Apple iPhone 6 Plus
If last year was Apple’s entry into the large cellphone format market (or, if you will, phablets) was storming the beach that was held by Samsung, this year is the company is reinforcing its position with the iPhone 6S Plus. On the outside, it looks exactly like the previous year’s model. This is to be expected, as there’s never been any major change to the form factor of previous iPhones on an "S" year. But in many ways, there’s a plethora of improvements if you know where to look.
Using its experience from the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6S Plus uses a harder, more resilient form of aluminum. If you want to get technical about it, it’s 7000-series aluminum, which according to metallurgical experts, is what you’d find in aircraft. In addition, Apple’s using a "dual-ion exchange" process with its glass, making it harder and more scratch resistant. Both are changes most people would miss, if they didn’t know they were there.
Apple’s taken another cue from the Apple Watch and incorporated it into the new iPhone with 3D Touch. It operates much like Force Touch in the watch and in the newer MacBooks. Essentially, they harder one presses down, the more options pop up on your screen. For the time being, 3D touch works on most first party applications and a few third party apps, but it actually is very useful and it’s something most developers are sure to find a use for.
Additionally, Apple’s refined the camera that goes into the iPhone 6S Plus. It’s bumped up to 12 megapixels from 8 megapixels (a sensor Apple’s been using for a long time). The new camera allows the iPhone to do some new tricks such as Live Photos, which shoots video with audio a second and a half before and after a photo’s taken, making it much like a motion GIF. It also shoots in 4K, which is curious because the new Apple TV, which is probably how most people will get their videos on their TVs, isn’t compatible with this format.
Even more curious is how Apple continues to sell a 16GB iPhone. With the added data demands of 12 megapixel photos and 4K video, in addition to apps and other miscellaneous bits and bytes, 64GB (at $100 more than the base 6S Plus) is the real minimum most users should consider. A 128GB option is also available, priced $200 more than the 16GB model.
What ties most of these improvements together is one more piece of refinement, Apple’s A9 processor, designed in-house. Reviewers have marveled at the benchmarks it spits out, with speeds rivaling desktop and laptop chips and in real world applications, iOS 9 and apps run buttery smooth. Apple’s also added another 1GB of RAM to the phone (bringing it up to 2GB), meaning browser tabs don’t have to reload and everything, overall, just runs easier and with fewer glitches. There was some controversy about A9 chips sourced from Samsung and Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, but subsequent tests found there’s no real difference between the two regarding performance or battery usage.
The only way you really could tell someone was sporting a 6S instead of a plain old 6 is by the new color introduced this year, rose gold. Some people are put off by what’s essentially a shade of pink while other individuals simply love the new color. If you’re not as concerned about people knowing what sort of phone you’re using (or rocking pink as a choice of color) space grey, silver and gold are still available.
I’ve chosen the iPhone 6S Plus as being a better phone than the iPhone 6S for two reasons. First, the screen size of the Plus at 5.5 inches makes for a much more usable device. It’s probably eating into Cupertino’s sales of iPad minis, but Apple’s been afraid of cannibalizing its own sales. The Plus also features optical image stabilization (OIS) for its camera so images stills are more likely to be crisp and sharp the first time they’re taken, something the Plus is missing. The OIS also works with videos as sort of a poor man’s Steadicam.