iPhone 6s Plus review

iPhone 6s Plus rear

Apple launched the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus in India a couple of weeks into October. Considering the exorbitant price of the handsets in the country, you either had to be a true Apple fanboy or someone with a boatload of money to buy the phone on launch day. 

I was neither — heck, I am a loyal Android user — yet I got the iPhone 6s Plus 64GB in Rose Gold color on launch day. Why? Purely because I am smitten by Apple’s engineering prowess. No other company other than Apple has been able to consistently come up with innovative new features and pull off engineering feats on a scale that the company has done.

So, how good is the iPhone 6s Plus? Read my review and see for yourself.

Design

Except for the color difference, the iPhone 6s Plus looks exactly like its predecessor — the iPhone 6 Plus. Yet, the difference between the two phones is almost immediately noticeable as soon as you pick them up. Thanks to some new 3D Touch components and a stronger Series 7000 aluminium chassis, the iPhone 6s Plus is noticeably heavier. It also feels different to touch — in a good way, though — since it makes the phone feel less slippery.

I am not going to talk much about the design of the phone here because Steve has summed it up perfectly in his review of the iPhone 6s, and changes, if any, are insignificant.

Display

iPhone 6s Plus front
The perfect 1080p LCD display on a smartphone.

Before the iPhone 6s Plus, I was using the LG G4 as my daily driver. The handset comes with a 5.5-inch Quad ‘Quantum’ IPS display — which on paper is miles ahead of the 5.5-inch Full HD display on the iPhone 6s Plus. Yet, I prefer the Full HD display on the iPhone 6s Plus to that of the LG G4. Heck, I even prefer it over the 5.1-inch Super AMOLED display of the Galaxy S6. There are quite a few reasons behind this, but the two major ones are that the display being laminated to the glass and the information density. The 5.5-inch IPS LCD on the iPhone 6s Plus is laminated to the glass that gives a feel of you actually touching the icons itself. On the Galaxy S6, there is still a small gap between the Gorilla Glass and the AMOLED panel, which does not lead to this illusion.

iPhone 6s Plus broken screen
One drop on the marble and the glass cracked, but at least the special dual-ion exchange strengthened glass is less prone to scratches than before.

As for information density, despite the 5.5-inch display on the LG G4 having a higher resolution, it displays less information than the iPhone 6s Plus’ display. I am not sure what the use of a higher resolution display is, if it cannot be used to display more information on the screen. In almost every other aspect including color accuracy, white balance, and viewing angles, there is almost nothing to complain about. The iPhone 6s Plus has among the best — if not the absolute best — 5.5-inch Full HD IPS display in the market right now and you are going to struggle to find things to complain about it.

3D Touch

In my opinion, 3D Touch is a game changer and will become a common feature in smartphones in the next few years. When I first started using the iPhone 6s Plus, I barely used 3D Touch. A few days later, I made a conscious attempt to actually start using it, and it was then I realised what I was missing out on. Day-to-day tasks that require a few taps can be easily cut down into 2-3 taps with 3D Touch. The ability to jump directly into a particular point into an app — say the activity screen on Instagram — right from the home screen can make things wickedly fast.

3D Touch is not a feature that you start appreciating outright. It is one that once you get used to, you will sorely miss when you use another smartphone that does not have it. Apple is the only company that has been regularly innovating in the smartphone market, which is why it’s not surprising that the company reaps in the majority of the profit as well. Over the last few years, Apple has introduced many unique new features like Touch ID, Apple Pay, 64-bit processors, and more to smartphones, all of which then ended up being copied by other Android OEMs. 3D Touch is going to be no different, and Android OEMs are likely already scrambling to integrate the technology into their next product cycle.

iOS 9

The iPhone 6 was the first iPhone that I had used extensively. I jumped ship because I was frustrated with the sheer number of bugs present in Lollipop and the lack of an Android smartphone with a great camera. To my disappointment, iOS 8 was as buggy as Lollipop. While Apple was quick to roll out updates, some bugs existed in the OS six months after its release as well.

iOS 9 in this regard is significantly better. Whatever little bugs and issues that I came across in the initial release of the OS was promptly fixed by Apple in iOS 9.0.2/9.1.

