It’s September again so it’s time for another iPhone. The successors to last year’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, without much surprise, are the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus. The new iPhones certainly look the same as their predecessors, like all iPhones carrying the ‘s’ in their names. But under the similar bodies pack refinements made by Apple. So let’s find out what has been improved!

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Looks the Same

As mentioned earlier, the new iPhones look very similar to last year’s model, except with the addition of a new colour option: rose gold. The rose gold model looks like pale pink for me and I guess women will find it very appealing. I am not a big fan of the design ever since iPhone 6 was launched, especially with the antenna lines on the back which are thick and ugly. However, changes are not expected at the first place so I am not truly disappointed over here.

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While the aluminium chassis looks very familiar, the material used has been improved. After the infamous bend-gate issue which gives Apple a lot of negative publicity, Apple decided to use 7000 series aluminium on the new iPhones to strengthen the structure. I guess there will be a lot of YouTubers who cannot wait to try bending the new iPhone, so we shall wait and see how the new material performs. I have never seen an iPhone being bent unintentionally under normal usage, so this is not a big deal to me. But hey, who doesn’t want their phone to be more durable?

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The extra strength does come with a little cost. The new iPhones are marginally larger and heavier than previous models but I seriously doubt that you will notice the difference which can only be measured in millimetres and grams. The trade-off is definitely well worth it. Apple also claimed that they are using stronger display glass, but no further information is provided by Apple.

New Dimension in Touch

Speaking of the display, Apple still keep the same resolution and given that the retina displays on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s are really nice, never once did I wish for more pixels. There are certainly better displays out there in the market, but it does not change the fact that the iPhones’ displays are awesome.

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While the display quality is not improved, changes are made on the touch input. Apple has added a new dimension of touch input via the pressure sensitive 3D Touch. We have a more detailed post about the 3D Touch technology and you might want to have a look if you wish to know what you can do with a deeper press on the new iPhones.  Apple is one of the few companies who develops their own hardware and software and Apple certainly took advantage of that by integrating the 3D Touch deeply into iOS. A lot of quick actions can be done by 3D Touch and you will be able to save a respectable amount of time if you pick up all the new tricks, especially Peek & Pop.

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I do not think the 3D Touch is a marketing gimmick at all as a pressure sensitive screen does not seem to be a great “wow” factor as compared to other features like Touch ID or Siri when they were launched. While being less fancy, I think 3D Touch is one of the most practical features being introduced and I can see myself using it if I am to buy the new iPhone.

Camera to Match the Competition

The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus really have great cameras and the pictures taken are good-looking. However, Apple had not increased the megapixel count of its iPhones since iPhone 4s, which was launched back in 2011. For me, 8 megapixels are enough for a lot of purposes. However, the competition is fiercer than ever as there are phones like the Samsung Galaxy S6 and the LG G4 which are able to take higher resolution photos with very similar photo quality. I do not mean that higher megapixels will give you better photos; but if you can get similar images in higher resolution, why not?

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Apple has increased the resolution of the camera sensor to 12MP on the iPhones and the company promised that the increase of resolution will not degrade the image quality (more pixels mean smaller pixel areas to capture light for same image sensor size). Whether if that is the truth remains unknown until it is tested, but based on Apple’s track record, it is most likely to not disappoint. One thing to take note is that OIS (optical image stabilisation) is still found on larger iPhone 6s Plus only, like their predecessors.

Apple also introduced Live Photos to its new iPhones. When you press on the shutter, the camera will capture a few frames before and after the shutter is hit. The combination of these frames will result in a short clip, making your photos “alive”. You can revisit these moments by 3D Touching the photo in the Photo app. This feature can be found in other phones from Microsoft/Nokia and HTC. While it is interesting to see your photo going alive when you go through the old photos (which reminds me of the living photos in Harry Potter’s magical world), the novelty might wear off very quickly. Anyway, you can turn it off if you find it meaningless.

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Last year’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have 1.2MP front facing cameras and the quality of the pictures are pathetic. Given that so many people love taking selfies with their phones, the front facing camera ought to be better and fortunately, Apple agreed too. The front facing camera has now been upgraded to a 5MP shooter. To improve your selfies in the dark, Apple introduces Retina Flash where the Retina display will match the ambient light and produces a flash by lighting up 3 times brighter temporarily. This feature is also seen in other phones but we shall wait and see if Apple’s implementation is any better. Anyway, good news for selfie lovers here.

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One of the reasons for Apple to increase the megapixel count of the rear facing iSight camera is to allow the new iPhones to shoot 4K videos. 4K videos have a resolution of 3840 x 2160 so you need at least 8.3 million pixels to capture it, thus it is an impossible task for older iPhones. 4K videos were first introduced on Android phones years ago, but due to the lack of 4K display; it is not getting as popular as expected. While it seems to be a big deal, I do not think it will be very exciting for casual users.

Still Starting with 16GB

While the camera can capture higher resolution photos, saving Live Photos and taking 4K videos, these require larger space and if you think Apple would increase the storage size to meet the demand then you are absolutely wrong. The 16GB base model is sadly still there. Imagine someone getting a new iPhone 6s and can’t wait to shoot 4K videos … then suddenly realize that the storage is full in less than half a day. The ever-growing applications size are not helping the case either.

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I understand that Apple wants to make money from their iPhones, but I still think that increasing the base model to 32GB will not hurt their margin by a lot and user experience will be improved. A happier customer today translate to more iPhone sales tomorrow right? Come on Apple, you can do better.

Other Improvements

A9 chip is used in the new iPhones and Apple claims that their third generation 64 bit chip has 70% faster CPU performance and 90% stronger GPU performance. I have no idea how these numbers translate in real time usage but given that the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s are still fast as hell, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus can not be slow. For years, performance is not something we need to worry about on iPhones and that speaks a lot.

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The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus also carry the second generation Touch ID where your fingerprints should be captured faster and more accurately. I do see people having problems with their Touch ID after months of usage so I hope we will not see the same problem on the new iPhones. The new iPhones also support more advanced LTE standards, more LTE bands and faster WiFi connections. These will help you to connect to the Internet faster.

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Impressions

The new iPhones are still the iPhones we know and familiar with. The same design is kept as expected and improvements are made on the material to make the structure stronger. The new 3D Touch is not ground-breaking but it is practical in daily use. The improved cameras can take photos and videos with higher resolutions. The new iPhones are faster in terms of performance and connection speed too.

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However, the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s still inherit a lot of the same problems faced by older models. The base model is plagued by the storage issue and the problem will be more significant with the new features. iOS 9 is still as rigid as its previous versions where we have very limited customization options. The battery life is always not enough. The new iPhone 6s has smaller battery capacity and whether that will make the matter worse will depend on the power efficiency of other hardware. For people who fancy other platforms, the iPhone 6s will not change your mind and you should look elsewhere.

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That being say, the changes made are mostly iterative upgrades and old troubles you have with previous iPhones are still there. A new dimension in Touch will not bring the new iPhones to a whole new dimension. A lot of improvement will only match what offers by the competition, not leapfrogging them. The new phones are not as attractive if you are using last year’s model but upgrading will be a very logical move for people using older iPhones. The price is kept the same in the US and the price will be even higher in Malaysia due to our weak currency exchange. It might set a new record for iPhone price in Malaysia. Anyway, if you are getting one, make sure you do not get the 16GB model.

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The iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus are the best iPhones yet, but isn’t that the case for every new model? I am not fully impressed but I am not disappointed either with the new iPhones. As our currency exchange is fluctuating, we shall wait for the final price to see if it is worth the high price. But if you are willing to spend that amount of money, I do not think you can go wrong with the new iPhones.