Typically, Apple’s S year upgrades aren’t too exciting, but this year, it’s really gone all out with the new 6S Plus. The camera upgrade is perhaps the best of all, though the increase in processing power, RAM, and functionality in iOS 9 are all key differentiators.
There’s no mistaking the incremental credentials of the iPhone 6S Plus when it comes to design. It looks identical to the iPhone 6 Plus, and I mean identical. The sleek, rounded metal body continues to look and feel premium, with the build quality you’d expect from Apple. The 6S Plus is still a beast in the hand, with Apple’s insistence on the sizeable bezels above and below the display ensuring its supersized dimensions.The 6S Plus is ever so slightly thicker than its predecessor, gaining an additional 0.2mm in girth.It’s also piled on the pounds, gaining 20g on the 6 Plus, which sees the iPhone 6S Plus tip the scales at a hefty 192g.The flat rear and rounded metal edges offer little in the way of grip, which makes the iPhone 6S Plus a bit of a slippery eel.Apple’s stuck with the same button placements too, with power/lock on the right and the volume keys on the left, just below the mute switch. During one-handed use I found I needed to stretch a little to reach them, and those with smaller palms will struggle more.There is a silver (actually, pink) lining though: the iPhone 6S Plus has a new color! In addition to gold, silver and space grey you can now pick up Apple’s latest supersized smartphone in a fetching shade of ‘Rose Gold’… also known as pink.The familiar design of the iPhone 6S Plus will be comforting to the Apple faithful, while outsiders may look on with raised eyebrows, mumbling something about a lack of progression from the Cupertino firm.
3D Touch and Display
The 6S Plus uses the same display as last year’s phone, and very good it is too.The Full HD 5.5in screen is both bright and well balanced, with colours looking natural and contrast levels solid for an LCD.Even though the iPhone 6S Plus doesn’t have the best screen, it remains great. Besides, I’m increasingly seeing diminishing returns on phones display improvements.I’m excited about 3D Touch, even though it’s currently limited to a handful of features.The original iPhone was the first to feature a multi-touch screen and it revolutionised the way we interact with our phones. Pinching, zooming and swiping were all made possible, and it was one of the most intuitive interfaces ever – even toddlers could use it.3D Touch takes it to the next level, bringing a whole new experience to the iPhone 6S Plus by cutting out swathes of extra presses.3D Touch brings three levels of pressure sensitivity to the iPhone 6S Plus user interface, so if you press harder on the screen more options appear.It works by using a pressure-sensitive display with a stronger, and more refined, Taptic Engine – the feature that makes your phone vibrate.At the moment, 3D Touch is mostly limited to Apple apps.It’s a bit like having a right mouse button at your fingertips and it opens up a host of new possibilities.There are a few that have taken advantage of the new feature already, and one of the best examples is the futuristic racer AG Drive.It shows just how clever 3D Touch is. Controls aren’t limited to just slow/fast – it’s actually analogue, so when it comes to accelerating your hovership, the harder you press, the faster you’ll go.
The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus launch with iOS 9.That said, both the 6S and 6S Plus have been made with iOS 9 in mind and it’s only on these two handsets where you’ll be able to experience the 3D Touch features built into Apple’s latest mobile operating system.One of the handiest new features on iOS 9 for me was the inclusion of battery icons for both the 6S Plus and my Apple Watch in the drop down notification panel.There’s an easier way to access Apple Pay with iOS 9 – with a double tap of the home screen when locked bringing up your card on screen, allowing you to tap and pay at contactless terminals.The Touch ID fingerprint scanner is now twice as fast on the iPhone 6S Plus, allowing your digits to be read and accepted in a speedy fashion when you’re at the checkout. Jump into your home screen and besides the iOS 9 wallpaper it’s business as usual on screen – that is until you slide from left to right. Here you’ll find Siri Suggestions – basically contacts and applications frequently used by you depending on your location and time of day.Below this box you get a news feed, which again tries to adapt itself to your reading habits.Keep an eye out for iOS 9.1 update too as it’ll bring with it new emoji including taco, unicorn face, hot dog, popcorn, cheese wedge and the one everyone has been waiting for, middle finger.One of the bigger upgrades in iOS 9 is Siri, and the personal assistant is now always-on.It means you can say ‘Hey Siri’ at any point, and as long as the iPhone 6S Plus can hear you, your assistant will spring into action.Apple’s updated its motion co-processor from the M8 chip in the 6 Plus to the M9 in the iPhone 6S Plus, giving you more accurate readings in the Health app, which tracks you steps, flights of stairs climbed and calories burned.The useful Control Center remains on the iPhone 6S Plus, available to pull up from the bottom of the screen at any point giving you instant access to a variety of quick settings including screen brightness, music controls, volume and a torch.
