“Battery life could be a problem,” was my first thought when I started my iPhone 6S review, and with good reason. Wonderful though 3D Touch and the Taptic Engine are, Apple had to reduce the battery capacity from 1,810mAh to 1,715mAh to fit them in. It made the 6S slightly thicker and heavier, too, though not enough that anyone should care.
The iPhone 6 didn’t have a stellar reputation for battery life, and while some of those complaints are overblown, they’re not without foundation. Certainly, the ‘Plus’ variant is the phone to go for if you suffer range “range anxiety”.
Through my week using the the iPhone 6S, I consistently managed 15 to 17 hours per day. Switching off Bluetooth and disabling the Facebook app’s background refresh made a big difference, though I always left Wi-Fi on.
For whatever reason, the Facebook app uses more background time than other app. Before the change Facebook was responsible for close to 25% of the phone’s battery drain, despite being on screen for just 20 minutes or so. iOS 9’s improved battery monitoring was a godsend here.
Navigation puts a big strain on the battery, though, particularly in built-up areas. One 15-minute walk with directions drained 7% from the battery. Streaming video over Wi-Fi burns through around 12% of battery per hour, depending on the quality and how bright your screen is.
The new Low Power won’t extend your life indefinitely, but it’s useful and effective enough. iOS prompts you to turn it on when your battery hits 20% and it turns off all background activity, while also throttling down the CPU and GPU.
The iPhone is already frugal when idle, but Low Power extends that further still – I once got five hours of very light use after passing 20%, which is handy if you’re staying out late. And you can turn Low Power on earlier if you know you have a long day ahead – the iPhone 6S runs fine when it’s on.
Ultimately, while some management is needed from time to time, I never felt like I would run out before I got home, and it would only concern me if I was on a “night out” and got home late. In those cases, a few simple precautions will avert problems.
Power users who stream video all day, use navigation lots or play games often should look at the 6S Plus, but the 6S’s battery life is fine for the majority of people.
iPhone 6S – Sound & Call Quality
There are no changes here. The iPhone 6S still has a single mono speaker. It’s a pretty decent one, though. It’s loud enough to enjoy in a quiet environment and delivers crisp, clear dialogue in videos or on speakerphone. It just won’t put a dent in the portable Bluetooth speaker market anytime soon, or ever.
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Call quality, meanwhile, is excellent. This is doubly true if you’re on a network that supports Wi-Fi Calling or Voice over LTE (VoLTE). Both use these superior networks to deliver crisper, infinitely clearer call quality, though UK adoption remains patchy at best so far.
Other things to consider
Now seems a good time to mention a few things the iPhone 6S lacks, particularly in comparison to rivals. While the 6S gains 3D Touch, the Galaxy S6 has wireless charging. It’s a feature that’s made its way to many a mid-range phone, too, such as the Lumia 830.
Once Apple could have claimed it didn’t charge fast enough, but that argument doesn’t wash anymore. It works a treat on the S6 and there are IKEA lamps with it built-in. When IKEA is doing it you know people are ready. I won’t bet against it being an iPhone 7 feature.
The iPhone 6S also lacks fast charging, a near universal feature for any Android phone featuring any of Qualcomm’s top-end processors. It lets phone charge in as little as an hour and a half, sometimes less. It’s damned handy in a pinch.
This isn’t a huge problem for the iPhone 6S, though. It has smaller battery after all, and I timed a full charge at one hour and 50 minutes – hardly slow. The iPhone 6S Plus and it’s bigger battery, however, could be a different matter.
Should I buy the iPhone 6S?
Yeah, probably. While a small corner of the internet secretly hopes Apple will drop a clanger – or convinces themselves it already has – this time round it hasn’t. The better question is who should buy it?
iPhone 5S owners who don’t want to “upsize” should sign on the dotted line. You could wait for the iPhone 7 if you’re feeling patient, but the 6S is a great upgrade. 3D Touch is fantastic and the S6 is so, very, very fast.
The same applies to any older iPhone owners who can stomach the price, of course, but don’t rule out any of the excellent cheap Android phones on the market. The Motorola Moto G (2015) is a good place to start, but there are many good options in our best cheap phones round-up.
Potential Android switchers should take a long hard look at the 6S Plus, though, on the assumption you’re already using a ‘big’ phone. That said, if what you really want is something human hand-sized then the iPhone 6S crushes all comers.
Could this be the best ‘S’ phone Apple’s ever released? Maybe. Does it matter? Not especially. This is a great phone, simple as that.