Phones

Look like older iPhones but with nifty new traits

The Apple iPhone 6s, in four colours, has put on 14g but is still great to hold and handle.
The Apple iPhone 6s, in four colours, has put on 14g but is still great to hold and handle.PHOTO: APPLE

Apple's penchant for updating the iPhone with an 'S' suffix and incremental upgrades continues with its latest iPhones. Trevor Tan tests the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus to see if they are worth the upgrade.

DESIGN

The two new iPhones look almost exactly like their predecessors. But they are built with structurally stronger 7000 Series aluminium.

A new rose gold model joins the existing grey, silver and gold models (gold is now not available for existing iPhone 6 and 6 Plus). It is a finish that is more pink than gold.

Both iPhones are 0.2mm thicker than their predecessors. They are heavier, with the iPhone 6s putting on 14g, and the iPhone 6s Plus gaining 20g. But they can still be used with iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cases.

But when you hold them in your hands, you will not really feel or sense the increase in thickness or weight. Both new iPhones are still great to hold and handle, with the smaller model more suited to one-hand use.

  • TECH SPECS

  • APPLE IPHONE 6S PLUS

    PRICE: $1,218 (16GB), $1,388 (64GB) $1,558 (128GB)

    PROCESSOR: A9 chip with

    64-bit architecture with embedded M9 motion co-processor

    SCREEN: 5.5-inch Retina HD display with 3D Touch; 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

    CAMERAS: 12-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front camera

    WEIGHT: 192g

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 4/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

SPEED

With an upgraded 64-bit A9 chip, the iPhones run faster than their predecessors.

In the Geekbench 3 benchmark tests, the iPhone 6s scored 2,535 (single-core) and 4,410 (multi-core), while the iPhone 6s Plus scored 2,526 (single-core) and 4,410 (multi-core). These results are around 50 per cent faster than the previous models.

Where it took 9sec to load Infinity Blade III on the previous iPhones, both new iPhones loaded the game in around 7.7sec. Graphics-intensive games such as Implosion played smoothly without lag.

The iPhones use the second-generation Touch ID that is supposed to be better and faster. It works even with moist fingers and logs into the Home Screen a split second faster than in previous versions.

  • TECH SPECS

  • APPLE IPHONE 6S

    PRICE: $1,048 (16GB), $1,218 (64GB), $1,388 (128GB)

    PROCESSOR: A9 chip with

    64-bit architecture with embedded M9 motion co-processor

    SCREEN: 4.7-inch Retina HD display with 3D Touch; 1,334 x 750 pixels

    CAMERAS: 12-megapixel rear camera, 5-megapixel front camera

    WEIGHT: 143g

  • RATING

    FEATURES: 4/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    BATTERY LIFE: 3/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 4/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

SIRI

The voice command "Hey, Siri" is now recognised without requiring the iPhones to be plugged to a power source. When you set up the phone initially, you will be asked to say a few sentences, such as "Hey Siri, how's the weather today?". This is so the phone will recognise only your voice. Siri seems to have become more accurate as a result.

DISPLAY WITH 3D TOUCH

Apple did not increase the new iPhones' display size and screen resolution. A higher-resolution display is probably more suited for viewing the 4K videos that the new iPhones are capable of shooting.

What has changed with the display is the addition of the 3D Touch feature, where the screen senses how hard you are pressing on it.

This feature allows for primarily two functions, which Apple calls Peek and Pop, and Quick Actions.

Peek and Pop lets you preview content without opening a message or e-mail. For example, press lightly on an e-mail to see the content and let go if the content does not interest you. It also lets you preview photos by lightly pressing the thumbnail image while still in camera mode. You can swipe left to review the photos. Just lift your finger to return to taking photos.

Quick Actions works like the regular right mouse click. With supported apps in the Home Screen, it will call up a shortcut with different options. For example, press hard on the Camera app icon and you will feel a haptic feedback, followed by the appearance of a window showing options like Take Selfie or Record Video.

It all feels intuitive and I got the hang of how much force to apply with just a few tries. The feature worked like a charm even after I installed screen protectors.

CAMERA AND LIVE PHOTOS

Both iPhones feature an improved 12-megapixel rear camera (up from 8-megapixel previously) that shoots 4K (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) videos.

Selfie lovers will like that the front-facing camera has been upgraded to 5 megapixels (from 1.2 megapixels previously). This camera uses the phone's display as a flash, a feature which Apple calls Retina flash.

The main difference between the cameras of the new iPhones remains the presence of an optical image stabiliser (OIS) in the iPhone 6s Plus. OIS compensates for camera shake and yields sharper images, especially under dim conditions when exposure times would be longer.

It also makes videos appear less jerky. Comparing 4K videos I shot while walking, the ones taken with the iPhone 6s Plus were less shaky.

There is a new camera function called Live Photos in both iPhones. It is enabled by default in the camera but you can disable it if you prefer so. When you take a photo, you get one still image, as well as animated footage - or "moments" - spanning 1.5 seconds before and after the picture is taken. During preview on the phone, just press a little harder on the screen to see those moments.

You might find your initial tries at this function to be quite hilarious though, as final moments tend to be when you put down the phone. The trick is to wait for the word "Live" on the camera app to disappear before you put down the phone.

Pictures and videos shot with the iPhones are excellent, with crisp details and minimal noise. And unlike some smartphones, images are not marred by overzealous sharpening.

To compare their cameras, I used the phones to take a series of the same scenes. Images taken with the iPhone 6s Plus showed marginally more accurate colours and exposure levels.

Selfie lovers will love the sharper details of the new front camera. The Retina flash worked well. Unlike the unnatural spot-lit effect with most phone camera flashes, skin tones were natural with these phones.

BATTERY LIFE

To stress-test the battery, I looped a 720p video at full brightness and full volume, and with Wi-Fi on.

The iPhone 6s lasted 6hr 50min, while the iPhone 6s Plus lasted 7hr 10min. The iPhone 6s lasted around the same time as the iPhone 6, while the iPhone 6s Plus lasted 25min less than its predecessor.

Under normal use, both phones should be able to last a working day.

•Verdict: If you are still using the iPhone 5s, you definitely have to upgrade to the Apple iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus. Even if you are using the previous models, the 3D Touch feature and better cameras are well worth the upgrade.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 23, 2015, with the headline 'Look like older iPhones but with nifty new traits'. Print Edition | Subscribe