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iPhone 6s Plus Review: Still Good Value In 2017?

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Is the iPhone 6s Plus still good value in 2017 – or should you just wait for the iPhone 8?

£599.00

Apple currently sells five models of iPhone: the iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone SE, and iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

While the 7 is the newest model, the iPhone 6 Plus is still flying off the shelves thanks to its large display and cheaper price point. Regardless of its stellar sales, some people always say the S series is worth avoiding.

But in my opinion, it is clear that the iPhone 6s Plus is the most significant S series release to date. Here’s my full review.

iPhone 6s Plus review: Raw Specs

  • Display: 5.5in display with a 1920×1080-pixel resolution at 401ppi, 3D Touch enabled
  • Dimensions: 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3 mm
  • Weight: 192 grams
  • Storage: 32 or 128GB
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Processors: A9 chip with 64-bit architecture and M9 motion coprocessor
  • Front camera: FaceTime HD camera. 5 MP photos and 720p HD video. Retina Flash
  • Rear camera: iSight camera. 12 MP photos. ƒ/2.2 aperture. 4k video. True Tone flash.
  • Battery life: Up to 12 hours mixed usage
  • Touch ID: 2nd generation sensor
  • NFC: yes
  • Colors: Silver, Space Grey, Gold, or Rose Gold

iPhone 6s Plus review: Design

Some will be disappointed that the iPhone 6s Plus looks virtually identical to the iPhone 6 Plus. But again, this is an S series phone, so Apple never changes the design much. On the plus side, what that means is if you liked the design of the 6, you’ll like the design of the 6s Plus.

But the iPhone 6s Plus has one design change over its predecessor: it is made from a new, improved type of aluminum–Apple calls it “7000 Series aluminum”. The company says it’s “the same grade of aluminum used in the aerospace industry”, which sounds impressive, if irrelevant. But the 7000 series does actually have a purpose: it’s to avoid the “bendgate” issues of 2014. I’m sure it’s psychological, but the iPhone 6s Plus just feels sturdier and more durable.

There are two slight cosmetic changes to the iPhone 6s Plus. On the back of it under the Apple logo you’ll see an “S” stamped on it. The iPhone 6s Plus also comes in Rose Gold–which is actually my favorite color. It looks beautiful. However, I opted to keep with the Space Grey because I like my Phone’s dark. The iPhone 6s Plus also comes in Gold and Silver.

iPhone 6s Plus review: 3D Touch Display

As with its design, from the outset the display of the iPhone 6s Plus is virtually identical to that of the iPhone 6. It’s still got a 5.5in display with a 1920×1080-pixel resolution at 401ppi. However there are two “invisible” differences. First is that the display is now stronger and less prone to breakage should you drop it thanks to a new dual ion‑exchange process used in the display of the 6s Plus. The second difference with the iPhone 6s Plus’ display is, of course, that it is a 3D Touch display. 3D Touch is the next generation of multi touch. Not only can it sense multiple points of input, it can sense how much pressure the user applies to the screen. That means if you press lightly you get one action, and if you press harder you get another.

At first when Apple introduced the 3D Touch display I thought it was gimmicky, but after using it it’s now obvious how revolutionary a feature it is. 3D Touch adds another layer of interaction to your iPhone thanks to the software found in iOS 10. As I wrote in my 3D Touch explainer, the 3D Touch display adds three broad areas of interfacing technology actions to your iPhone. The first is called Peek and Pop. Peek and Pop works within apps–both Apple ones and third party apps (if developers support 3D Touch).

As the name “Peek” suggests, the action allows you to quickly peek inside something. This something could be a link in an email or an email itself. For example, if you open the Mail app you no longer need to tap on a message to read it. You can Peek on it by applying pressure to the message and a preview window will pop up with the content of the email. Peeking also works for web links (Peek on a link and see the page load in a window), addresses (Peek to view a map of the address), Messages, and more.

Once you Peek on an element above you can then “Pop” it into place by simply pressing even harder. For example, if you Peek into an address so a map appears, just press a little harder to Pop into the actual Maps app. Similarly, when Peeking into an email, press a bit harder to Pop into the actual message where you can interact with it.

Peek and pop works brilliantly. It allows you to navigate inside apps quicker than ever before. For example, a friend texted me an address the other day. I wasn’t familiar where it was. Normally I would need to tap on the address and would be taken to the maps app, see where it is, and then go back to the Messages app and tell my fired I had found it.

But thanks to the 3D Touch display and peek and pop I simply pressed a bit harder on the address and a map popped up inside of the Messages thread. Peek and pop is also very handy in Safari. I can press lightly on any web link to peek inside where that link takes me, then I can press harder to pop to the actual website if it looks good.

The 3D Touch display also offers something called Quick Actions. Unlike Peek and Pop, which work inside apps, Quick Actions also work outside of apps right on the Home screen. I liken Quick Actions to contextual menus found on desktop operating systems. If an app supports quick actions (Mail, Phone, Messages, Music, and a number of other Apple and third party apps like Dropbox and Twitter currently do) force press on the app’s icon on the home screen.

