Apple iPhone 6S first review: 3D Touch a gamechanger

When I picked up an iPhone 6S today, my first thought was: “what’s the fuss. It looks much the same as last year’s model.” But then Apple’s new marketing slogan rang in my ear: “The only things that’s changed is everything.”

I’m not partial to marketing slogans, but I did discover that iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus were different animals when I started playing with them.

And the overwhelming reason is Apple’s signature new feature, 3D Touch — an iPhone adaptation of the Force Touch feature found on the MacBook and Apple Watch.

You still can press your finger on the display as you normally would with the same result as before. But when you press harder than normal and sustain that press for a few moments, magic happens.

In the case of an email, you get to read the email without needing to flick right as you normally would. Once you take your finger off the display, it magically returns to your email list as if nothing has happened. So there’s no need for the extra tap at the top of the screen to close the email you viewed.

But there is another course of action. If instead of disengaging your finger, you press even harder, you effectively “lock” the screen you have just been viewing. So if I want to fixate on one particular email, I first hard press it to open it, and then press even harder to lock it into place. There is no need to swipe at all.

This procedure worked for other apps. When I tried the messages app, for example, I could press on the hyperlink in a message and the web page that was linked to would display in Safari. If I then let go, it would disappear.

So with 3D Touch, a strong press lets you temporarily access something that’s referenced in the email, message or whatever you are looking at, and letting go ends that access. Again, you have the option of pressing harder to lock the web page into place.

Its not only websites that open this way. Should the message instead have a date or time, a hard press will open the calendar. Should it be a recognised flight number, you’ll get an app that shows the detail of your flight.

The net effect of 3D touch is that we’ll soon be doing less swiping and more pressing, which I found more efficient.

Hardware wise, iPhone 6S and 6S Plus bring some changes. There’s now a rose gold colour, so the overall choices are rose gold, silver, gold and space grey.

Apple also has changed the aluminium alloy mix of this phone to what is called 7000 series aluminium, which Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller said was an alloy used in the aerospace industry. Display sizes are 4.7-inches for the 6S ad 5.5-inches for the 6S Plus as before.

The cameras have been upgraded to 12 and 5 megapixels for the back and front facing cameras instead of 8 and 1.2Mp. In my try out, selfies looked sharp and tones were well defined, thanks to the better resolution and a new flash feature where the whole screen lights ups when you take the selfie. Your screen becomes a makeshift flash unit.

The 6S range also can shoot 4K video, but the iPhone doesn’t have a screen that shows that fine resolution. So you’ll have to play that 4K video on another device — such as a 4K TV — to enjoy the full 4K experience.

The new iPhones have Apple’s A9 processor that it says has a 70 per cent faster processor and 90 per cent faster graphics. We’re yet to really test if this is the case. The always-on M9 motion processor that measures activity is now built on the same chip as the A9.

Apple also claims that fingerprint recognition is much faster due to a new Touch-ID sensor.

The other part of my tryout involved live photos. Whenever you snap a photo, Apple will quietly take 3 seconds of video: 1.5 seconds before the event and 1.5 seconds after it. This step suggests that the camera is actually quietly taking video in anticipation of you pressing the shutter to get the “before the event” vision.

You get to see a tiny bit of this video effect as you flick through photos in the Photos app. On the other hand, if you “3D touch” the photo — i.e. press down hard — you see the entire 3 seconds.

It work fine, but personally I don’t need live photos. Others I’m sure will disagree.

In the US, Apple has announced an iPhone upgrade program where users can pay a monthly fee and receive a new iPhone annually, but Apple Australia says there is no current plan to bring the iPhone Upgrade Program to Australia.

The new iPhones will cost the same as last year’s models in the US, but due to the declining Australian dollar, the price downunder is rising. In fact none of the new iPhones are under $A1000.

The iPhone 6S will cost $1,079 for the 16GB model, $1,229 for the 64GB model and A$1,379 for the 128GB model. The respective costs for iPhone 6S are $1,229, $1,379 and $1,529. So iPhone is getting expensive in Australia.

Apple usually hedges its prices based on what the exchange rate is now and how this might change so that it can keep a consistent retail price through to the next model’s release. Sometimes it alters a price midway through a model’s life, but usually not.

Preorders begin in Australia on Saturday with handsets available from September 25.

In some ways the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus aren’t a huge departure from last year’s models, but 3D Touch, quick actions, higher resolution cameras, the selfies flash mode and live photos offer an improved user experience.

Chris Griffith travelled to San Francisco courtesy of Apple.


By Chris Griffith, Senior Technology Journalist, Sydney
Posted on: