Our Apple iPhone 6s Plus review
When the iPhone 6 Plus was released last year is was the biggest change to Apple?s iPhone since the original model. Up until then, for whatever reason, Apple had resisted market trends and stuck with small screens for their iPhones.
With the 6 Plus they jumped at least 2 sizes so suddenly, you didn't need to look elsewhere if you wanted a phone with large screen. The thing with the 6 Plus though is that it wasn?t much of an improvement over the 5s in the processing power department.
The problem with this is that since its SoC was only marginally faster than its predecessor. So it didn?t really feel any faster. More importantly, just like its predecessors the 5s and 5, the 6 Plus only comes with 1GB of RAM while its competition comes with 2 to 4GB of RAM which makes a big difference when you?re switching programs.
While the iPhone has usually enjoyed a performance advantage over its competition, the fact that the 6 Plus wasn?t much faster than the 5s meant that they had a chance to catch up and in some cases, surpass it. So a jump in performance is sorely needed.
Let?s check out the 6s Plus:
vs Apple iPhone 6 Plus:
Most of the differences between the 6 Plus and the 6s Plus lie under the hood. The most important is that there is now 2GB of RAM. If I?ll be frank, Apple should have thrown in 2GB of RAM with the 5s but then again I?d also argue that Apple should have unveiled a 5.5? display back then too.
The SoC is now faster to the point that the speed difference is noticeable. This isn?t some 20% increase that you?ll only see when they?re side-by-side. Stuff like the fingerprint reader, camera app and apps now launch fast enough that you don?t have to compare.
The camera is incrementally better. You get a more sensitive sensor which also captures more pixels so there?s no downside plus it can record 4K video.
There?s 3D touch support, basically, the 6s Plus knows how hard you?re touching it. As of right now it?s only useful with the built-in apps so it remains to be seen if this is a killer feature. I wouldn?t buy a phone solely for this feature yet because we need to see how it plays out first.
If you have a 6 Plus already I?d say hold off for the next version but if you have an older iPhone, are thinking about upgrading and don?t mind the price tag them it?s a worthy upgrade.
vs Samsung Galaxy Note 5/S6 Edge +:
I haven?t posted my S6 Edge+ review yet but that and the Note 5 are essentially the same phone. Only the Note has an S-Pen stylus while the Edge+ has a display that curves around the sides and a heftier price tag than its sibling.
I guess first you have to decide whether you want the Note 5 or the Edge+. To me, aside from being really cool, the curved edge doesn?t add any extra utility to the device. In fact, I think the curved edges makes the Edge+ more difficult to handle. I just procrastinated from writing this and tried gaming on the Edge+ and it was tough because there?s nothing to hold onto.
Anyways, the Note 5 is only available with 32GB of storage - at least here in Canada. 32GB is a good amount, it?s certainly way more useful than the base 6s Plus? 16GB of storage.
The Edge+ also has a more powerful speaker. Both have incredible cameras, any differences between them is minor.
The screens on them is a toss up. I prefer the colour on the iPhone but some prefer the Samsung AMOLED screens. I will say though that the iPhone?s off angle performance is a lot better because it doesn?t turn blue like the Note?s does. Then again, the Note?s blacks are much deeper.
Neither has a removable battery or storage so they?re both equally inept in this department. Speaking of batteries, the Note 5 (and Edge+) support wireless charging (both Qi and Powermat) and both support fast charging (15 watt charger) so they have this advantage over the 6 Plus which doesn?t support wireless charging and can only be charged at up to 12 watts.
Both are imminently capable but I prefer the iPhone?s body just because it?s a easier to hold and use.
Really it?s a cost and iOS vs Android thing. If you?re already using iOS there?s no real compelling reason to switch to Android unless you?re tired to exorbitant Apple prices and are okay with Samsung?s merely expensive price tags.
If you?re currently on Android, Apple now has an app on Google Play to help you switch to an iPhone.
