up to two year smartphone contracts, there'll be a lot of iPhone 5S owners out there looking around for an upgrade right about now. The iPhone 6S would appear to be the natural next step.

While we found the iPhone 6S to be the best S-cycle model yet when it launched in September 2015, is it still the best choice for an upgrade? The iPhone 6C is set for a spring launch, and the iPhone 7 cdue in September, so a little doubt has crept in on this matter.

What's clear is that the iPhone 6S is flat-out a better phone than the iPhone 5S in almost every objective measure. It's only really in the subjective areas of appearance and hand feel that the older phone could potentially win out for some people.

WATCH: What's new in iOS 9?

Believe it or not, the iPhone 6S is actually a much-changed phone from the ostensibly similar iPhone 6, both internally and externally. It's these many thoughtful upgrades that make an upgrade for iPhone 5S users a bit of a no-brainer.

Allow us to elaborate.

Bigger, higher resolution display

Of course, the biggest difference you'll notice is the size of the display. Apple finally ditched the diminutive 4-inch display with the iPhone 6 and the 6S retains the larger 4.7-inch screen this time around.

While 4.7-inches would still be considered minuscule or 'compact' in an Android device, it’s a noticeable jump if you’re used to the earlier 4-inch iPhones and it might feel a little cumbersome at first.

We found this, but it soon became easy to hold and there are plenty of pluses to having a larger display.

Related: iPhone 6S vs Samsung Galaxy S6: How Apple will take on Samsung

iPhone 6 gold

For one, you get a higher resolution panel. The iPhone 6 had a fantastic IPS LCD display with a 750 x 1334 resolution and 326 pixels per inch. Now, that's not the most pixel packed panel we've ever seen – in fact it's just marginally better than 720p – but it has accurate colours, wasn't too over-saturated and boasted fantastic viewing angles. Plus, detail certainly wasn't lacking.

As Apple has stuck with the same display for the 6S, it's just as good - albeit a little less impressive. We would have liked to have seen a jump to 1080p, but at 4.7-inches the difference that would make would be minimal.

Buy Now: iPhone 6S at Amazon.com from $539

Less compact, but slimmer

With the introduction of the bigger display, you're going to lose the compact nature of the iPhone 5S. Apple's final 4-inch device was great as a gym buddy and for those with smaller hands, while you could easily reach every corner of the display without stretching your digits too much.

Related: Live Photos explained - How do they actually work?

iPhone 6S colours

Apple has employed the new 7000-series aluminium for the body of the 6S. This has made the phone sturdier, but also slightly thicker and marginally heavier than the iPhone 6 at 7.1mm and 143g respectively. More importantly, that makes it half a millimetre thinner and a significant 31g heavier than the iPhone 5S.

Buy Now: iPhone 5S at Amazon.com $279

Much faster processor

The iPhone 5S was the first mainstream smartphone to use a 64-bit processor in the A7, but in the two years or so since its release the mobile world has caught up. 2015's iPhone 6 used the updated A8 chip – which was faster, smaller and had improved GPU performance – and this year we have an A9-powered version.

As ever, this chip will gives better performance, both for the CPU and GPU. It's 50 to 60 percent faster than the A8, which in turn was between 10 and 25 percent faster than the iPhone 5S's A7 CPU.

We now know the iPhone 6S had 2GB of RAM, as opposed to 1GB on the 5S and the iPhone 6. This, combined with an upgrade 1.8GHz processor (up from 1.4GHz on the iPhone 6), means the iPhone 6S is seriously fast.

Clearly, then, you will notice the difference if you upgrade. It's a pretty compelling reason to do so.

Related: iPhone 6S vs 6


Similar feature set with some additions

If there's one thing that Apple is brilliant at doing, it's ensuring older phones are updated, at the same time, to the latest software. While Android phones can often lag behind and not receive major updates sometimes for months after they're released, Apple devices all get the latest iOS software on the same day.

Of course, not all of the new features make their way to older phones, but plenty of them do. For instance iOS 9's headline features like the Low Power mode, improved Siri, redone Notes app and deeper search have all made their way to the iPhone 5S.

But, if you upgrade to the latest device you'll also get some all-new hardware features.

For the 6S that includes the brand-new 3D Touch-enabled display, which features similar tech to that used on the Apple Watch and latest MacBook's. This lets you perform different actions depending on how hard you press down on the display. Pushing down on the phone icon, for example, brings up the option to quickly jump into voicemail or dial a starred contact.

Third-party apps can support it too, such as Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest. For many such apps, you can use 3D Touch to quickly preview full-size pictures from their thumbnails.

Both devices have TouchID, a fingerprint sensor baked into the circular home-button, though Apple has pushed it to version 2.0 for the iPhone 6S. It's noticeably faster and more reliable, unlocking your phone almost instantly.

Big camera enhancements

While the general feature set probably won't get you to switch, the updated rear-camera is definitely worth your money. The iPhone line was once derided for its weak camera (around the time of the 3G and 3GS), but the recent iterations have certainly changed that, making it one of the best smartphone cameras about.

The 5S boasts an 8MP rear sensor, but the 6S comes packing an improved 12MP version. Much of the tech from the 6 has been carried over too, things like ultra-pixels that let in more light.

