It’s an odd-numbered year, which in Apple parlance means that Apple does it’s usual knight-move on the iPhone front – a kind of a joust ending in a side step. Then again, the knight is one of the strongest players on the chessboard. So Apple believes.
Most of the old features (the straight line on the board) and some new features (the sidestep – which is usually a nod to the direction that the actual hero i.e. the next full-number iPhone would take) is what make an ‘S’ iPhone.
That is not to say that an ‘S’ version of an iPhone is a trivial device. The way it works with Apple, is that they redefine external design and form factor every alternate year, and significantly rework the internals of the device in the interim year.
In its usual hyperbolic launch, Apple boisterously claimed that ‘the only thing that’s changed is everything!‘ Has it? Yes, and no.
The iPhone 6s, Apple says, took a unique collaboration between hardware, software and a design team to make ‘an experience this profound‘, as the iPhone 6s takes interaction with technology to a new dimension all together. They’re talking about the 3D Touch, which will get into, in just a bit.
Executive Summary: The iPhone 6s boasts of a new processor, improved and upgraded front and back cameras, a pressure sensitive 3D Touch display and the much talked about Live Photos.
The one thing that Apple continues to prove, year after year after year, is that LCD isn’t dead yet, and the moment of AMOLED singular supremacy is not yet upon the world.
Thing is, almost every user out there is blissfully ignorant of which is which. Kind of like most of us can’t make out Pepsi from Coke in a blind test. Yet, its not trivial. LCDs best AMOLEDs on some aspects, and AMOLED gets its revenge in others.
Suffice to say, somehow (and this has most of the tech world going crazy), Apple still manages to stir that secret sauce they use to make LCDs, and create what we can fondly call mutant displays that stand toe to toe with Super AMOLEDs!
The iPhone 6s has a 1334-by-750-pixel 4.7 inch Retina Display with a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch. This 326 ppi is the norm now with iPhones (except the ‘Plus models), and it conforms to 16:9 aspect ratio, which Apple believes is the best ratio for content consumption and legibility on smaller screens.
That said, the screen on the iPhone 6s is not exactly the same as on the iPhone 6 – it may have the same size, the same pixel density, the same aspect ratio, and the same curved edges that make the phone seem infinite, but the screen on the iPhone 6s slightly brighter with slightly better color reproduction, thanks to a new LED backlight driver and advanced software that manages and controls maximum brightness.
Let’s get to the hardware-end of the headline feature of the 6s – the display comes with tactile and pressure sensors that judge and interpret your intent via your touch on the screen. Called 3D Touch, Apple uses proprietary technology and hardware wizardry to estimate your touch in three dimensions (not the usual two) basis the force you apply to the display and then uses that information to trigger software based responses. Its just a crazy-new way of interacting with your phone and apps, and it significantly changes the relationship you have with the phone.
More about that under the OS and Interface section of this review.
This display also boasts of having one of the strongest cover glasses ever made for a phone, which is custom manufactured with a dual-ion exchange process. This makes the display the strongest and the most durable glass in the industry.
Let us just end on a straightforward verdict – it is a good display. Applications, photographs and everything else look sharp and vibrant with high contrast, dual-domain pixels and accurate colour. This is not the best display out there – not by a mile, but you will never be able to fault it as being inadequate.
Let’s put it out there – if we lay the iPhone 6 and the 6s side by side, even Dana Scully wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. Not without a Confocal Microscope at least.
Yet this innocuous clone is actually a doppelgänger that takes the device’s elemental design to a totally path-breaking level.
Given the ‘Bendgate’ fiasco that struck initial batches of the iPhone 6 Plus soon after its release in 2014, Apple apparently made some critical changes to the internal stress points on the 6 Plus. However to mitigate (and improve) the successors, Apple did what it does best – innovate, and create something radically new.
The iPhone 6s and the 6s Plus are the first known mass-produced consumer devices made of series 7000 aluminium – a superlative-grade aluminium alloy that was previously used only in the aerospace industry.
