Update: The iPhone 6S Plus is now on sale. Our full reviews will be published later next week, so let us know what you want us to test and try in the comments or via @trustedreviews on Twitter.
- iPhone 6S Plus release date: On sale now
- iPhone 6S Plus price: £619/$749 for 16GB model
- iPhone 6S Plus specs: 5.5in 3D Touch screen, new toughened glass, A9 processor,12-megapixel iSight camera supporting 4K
Watch: Hands-on first impressions of the iPhone 6S PlusThe iPhone 6S Plus is its iterative successor and on first impressions it looks like Apple has done everything right.
Apple doesn’t tweak the look of its “S” phones significantly, so there aren’t any obvious new design features. But there are a wealth of under-the-hood improvements and one of the best innovations I’ve seen on a mobile _phone_ in years: 3D Touch.
3D Touch – the most exciting new mobile feature since multi-touch
Starting with the basics, the iPhone 6S Plus has a 5.5in 1080p display supporting multi-touch. It’s the same screen as featured on last year’s version, albeit with a new, even tougher Ion-X glass panel.
The original iPhone was the first to feature a multi-touch screen and it revolutionised the way we interact with our phones. Pinching, zooming and swiping were all made possible, and it was one of the most intuitive interfaces I’ve ever seen – three-year-olds could use it.
3D Touch is the next level, bringing a whole new experience to the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, and cutting out swathes of extra presses. It gets you where you want to be in iOS far more quickly.
At first the experience is a little odd. 3D Touch brings three levels of pressure sensitivity to the iPhone 6S Plus, so if you press harder on the screen then more options appear.
I’m used to lightly touching a smartphone screen, so applying significant pressure feels wrong. Give it a day or two, though, and you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it.
It works by using a pressure-sensitive display with a stronger, and more refined, taptic engine – that’s the thing that makes your _phone_ vibrate.
Related: iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6S
But what does it do and why is it so exciting?
At the moment, 3D Touch is mostly limited to Apple apps. Touch the Camera app icon from the homescreen and, as you’d expect, the app opens. Press a little harder on the icon, though, and a host of new options appear. How about going straight to the selfie mode? Or what about shooting slo-mo right away? They all spring to life with a heavier touch.
The Clock app lets you immediately create a new alarm or start the stopwatch, while the Maps app provides a quick setting to get you home, mark your location (so you don’t forget where you’ve parked) or send your location to a mate.
It sounds simple, and it is, but it's also a huge step forward in how you interact with apps. It’s a bit like having a right mouse button, and it opens a host of new possibilities.
Few third-party apps support 3D Touch at the moment, but don’t let that concern you. App developers now have access to 3D Touch, so you can expect a whole host of new features to soon appear.
One of the best examples of how 3D Touch works is on the Wipeout-derivative AG Drive racer. Accelerating your hovership is now simply a matter of the harder you press, the faster you go.
It’s worth mentioning the curved-screened Galaxy S6 Edge+ here – after all, it’s the 6S Plus’ main competitor. The edges of the Samsung do make it achingly pretty, but they serve very little function. By contrast, 3D Touch provides zero visual excitement but plenty of great uses.
Many questioned Apple’s ability to innovate following the passing of Steve Jobs – 3D Touch emphatically quashes those questions. This is a touch of genius.
iPhone 6S Plus – Camera
12-megapixel rear, Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS), true tone flash, Deep trench technology, Focus pixels, Live photos, 4K video; 5-megapixel front facing camera, front screen flash
3D Touch may be the new headline feature of the 6S Plus, but both cameras have also been improved.
The rear camera has been increased from 8 to 12 megapixels, bringing it closer in line to its Android competition.
As we all know, megapixels alone don’t make a good camera – the size of the sensor and pixels, autofocus, colour isolation and lens quality all play a big part, as does the image signal processor.
Apple claims to have reduced cross-talk and noise by minimising the colour leak between pixels. Known as deep-trench technology, it’s difficult to determine exactly how effective this is yet, but colour accuracy does appear to be better. I’ll be testing this further for the full review.
In the meantime, here are some sample shots and comparisons with the last year’s Apple phablet.
Taken on the iPhone 6S Plus (left). Taken on the iPhone 6 Plus (right)
Taken on the iPhone 6S Plus (left). Taken on the iPhone 6 Plus (right)
The iPhone 6 Plus manages to take great photos even though it’s “just” 8-megapixels; the 6S Plus, however, is even better.
Apple has added a special new photo feature called Live Photos. While not quite as clever as 3D Touch, it does add a vibrancy and motion to photos that helps bring them to life.
