TECH
02/10/2015 13:30 BST | Updated 29/10/2015 05:59 GMT

Apple iPhone 6s Review: Why The Second Film Is Always The Best

The iPhone 6s is here and almost immediately we've hit a problem. According to Apple's 'It's a small world after all' style advertising, 'The only thing that's changed is everything.'

Yet we're sitting here, looking at a brand-new iPhone 6s and we're wondering if we've picked up the right phone. It looks exactly the same as the iPhone 6, indeed it feels exactly the same in the hand. Turn it on and exactly the same welcome screen appears.

Go beyond the welcome screen though and you'll slowly but surely realise that annoyingly, Apple's advertising slogan isn't just smugger than usual, it's actually accurate too. The iPhone 6s is the ultimate movie sequel: It looks and feels like the classic original, but by the end you realise that it's something entirely new and fresh.

Here's why.

Design

iphone 6s

Pick up the iPhone 6s and just like the iPhone 5s, it looks and feels just like the predecessor.

Now this is going to be good or bad news depending on whether you like to use a case or not. The iPhone 6 was notoriously slippery to hold and the 6s is no different. Where the 6s goes above and beyond is in the materials that now make up that admittedly very pretty design.

The metal casing is now made out of 7000 Series Aluminium, a high strength alloy that's usually reserved for the aerospace industry. This combined with a new display glass that Apple is claiming is the strongest in the industry means that the iPhone 6s should be one of the toughest phones out there.

iphone 6s

Is it? Well its been over a week and there's not a single scratch, scuff or surface mark on it. Something which sadly couldn't be said for our admittedly well used iPhone 6 after the same time.

The most notable improvement is the screen. Despite their best efforts our iPhone 6 ended up littered with tiny surface scratches and for now the 6s seems determined to prove a point.

3D Touch

Despite looking and feeling like the old iPhone 6, the 6s has an incredibly neat trick up its sleeve in the form of a pressure sensitive screen.

Called 3D Touch, this technology is layered into the screen itself and allows the iPhone to know how hard you're pushing down on the screen.

This allows you to perform extra actions like 'peek' into emails and then 'pop' them open. It can also be applied to icons on the Home Screen revealing shortcuts and can even be applied to mobile games.

iphone 6s 3d touch

So is 3D Touch the second-coming, the future of technology, the new way?

In time, absolutely. The ability to 'peek' into emails and messages is handy, not revolutionary. Being able to quickly open the camera app to take a selfie is also useful but not life-changing.

Where 3D Touch will shine is in the hands of developers. It's an entirely new way to interact with your phone that is quick, naturally intuitive and genuinely powerful if used correctly. We've found ourselves adapting almost instantly to the processes that support 3D Touch.

Camera

iphone 6s camera

The iPhone has never really competed in the 'numbers game' against the likes of Sony, HTC and Samsung. This applies to the pixels on the screen, the power in the processor and how 'mega' the pixels are in its cameras.

The 6s is no different, defying most of the industry by 'only just' getting a bump up to 12MP from the iPhone 6's 8MP sensor.

Small while it may sound Apple has proven without a doubt that people literally couldn't give any number of hoots on how many megapixels their camera has, as long as the pictures look good and it's easy to use. The 6s excels in both of these categories.

As much as we'd like to give you a brief essay on all the complex processing engines that are at work when you press the shutter button the honest truth is it's awfully boring and it doesn't matter whether you know it or not, the end result is the same.

Low-light pictures are now noticeably brighter but without the addition of noise ruining everything while sharpness and colour reproduction are excellent.

The new 5MP front-facing camera is also impressively good too boasting a new technology that can make the phone's screen 3x brighter effectively turning it into the flash. We've already realised an significant benefit of this is that it'll almost certainly disorientate anyone stupid enough to take a selfie in the first place.

iphone 6s live photos

Next up is Live Photos. Take a photo with this feature enabled and the 6s will record a tiny chunk of video at the same time. Then when you push down on the photo this little video will play.

