First look at iPhone 6s: the phone with 3D Touch

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First look at iPhone 6s: the phone with 3D Touch

Apple revealed a familiar looking iPhone 6s to the 2,000 invitees at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, and to put it mildly, the response he got was mental. Grown men, and women stood up, clapped like demented sea lions, hollering at the top of their lungs.

Why? Good question. After all the iPhone 6s looks almost identical to the iPhone 6 that was launched a year earlier previously. However - and this is crucial - Apple is the world's biggest technology company and the iPhone has become the most successful smartphone, outselling every other model many times over. The iPhone 6s will almost certainly extend its reign.

The iPhone 6s' biggest updates are undoubtedly the new 3D Touch display, which adds a new dimension to the touchscreen and the new 12-megapixel iSight camera. Other upgrades - as you'd expect from an 'S' series iPhone - include a faster processor and graphics, plus the latest iteration of Apple's mobile OS, iOS 9.

Apple iPhone 6s review: Front, from an angle

Apple's new mobile OS represents a significant step forward, adding, among other things, a smarter Siri, upgraded core apps and - so Apple claims - a lighter touch when it comes to battery life.

As usual, prices will follow the same pattern as last year, with the entry-level 16GB iPhone 6s costing $1079, the 64GB going for $1229 and the 128GB $1379. Apple will be keeping the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus on the books, and the iPhone 5s will now be the firm's entry-level model.

At a glance

  • 3D Touch display with new Taptic engine

  • 12-megapixel iSight camera with larger sensor and 4K video capture

  • 5-megapixel front-facing camera with screen-based True Tone “flash”

  • Faster A9 processor with integrated M9 motion coprocessor

  • Always-on Siri

  • Tougher glass is “strongest in the industry” but no sign of sapphire crystal topping

  • New Rose-gold colour option

3D Touch

The most notable new feature on the iPhone 6s is the new 3D Touch display. For those of you who aren't familiar with this, it's similar to the Force Touch feature that Apple has slowly been implementing across its devices the Apple Watch announcement late last year.

Put simply, 3D Touch can tell how hard you're pressing and react accordingly. Tap the screen as you would regularly and you'll notice no difference, however a longer and more forceful touch activates secondary options. It's best to think of Force Touch as the touchscreen's answer to the right click. About time, too.

iPhone 6s review - 3D Touch

Anyone who owns or has used an Apple Watch and one of the new MacBooks will know that Force Touch feels very different to use in its current two formats. When you use the Force Touch touchpad on a MacBook, it responds by offering a satisfying (instant) click. The Apple Watch's response is a (slightly delayed) tactic pulse. The iPhone's 3D Touch falls into the latter category, using capacitive sensors integrated into the backlight of the display, combined with the normal touch sensors and accelerometer to offer super-responsive pressure sensitivity.

A basic example of how 3D Touch will improve the way you use your phone can be found on the homescreen: press hard on the Camera icon and up will pop a context-sensitive menu offering direct access to various different options - you can launch straight into selfie mode, for instance - while pressing hard on your Instagram icon will give you the option to skip straight to your activity feed.

The best thing about 3D Touch is that it's actually a useful feature. It takes 30 seconds to learn and after you've used it once, you'll be left thinking “why has this taken so long to arrive?”

Next: how's the camera?


Rumours were circulating long before the launch that the iPhone 6s' iSight camera would see a major upgrade. Well, it looks as if those rumours were correct. The iPhone has upgraded it rear-facing and front-facing camera specifications significantly.

The rear-facing camera has jumped from 8- to 12-megapixels with a larger sensor that's been tweaked to prevent crosstalk noise reducing image quality, while the front-facing camera is now a 5-megapixel unit. The front-facing camera is also accompanied by a new screen-based TrueTone flash, a welcome feature for narcissists everywhere.

Apple iPhone 6s review: Rear

Based on the success of Apple's “Shot on iPhone” advertising campaign, it could be argued that boosting the iPhone's camera was just an exercise in keeping up with the Joneses. And it probably is. However, it's welcome none-the-less.

Perhaps the most impressive upgrade to the camera is the leap to 4K-video capture, bringing the iPhone's camera on par with the competition. With Apple refusing to adopt entertain a microSD expansion option, the ability to record 4K video will raise concerns about storage management, however, especially for those who opt for the lower capacity 16GB models.

Processor and storage

As ever, Apple continues to make steady progress with its mobile processors. We're now up to the A9, which here is coupled with the M9 coprocessor.

Inevitably, this will help the iPhone 6s to faster benchmark scores than the iPhone 6; indeed, Apple says its new processor is 70 percent faster than the A8 for CPU tasks, and a huge 90 percent quicker for graphics. If true, those are some pretty impressive numbers, especially since the A8 is one of the fastest chips we've encountered in any smartphone.

Apple iPhone 6s review: Left edge

Obviously, I can't say precisely how much faster it is yet, or make any comment about how that might affect battery life as I've had so little time with the phone. You'll have to wait a dozen or so days for Alphr to get the iPhone 6s into the labs back in the UK for proper testing before I can tell you that.

As for storage, the big news is that there's no news. I had hoped that, with the iPhone 6s, the 16GB model would be dropped. Instead, the iPhone will be available in the same range of capacities as last year: 16GB, 64GB and 128GB.


The main headline when it comes to design is that the iPhone 6s (and its companion the 6s Plus) will now be available in a rose-gold finish. For the life of me I can't imagine why you'd want to buy this. The rose-gold iPhone 6s looks like a gold one with too much fake tan, but hey, rose-gold is fashionable in smartphone circles these days.

Otherwise, the look of the phone remains exactly the same as last year: flat at the front and back with subtly curved glass at the borders of the screen, an aluminium unibody (slightly tougher this year, employing 7000-series aluminium) and the same slightly protruding camera housing at the rear. The Touch ID fingerprint sensor looks the same, too, despite being upgraded. It will now recognise your digit faster than ever.

Next: our early verdict

Apple iPhone 6s review: Front, from an angle

Early verdict

I really like the iPhone 6s. 3D Touch alone has made me envious that I don't have one already. It's a feature that really does change things and it's so easy to use. Add-in the improved 12-megapixel iSight camera, 4K video capture and the new Live Photos feature and my envy grows bigger.

Is this enough to make people want to switch from the top Android handsets to an iPhone? Maybe. Enough for people to upgrade from the 6 to the 6s? Probably not. But that's not Apple's play here.

Apple's 'S' smartphone has always been a smartphone that keeps the iPhone relevant via evolution rather than revolution. And, simply put, the iPhone 6s has evolved nicely.

This article originally appeared at

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