It’s getting harder to recommend phone upgrades by the month, less because the newest roster of phones are average and more because the previous lot of handsets were just so good. It’s going to be hard to recommend anything over the Samsung Galaxy S6 Plus or Galaxy Note 5 in a few months for Android fans, just as it was always going to be a tough sell to recommend anything over the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Especially in the face of what was always going to be an incremental update with the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus announcement.
Is it going to be worth it offloading your current iPhone in favour of Apple’s latest and greatest* for 2015? Will it make the perfect Christmas gift (again)? If you’re still rocking an iPhone 5, 5s, or any of the dinosaurs that came before, in the long, long ago, then the answer to those questions is a resounding YES! If you snagged an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, then the answer’s not quite that simple. But here’s how you can work it out.
Time for a memory test. Which phones are you looking at, just above these words (unless something’s gone horribly wrong with the website)? If you said the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, you’d be correct. If you said the 6s and 6s Plus, we still would have accepted that answer – the handsets look almost completely identical to last year’s phone. Well, there’s a new colour (Rose Gold) to play with but that’s about it.
The design stays the same and Apple have also stuck with the same display for each phone. So no matter whether you’re rocking the 2014 or 2015 iPhone 6 version, you’re going to have the same 4.7-inch, 750 x 1,334 (iPhone 6, 6s) or 5.5-inch, 1,080 x 1,920 (iPhone 6 Plus, 6s Plus) panels in front of you. If you get your iDevice as a fashion statement, you’re just going to be repeating yourself.
Upgrade based on looks? – iPhone 6s: Nope. iPhone 6s Plus: Also nope
A speed boost is par for the course with Apple’s new phones, though they have tended to focus exclusively on the processor when making those upgrades. Has that held true this year? We’re… not sure, because Apple never, ever, mentions the RAM for some reason. But it looks like Apple have jumped to 2GB of RAM for the iPhone for the first time ever – even the iPhone 6 was toting 1GB. What on Earth will we do with this luxurious extravagance? We’ll think of something.
The A9 processor (and the M9 co-processor, which we like to picture reading directions from the passenger seat) is an update on last year’s A8. As usual, Apple haven’t given any hard specs other than ‘it’s faster’, claiming a 70% speed increase over the A8, with up to 90% better performance on the GPU side – and this chip is in both the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. It’s very likely that the A9 is at least 2GHz (still dual-core though), up from the 1.4GHz A8. We’ll have to wait for official benchmarks to know for sure but if you’re after that power increase, you’ve found it.
Upgrade based on smarts? – iPhone 6s: Hell yes. iPhone 6s Plus: Ditto
If you’re looking at the iPhone 6s’ storage in order to determine its upgrade-to potential, then whatever is wrong with you is no small thing. But we’ll humour it for a while – If you are planning on upgrading from a 16GB iPhone 5 (or even a 16GB iPhone 6) then just take the plunge and get a 64GB iPhone 6s or 6s Plus.
Whatever you do, do not get a 16GB iPhone 6s/6s Plus. Yes, they’re more affordable but 16GB for an iPhone just is not enough space for all the great apps and functions that are possible (especially with the snazzy new camera) and since these handsets lack space for a microSD, just drop the extra cash on the 64GB phone. Unless you’re really on a serious budget, that is. We won’t judge you but the 64GB handset is the better value proposition.
Upgrade based on storage? – iPhone 6s: Seriously? iPhone 6 Plus: Just get the 64GB model
i-Sight With My Little Lens
I once stepped on a shutterbug and felt bad about it for ages afterwards. But that’s because he punched me rather hard afterwards. If you happen to be a shutterbug, and Apple fans have their very own special kind of photography nuts, then your decision is already made. Apple have given the iSight camera a substantial update, especially in Apple terms, with an extra 4 megapixels to play around with.
Long story short, the 12MP iSight camera kicks the crap out of the iPhone 6’s 8MP unit and sends it to play with the iPad mini 4. The same sensor is able to record 4K video (told you that the 16GB iPhone no longer has enough storage space), Apple have stuck with the f/2.2 aperture and if Apple’s tweaking chops are still in place we should have an mightily impressive camera on our hands. Apple have also gone for a 5MP front camera. Because selfies. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus stand no chance in a competition on this point.
Upgrade based on camera? – iPhone 6s: Only if you like beauty. iPhone 6s Plus: Hmmm, 4K video…
Assault a Battery?
This won’t take long… Apple have taken a step backwards with the battery for the iPhone 6s. Or a step forwards, based on your perspective. On paper at least, Apple’s iPhone 6s lacks the power bank in the iPhone 6 – the 6 has an 1,810mAh battery, the 6s sports a 1,715mAh Li-Po battery. Does that mean that the iPhone 6s will deflate faster? Apple says no, and we’ve yet to get our hands on the 6s so that’s debatable. For now. Apple’s probably right but nobody like a spec drop (except optometrists).
As for the iPhone 6s Plus? That’s a non-issue, the battery has remained unchanged. Barring any new power tweaks, you should get the same powered-on time from the 6 Plus and 6s Plus.
Upgrade based on battery? – iPhone 6s: If you like going backwards iPhone 6s Plus: No comment
Something Old, Something New…
Apple have made a few changes to the fingerprint reader (known as Touch ID if you’re Apple) which allow the humble sensor to be not-so-humble, detecting your fingers or that other thing you tried to scan in that one time a whole lot faster than before (ahem). Which is cool and all but Touch ID works just fine without the speed boost on older phones.
But then there’s Force Touch, which goes by the name 3D Touch in the 6s/6s Plus family. Maybe it got married or was adopted or something, but the long and short is that a long press on the screen will bring up a different menu or function to a short press. We’ve seen some great native demos in iOS 9 and there’s potential for a lot more. This is one feature we’re expecting other smartphone makers to ‘independently engineer’ in short order.
Upgrade based on features – iPhone 6s: That’s a solid ‘maybe’ iPhone 6s Plus: Unless you own the whole back catalogue
As it stands right now, you won’t go wrong by scooping up an iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus when they launch in a little while – even if you’re the proud owner of the iPhone 6 or its larger sibling. That said, the only way an upgrade is essential if if you’re using an iPhone 5s or later – the 6 family will last just fine until the iPhone 7 hits the market in another welter of hype and hysteria. As always, it’s your call. Unless you have an iPhone 3. Replace that thing, now.
*’Greatest’ is subject to opinion and/or trolling level. Your mileage may vary.