Apple's new iPhone 6S is the best smartphone the company has made yet. It's a bit faster. It has a pressure-sensitive screen. The camera is noticeably better in some ways. The design is more durable.
It's an excellent phone all around. But if you have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, you probably don't need to upgrade.
One of the marquee features to come with the iPhone 6S is 3D Touch, which allows you to press down harder on the screen to perform certain actions.
These include launching a quick shortcut menu on an app icon, switching between apps faster, previewing links in emails, and more. Although it's handy and works well, it's not enough to convince me to buy a new iPhone.
The enhancements in the iPhone 6S are noticeable, but they haven't drastically changed the way I actually use my phone. For me, this wasn't the case when Apple launched the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus last year. The jump from a 4-inch screen to a 5.5-inch screen was a game changer. It made the iPhone more valuable to me because I enjoyed everything I did with it a bit more since the screen was so much larger.
The iPhone 6S is simply a better version of the iPhone 6, and here are all the reasons why.
It's the best camera on an iPhone so far
Apple has given the camera on the iPhone 6S a big upgrade in terms of hardware. It now has a 12-megapixel camera instead of an 8-megapixel camera, which should ultimately result in better photos. However, in my limited time with the phone, I didn't notice too much of a difference.
Take a look at the images below. There isn't much of a discrepancy in terms of image quality — the detail and color accuracy looks the same in both photos. (Note:the photos below were taken in the same place at the same time under the same circumstances).
iPhone 6 Plus
Apple has also added an entirely new feature called Live Photos. This means the camera captures what happens a second before you actually press the shutter button. The effect adds a hint of movement to your photos, making them look more lively, just as its name implies. Live Photos are turned on by default, but you can turn them off by pressing the yellow circles at the top of the screen.
These photos also take up roughly twice as much storage as a normal photo, and you can only view them if you're using an Apple device running the latest software. A few third-party apps (Facebook, Getty Images, Weibo) support Live Photos, too, but it's unclear exactly when that support will roll out.
It's a fun feature, and since it's automatically turned on it's extremely simple to use. But, like 3D Touch, I don't feel like it's a feature I'll necessarily miss when I switch back to using my iPhone 6 Plus.
What I will miss, however, is the much improved front-facing camera on the iPhone 6S. Not only has Apple bumped up the sensor from 1.2-megapixels to 5-megapixels, but it's added a flash too. The iPhone 6S uses the screen on your phone as a flash when you take a photo with the front camera. It works by default — all you have to do is turn the flash on the same way you would if you were taking a photo with the main camera. It's incredibly clever on Apple's part.
The results are impressive to say the least. These are the best front-facing photos I've taken on a smartphone, period. Here's a look at how it compares with that of the iPhone 6S Plus in a dim setting:
iPhone 6 Plus
3D Touch makes things easier, but that's not enough for me yet
During my time with the iPhone 6S, I found 3D Touch to be helpful in general. But since it's so new, it's not something that's intuitive to me just yet. Also, in a few instances I found that it didn't save me too much time.
Using 3D Touch on the Apple Maps icon (yes I've been using Apple Maps since iOS 9 launched) saves a few steps if you want to get directions home or send your location. But in other scenarios, such as using the alarm clock, launching the app and tapping "Create alarm" is probably just as quick as actually launching the app and tapping that button.
The 3D Touch function is more useful in other ways, though. The new feature that Apple calls Peek and Pop, for example, lets you preview content without being directed away from whatever you're currently doing. Using 3D Touch on a link in a text message pulls up a preview of that website without taking you out of the conversation. This also works with dates, flight information, and other types of data.
One of the most useful 3D Touch features I've come across is the ability to turn the keyboard on your iPhone into a touchpad. If you 3D Touch the keyboard, you'll be able to use it as a trackpad for controlling the cursor — which makes it a lot easier to place the cursor exactly where you want it.
The 3D Touch feature works with third-party apps such as Instagram, Pinterest, and Dropbox, too. With Instagram, you can jump straight into your activity feed by 3D Touching its app icon.
While 3D Touch makes things a bit faster, it doesn't really play that big of a role in the way I use my iPhone.
I think that could change in the future, though, as more third-party apps make use of 3D Touch. I'm more interested to learn about the new things 3D Touch will enable me to do in apps other than just making tasks quicker and easier.
For instance, the app Magic Piano allows you to change the volume of your tune by pressing the keys harder with 3D Touch. Apple also showcased how 3D Touch lets you accelerate faster in the game AG Drive by pressing harder on the gas.
It's clear that Apple wants 3D Touch to be just as seamless and natural as multitouch — now that we've had it for years, it seems crazy that we've ever lived without it on our phones. I imagine developers will brainstorm creative ways to make their apps so compelling it'll almost feel empty to use them without 3D Touch, but it may take some time to get there.
Other things to know
The new iPhone is a lot faster, too. It runs on Apple's A9 chip, which brings general improvements to the whole device. This, combined with the iPhone 6S' new TouchID sensor, makes it extremely fast to unlock your phone. When I tried unlocking the iPhone 6S and my iPhone 6 Plus at the same time, I noticed the latter lagged noticeably behind the former.
Apple's latest iPhone is also said to be more durable. The aluminum Apple uses for the phone's body is the same type it uses to create the Apple Watch Sport casing, which means it should be able to handle bumps and nicks with more endurance. The glass is also said to be tougher.
You can also turn on Apple's "Hey Siri" feature when you're phone isn't plugged in. This means you can speak to Siri naturally without having to hold down the home button. I found this worked well — I asked Siri what the weather was going to be like the next day from across the room, and she answered instantly.
However, in the few days I've been using the phone, I didn't notice any change in battery life. The iPhone 6S lasts just about as long as the iPhone 6, which means if you're using your phone moderately throughout the day you'll probably get a full day's worth of battery life.
All of these various improvements combined make Apple's latest iPhone more powerful and easier to use than ever before.
The overall experience is better, but it hasn't changed substantially enough to warrant an upgrade from an iPhone 6. However, if you have an older iPhone such as an iPhone 5S or iPhone 5, it's a great choice, and it'll feel like a huge change.