Apple believes this is the next evolution of taking photos, we're waiting to be convinced, At best it creates a nice animation when you're scrolling through your pictures, at worst each Live Photo is the equivalent of two photos, so it'll effectively halve the amount of pictures you can take.

Video recording has been given an impressive boost as well, the iPhone now shoots in glorious 4K. And glorious it is too although as we discovered earlier this week, be mindful about just how big 4K footage is. A single minute of it on the 6s will take up over 350MB of storage.

iOS 9

We've already touched on iOS 9's biggest features for the 6s with 3D Touch so we'll be brief here.

If you haven't already downloaded it and started using it, iOS 9 is all about performance and efficiency. Little features like a new multi-tasking interface and a powerfully upgraded search screen (swipe left) make using the iPhone much faster.

apple pay

Apple Pay works like a dream, although we have found that it sometimes needs to 'Update the cards'. While we're not entirely sure what this means we do know that if it happens as you're about to go through an Oyster gate on the London Underground it'll make earn you an immediate medal for being the worst person on the planet.

Apple Maps is now verging on being a worthy replacement for Google Maps. New transit information makes it supremely useful when out and about while Apple Watch integration is utterly seamless, buzzing small simple directions to your wrist.

Apple Music is as gloriously infuriating as it was at launch and we're almost certainly going to write something more comprehensive on why soon. In essence it's 90 per cent there, there are just these tiny little things that make it infuriating to use.

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For example, the phone will constantly kick you out of offline mode, inadvertently streaming music that you haven't downloaded without you realising.

It's also impossible to really work out which songs are actually downloaded and which ones are simply being streamed. This is because the 'downloaded' icon doesn't appear next to tracks if you download the entire album, instead it'll only appear if you go through each track individually and mark it offline. It's utterly baffling.

Hopefully Apple's working on these issues because if solved it'd become our go to music service of choice.

Power

Last but not least is the hardware itself. Apple's operating system has always been exceptionally good at being consistent no matter what device you're using it on so that ultimately you don't really know how powerful it is until you start using the apps.

The iPhone 6s has been given the trademark processor upgrade, now sporting Apple's A9 chip. Hardware chat can be very boring but actually, this phone is seriously powerful.

The 6s has a processor that's 70 per cent faster than the old one, and a graphics unit that's a whopping 90 per cent faster.

Why should you care? Well for a start you can edit two 4K video clips simultaneously, a feat that'd make even an entry-level MacBook Air pause for breath.

iphone 6s gaming

Games now look absolutely stunning and run smoother than ever. We took Lara Croft Go! for a spin and then everyone's favourite Vainglory and both looked as good as they would on your laptop, which is mental.

Despite all this extra power, the battery life is still pretty solid. Our daily routine involves having an Apple Watch connected all day and then the use of our B&W P5 Wireless headphones during our commute. By home time (7-8pm) the iPhone usually shows around 20-30 per cent.

That's plenty if you're going out for a drink after work but if you're planning to inflict your liver with something stronger and for longer we'd recommend giving the iPhone a quick charge at lunchtime.

Verdict

The iPhone 6s as you can see, is the ultimate sequel. It's the Empire Strikes Back, The Bourne Supremacy, it's not The Temple of Doom.

Sure there are aspects of it that annoy us, most prominently the fact that Apple insists on selling a 16GB version as its entry-level model. An almost laughable decision when you consider that just 10mins of 4K footage would consume nearly 4GB of that.

Look at the 64GB and 128GB models though and you'll see Apple at its best: taking what was excellent before, and then carefully and significantly upgrading every single aspect of the phone, no matter how subtle it may appear.

iphone 6 touch id

Touch ID looks the same but is now stunningly quick. The screen appears identical but now responds to your pressure. The phone looks and feels the same and yet inside it's as powerful as the laptop on your lap.

When put together you have a smartphone that oddly despite the hype, refuses to appeal to the 'it must have bells and whistles' crowd. Instead it takes what was great, and makes it excellent.

iphone 6s screen