IPhone 6s and 6s Plus

You want to do more than peek

Mac Format - - CONTENTS -

The head­line fea­tures of the iPhone 6s all sounded great at its Septem­ber launch, but it’s not un­til you spend a few weeks with it that you ap­pre­ci­ate it’s not just a new and im­proved iPhone – you quickly be­come an im­proved user too. Not only are 3D Touch’s new in­ter­ac­tions (es­sen­tially the same as Force Touch from the Ap­ple Watch) and new cam­era good up­grades, they make you think more about how you use your iPhone and for what. The de­vice’s hous­ing might not look any dif­fer­ent, but there’s a whole new world to ex­plore here.

In­vis­i­ble Touch

Force Touch on the Ap­ple Watch gave us an ex­tra layer of us­abil­ity. Press­ing deeply to re­veal hid­den op­tions was ide­ally suited to the Watch. With such a tiny screen, where you don’t want to be scrolling much, this solved a pretty se­ri­ous lim­i­ta­tion for smart­watch in­ter­faces. But with the gen­er­ous screen size of an iPhone, does it have the same ef­fect? The sim­ple an­swer is yes, but with one caveat; it’s ac­tu­ally many times bet­ter, and per­fect if you want to hold your iPhone with one hand.

The rea­son for this is that the 3D Touch menus that pop up as you press deeply into the screen do so in re­la­tion to where your apps are – so that apps near the top of the screen show op­tions be­low the app icon, and apps at the bot­tom show op­tions above them. When you rear­range icons from the left to the right of the screen, the icons that ac­com­pany the listed op­tions will also swap sides ap­pro­pri­ately. 3D Touch en­ables you get at stuff faster from the Home screen. Many of Ap­ple’s apps, and an in­creas­ing num­ber of third-party apps, of­fer short­cuts to com­monly used ac­tions when you press hard. It’s ba­si­cally right-click­ing to open con­tex­tual menus, but for your iPhone.

Most of the time the op­tions are just right, and we par­tic­u­larly like those for the Cam­era app (Take Selfie, Record Video, Record Slo-mo and Take Photo) and the op­tion to re­deem a code for the App Store in its app – nor­mally buried right at the bot­tom of its Fea­tured page. There are some odd omis­sions though; there’s no short­cut to cre­ate a new voice memo, or to see the fore­cast for your top lo­ca­tions in the Weather app. Those and other Ap­ple apps have no op­tions at all, which feels odd when 3D Touch is a head­line fea­ture. How­ever, th­ese are mi­nor omis­sions; the core fea­tures for ev­ery­day users – Cam­era, Mail, Cal­en­dar, Notes, Re­minders and the App Store – are catered for, and truly en­hanced by th­ese short­cuts.

The pride and joy of the iPhone’s new 3D Touch abil­i­ties are the ‘peek’ and ‘pop’ ges­tures. They take the Mail app from be­ing a good email app ex­pe­ri­ence to an un­ri­valled one. Once you’ve tried them for just one day, you’ll never want to be with­out them – they feel so nat­u­ral.

3D Touch’s con­tex­tual menus are very good for one-handed use, but Reach­a­bil­ity (dou­ble-tap­ping the Home but­ton to slide the screen down and bring stuff at the top into reach), isn’t en­hanced by the 6s’s new in­ter­ac­tions. In fact, it’s largely for­got­ten, and if Ap­ple ex­tends the phi­los­o­phy be­hind peek and pop to many other parts of the OS, it will quickly negate what Reach­a­bil­ity

was try­ing to achieve. That’s a good thing, as it al­ways seemed like a clunky and apolo­getic so­lu­tion to one-handed use.

Snap happy

The 6s again raises the bar when it comes to iPhone cam­eras. Photo and video ca­pa­bil­i­ties are of­ten top of user re­quire­ments, and iPhones have rarely been at the cut­ting edge of those de­vel­op­ments; 16MP or higher res­o­lu­tion sen­sors are seen in many ri­val smart­phones. The 6s’s 12-megapixel sen­sor might not be the best res­o­lu­tion in a mobile phone cam­era, but the qual­ity of pho­tos isn’t de­rived from a sin­gle hard­ware at­tribute – lens qual­ity and soft­ware also come into play.

The new sen­sor takes great pho­tos, but then so did the eight­megapixel one in the iPhone 6. So how dif­fer­ent are its re­sults? As well as the sen­sor, Ap­ple has changed the pro­cess­ing as well. Side by side with an iPhone 6 we saw sig­nif­i­cant noise re­duc­tion and greater sharp­en­ing. High-con­trast de­tail has an ex­tra punch to it, but colours can look a lit­tle sat­u­rated, as if they’ve al­ready been run through a photo fil­ter app.

Low light per­for­mance is sig­nif­i­cantly im­proved, and though it’s hard for a smart­phone to ri­val a good DSLR, we cap­tured sharp images with the f/2.2 aper­ture in fairly dark in­door en­vi­ron­ments.

Unique to both new iPhones is the Live Photo op­tion. This cap­tures a reg­u­lar still im­age along with 1.5 sec­onds of move­ment be­fore and af­ter you tap the shut­ter re­lease. Sadly, th­ese are shot at just 15 frames per sec­ond and they look poor if you move the cam­era dur­ing their cap­ture. When you open one in the Pho­tos app and press hard on it, the still im­age comes to life. We quickly tired of this fea­ture, and of­ten wished we had just taken a reg­u­lar video in­stead.

To 4K or not 4K?

Tak­ing your home movies be­yond 1080p qual­ity is an­other big new fea­ture. If you have a suit­able dis­play (a 4K TV or mon­i­tor, or a 5K iMac) then us­ing 4K video record­ing as your de­fault will serve you well into the fu­ture, but most peo­ple are still un­likely to ben­e­fit sig­nif­i­cantly from it, as we gen­er­ally post to sites that com­press video or play things back on small screens. File sizes quickly grow too – a ma­jor con­cern for the 16GB model, which has just 12.2GB of us­able space out of the box! Even so, shoot­ing in 4K for edit­ing at 1080p gives you the ad­van­tage of be­ing able to crop into part of a video with­out up­scal­ing.

A re­fined ex­pe­ri­ence

Other com­po­nents have also been given a sig­nif­i­cant up­date, even if they haven’t been high­lighted as ma­jor rea­sons to get this new iPhone. The A9 and M9 pro­ces­sors and 2GB of RAM means this model scales new per­for­mance heights.

In Geek­Bench’s tests we busted past 4450 al­most ev­ery time we ran the multi-core test. This breezes past the iPhone 6’s A8 pro­ces­sor and pips the iPad Air 2’s A8X too. We never found the iPhone 6 strug­gled with, well, any­thing re­ally, but the in­tro­duc­tion of 4K video record­ing and edit­ing in the iMovie app ne­ces­si­tate an ex­tra boost, and the 6s is a very ca­pa­ble com­puter for this task. E lse­where, Touch ID has been vastly im­proved with much speed­ier recog­ni­tion, and the front-fac­ing cam­era for self­ies and FaceTime

Side by side with iPhone 6 we found sig­nif­i­cant noise re­duc­tion and greater sharp­en­ing with the new 12MP cam­era

fi­nally gets a big up­grade in the form of a 5MP cam­era (up from a pal­try 1.2MP) and a Retina Flash, which uses the screen to light you.

‘S’ mod­els of iPhone al­ways make de­cent up­grades but this is the first time we’ve leant to­wards say­ing it’s an es­sen­tial one. Most peo­ple might not be able to har­ness all the power in­side just yet, but the new tech here is as­tound­ing, and 3D Touch in­ter­ac­tions soon be­come es­sen­tial. We’ve got no qualms in say­ing this is an im­por­tant step change for the iPhone. It’s an incredible de­vice, but avoid the 16GB model if 4K video is a big deal for you. Chris­tian Hall

Our thanks to Three for sup­ply­ing the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus for re­view. To see deals and tar­iffs, go to three.co.uk. Three – rated the UK’s most re­li­able net­work by YouGov.

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