iPhone 6s review: A forceful premium phone
- Improved processor
- 3D Touch gives new interactions
- Live photos
Could be better
- Battery life isn’t great
- Screen technology hasn't improved
- 3D Touch support is mostly Apple-centric (for now)
The iPhone 6s is a solid upgrade for older iPhone owners.
While Apple has a reputation for innovation, the reality is that it tends to iterate relatively sedately, with only a single new phone model each year since it began producing iPhone models. The iPhone 6s looks largely like 2014’s iPhone 6 visually, but there are some engaging aspects hidden underneath that familiar external shell.
Apple iPhone 6s from Apple
The Apple iPhone 6s comes in Gold, Space Grey, Silver and Rose Gold. It comes preloaded with iOS 9 and introduces new features like 3D Touch, Live Photos and a powerful A9 processor. Click "View Site" to choose between the 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models on Apple's website.View details
Here are the essential specifications for the iPhone 6s:
Upsides: Why you’d want the iPhone 6s
- Improved processor: Apple’s latest iteration of its ARM-based processors is the Apple A9, and it’s a powerful little creature. Here’s how it stacks up using the cross-platform Geekbench 3 processor test:
Handset Geekbench 3 Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 3 Multi Core (higher is better) Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 1492 4893 Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge 1324 4626 Google Nexus 6P 1251 4597 Samsung Galaxy S6 1347 4569 Apple iPhone 6S 2540 4410 Apple iPhone 6S Plus 2491 4391 Google Nexus 5X 1188 3198
It’s not just a numbers game, however. Apple only produces a few iOS devices, and it maintains a stranglehold over both the hardware and software that goes into every iOS device. The end result of that is that it can very heavily optimise its software for the processors it chooses, which means that the iPhone 6s is capable of very good performance indeed. Because apps are still written with older iPhone models in mind, there’s also some future proofing here, as the iPhone 6s should still be able to run new apps a few years from now.
- 3D Touch gives new interactions: The landmark "new" feature for the iPhone 6s is 3D Touch. Just as with the Apple Watch and its Force Touch feature, 3D Touch allows you to use a firm press to access secondary options. It’s the equivalent of having a right click on your smartphone screen for fast access to common options, although it’s far from universal across iOS apps.
- Live photos: The other big new feature Apple touts for the iPhone 6s and larger iPhone 6s Plus is the live photos feature. It’s rather like the living images in Harry Potter, in that it captures a few seconds of video around when you take a photo. A 3D Touch press activates the photo, bringing it to life. As a party trick, it’s quite neat.
Downsides: Why you might not want the iPhone 6s
- Battery life isn’t great: The concept of iPhones not having great battery life is something of a running joke, and sadly this year’s iteration doesn’t do much to change that perception. In Geekbench 3’s battery test, with the screen dimmed, this is how the iPhone 6s stacked up:
Handset Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration Geekbench 3 Battery Score Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 8:24:10 5041 Apple iPhone 6S Plus 7:48:10 4681 Samsung Galaxy S6 6:51:30 4115 Google Nexus 5X 7:14:20 4062 Google Nexus 6P 6:39:20 3754 Apple iPhone 6s 3:52:10 2321
The one upside here is that one of iOS 9’s key features is low power mode, which dials down processor performance in order to eke out more battery life. It’s a good feature, but it’s also available on the older iPhone 6/6 Plus as well. Still, amongst the premium handset crowd, the iPhone 6s is the poorest battery performer.
- Screen technology hasn't improved: We're seeing bigger, brighter, higher resolution displays from other manufacturers, but Apple's sticking with its "retina" screens for its devices. A few years ago they were top of the resolution tree, but they're now looking less impressive in the competitive premium smartphone arena.
- 3D Touch support is mostly Apple-centric (for now): As with any new iOS feature, it’s up to app developers to implement 3D Touch. So far, support is sketchy, which means it’s a feature that you’re more likely to use only on Apple’s own in-house apps.
Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?
The iPhone 6s is an excellent upgrade option for existing iPhone owners if you’re using an iPhone 5s or older, because the generational gap between older handsets means that you’ll see a significant raise in performance, as well as the benefits of the larger display screen. It’s less compelling if you purchased last year’s iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, however.
iOS is exclusively Apple-controlled, so there are no other iOS devices from other manufacturers to compare it to. You can still buy the older iPhone 5s model from Apple, but only in a 16GB configuration and at a discount that isn’t that impressive when purchasing outright relative to the iPhone 6s.
Apple’s pricing policy for iPhones always sees them in a premium space, however, so if it’s just a question of finances, you’ve got the whole wide premium smartphone space to pick from. If style matters, consider the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge +. If you’d like a waterproof 4K phone, the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium may be a better fit. If you'd like an Android phone that, like iPhones, always gets the latest software updates, consider the Google Nexus 6P.
Where Can I Get It?
The iPhone 6s is available from a wide variety of carriers in its 16B, 64GB or 128GB variants. To find the best deal for you, including whether you’re better off buying outright or going on contract, check out our comprehensive mobile phone comparison tool.