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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Apple iPhone 6s review Part 10

Final words

Apple promised three major updates with the iPhone 6s: 3D touch, camera and performance. Let's go through the checklist.

The A9 chip easily delivers. Already outstanding responsiveness and fluid handling are taken to the next level. No issues there. The 12MP stills and 4K videos may be late but they're executed in the typical Apple fashion. A long-awaited camera upgrade finally delivered. Not quite picture-perfect, without OIS and considering owners of 16GB iPhones may be running out of storage pretty soon. 3D Touch? Well, the new touchscreen is the beginning of the journey to a richer user experience but not quite the destination yet. We'll have to wait and to see the really clever implementations that developers are going to come up with.
We'd call that 2 and a half out of three - not a bad score card. The big stuff still missing: some sort of water resistance, wireless charging, higher screen resolution. Now, none of these could've been delivered in a phone that's re-using last season's design. The iPhone 7 perhaps? If ever.
Here's the deal. The regular iPhone models update the design, and once in a while, screen size. The S models focus on the insides. The iPhone 4S introduced Siri and the first big camera upgrade. The iPhone 5S brought about 64-bit processing and a fingerprint sensor. Alongside another camera upgrade, the big thing to look at in the iPhone 6S - and look forward to in Apple in general - is the pressure-aware screen that does add an extra dimension to how you interact with a device.
This is yet to reveal its full potential but looks like something developers will be keen to play with. It can be the new pinch zoom (something we do take for granted but which was a huge breakthrough back in its time). That said, Android makers are experimenting as well. ZTE and Huawei in particular - not the names you'd expect in the same review as an iPhone but it goes to show how the market has evolved.
We cannot help the thought either that someone at Apple was looking at the Samsung Note, the hovering S-pen and Air Command thinking, "We need to be able to do the same. With a tip of a finger. "
Anyway, we'll have a good look at the potential rivals in due time.

Apple iPhone 6s key test findings:

  • The iPhone 6s is of excellent build, made out of a much sturdier aluminum alloy. The extra weight can be felt, but it's certainly not a deal breaker.
  • The display on the iPhone 6s is pretty much the same affair we got in the original 6th model. It offers slightly lower brightness, but deeper blacks and the same great contrast. The sunlight legibility is great as well.
  • Battery life is above average at 62 hours and matches that of the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6S posted well balanced scores across all tests, including standby. Good software optimization allows the dual-core A9 chip to beat competing multi-core chips in benchmarks.
  • The connectivity is improved with Cat.6 LTE support, but the NFC is still limited to Apple Pay. Wireless charging could have been useful, but is still not an option and would likely never be.
  • The 3D Touch technology is potentially the new big thing on the market, but it's far from complete experience. It has a long way before it becomes a mainstream thing. Still, it's a feature we quickly got used to.
  • Performance-wise, the A9-powered iPhone 6s is a real beast. Its single-core CPU and GPU performance, as well as the overall experience currently have no match on the market.
  • The speaker is quiet with only a Below Average mark in out tests.
  • The audio quality is good, but not quite the best in the class.
  • The 12MP camera produces good photos, but it's not the major update we hoped it would be.
  • The panoramic samples are nothing short of amazing.
  • The 4K videos offer enough detail and came out with very good dynamic range.
  • The front 5MP selfie camera does the job right producing nice pictures, even in low-light conditions.
  • The iOS 9 is an incremental upgrade and brings just few novelties, but improves the overall experience by smart suggestions and more intelligent behavior of the most used apps and Siri.
Looking at the big picture, the iPhone 6S might be the most exciting product to come out of Cupertino in a few years. 3D Touch may become a big deal but it is not there yet. Regardless, it's the first time since the iPhone 4 that Apple tried to do what it does best - change the smartphone game for good. The company has been reduced to following market trends for the past few years and it was about time it rediscovered its passion for innovation. It may flop or win big time, but credit is certainly due for trying.
Meanwhile, the last-gen iPhone 6 got a price cut. If you aren't too keen on beta-testing 3D Touch or wouldn't want to go for a pricey 64GB model to have enough storage for 4K videos and Live photos, there is a good chance you may prefer that one instead.
Apple iPhone 6 

Apple iPhone 6

The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge is the most likely toughest competition. While it can't give you force touch, it sure impresses with a 5.1" QHD Super AMOLED screen, a fast chipset and one of the best camera departments in the market. Samsung also wins the design battle in this round, although it had to give up on its expandable storage and removable battery advantages to achieve it.
Samsung Galaxy S6 edge 

Samsung Galaxy S6 edge

The latest Nexus also brings an alternative. The LG Nexus 5X runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow on capable hardware and matches the iPhone 6s' camera resolution, while also packing a larger sensor. It is guaranteed to receive the latest Android updates as soon as they come for at least two-years ahead - just like the iPhone 6s is.
LG Nexus 5X 

LG Nexus 5X

The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact has water protection and an amazing camera on paper, which we've yet to properly test. It's powered by a Snapdragon 810 chip that can't quite match the A9, but still delivers heaps of performance on a 720p screen. The Sony compact flagship can't quite match the aesthetics of the iPhone 6s, but it does offer a significantly larger battery.
Sony Xperia Z5 Compact 

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact

The major manufacturers are in frantic pursuit of higher screen resolution and size, and monstrous chipsets. This is in big part driven by Apple - the iPhone's is still the user experience to best, most Android flagships needing 3 or 4GB of RAM to match what Apple is doing with 2GB. And note that the iPhone 6s is only the second Apple device to have 2 gigs of RAM after the iPad Air 2.
Maybe it's the 4K videos or the live photos, or Apple may have finally tried to sort the reloading of the background tabs in Safari. Either way, with everyone sprinting around them, Apple thinks it can afford to take it slow. So far, it's been working out just fine.
With 3D touch, Cupertino hopes it puts the pressure back on the competition and doesn't have to rush with higher screen resolution, stereo speakers, 32GB of storage as the starter option, water protection or wireless charging. Useful stuff, at least some of it. Apple just hasn't re-invented it yet.

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