iPhone 6, iPhone 6s Plus

Ben’s six hours ahead of me in the UK and had fallen in love with his iPhone 6s before I rolled out of bed, but UPS held my iPhone 6s Plus as requested so I was able to pick it up and spend the morning trying it out before the usual evening delivery. 3D Touch, Live Photos, 4K video, 60 fps 1080p video, faster hardware… it’s all great, but moving from the 4.7-inch screen to the 5.5-inch screen is the real reason I upgraded.

I moved from 2-year commitments to AT&T Next last year so the upgrade process was mostly painless. I would have used Apple’s iPhone Upgrade Plan if it weren’t for the need to complete the process at the Apple Store; that’s a 90 minute drive compared to the UPS center 10 minutes away, but maybe next year they’ll support web orders.

That being said, the move from an iPhone 6 to an iPhone 6s Plus is a dramatic one even before you consider the new features and enhancements. I also opted for space gray after trying gold for a year; my wife naturally picked rose gold while making the same switch from iPhone 6 to iPhone 6s Plus. So what’s changed year over year for iPhone and how does that new finish look in the real world? Read on for answers…

3D Touch 16:9

Right out of the box, I’m already a fan of 3D Touch. Pressing firmly on updated app icons to access action shortcuts sort of feels like Apple’s answer to widgets on Android in a way that Notification Center widgets never has. This immediately scales way beyond the system’s swipe up Control Center shortcut which supports feature customization.

3D Touch Beats 1

Many of Apple’s own icons support Quick Actions from the Home screen, and we rounded up a number of popular and useful apps updated for 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. I can see myself remembering to actually listen to Beats 1 with this new shortcut from the Music’s app icon (pictured above), although I wouldn’t mind if the currently scheduled show was listed above the Recently Played track link. Search is already widely accessible from Spotlight with a swipe left or down.

3D Touch pressure

Peek and Pop shortcuts for previewing and opening content in different apps is also a welcome addition to the iPhone. I’m always using the Mac’s similar Quick Look functionality so I think I’ll be using Peek and Pop all the time on my iPhone 6s Plus.

And while I don’t hear a lot of people voicing this complaint, I do have the same resistance to pressure sensitive input on the iPhone using 3D Touch that I have with Force Touch on the Apple Watch and trackpad on the MacBook. I appreciate easy interactions with little resistance — I’m a huge tap to click fan with Apple’s trackpads — but both Force Touch and 3D Touch require just a little more pressure than I want to naturally provide.

iPhone 6s takes this into consideration, however, with 3D Touch Sensitivity settings in Settings > General > Accessibility > 3D Touch where you can either decrease and increase the amount of pressure required.

Couple of Cats

Even with yearly upgrades, the camera changes between iPhones is always something I appreciate the most. I’m all in on Apple’s iCloud Photo Library feature for syncing photos and videos I shoot on iPhone between OS X and iOS, and a day rarely goes by that I don’t capture at least a few shots of something that interests me. iPhone 6s and 6s Plus deliver an upgraded 12MP back camera, 5MP selfie shooter, ultra hi-def 4K video, and smoother 1080p 60 fps video for the first time. There’s also Live Photos, which captures full-res 12MP photos but also catches a few seconds of audio and video to create a high quality image with added context.

While I’m much more excited about capturing Live Photos of my 2-year-old, I managed to coax my cats into posing for a sample shot. The still image above is the 12MP photo captured from the Live Photo. Shooting it took a couple seconds longer than usual, similar to shooting HDR on the iPhone before it got so fast, and the result was the clip seen above. 3D Touching the still photo in Photos on the iPhone revealed a few seconds of movement and audio captured with the photo. It does take a little longer to shoot a single image and I think about 90% of the photos I shoot won’t benefit from Live Photos, but there will definitely be a few that I wouldn’t want to see turned back into traditional stills.

Expect Dom to produce the usual phenomenal camera shootout video shortly, but I did want to capture a quick sample of 4K video on the iPhone 6s Plus. Note also that the 6s Plus model supports optical image stabilization for video for the first time; like OIS when shooting stills, the feature isn’t offered on iPhone 6s.

Even without OIS for videos, iPhone 6s users will appreciate smoother 60 fps when shooting 1080p video. As a comparison, I shot a shorter sample of video in this quality above. You’ll likely have to manually adjust the playback quality (and have a proper display) to see the differences.

Hey Siri Always-On

iPhone 6s and 6s Plus also include a number of other enhancements including always-on hands-free Siri, a faster Touch ID sensor and amped up processing power, and much more.

Siri can be activated on Apple Watch from the watch face using the Hey Siri command without needing to use any buttons, and older iPhones offer hands-free Siri when charging, but iPhone 6s and 6s Plus support always-on hands-free Siri even when the display is off. In my initial testing, I’m finding it to be a mix of the convenience on Apple Watch and power of the iPhone. Siri just got a whole lot better for a lot of people.

Touch ID is also noticeably faster on iPhone 6s and 6s Plus compared to older iPhones. You can see a comparison here. I never complained to myself that Touch ID was too slow on my iPhone 5s or 6, but I’m already enjoying the faster sensor. I was in the camp that thought the final version of iOS 9 made my year old iPhone 6 feel a little slower to move around the system. Naturally, all of those complaints are gone with iPhone 6s Plus. iPad Air’s 2GB of RAM has been especially noticeable when bouncing between Safari tabs, and I’m happy to see iPhone 6s and 6s Plus deliver that same RAM increase. So far, so good.

While the iPhone itself is faster, moving between iPhones has become an awful lot of work I’ve found.

I keep an encrypted backup using iTunes so restoring to a new iPhone is as fast as possible and passwords are kept in place, but Apple Pay and Touch ID require setting up again with each new iPhone. That’s because they store important information on the iPhone’s hardware-specific Secure Element so your fingerprint and payment information is kept safe from even Apple, but after enough years of re-setting up 5 fingers and 6 Apple Pay cards, I might decide that a more convenient but still encrypted option is needed. Just me?

There’s also the Apple Watch. iOS doesn’t make it completely obvious how you should handle Apple Watch when upgrading iPhones, and Apple’s support documentation offers conflicting points on how Apple Watch backups work. I decided to take the route I thought most people would. Restore my new iPhone from my old iPhone’s latest backup, then open the Apple Watch app. The companion app wanted to set up an Apple Watch from scratch, so I had to open the Settings app on Apple Watch and choose Erase All Content and Settings under General and Reset. After pairing iPhone and Apple Watch again, the app told me I had a backup from today, allowing me to easily restore. Not too painful, but this could be smoother next year.

Rose Gold iPhone 6s Plus Apple Watch

Speaking of Apple Watch, the new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus with the rose gold anodized aluminum finish is nearly identical to the casing on the new Apple Watch Sport models in the same color.

Actual Rose Gold Not Pink

This has been highly debatable so far, but I’m comfortable calling this finish pink. It’s not hot pink like the new iPod touches, but it’s not as rose gold as the Apple Watch Editions (left) either. More shots below:

So far I’m only 6 hours into owning an iPhone 6s Plus, but my immediate first impressions are already better than last time around. Apps are not only optimized for the larger displays, their icons are also ready on day one to support the new 3D Touch feature. And there’s no uncertainty for me now about which display size I want as I’ve lived a year with the 4.7-inch model and spent a healthy amount of time knowing I’m better off this year with the 5.5-inch.

All in all, the move from iPhone 6 to iPhone 6s Plus already feels like enough to hold me over until an all-new designed iPhone 7 this time next year. Are you joining the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus party this weekend? Let us know your thoughts below!

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