Greg Morris

Designer, Pretend Photographer, Dad

Making the tock worth it - iPhone 6s review

It’s a weird thing the S upgrade of the iPhone, it is often overlooked — but always brings in features that become staples of the hardware line. The touch ID sensor with the 5s and Siri with the 4s, these models are not just the ‘tock’ to the redesigned models ‘tick’. However as every Cosplayer finds out, putting and S on something doesn’t make it super, after a stellar year can Apple give enough reason to upgrade?

Size Matters

Growth for Apple came from all directions when the 6 hit stores, most notably in China but also spurring a migration from Android users all over the globe — at a pretty high rate. No doubt turbo charged by Apple finally increasing the screen size to start at 4.7inches, something which is now considered pretty normal (or even still on the small side) for the rest of the smartphone market.

This new model from Apple has also been hitting the gym as it has changed quite a bit in shape, well for an S model anyway. It gains 0.2mm in height, 0.1mm in width, 0.2mm in thickness and a whopping 14g (6s) or 20g(6s+) in weight. Those few grams don’t seem like much but you really can feel it when you take it out the box, and all those little bits of millimeters mean an upgrade in dress size as some cases for the iPhone 6 won’t fit.

You really are going to notice the heft if upgrading on a two yearly contract cycle and coming from the 5s. With personal preferences aside, the extra weight isn’t a deal breaker but to say it’s unoticable is simply not correct. It does add a certain reassurance when handling the phone sans case, somewhat offsetting the retention of the slippy round corners — but as with the previous model these iPhone’s really look better in a case than out.

Touch It

The increases in size and weight are to account for something that Apple believes is the next level of multi touch. Including technology first introduced in the Apple watch and Macbook, but this is no longer force touch — its 3d touch. Expanding multi touch into the third dimension and allowing for multiple (read 3) levels of touch (read force) you can apply to the screen.

Adoption of the ‘next generation of multi touch’ is at the moment hit and miss, but almost all Apple apps have short cuts reminiscent of Jailbreak tweaks and in app peaking and popping. The almost kindergarten names for a quick preview window with a slightly hard press to the screen, but still doesn’t give me the option to slam the phone down with a really hard jab of the finger.

If Samsung et al were the creators of such technology it would be universally dismissed as a gimmick. Destined to spend it’s life alongside other software almost has beens like eye scrolling and hand waving, but Apple has the software and hardware clout to just maybe make this work. After the initial check to see which apps support shortcuts (if they don’t you just received a double vibrate in a virtual head shake) it easy to forget due to the lack of visual clues — but as more and more apps adopt it you may be 3d touching for a long time to come.

Who are you?

Touch improvements also expands to the Touch ID sensor, with the home buttons sporting Apple’s second generation hardware. Tim Cook claimed that the home button is now not only more accurate but halves the response time — and this certainly shows in real word usage. In many ways the speed and accuracy now negate the need for a lock screen at all, reduced to just a fleeting glance as the home screen appears should you unlock with the home button.

It still falls occasionally to finger tips that are slightly damp but much less than with the first generation, but continued home button to wake the phone means notifications are often missed due to the speed of the sensor. That is unless you resort to using the notification shade — which although it finally shows notifications in chronological order, still is next to useless. You can couple this with forgetting about the camera lockscreen shortcut, as it’s gone before you get chance to open it — however 3d touch gives you a quick way of getting you straight to those selfies.

Not just flash, Retina flash.

Once you do get the camera app open, the interface remains untouched, bar being coupled to Apple’s updated iSight sensor which bumps images up to 12mp from Apple usual 8. Although its is 50% larger, Apple have managed to maintain the speed and performance of its predecessor but don’t expect a revolution. This feels very much the bed for a much larger upgrade in future generations and a small hint that Apple is aware it is compared to much larger sensors supported by its Android rivals.

It is a very good camera, the best iPhone camera yet. The larger sensor allows for a larger image captured, meaning cropping and zooming is much easier and detailed. However in a stark change from many preceding years I am not sure the camera is the best smartphone camera any longer. Many Android alternatives produce much crisper and detailed snapps particularly when the light is fading — but the iPhone is consistent in capturing images with ease and simplicity we have always known.

There is one small difference to the interface that users might not even notice, three small concentric circles at the top allow activation of what Apple calls live photos. Reminiscence of HTC’s Zoe the camera app catches the few seconds preceding and immediately after taking a picture. Allowing for no doubt some great small clips to be captured.

In reality all I have managed to catch is video of me taking my phone out of my pocket or a few seconds of posing before the picture is taken. Unless you make a conscious effort to think this might be a good time to capture a live image it’s likely to spend much of its life turned off. That is without taking into account that live photos take up twice the space as a normal picture, a few seconds of low frame rate video and audio doesn’t seem worth the trade off.

The revolution this time around is around the front, now Apple have finally updated its age old 1.2mp camera to a more modern 5mp one. In order to make sure you always get a great selfie Apple have also included a hardware chip allowing the screen to act as a flash by increasing brightness above its maximum level. Selfies are well and truly here to stay, but even if that isn’t your thing camera quality across facetime is now much clearer and brighter.

Bigger, Faster, Stronger

Battery life also joins the many specs that leave you with the same feeling as last time.The size of the battery has actually diminished but with improvements in iOS9 real world battery life remains unchanged. The regular model will see you through a day unless you are a heavy user and the bigger plus model is nearly impossible to kill.

So there you have it, a few changes amongst a phone that Apple claims ‘everything has changed’. There are countless things that haven’t changed amongst a few that have, slightly. Most review focus on the improved internals, the new A9 gives console level gaming on a handheld device.That may be the case — and real world usage indeed shows how quick the phone is in a few short minutes.

However most of (at least my phones) its life will be spent texting, tweeting and the odd game of dots. The upgrade is made ever the more difficult by the fact last years model is no slouch either — so if you already have the 6 it will be a tough call to upgrade or not. If there isn’t a feature above that stands out, and you don’t like the look of Rose Gold (pink), there really is no reason to switch.

No matter what the adverts say there is no revolution here. The 6s is without doubt the best iPhone yet, but it’s not one that will change the industry — it’s just a tock.

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