Slo-mo video is supported on both, though the iPhone 6S adds 240 fps support to the iPhone 5S's 120fps. Meanwhile, the iPhone 6S is the first iPhone to be able to record footage at 4K, and it can also shoot 1080p at 60fps. The iPhone 5S only captures video at 1080p 30fps.

iPhone 6S Plus

Selfies have become the new 'thing' in recent years, but the iPhone line hasn't really kept up. Both the iPhone 5S and the 6 have middling 1.2MP FaceTime sensors, but this has been bumped up in the 6S. There's now a 5MP front-facing camera that can use the Retina display as a flash.

Buy Now: iPhone 5S at Amazon.com $279

Should you upgrade?

We think so. Unless you're determined to wait for the iPhone 7 and get yourself off the 'S' upgrade cycle, the iPhone 6S is a significant upgrade. Moreover, even if you do fancy an iPhone 7, you should be able to sell your iPhone 6S towards the end of the year and not lose too much of your money.

Buy Now: iPhone 6S at Amazon.com from $539

The only other reason we can think of for avoiding the upgrade is if you're looking to save money and you're still a lover of the 4-inch screen. Other than that, the iPhone 6S is a great upgrade.


September 7, 2015, 4:47 am

My main concern is not whether I love the 4-inch display but will I really gain a lot from the 4.7-inch. I can make all kinds of rationalization for upgrading, but it's time I ask if I really need what the 6S brings. For the way I use a smartphone, I have to say "No."

Dead Words

September 25, 2015, 1:54 am

That's all that matters. If you don't need it don't get it.

Miriam Lasington

October 9, 2015, 6:50 pm

Worthy of an upgrade for sure. iPhone 6S will be perfect with my setup at home, Macbook Air and Lumiy Lightine lamp.

Admir Karalic

October 31, 2015, 6:41 am

I have a Nexus 5, because I wanted a bigger screen phone and couldn't handle the 4S back in the Day after a week of usage then I sold it. Waited for the 4.7 inch screen phone from Apple, and when it released got disappointed that the Tech didn't move as far as I thought it would. So my Options currently buying an Old iPhone 5S from someone (I've used one and liked how premium it feels) or upgrade to the 6S which still has nothing worthy of that price tag of 850 $ off contract... #firstworldproblems

Jake McCoy

January 26, 2016, 1:40 am

I exchanged my iPhone 6s for a 5s and couldn't be happier. The iPhone 6s is too big. Apple got the size right with the 5s. Hopefully, they keep this size in the lineup going forward.


February 15, 2016, 11:25 pm

The truth is since the era of iPhone 4 there is little to no difference in the many generations of iPhone released I mean let's be honest you can do everything with an iPhone 4 might be a few seconds slower in launching your apps but seriously is this significant??


March 15, 2016, 2:19 am

Hey did you notice any drop in performance on ios 9? I want to downgrade my 6s to 5s as well. Thanks

Jake McCoy

March 15, 2016, 4:52 am

Nothing major. Only thing I notice is fingerprint access takes about a half second, whereas it's immediate on the 6S. My main programs are Spotify, Dropbox, Safari, text, mail, calendar, camera. Youtube videos work fine. I do not play games on my phone. I have no desire to go back to the 6s. The 5s fits like a glove.


March 15, 2016, 3:57 pm

Pretty much same usage here. Spotify, Youtube Safari and messaging are big for me and hard to use one handed on the 6s. That's awesome to hear not much drop in performance I might buy it at half price when the SE comes out. Do you know if there is a 64gb unlocked 5s version or did they only make them in 32?

Jake McCoy

March 15, 2016, 4:59 pm

I don't know. I have the 32 GB. After I take pics/videos, I upload to my Dropbox and erase the local camera roll. I don't come anywhere close to needing more space. If Apple sells an updated phone that is the size of the iPhone 5s, I will upgrade to that. It won't be necessary. It will be just because I can. I don't have the 5s to save money. I have the 5s because I love the form factor.


March 16, 2016, 12:11 am

Yeah me too. Best design and feel of any iPhone imo. We'll see what they reveal on Monday, if it's 5s like I'm getting it if not I can save some money and downgrade to the cheaper 5s.

Pete Coventry

March 27, 2016, 7:21 pm

Hi, Yes there is a 64GB one - I bought one from Ebay in the UK for £199 refurbed but it's like new. I too went from a 6S (128GB) to a 5S (64GB and i'm loving it. Spotify is the main use for my phone hence the decent memory. I only ever use about 20GB so I didn't need the massive 128GB

Pete Coventry

March 27, 2016, 7:22 pm

It's 6s guts in a 5s case. But expensive.

Maurice H

April 18, 2016, 1:50 pm

Under Che you would never had had one or even be able to voice your own opinon!

Maurice H

April 18, 2016, 1:52 pm

We went from the old flips to the i-Phone 5S and find it a great phone. Since we are not geeks and do not examine each one with a microscope we find the I5S to be rather a very competent phone. Who needs a large phone jammed into your pants or shirt pocket.


June 28, 2016, 8:29 am

A follow-up. I bought the 6S. After it came out, it seemed there was enough to justify the purchase. Still, it was not screen size since I do very little that warrants a larger screen...almost no videos or photos. I use the camera, which is one of the reasons I got the 6S, but they immediately go to Photos for viewing on the iPad or the Mac.

Nathan Hostetler

June 30, 2016, 12:19 am

Would you please try to be a little more proud of yourself for placing a laptop next to a lamp and posting pictures of it on the internet?


January 18, 2017, 8:24 pm

Oh, Maurice, you are such a good Trumpeteer! We are proud and grateful to have you in our humble midst.

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