The rear camera has been increased from 8 to 12 megapixels, bringing it closer in line to its Android competition.Apple claims to have reduced cross-talk and noise by minimising the colour leak between pixels. Called deep-trench technology, this feature does appear to offer better colours. It adds a little more depth to photos too.There’s also more detail in shots. The extra megapixels mean you can see more intricacies, especially when you zoom in.The iPhone 6 Plus manages to take very good photos even though it’s “just” 8 megapixels; the 6S Plus is even better. It can also stand up to the best Android competitors out there.You can achieve great photos off the bat with the 6S Plus – there’s no need to fiddle around with shutter speed or white balance settings in the Camera app.Apple has added a special new photo feature called Live Photos. While not as revolutionary as 3D Touch, it does add a vibrancy and motion to photos that helps bring them to life.Live Photos not only captures a few seconds after the shot is taken, but it records sound too.Live Photos are turned on by default; to turn them off, you press an icon of concentric circles in the Camera app.3D Touch is used to activate these photos: Press down hard and they spring to life in the photo gallery, or your lockscreen.The downside is that Live Photos take up about twice the memory of a normal image, so you can find your phone filling up very quickly. That’s not much of a problem if you splash out on the 128GB iPhone 6S Plus, but you’ll find yourself having to manage your memory far more carefully if you opt for the entry-level 16GB model.
The iPhone 6S Plus can now shoot video in 4K – that’s four times as many pixels as you used to get.You need to access this setting via the Settings app, rather than the Camera app, which makes it a little buried. You’ll also need a 4K TV or monitor to view the videos in their full resolution. The iPhone 6S Plus still has only a 1080p screen, unlike the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium’s 5.5in 4K panel.
The front-facing camera is able to take Live Photos, too. More importantly, though, it’s now a 5-megapixel unit instead of 2 megapixels.As you might expect, this results in better selfies – although it also means skin blemishes are more apparent. Time to get the blusher out.Since there’s no front-facing flash, Apple has added a feature to the screen that helps it light up your face.In the iPhone 6S Plus, though, it flashes three times brighter than the screen can normally achieve, and this does provide enough light to make a difference in dingy surroundings.
The iPhone 6S Plus sports Apple’s latest power unit, the A9 processor. This is a progression from the A8 chip found in 2014’s iPhone duo, and according to Geekbench we’re looking at a 1.82GHz dual-core set up with 2GB of RAM.Apple claims the new 64-bit A9 offering is 70% faster than its predecessor at CPU tasks, while it bests graphically intensive GPU tasks by a whopping 90%.The iPhone 6S Plus feels just as fluid.There were a few slight hiccups along the way, with the 6S Plus just taking a touch of extra time to sometimes load and exit apps – but it was a rarity and usually to do with animations.The 6 Plus scored an average of 2911, but that’s been blown out of the water by the 6S Plus which managed an average multi-core score of 4309.There’s no shortage of power in the iPhone 6S Plus then, and I found games loaded in good time and ran smoothly – even graphically-intensive titles such as Real Racing 3.It comfortably performs with the best handsets currently on the market, and you should be able to throw pretty much anything at the 6S Plus without it even blinking.
The iPhone 6S Plus’ battery life is on a par with its predecessor, even though the battery is a smidge smaller in size.In normal day-to-day use I have regularly found myself leaving the office with more than 60% of battery life remaining. That’s having used it for several hours browsing the internet using 4G, watching videos on catch-up apps and making calls and texts.iOS 9 brings a battery-saver mode to the iPhone 6S Plus, which helps you to eke out a few extra hours. You can turn it on yourself at any time via Settings, or it pops you a message to turn on when your battery hits 20%.Battery-saver mode does plenty to help conserve battery life. First, it turns off all background activity from apps, and reduces the time your screen stays on when idle to just 30 seconds.It also throttles the speedy processor’s performance.
Just as big, but a little better. Apple has reinvigorated its phablet without rewriting the playbook thanks to its smart 3D Touch technology and a more power under the hood.It’s not the upgrade some will have been hoping for, and the apparent lack of headline grabbing new features leaves the iPhone 6S Plus open for criticism.If there were ever any doubts over Apple’s ability to innovate following the passing of Steve Jobs then 3D Touch emphatically quashes them. The iPhone 6S Plus is a touch of genius, even if it is a little larger than it needs to be.