- 5.5? IPS LCD
- Apple A9 SoC
- 2GB RAM
- 16/32/128GB storage
- 12 Megapixel camera
- LTE bands
- Nano SIM
- 2750mAh battery
- 802.11ac (2x2 up to 866Mbps)
- 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm
- Fingerprint reader
- LTE bands 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, 12, 13, 17, 18, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29
At a glance they appear identical but the 6s Plus is actually a tiny bit bigger than 6 Plus. If you?re trying to re-use your 6 Plus case on a 6s Plus it might fit but it won?t fit well so chances are you?ll have to buy a new one.
Take the 6s Plus Leather and Silicon cases from Apple. They updated them so that they fit the 6s Plus. Since they fit the 6s Plus they also fit the 6 Plus since they?re almost the same size. However, the older case for the 6 Plus sort of fits the 6s Plus but it doesn?t wrap around the sides as well. The fit is off enough that I broke down and bought a new case rather than reuse my 6 Plus case.
Otherwise it?s just like the 6 Plus. The buttons are very tactile and a joy to press.
It?s a very thin phone, one of the skinniest around. This makes it a good choice if you?re going to use a case. Apparently the 6s Plus has been strengthened so it?s more resistant to bending. Then again, skinny jeans aren?t quite as in now so I guess maybe
The bezel is relatively thick - I personally don?t have a problem with this since it makes it easier to handle.
You still get a 5.5? 1920x1080 display.
While they have identical specs, the 6s Plus? has a different calibration - to my eyes its whites are a bit warmer.
Otherwise the displays are pretty similar. At 401PPI it?s not quite as sharp as some Quad HD Android flagships but as someone who uses phones with these displays regularly (LG G4, GS6 Edge+, Nexus 6, etc), I never notice any difference so it?s only an advantage on paper.
Colour is nice and restrained. Actually the 6s Plus might be a tiny bit more saturated. Blacks are identical to the 6 Plus which makes it one of the better LCD?s in this regard.
Viewing angles and outdoor performance are identical and still right up there with the best.
One new feature is 3D touch, with it the 6 Plus can sense how hard you?re touching the screen. Generally you can press a little harder to preview content. For example when you?re viewing the picture gallery, you can tap the screen harder to enlarge previews. For now it only works with the built-in apps so the jury is out on how useful it will be.
When you use 3D touch the 6s Plus can use the vibration motor to make it feel like you?ve actually pressed the screen. Remember the old Blackberry Storm 2 or Motorola ROKR E8 from 6 years ago? It?s like that - you?ll swear that the screen moved when you pressed it even though it didn?t.
I personally don?t use the built-in apps often so I didn?t encounter many opportunities to use 3D Touch.
Oh and in case you?re wondering, yes it does work through screen protectors. I?m still investigating but so far it seems to work through both glass and plastic.
The last 4 generations of iPhone have all come with 8 megapixel cameras. While the resolution has remained static, the image quality has improved each generation.
The problem with an 8 megapixel sensor is that it doesn?t have enough pixels for 4K video. Android phones have been able to record 4K video for close to 2 years now so Apple had to offer this feature sooner or later.
As such, the 6s Plus camera receives a resolution bump and now boasts 12 megapixels which is more than enough for 4K.
There?s a new live photo function which snaps a quick 3 second video clip to go with each photo. It?s pretty much the same as HTC?s Zoe feature which came out 3 years ago. While it sounds interesting in practise I turned this feature off - just like I did on the HTC One M7, M8 and M9.
In iOS 9 Apple changed the camera app interface a little so you can no longer choose the slow-mo video speed from the app. You have to go to the settings app instead to change this. I preferred the old way of doing this as sometimes I wanted to slow things down a little and other times a lot. Better yet, I?d like to see variable speed control in 30 fps increments.
I love how responsive the camera is along with its outstanding image quality. My only complaint is that I wish the macro performance was a bit better. Don?t get me wrong, it?s one of the best around but the GS6 and G4 can get even closer.