To top it, since Apple doesn’t believe in buying off-the-shelf products, even super-niche ones, it has actually created a new kind of aluminium alloy within the already-exclusive 7000 series. It is believed that there’s a fair amount of zinc in the alloy, to lend it a lot more tensile strength. This process also enables Apple to add colour to the aluminium, which hence explains the new beautiful Rose Gold – which actually is the first coloured aluminium on an iPhone!
Why is are we tom-toming it? Well, because it is said that less that 20% of aluminium roll producers in the world can produce Aluminium 7000 sheet metal simply because the specific equipment that is needed for this procedure is unaffordably expensive and maddeningly hard to find. And there you have Apple setting up infrastructure (without breaking a sweat), to mass-produce millions of units per month. These guys sure know how to get what they want!
End result: we believe this aluminium alloy makes the 6s (and the iPhone 6s Plus) the strongest alloy near-indefatigable and practically indestructible.
The iPhone 6s comes in four metal finishes – Silver, Gold, Space Grey and Rose Gold.
Like we said earlier, ‘S’ phones carry upgraded internals over their full-number predecessors – the primary of which are the processor. Going with that trend, a major change in the new iPhone 6s is the all-new A9 Chip.
The A9 Chip is specially designed for iPhone and said to be the most advanced chip ever in a smartphone, bringing with it a whole new level of performance and efficiency.The A9 chip is a third generation chip with 64-bit architecture, built with new transistor architecture aimed at being more energy efficient and is optimized for real world use.
The dual-core A9 chip offers improved overall faster CPU performance up by 70%, and boosts graphics performance by up to 90% as compared to its predecessor, the A8 Chip.
There is also the new M9 motion co-processor which like its predecessors is always switched on and tracks the phone’s and user’s activity. It is integrated directly into the A9 chip so you can do more, for longer periods of time, yet with better performance and battery life.
The M9 also connects to the accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, and barometer for a wide range of fitness tracking capabilities. It also allows for the “Hey Siri” command to activate Siri immediately.
There’s an upgrade to the graphics processor too, hence our favourite movies (onboard and streamed) proved faster to commence and the number of stumbles and buffering stops, are fewer and farther.
One of the more discreet upgrades is to the RAM. Increased to 2 GB, the RAM build has also been upgraded to LPDDR4, which is much, much faster than its older sibling LPDDR3. Thus interactions and flows are much faster all around.
Connectivity wise, the 6s is much faster.
With LTE Advanced which is twice as fast, you can browse the web, download apps and games, and stay connected with people.
The iPhone 6s supports up to 23 LTE bands (Up To 300 Mbps), the most in any smartphone, for better worldwide roaming.
The iPhone 6s is also up to twice as fast when connected to WiFi with speeds upto 866 Mbps now being possible. The phone now supports MIMO technology too, which basically enables the multi-fold increase in transmission speeds and signal retention with your MIMO-enabled wi-fi router.
Of course, there’s Bluetooth (upgraded to version 4.2 on the iPhone 6s) and Bluetooth low-energy technology, that allow the iPhone to stay connected to your Apple watch, external speakers and other accessories. And
The iPhone 6s supports Voice over LTE wide-band calls that make your conversations sound crisp and clear. With simultaneous voice and LTE data, you can even keep browsing the web while you’re talking.
And when you’re unable to get cellular service, WiFi calling provides an easy way to make and receive high‑quality wideband calls over a WiFi connection.
Apple’s much vaunted, and even more loved Touch ID gets a major upgrade too, now hitting version 2.0. May sound trivial, its not. Its even more accurate and reliable, and unbelievably fast. With the iPhone 6, you had to do a prolonged-click to get the phone out of sleep mode, and stay there to unlock it. Not with the 6s. Its one fluid motion, and there’s not even an imperceptible lag to get unlocked. It’s so fast, you’ll never get to see your lock screen; you’re liable to forget what the image on your lock screen looks like!
Almost forgot! The iPhone 6s is a tad heavier than its elder sibling – by 14 grams. Not enough for the owner to hit the gym, but we thought we’d let you know anyway.
The iPhone introduced touch and then multi-touch, which really heralded a new way of interacting with technology. Tapping, swiping and pinching changed the way we navigate and experience.