There rest of the home screen will quickly frost over so only the app’s icon and a series of contextual menus appear. These contextual menus are Quick Actions. Tap on one to perform the action.

Quick Actions are nice, but they take some getting used to to use. That’s because we’re all so used to opening up an app and then navigating to the place in the app that we want to perform a task in. It takes a while to readjust to this new paradigm of interaction.

My favorite Quick Actions are for apps I use a lot, like the Quick Actions for the Camera app, which allow me to jump right into taking a video, or the Quick Actions for the Clock app, which allows me to immediately start the timer. Some major third party apps also support Quick Actions–like Instagram–which allows me to jump right into the app’s activity timeline.

The 3D Touch display also allows you to have some other interactions with your iPhone 6s Plus–creating a shortcut to the multitasking window, for one. But the final feature that deserves a brief mention is that if you force touch on the built-in keyboard it turns it into a trackpad so you can slide the cursor around on screen.

iPhone 6s Plus review: Storage, CPU, and RAM

The iPhone 6s Plus now comes in only two storage options: 32 or 128 GB models. In my opinion all but extremely light smartphone users should opt for the 128 GB model. 32 GB of storage is cutting it close. As for CPU and RAM, the iPhone 6s Plus gets its biggest S upgrade ever. It now features the A9 chipset, which Apple says is 70% faster than the iPhone 6’s A8 and has an astonishing 90% faster GPU performance. It has also doubled the RAM to 2 GB.

So how does this translate to real-world use: well, frankly, it’s unbelievable. I only came from the iPhone 6, but even I can tell how much faster the iPhone 6s Plus is. Apps open lightning quick–everything I do on the phone is lightning quick. Even graphics-intensive games load in a fraction of the time that they did on the iPhone 6.

iPhone 6s Plus review: Cameras

But for many people the cameras are the most important feature of the iPhone. I’m happy to report that they won’t be disappointed with the upgrade in the iPhone 6s Plus then. While it doesn’t have the new dual lens camera of the iPhone 7 Plus, it’s a HUGe improvement over the one found in the iPhone 6 Plus.

Starting with the front FaceTime camera, the 6s Plus features a 5MP sensor (the iPhone 6 had a 1.2MP sensor). I’m not a big selfie person, but for those that are you’ll notice huge quality improvements. The FaceTime camera also gets a built-in flash via the iPhone 6s Plus display. Called Retina Flash, the display itself lights up 3x brighter when you take a picture with the FaceTime camera. It works very well in my tests and selfie lovers are sure to love that they will now always be well lit.

But the biggest improvements come from the rear iSight camera. It now sports a 12MP sensor (up for 8MP in the iPhone 6 Plus). The extra megapixels do produce higher resolution images–and they do look better to the naked eye. But those extra megapixels are even more important due to a new photo feature of the iPhone 6s Plus called Live Photos.

These are still images that also record 1.5 seconds of video on either side. When you view them on the screen they appear still, but when you force touch on them they jump to life. It’s kind of like those moving newspaper photographs you see in the Harry Potter films.

I’ve taken a few Live Photos and they are really growing on me. At first they seem gimmicky, but they work well depending on your subject. Particularly they work great on shots without people. I took a Live Photo of leaves falling from a tree in a park and viewing it later seems magical. That being said, Live Photos don’t work so well on things that move fast-like a car or sports. But if you want to capture the subtle movement of a moment, Live Photos are great.

The final improvement to the iSight camera is that it now records 4K video. Then again, unless you have a TV capable of 4K, what’s the point in recording in 4K? There isn’t one. However, as those 4K television prices drop, it’s nice to know the iPhone 6s Plus is future proof. Do note, however, that recording in 4K takes up a TON of space–3 minutes of 4K video takes up 1GB of space! That’s just another reason you should avoid the 32 GB iPhone 6s Plus.

iPhone 6s Plus review: Improved Touch ID

The final thing I want to touch on (get it?) is the improved Touch ID sensor in the iPhone 6s Plus. Now that Apple Pay has rolled out in the UK, the speed and accuracy of the Touch ID is more important than ever–and Apple knows it.

They’ve worked hard designing an improved Touch ID sensor for the iPhone 6s Plus–and it shows. It’s literally so quick now you don’t even realize your fingerprint is being read. Tapping the Home button from sleep will wake your phone and unlock it in less than half a second.

And authenticating Apple Pay transactions? On the iPhone 6 the Touch ID took about a second or more to read my print. On the 6s Plus it’s milliseconds. I’m also happy to report that the Touch ID in the 6s Plus works reliably even if your fingers are a bit dirty or wet–something the Touch ID on the iPhone 6 couldn’t do.

iPhone 6s Plus review: Price and Verdict

The iPhone 6s Plus costs £599 (32GB) or £699 (128GB) new. While not as good as the iPhone 7 with its dual lens camera, the iPhone 6s Plus is the best S-series upgrade ever. The 3D Touch display, the pure speed of the device, and the major improvements to the camera and Touch ID–every single thing is leagues better than the iPhone 6.

If you go the reconditioned root – see our article ALL About Buying Reconditioned iPhones – you can save hundreds on the cost of a 128GB iPhone 6s Plus. 

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