Despite the bump in resolution the new camera has better low light performance with less noise. So in essence, the extra pixels are ?free?, you don?t give up anything to get them.
You can now capture video in 4 different modes; 4K, 1080P @60FPS, 1080P @30FPS and 720P.
Aside from taking up more space, there doesn?t seem to be a penalty to using the 4K mode. I assumed 4K video would sacrifice some low-light performance but that doesn?t seem to be the case.
Thanks to the faster processor, switching between picture and video mode is noticeable faster.
The front-facing camera now has 5 megapixels up from the 1.2MP sensor on the 6 Plus. It captures more detail and supports a selfie flash where it lights up the screen to help illuminate your face. It?s different than the selfie flash on the LG G3, where it just lights up the sides of the screen.
Out of the box the 6s Plus runs iOS 9. I talk about software updates all the time and when it comes to Apple, they?re the kings of of this.
iOS 9 is available on devices as old as the iPhone 4s - a device which was first released almost 4 and a half years ago. The 4s? contemporary, the Galaxy Nexus was released 6 months after the 4s and stopped receiving updates over a year and a half ago.
So while Apple makes no promises, there?s a good chance the 6s Plus will receive updates for many years to come. Some newer Android devices are getting better - some of the getting updates for 2 years or more but they still have a way to go.
While many generations of iPhones are able to run iOS 9, certain iOS 9 features aren?t available on older devices. Some features exclusive to the 6s series include the 4K video I mentioned, 3D touch support and the ability to use the keyboard as a mouse when selecting text.
I don?t use Safari myself but it now supports 3rd party add ons like ad blockers. I guess this is Apple?s way of getting more people to use Safari/stick it to Google with content publishers like yours truly in the middle.
I also noticed that iOS in generally is now more location aware. When I?m out, it bugs me every now and then to remind me how traffic is and long it would take to get home. When you bring up the task switcher it sometimes recommends apps I might want to open based on where I am. For example, if I?m at Shopper Drug Mart (think a smaller more expensive Walgreens or maybe Duane Reade in Canada) there?s a link to the app when I switch tasks.
The keyboard has received some updates. First off, the keyboard keys finally show if you?re typing in lowercase instead of always being upper case. It only took Apple about 8 years to fix this.
They also made it easier to move the cursor around. Pressing and holding the keyboard allows you to slide the cursor around around like a mouse when you?re typing. Note that it?s just for text, it doesn?t allow you to surf web pages like you would on a computer.
The 6 Plus was only a minor improvement over the 5s in the processing power department. I guess Apple usually focuses more on the exterior for number changes and more on the inside with their corresponding ?s? versions. The 6s Plus doesn?t deviate from this strategy as its A9 SoC is a substantial improvement over the A8 in the performance department.
Indeed, the 6s Plus is a big jump up from the 6 Plus but how does this translate into real life?
Well, apps launch more quickly but the thing is, the 6 Plus isn?t exactly slow so it?s a case of fast vs faster with the 6s Plus. One of my favorite games, Plants vs Zombies 2 usually takes a while to launch. On the 6 Plus it takes around 27 seconds while on the 6s Plus it takes about 22 seconds.
Most regular apps on the other hand already launch fairly quickly on the regular model so difference between it and the 6s Plus isn?t as noticeable.
I don?t know about you but when it comes to my 6 Plus last year I remember its camera launching much faster than it does now. Is it a case of it actually taking longer or is it just a case of me getting used to phones like the GS6 and it?s siblings which are all capable of pulling up their cameras even faster.
Anyways, the 6s Plus can launch its camera a hair faster than the GS6 though once you take into account the Samsung?s double tap home button to launch they?re essentially equal.
Another area which is a welcome improvement is the TouchID. The fingerprint reader on the 6 Plus isn?t exactly slow but there was a noticeable gap between it and the speedier GS6. The 6s Plus regains the lead in the fingerprint reader sprint - it?s now almost instantaneous. Practically speaking, it's so fast that if subsequent versions add more speed the difference won?t be as noticeable unless you have them side by side. Next they need to improvement when my fingers are wet.