The iPhone 6s plays catalyst again. It introduces a new dimension of functionality to the iPhone experience with 3D Touch. Based on Force Touch introduced in the Apple Watch, 3D Touch enables the iPhone to also recognise force.
The 3D Touch introduces for the first time, a depth to the touch screen. With that, new gestures “Peek” and “Pop” let you take action on apps without even opening them. Press lightly on an icon and it gives you a “Peek” into the content and continue pressing a little deeper and it “Pops” open the application.
Enabled by capacitive sensors integrated into the backlight of the iPhone’s Retina HD Display, 3D Touch works throughout iOS 9 to make things more natural and intuitive – on the home screen giving you shortcuts to the things you do frequently as well as within apps.
The iPhone 6s also has a new Taptic engine capable of more precise and real time haptic (or vibratory) feedback from the phone, to different gestures you make using 3D Touch. Consider an example – you want to peek inside an app, you get a short vibration and the small window appears. Press harder, and you get a longer vibration, and the app pops open. These responses thus correspond to how deeply you press the display and they let you know what actions you are performing and what you can expect to happen.
The iPhone seems as if its custom-made for iOS as each hardware component from the A9 chip to 3D Touch, to the Home button is designed to get the most out of iOS. Conversely, iOS 9 too, is designed to maximize the performance and functionality of the hardware it runs on.
iOS 9 itself brings a lot of changes to how your phone feels and how it shares stuff across apps. Historically Apple-created apps were an extension of its walled garden approach… unwilling to let you and your information transcend to other (third-party) apps. iOS 9 changes that.
Now Notes, Photos, Calendar and other Apple apps share stuff with plenty of external apps. There’s an improvement to Siri, a lot of improvement to Mail (there’s still a lot more Apple needs to do on Mail though), plenty of small interaction-easers like the Back to App functionality, Calendar now takes cues from your emails and text messages. We could go on, but that’d be fruitless.
There’s a ton of new things in iOS 9 that help the iPhone 6s be a good, reliable everyday tool. Together the partnership delivers a powerful and delightful experience as it was designed to.
For once, let’s not start this section with the camera… let’s head back to innovation, this time innovative thought on user experience.
Still photos often tell half the story, and a ‘scripted’ on at that, since participants preen and smile and talk purposefully to the camera. iOS 9 and iPhone 6s partner to capture what are called Live Photos.
Live Photos basically add some real-life context to still photos by recording 1.5 seconds of video on both sides of the photo-moment when you press the shutter key. This turns a photo taken on the 6s into a video or a GIF, which animate when you press-and-hold on the resultant Photo.
Moving to the hardware – Some say Apple finally buckled with the iPhone 6s – it is their first ever phone with a 12 megapixel iSight (rear) camera!
And what a camera it is! With a state-of-the-art sensor, a new image signal processor, advanced pixel technology, Focus Pixels, improved local tone mapping, all make this the camera to watch out for. While there may be statistical more powerful cameras on other smartphones, Apple continues to prove that photography is not a numbers game. Better quality of hardware and supporting software is the key.
The iPhone 6s is also the first iPhone capable of taking 4K videos, something that Android flagships have had for a while. So now you can record your moments in resolution that’s four times higher than HD video. You can zoom in on those 8 million pixels while you’re shooting or playing your 4K videos.
At the back, a True Tone flash matches the ambient light and comes up with a complementary tone thus making for a more realistic shot with more true-to-life colors and more natural-looking skin tones.
With a 5 megapixel front-facing ‘FaceTime HD’ camera plus the new ‘Retina Flash’, one can capture amazing selfies even in low light. Retina Flash is powered by an innovative technology which is a custom display chip that allows the display to flash three times brighter than usual.
Thanks to the upgraded front facing camera, video calls (FaceTime and else wise) are of superior quality.
With the new iMovie for iOS, you can create movies and send them to YouTube at 4K resolution with a few taps.
Here’s something that should knock your socks off. As a platform, the iPhone 6s is so powerful that you can smoothly edit two streams of 4K video to create effects like picture‑in‑picture and split screen. It may not sound like much, but let us tell you, you can’t do that on most top-of-the-shelf tablets!
