Here we are again! It seems like only yesterday, the first Tame Geek iPhone review went live on this site. With the latest incarnation of the most popular phone in the world, I’m faced with an odd challenge: What can I tell you that I didn’t tell you last year and is there a real reason this review has taken so long?
The iPhone 6S and the 6S Plus are, like last year’s 6’s in that they are almost identical to each other, bar the size difference. This means this ‘S’ generation fist the same pattern that Apple have followed for the last 6 years. When it comes to the 6S models though, there is one noticeable difference in how they feel in the hand, compared to their predecessors. They feel denser. The stronger 7000 aluminium (Which will still take a chip / ding on a corner, trust me) and the thicker display add a noticeable heft change to the phones. This isn’t a problem though as it means the weight distribution is better and oddly enough, they feel like more premium devices.
Other little hardware changes are the mute toggle being more of a snapping motion and the main camera lens looks a lot darker than the regular 6. The reports that this no longer being Sapphire seem to be true.
That’s it for the externals of the device, but what did you expect, this is an ‘S’ generation. There’s more colour options this time round and almost all existing accessories will fit these devices.
Where the difference in ‘S’ model hardware comes in, is with the internals. When someone says ‘it’s whats inside that counts’, they really mean that about Apple ‘S’ generation devices.
The 6S pair come with a new A9 processor and 2 GB of RAM. This is a desktop class processor in a pocketable device but we’ll cover more of that later. The dedicated motion processors that started with the 5S have now been integrated with the main processor, in a bid to reduce power usage. The optimisation of the internal hardware of this device has been almost exclusively about reducing power usage. That’s why this generation actually have smaller batteries but get the same, if not slightly better battery life.
Other benefits of this internal hardware optimisation have been a faster Touch ID sensor and always available ‘Hay Siri’ function, which means the ambient noise microphones in the new iPhones is always listening in (unless your iPhone is face down. In which case it assumes you want some peace and quiet and leaves you alone. It also won’t turn the screen on when flipped over, to save battery life. The same behaviours happen when the new iPhones are in your pocket. Nerdy, tiny details that we love Apple for.)
There are two other big areas of hardware on the new iPhones. The 3d Touch display and the new cameras.
The new cameras on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are all about performance across the range. It’s as if, while other manufacturers try and get at least one 10 out of 10 in a set of, say 5 key areas, Apple tend to go for get in 9 our of 10 in all 5. This means the all round experience is better. Daylight shots, panoramas, lowlight, video, all of these, the new iPhones can be called ‘just about best in class’ which, makes it best in class.
Look at the unaltered images in the gallery at the bottom of this post and you’ll see just how good the new 6S Plus camera is.
The other camera is the front facing camera, which has gone from a 720p camera to a full blown 5MP sensor. Massive shift here and it makes the ‘selfie’ the least grainy experience I’ve ever had with a front facing camera. The other impressive front facing feature is the adaptive screen flash. Something that debuted with the iMac and PhotoBooth, the iPhone will monitor the surroundings then use and over drive chip to get the screen brightness to increase 200% more than usual, with a colour to match ambient light.
A new feature of the cameras are Live Photos. Last year, I ventured the idea that Apple were going to reinvent photography with some Time Lord science. The arrive of Live Photos is clearly the start of something, a change in our perception of what a photo is.
As the lines between photo and video blur, as does the line between hardware and software in this review.
This leads us to Software
And by software, this brings us to the experience of iOS 9 and 3D Touch. It’s hard to separate iOS and 3D Touch as 3D Touch, is such a part of iOS, it’s as important as multi-touch was.
When it comes to photography, 3D Touch allows you to explore the depth of an image. You take a photo as normal, but what happens is your phone has been recording a HD video in about 12 frames per second for 1.5 seconds before and after your picture. If you press down on to the display, you get to see this snippet of a moment. This new type of photography is a blurring of the lines between hardware and software and changes your idea of what a picture is. A live photo is a stolen moment, kept digitally.
With iOS 9 and 3d Touch Apple has brought the ‘right click’ to mobile. When on the home screen, you can get quick actions from an App. When typing, you can press down and use the text cursor like it was a mouse. The 3D Touch is also linked to the Taptics Engine, similar to the one in the Apple Watch. This means that you get light taps back, rather than full on buzzes from the vibrate motor. These taps also happen when you’re using your phone for notifications, again a lot more subtle than the vibrate motor.
3D Touch has only just arrived and is like Multi-touch in the regard that there’s only a limited amount of things it can do. Like multi-touch, give it two years and the things developers will do with it will be vastly impressive.
What else is vastly impressive, is the speed. I say it ever year, but this time, I honestly, can’t mean it more. The iPhone 6S Plus is so fast, it can embarrass my Mac Pro at some things. The 6S can not only record and play 4K video it can edit it too! The speed at which it can load apps is staggering and the pace it opens up games like Real Racing 3 is humiliating for consoles.
I could spend the rest of this review of getting in to the details of the processor and how the iPhone excels at some task, but honestly, the point is moot.
I recently had to work out why it has taken me over a month to review this years iPhones. It was only when discussing it with a friend did it occur to me. It’s damn near perfect. I’ve always reviewed something and have done so quickly because there tends to be a problem with it, a fault that makes me elevate everything else and highlight the one short coming.
The iPhone 6S Plus does not have that fault for me. It is the form factor of the small pocket computer I have always dreamt of, it’s so powerful and usable it makes me think it’s the most creative thing I’ve ever owned and the technology that it’s brought with it will change interaction with screens, just as multi-touch is.
I’ve said for a long time that there’s no such thing as a perfect device, but so help me, the iPhone 6S Plus just might be. (Until the iPhone 7 in the first week of September 2016 – either the 5th or 6th)