Really, the biggest difference between the 2 iPhones is that the 6s Plus comes with 2GB of RAM. This actually makes far more of a difference than the faster processor does.
The 6 Plus is constantly re-launching programs because it only has enough RAM to keep one large program open at a time along with a couple of small ones. When I?m gaming and get a new message I have to weigh whether I want to risk losing some of my progress in order to respond. You see, switching to my messaging app and then possibly clicking a link may be enough for the 6 to close my game in order to free up some memory.
The 6s Plus comes with 2GB of RAM which by the way, has be de rigueur on Android for close to 4 years now. Or rather, I should say, the 6s Plus FINALLY comes with 2GB of RAM.
2GB of RAM is enough to play games, check messages and do some light browsing without having to relaunch anything. To me this is the biggest difference between between the 6 and 6s Plus.
If you?re using a 5s and have been waiting for a faster iPhone then it?s time for the 6s and 6s Plus.
As a Phone:
Maximum earpiece and speakerphone volume are unchanged from the 6 Plus. I?m very disappointed by this as the Android competition has surpassed the iPhone in this regard - especially Samsung - the GS6 and it?s siblings? earpiece and speakerphones are all significantly louder than the iPhone
RF performance is unchanged from the 6 Plus so it?s just average.
Apple has shrunk the battery from 2915mAh on the 6 Plus down to a reported 2750mAh on the 6s Plus. They?re confident that the new A9 SoC is efficient enough to offset the drop in battery capacity.
The way I see it is that a loss in capacity is never a good thing. Even if the claimed battery life is identical, it?s one of those things you can never have enough of. Then again, I guess they needed to shrink it since the 6s Plus is slightly larger than the 6 Plus.
If you have your phone on silent a lot (like myself), you should know that the vibration motor is much stronger. I guess one reason why it?s louder is because the 3D Touch feature needs something very responsive to provide the haptics.
The single speaker on the bottom hasn?t changed. It sounds decent and is just as loud as the 6 Plus. That said, it?s Android competition has taken huge leaps forward - this is the area where Android really pulls ahead of the iPhone. Phones like the LG G4 sound even better and are much, much louder.
Like its predecessors, the base model 6s Plus only comes with 16GB of storage which as as far as I?m concerned a travesty. 16GB is fine on a device that costs $200-300 but on a phone that starts at close to $1000 should come with a minimum of 32GB of storage.
The problem with 16GB is that if you actually use your iPhone, it?s very easy to fill that space up very quickly. Install a few large games, snap some 4K video and you?re full.
Don?t forget that you need to keep enough free space to allow for updates.
I?m a bit conflicted about the 6s Plus. On one hand, the extra RAM really transforms the iPhone?s user experience. The boost in speed is also a welcome as is the improved camera which can shoot 4K video.
On the other hand, Android flagships have had more than 2GB of RAM for years now. You could argue that iOS is more frugal with RAM but the thing is, iPhone has been really lagging in this area so Apple is merely playing catch up and still lags by a little bit.
Ditto for 4K video which has been on Android for over 2 years now.
As for the 3D Touch, I don?t typically use the built-in apps much so right now, for me it?s not a feature I use at all. While it?s definitely cool, it?s going to take time for it to be truly useful.
Then there?s the price. In Canada, my 6s Plus 128GB cost a breathtaking $1289 before taxes. You could almost get 2 LG G4?s for that price. I tell you, while I like my iPhone, I don?t feel really good when I think about how much I paid for it.
4.5 Howies out of 5.
- Better camera
- Fingerprint reader is instantaneous
- More RAM
- 4K video
- Improvements to the keyboard
- Speedier performance
- Base model only comes with 16GB
- Speaker is no better than previous model
- Earpiece is no louder than previous model
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