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    January 4, 2016

    iPhone 6s Review: Not just a sequel to last year’s blockbuster

    iPhone 6S

    The iPhone 6s is, itself, a standalone device and not merely a sequel to last year’s blockbuster. Could it be, perhaps, the best iPhone Apple has made yet?

    The iPhone 6s represents all that the new Apple ““ the Apple “post-Steve Jobs” ““ is about. It’s what the iPhone 6 was meant to be: a truly refined experience where design and functionality coalesce into a truly stunning experience.

    I’m approaching this latest and greatest from Cupertino as a user of the older iPhone 5c for two years. So the first thing that strikes me is that beautiful 4.7″ Retina HD screen. It takes some getting used to, but the added dimensions really enhance the experience. I use my iPhone for a lot of reading when on-the-go, keeping up with numerous blogs on Feedly and Pocket and browsing Instagram. The 6s brings depth and greater immersion to these activities trough that stunning screen.

    iPhone 6S

    The iPhone 6s’ 4.7″ Retina HD screen takes some getting used to, but the added dimensions really enhance the experience.

    Much of the 6s design is the same as its predecessor, the “major-update” iPhone 6. But this new phone does feel slightly heavier and thicker than the iPhone 6, and this is most likely the cause of some “magical” engineering the folks at 1 Infinite Loop’s secretive design lab call “3D Touch”.

    “The 6s brings depth and greater immersion to these activities trough that stunning screen.”

    If there’s one feature that will distinguish this iPhone from the rest of the Apple lineup, it is 3D Touch. They’ve added a pressure-sensitive layer to the Retina HD screen to add another depth of interaction to a phone whose ancestry was all about redefining the mobile phone experience. 3D Touch is to the iPhone 6s (and the future of the smartphone landscape) what multi-touch was to the original iPhone and the Age of the Smartphone.

    Its implementation is gaining traction in the numerous apps available for iOS, but where it truly shines is in its use of activating another iPhone 6s-exclusive feature: Live Photos.

    iPhone 6S

    3D Touch adds a pressure-sensitive layer to the Retina HD screen to add another depth of interaction to the device.

    Apple’s argument for this new feature is that the most memorable moments usually occur just around the actual moment that a photo is taken. Live Photos is essentially a very short video that’s also a photograph. When activated through the Camera app, every photo taken is also a Harry Potter-esque motion portrait when a little force is applied to the screen upon viewing. Your photos suddenly come to life, and having used this recently when out with family, I can appreciate how Live Photos has the ability to transport one back to the moment when a photo was taken. It can come across as a bit gimmicky, but when used in the right situation, this feature adds emotional depth to the increasingly personal connection we’ve come to have with our phones.

    iPhone 6S

    Apple is choosing to stick to their guns in their approach to software. iOS remains, steadfastly, a mobile-centric, touch-centric operating system.

    3D Touch is also implemented on the home screen, allowing one to force-press onto an icon to bring up a contextual menu for quick actions. For example: I’m a big fan of Shazam, the song-identifier app. By force pressing the Shazam icon, I can quickly access the option to “Shazam Now” whenever there’s a song playing that I want to know more about.

    “iPhone 6s excels… it’s responsive, personal, and fun to use.”

    Ultimately, an iPhone is more about user experience than the amount of megapixels, the gigahertz of the processor, or the number of pixels squeezed into the screen. These are important attributes, but it’s the overall packaging of the phone, the emotional connection that Apple’s designers seek to imbue with user and digital interface. And the iPhone 6s excels at this: it’s responsive, personal, and fun to use. The “Hey Siri” feature, for example, makes the phone that much more of a personal companion than ever before. Without needing the phone to be plugged into power to operate, one can activate Siri just by speaking to the phone ““ this is a boon for me when driving and needing to make a quick call or find out something without taking my eyes off the road.

    iPhone 6S

    Cook’s “only Apple can do this kind of thing” approach is evident in features that seamlessly merge the physical and the digital realms.

    The post-Jobs Apple is one that seeks to keep themselves relevant yet still true to their design-centric ethos in a crowded tech marketplace. Whilst competitors are either seeking to provide innovative new user experiences (Microsoft’s philosophy with Windows 10 and its adaptable interface comes to mind), or flexible and feature-rich software platforms (Google’s Android is the best example, the most successful open-source mobile OS yet), Apple is choosing to stick to their guns in their approach to software. iOS remains, steadfastly, a mobile-centric, touch-centric operating system. It is the heart and soul of iPhone 6s, and distills Job’s vision of the mobile phone, whilst adding a bit of Tim Cook’s flair. His “only Apple can do this kind of thing” approach ““ the total integration of hardware and software to create a holistic user experience ““ is evident in features that seamlessly merge the physical and the digital, like 3D Touch and Live Photos. The latter, notably, is also a victim of the “only Apple” approach: it is only available on the 6s, and will only work between Apple devices within the Walled Garden.

    “(The iPhone 6s) is the most evident mark of the Jony Ive school of design: an obsession to make devices as thin as physically possible”

    The 6s also retains some design quirks that plagued the 6. The camera module still sticks out of the back, looking very out of place on what is an otherwise beautiful, sleek device. It is the most evident mark of the Jony Ive school of design: an obsession to make devices as thin as physically possible ““ something that runs counterintuitive to the engineering challenges of what is perhaps the best camera module on a phone today.

    iPhone 6S

    Photos are now shot with 12MP, delivering the quality of image that has come to be expected from the most popular mobile phone camera.

    Let’s talk about that camera. Aside from the new Live Photos feature, this module now shoots 4K video. Photos are now shot with 12MP, delivering the quality of image that has come to be expected from the most popular mobile phone camera. And finally, some well-deserved attention has been given to the front-facing “FaceTime” camera (perhaps driven by the zeitgeist of the selfie culture). It’s now a 5MP camera and, interestingly, Apple’s approach to adding a much-needed flash feature comes from something that already exists on the iPhone: the Retina HD screen is the flash. When taking a selfie in low-light, the entire screen brightens in a True Tone flash that matches the ambient lighting conditions.

    “(iOS) is the heart and soul of iPhone 6s, and distills Job’s vision of the mobile phone, whilst adding a bit of Tim Cook’s flair.”

    The iPhone 6s is the logical successor to the iPhone 6. Where the latter addressed the major competitive problem with the iPhone ““ the lack of a larger screen which drove many over to Android ““ the 6s now refines all that was good about the 6. But it takes it a step further: 3D Touch, Live Photos, a faster A9 processor, a better Touch ID module that reads fingerprints quicker ““ these serve to create an experience that is emotional, special and distinct. The iPhone 6s is, itself, a standalone device and not merely a sequel to last year’s blockbuster. It is, perhaps, the best iPhone Apple has made yet.

    Score: 9/10

    Follow Rahul on Twitter: @rahuldowlath

    Follow Rahul on the web: www.rahuldowlath.net

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