Summarising: The iPhone 6s may not be the best camera phone out there (that mantle probably belongs to the Huawei P9), in fact its even bested by its bigger sibling the iPhone 6s Plus; but it is definitely one of the Top 5. Its good enough for Chip-Monks to be able to assure you that you’ll never be let down by the camera or the image quality. Remember, often numbers do not tell the entire story.
The 6s is a device built for business and pleasure. That’s clear from it’s screen resolution, its extra long battery life, landscape-mode browser and the presence of a powerful processor more than capable of handling perhaps even desktop-class games and animation.
Let’s start with the music and movies. There’s tons of music on iTunes (probably more than on any other single platform out there), lots of great movies; all of which you could buy using your Apple ID. Media you purchase from the iTunes store becomes available on all your Apple devices instantly and is freely downloadable on each of them.
You still can’t export media out from the device though, not even over Bluetooth. One could see it an instance of how closed Apple is or how secure they want to keep you, depending on how you look at it. It’s also no real surprise that iPhones disallow the regular form of Wi-Fi Direct functionality, instead Apple uses its own proprietary software (AirPlay) for getting its devices to transfer content and media with each other.
Watching videos on this phone is a nice experience thanks to the Retina HD display – the colours are spot-on, viewing angles are par-excellent, there’s absolutely no stutter while playing even 20 GB movies.
That said, if you watch a lot of videos on your phone then the iPhone 6s Plus is definitely better than the iPhone 6s, as the bigger screen sure is easier on the eyes, and the battery lasts longer than the iPhone 6s’!
The audio quality on the Apple earphones (called EarPods) is excellent and music sounds great even at full volume which is fairly loud! The onboard speaker has good sound clarity, but we propose you avoid using it as an audio-speaker and instead use the EarPods or pick up a good bluetooth speaker – you can check out our Add-Ons section to see our recommendations for the iPhone.
When it comes to Gaming, this phone easily obliterates every other smartphone out there. The processor’s ready for anything, the display clarity is stupendous, and the App Store is your Mecca! The inbuilt Game Center app adds a social element to your games and even extends game status to other iDevices, if you want. With Game Center you can create an online gaming identity, upload your contacts to get personalised friend recommendations, earn achievements and challenge friends.
I personally tested two immensely popular graphic intensive games: Subway Surfer and Asphalt 8, and they both ran without any stutter or lag; the only thing that showed fatigue at the end of it, was me!
iPhones have a lot of things happening around them right now. Apple has been working super hard over the last 4 years, to cross over into territory that BlackBerry vacated – to create a phone that is an all-rounder, fulfilling all your needs at office and work.
Apple and IBM have been diligently working together to craft the next generation of business apps, made exclusively for iOS. These apps will ease your business activities by making things simpler and easily achievable and also be better integrated into enterprise software.
These apps already cover a broad range of categories like Health Care, Industrial Products, Banking, Travel & transportation.
Presently, the iPhone 6s has it in it to support all office related apps, design work, integration with Macs; it has a dedicated landscape keyboard (distinct to the regular portrait version – surely thats to enable you to write your next Upanishad of an email!), enterprise grade emails and security protocols. We wonder if you knew that every iPhone since the iPhone 3G has had VPN capability built into them as standard fitment!
When it comes to security from viruses, Apple has an exemplery record and as such its devices do not even need anti-virus software.
Touch ID is another huge step forward in device and data security. It not only enables you to unlock your phone and make purchases with Apple Pay* simply by using your fingerprint, but it is now also being used by iOS to secure information in Notes, Google Drive etc.
Touch ID It uses highly sophisticated algorithms to recognize and securely match your ﬁngerprint and the new improved second generation Touch ID sensor in the iPhone 6s is up to 2 times faster than the previous generation.
Another great security feature is the Find My iPhone feature which allows you to locate your phone in case it has been lost or stolen. If one of your Apple devices goes missing, iCloud can help you work out where it is. Just sign in at iCloud.com or use the Find My iPhone app to see your missing iPhone, iPad, iPod touch or Mac on a map. You can permanently lock it (to render the device entirely unusable for the finder/miscreant) or even wipe it entirely clean to securely destroy any and all personal information on the device, from anywhere in the world.
*This feature does not work in India at the time of publishing this review.