The effect isn’t so different to HTC’s Zoe, which took a short video. However it's far simpler to use and more effective.
Live Photos are turned on by default; to turn them off, you press an icon of concentric circles in the Camera app. Leave it on, though, and the iPhone 6S’s cameras record a few seconds before and after the actual shot is taken.
In the first few shots I took, the results were poor. Moving the camera into position and getting fingers out of the way all lead to Live Photos with a few seconds of naff video. Once you realise what you need to do – which is to wait a few seconds before pressing shoot – then you can capture little moments of time.
3D Touch is used to activate these photos: press down hard and they spring to life in the photo gallery, or your lockscreen.
The iPhone 6S Plus can now shoot video in glorious 4K – that’s four times as many pixels as you used to get.
You need to access this setting via the Settings app, rather than the Camera app, which makes it a little buried. You’ll also need a 4K TV or monitor to view the videos in their full resolution. The iPhone 6S Plus still only has a 1080p screen, unlike the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium's 5.5in 4K panel.
Apple has also enabled the OIS for video, which should mean better low-light performance.
The front-facing camera can also take Live Photos, but more importantly it's now a 5-megapixel unit instead of two.
As you might expect, this results in better selfies, with greater detail than before. And, since there’s no front-facing flash, Apple has added a flash feature using the screen. I’ve seen such a technique used on other phones in the past and it’s never worked very well.
In the iPhone 6S Plus, though, it flashes three times more brightly than the screen can normally achieve, and this does provide enough light to make a difference in low-light conditions.
iPhone 6S Plus – Performance
A9 chipset with dual-core 1.84GHz CPU and PowerVR GT7600 six-core GPU, 2GB of RAM
Another iPhone, another processor – and this time it’s the dual-core A9. Apple has also finally upped the RAM to 2GB – a key element in multitasking.
What does this all mean? Well, in short: the iPhone 6S Plus is very fast. In fact, it surpasses even the Samsung Galaxy S6 in some of our benchmark tests.
In practice, the 6S Plus is butter smooth, and I’ve not experienced a single stutter or dropped frame while gaming.
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iPhone 6S Plus – Software and features
iOS 9, Touch ID, Apple Pay
The iPhone 6S Plus comes with Apple’s latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 9.
It’s not particularly far removed from previous versions, of the OS, but there have been some important refinements.
Spotlight search has been expanded to Apple news, alongside being able to find information buried deep in apps.
There’s also a handy back feature that pops up when you move from one app to another, so you can easily revert to where you were. Hit a link to an article from Twitter? Well now you can get back to Twitter from Safari.
Siri is far smarter too and can make contextual reminders. There’s also a new way to activate the smart-assistant on the iPhone 6S Plus. Just shout "Hey Siri" and you can ask it a question. Previously, you could do this only when your iPhone was plugged in to charge.
If you’re interested in finding out more about this latest version read our iOS 9 review.
Of course, the 6S Plus also comes with Touch ID, Apple’s fingerprint scanner built into the home button.
It’s even better than before, thanks to the improved processor. It unlocks the phone almost twice as fast as before and works with Apple Pay.
Watch our guide to iOS 9
iPhone 6S Plus – Design
188.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm, 192g, Aluminium 7000
The iPhone 6S Plus looks almost identical to the last year’s model, except you can now buy it in a subtle rose gold colour to let everyone know it’s the latest and greatest iPhone.
The key thing to consider about the 6S Plus is its size.
If you’ve not used a large phone before then it’s well worth trying out first – plenty of people just don’t get on with anything as big as the iPhone 6S Plus. For many others, though, it’s just a matter of getting used to a bigger phone.
While the iPhone 6S Plus has the same refined – if uninteresting – look as before, it is a fair bit heavier. This isn’t down to the new, and much stronger, aluminium 7000 used to make the body, but rather to the new haptic engine that helps drive 3D Touch.
The iPhone 6S Plus is certainly a handful.
iPhone 6S Plus – Battery life
One of the reasons I preferred the iPhone 6 Plus to the iPhone 6 was battery life. It would last two full days if I was a little careful.
I haven’t put the battery fully through its paces yet, but on first impressions it lasts for around the same time, even though the battery is a smidge smaller.
iOS 9 has also brought a battery saver mode to the iPhone 6S Plus, which helps you to eek out a few extra hours at the cost of performance. You can turn it on yourself via Settings, or it pops you a message to turn on when your battery hits 20%.
This is one of the most interesting smartphones Apple has made in years.
The 6S Plus may not excite from the outside, but 3D Touch could change the way we interact with our phones forever – just like multi-touch did with the first iPhone, eight years ago.