As an Android user, there are quite a few things about iOS that I really like. Spotlight, for example, is one feature that I wish Android had. Being able to bring up notes from Evernote right from Spotlight or to be able to bring up a particular contact and call them directly. The Google search bar in Android can do some of the stuffs that Spotlight is capable of, but it does it slower and in a more cumbersome way.

iOS 9 - iPhone and iPad - Battery

This does not mean iOS 9 is perfect though. The notification panel serves little use, and not being able to share data from one app to another makes me feel I am using an OS that was made for a smartphone in 2010. Plus, unlike other phablets out there in the market, Apple has done almost nothing to take advantage of the bigger screen offered by the iPhone 6s Plus.

For all the praise that Apple gets for the smooth performance of its devices, I was actually surprised and shocked to see the iPhone 6s Plus repeatedly dropping frames whenever I brought up the app switcher.  This was despite the phone having 2GB RAM and a powerful A9 processor. At first, I thought it was a bug with iOS 9 that Apple will fix in a future release, but the problem still persists in iOS 9.1. The problem is that since performance is super smooth and lag free everywhere in the OS and inside apps and games, the drop in frame rates while bringing up the app switcher is very jarring.

This issue does not happen on my iPad Air 2 and the iPhone 6/6s, and seems isolated to the iPhone 6s Plus only. From what I have read on various communities, the issue occurs because everything on the iPhone 6/6s Plus is rendered at 12442 x 2208 resolution and then downscaled back to 1080p.

Make sure to read Steve’s review of the iPhone 6s if you want to know about all the other new major features in iOS 9.

Camera

iPhone 6s Plus camera

If there was one reason why I was really looking forward to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, it was for their upgraded new cameras. Many high profile bloggers and analysts had earlier claimed that the new iPhones will have a revolutionary new camera sensor. With Samsung and LG upping their game in the camera department this year with the Galaxy S6 and G4, I was looking forward to Apple beating them and reclaiming the title of the iPhone 6s/Plus having the best camera in a smartphone.

Sadly, that did not happen. Beside the jump from 8MP to 12MP, the only other major upgrade to the new iPhones was the ability to record videos in 4K resolution. Now, Apple has improved local tonal mapping, focus time, and other aspects of the camera as well, but I was expecting more. Most of these changes are barely noticeable when compared to the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. The low-light performance of the camera on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus has hardly improved, and it was one area where the camera needed a major improvement. When compared to the likes of the Galaxy S6 edge, Note 5, and LG G4, the iPhone 6s Plus is just not able to suck in the same amount of light due to its higher f/2.2 aperture, which leads to the final photos coming in a lot darker than its competition. Yes, the iPhone 6s Plus is able to preserve slightly more details in some conditions, but those details are meaningless if the images themselves end up being so dark.

I had written off the 4K video recording feature on the iPhone 6s Plus as being gimmicky. After all, I had been using Android smartphones that were capable of doing the same since the last 10 months. However, I first shot a 4K video from the phone though, I was left awestruck. Thanks to OIS and EIS and some magic from Apple, 4K videos shot on the iPhone 6s Plus have a very cinematic feel to them. Additionally, with sufficient lighting around, I found that 4K videos from the iPhone 6s Plus look significantly better than the ones shot from the LG G4 and Samsung Galaxy S6.

I was a huge fan of HTC’s Zoe feature on the HTC One M7, so its no surprise that I love Live Photos on the iPhone 6s Plus. My only gripe is that they cannot be easily shared anywhere on the Internet and with other devices.

Battery Life

One major reason why I (temporarily) switched over to the iPhone 6s Plus was the poor battery life of all major Android devices released this year. I have not used the Galaxy Note 5, but other than that, every major flagship Android device that I have used this year, including the Galaxy S6, LG G4, and the OnePlus 2, have had subpar battery life.

With the iPhone 6s Plus though, battery life was never really an issue for me. Irrespective of how hard I used the device, I always ended the day with more than 20% juice, and this was when I used the handset heavily to shoot pictures and for navigation. I never used the iPhone 6 Plus for a extensive period of time so I cannot comment on its battery life, but if you were worried that the smaller battery size of the iPhone 6s Plus will lead to subpar battery life, be rest assured that this is not the case.

Conclusion

Despite being a long time Android user and iOS 9 not really being my cup of tea, I came away impressed with the iPhone 6s Plus and could actually see myself using one as my daily driver.

If you are already using an iPhone 6 Plus, I really don’t see any reason for you to upgrade to the iPhone 6s Plus, until and unless you had spare cash lying around. This is because while 3D Touch, that A9 chipset, 4K recording, and Live Photos are cool features to have, they don’t really make your iPhone obsolete in any significant way. However, if you are using an iPhone older than that and are looking for an upgrade, the iPhone 6s Plus should be right up at the top of your list.

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