It is naturally becoming more difficult to review the latest iPhone every year and to add substance to something that many of us know so well. With iterative changes the natural course for a device that is already so impressive, we are left with what some consider to be minor tweaks to the hardware, the software and the Apple marketing.
The thing is that the iPhone 6s is perhaps the biggest change to come to the iconic device for many years and it really is genuinely impressive to use. I admit that when I first started using it I was a little “Oh, it’s an iPhone 6…”, but after 24 hours that changed to thinking “Oh, I can’t imagine going back to an iPhone 6 now”.
The majority of this immediate change of heart comes from 3D Touch which is extremely clever, very fast and most of all, amazingly natural to use once you understand what it is there for. I expected to be stuck in the habit of years of simply tapping and swiping the screen, but I am already pressing to call and message people, to play Beats 1 and to pay for goods with Apple Pay. It is completely invisible on the home screen until you actually do something and this alone makes it a triumph of design. It adds depth to the classic interface and highlights how Apple can still do things right when a considered approach is taken. There have been a few design mis-steps recently, of which Apple Music is perhaps the most obvious example, but 3D Touch is not one of them.
Touch ID is now quicker than ever, to the point that you will not even realise that you are using it in normal use. Turn on the iPhone with the home button and it is just like doing so on pre-Touch ID iPhones with no passcode enabled. It is a simple improvement that is only obvious when you are not using an iPhone 6s.
I got some time with the camera today and it offers noticeable improvements over the iPhone 6 camera. Colours feel more natural than before and it is without doubt a lot quicker. The Live Photo feature felt like a gimmick to me when I first saw it, but I kind of like it now. For the vast majority of photos you are better not to use it, but there is a part of me that really wants to see some of the photos from the last family holiday as Live Photos. I would like to put one on the lock screen and press it to remember a special moment that way rather than with just a still image. Yes, it is merely a video, but the setup kind of works in an emotional way that playing a normal video wouldn’t. The 4K video is a nice touch, but not something I have touched yet although the 1080p at 60 fps quality is quite superb.
Battery life has been pretty crummy so far, almost as bad as every single Android phone I have tried. It is hard to offer a realistic impression yet, however, because these batteries tend to get better over time and the super long iCloud restore process has not helped. This remains the one area in which Apple needs to do some serious work. The software has improved dramatically over the years and so has the camera, design and various aspects of the hardware, but battery life remains average at best. Crack that and I really would be left wondering what else there is to do.
So, the iPhone 6s looks like the iPhone 6, but it is better in the ways that matter. 2GB of RAM, a much faster processor and other technical improvements help hugely in daily use, but for me it comes back to how it works on a day to day basis. The iPhone for me works every day without major issues and it has become part of what I do, and more and more I am using it for freelance work. I may have lost some of the passion and geek-interest for phones over the past couple of years, but that does not mean that I can’t appreciate what it can do.
To me the iPhone is by far the best smartphone I can buy today and the 6s just made it even better. I don’t look for potential replacements any more because I know that none of the current Android or Windows Phones will be able to match the iPhone habits I have fallen into (I have tried a few this year), or indeed the reliability, ease of use and speed. In September 2015, there is no phone to match this one.