iPhone 7

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Apple iPhone 6S and 6S Plus review roundup: stronger, faster, heavier.

Why? The Guardian is not one of those picked by Apple to receive a sample of the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus ahead of its release, and will publish a review after buying one at the same time as consumers.Although the iPhone is already among the best smartphones for everyday shots, images from previous iPhones haven’t been as sharp as what rival cameras produce. No need to grumble, this is still slim by any standard, with the phone’s increased portliness barely noticeable and the added 14g giving the phone a more reassuring heft.

After years of sticking with a 3.5-inch display and watching Android-powered competitors bite off a piece of the market with ever-larger screens, Apple relented ever-so-slightly with the 4-inch iPhone 5 and 5S, and then finally gave in to obvious trends with the much larger 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and massive 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. Easily the most well constructed handset on the market – despite increased competition from the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9 – the iPhone 6S’s cool-to-the-touch metal body and softly curved edges make the phone look and feel great. Big screens are all people really wanted in a phone; when they couldn’t get big screens from Apple, they bought big screens from Samsung, and when Apple finally put out big screens, Samsung’s sales tanked. I’ve talked before about how important it is that Apple owns their whole image pipeline, rather than letting a third party image processor mangle the iPhone’s photos. Nilay Patel loves the new pressure-sensitive “3D Touch” screen but admits that it’s not exactly a novel concept, even if it’s a new implementation: On the home screen, app icons can show quick actions when you push them.

As last year, both phones share a lot of capabilities, so I’ll talk about both of them here and go into separate detail for the larger of the two, the 6s Plus, elsewhere. There’s no obvious reason to make it better; almost every major competitor has actually put out multiple high-end phones this year in an effort to compete and it still hasn’t been enough. Apple has resisted increasing pixel count because the truth of the matter is that more pixels in the same size sensor usually means more heat, more noise and worse detail. This is an S year for the iPhone, which means the basic physical design of the phone has remained the same while the internals have been substantially revised and made faster.

It’s not some insane lightning bolt of inspiration; Google is doing something very similar with Material Design and Microsoft has been sliding things all over the screen since someone was drunk enough to approve the name ‘Windows Phone 7 Series’. S iPhones may lack the punch of a new design, but Apple says they actually sell better and last longer in the marketplace than non-S iPhones — these are the phones that stick around.

Because there are more pixels to fit, the pixel pitch has gone down from 1.5µ to 1.22µ (smaller pixels usually means less light), but I haven’t seen any impact on image quality. Apple says that it’s reduced noise by blocking light from bouncing back and forth between pixels, causing confusion that leads to those multicolored speckles you see in what should be a solid color. Apple trumpets features like 3D Touch, but after using an iPhone 6s, the new responsive screen hardly feels like a must-have—at least not until some killer uses come along.

You get your choice of silver, space gray, gold, and now a very pink rose gold iPhone, but it feels like these phones were designed to be put in cases no matter what color they are. Basically, apple used smaller pixels because they had to fit more of them, but countered that with some pretty hard engineering challenges to correct the negative effects. The detail is much improved, enabling better cropping and zooming of far-away subjects and crystal clear landscapes, portraits and up to 63 megapixel panoramic shots. It’s nothing major — I actually think the extra weight makes the 6S feel more substantial easier to hold than the whoops-there-it-goes iPhone 6 — and what you get in return promises to make up for it. It’s impossible to tell the difference between the 6S and 6 iPhones, save for a tinyyy [sic] ant-sized “S” on the rear and slightly more heft (the 6S phones are one ounce heavier).

What is different are the few, significant internal improvements, one of which is what I think will entice people (namely, me) to upgrade. 3D Touch is the 6S’s killer feature. It’s the same in Safari: pushing lightly on a link opens a preview, and pushing slightly harder actually opens the page.3 That preview-and-open dynamic — what Apple calls peek and pop — is really the key to 3D Touch. The entire system is the biggest step along a path Apple’s been on since iOS 7 — the idea that the interface should be about abstract layers of information, not simulations of physical objects. One friend of mine tried switching to Android, but text messages started getting lost in his girlfriend’s iPhone iMessage app. (iMessage is known for causing headaches to those who move to Android.) He switched back to an iPhone in a week.

Stuart Miles says the optical stabilisation and phase detection autofocus make the new 12-megapixel upgrade to the iPhone’s camera a winner, but Live Photos are a mixed bag for now. Apple won’t say exactly how many levels of pressure-sensitivity there are, but it’s definitely so many as to feel almost analog, like the interface is reacting in real time to physical pressure — the homescreen blurs in and out in response to how hard you press on an icon, for instance. Perhaps most impressively, 3D Touch has accessibility built in — it can be activated by Assistive Touch, blind users can have VoiceOver read peek previews and quick action menus, and the force needed to activate it can be set to light, medium, or firm.

When Apple’s achievement with the A9 processor really starts to shine is when you realize that you can chop and edit these enormous video files in real-time right in iMovie. Another frustration is that audio is automatically recorded, which at times is lovely – a child’s giggle for example – but not so great when you’ve got the same child screaming in the background. These are curious but splendid photos which include in them three seconds of, not quite video, but a bunch of frames taken before and after you press the shutter button. Or when you want to look at a bit of video closer and you pinch-to-zoom in and it’s playing back in crisp 1080p at a 4x zoom ratio right on the screen.

While you can offload some of that to Apple’s iCloud Drive service (at a yearly subscription) a 16GB iPhone 6S Plus isn’t going to stretch as far as it used to (compounding the argument for a 32GB minimum model). The phone is able to algorithmically determine how much you’re moving your hands while your’e shooting and dynamically adjust the digital crop to present a stabilized view.

This is attuned to your voice when you first set Siri up during the iPhone activation process, which means Siri is supposed to be able to pick out your voice alone from within a crowded room. Google’s Inbox and Microsoft’s Outlook are light years ahead of Apple’s Mail app, Sunrise and Fantastical are far superior to Calendar, and Google Maps still wipes the floor with Apple Maps. If you’re like me and the first thing you do with a new iPhone is hide all of Apple’s apps away in a folder, it’s going to be a minute before 3D Touch really does anything for you. But you guessed it: For now you can only share Live Photos with other Apple device owners. (Apple says it plans to open sharing to third parties like Facebook, but I’m not holding my breath it will come to Android’s messaging app.) Apple executives have argued for years that their advantage is tying together hardware and software.

In the meantime the more you use Live Photos, the more you learn to leave your camera in place for the second or so after you’ve pressed the shutter, as that creates a better effect. Apple’s defenders say the iPhone’s App Store is open to most outside services—Google Maps, WhatsApp for messaging, Spotify for music, Dropbox for storage. It’s a wild new interface paradigm with a ton of potential, and that means developers are going to have to experiment before settling on a common language.

Apple took a step in the right direction by saying its new Apple Music service would be available for Android devices, though we’re still waiting to see that arrive. Selfies and Snapchats and video chats are part of the fabric of modern communication, and Apple’s been way behind the curve with its front-facing cameras. The improvement in quality from the iPhone 6 to 6S when using the front camera is just tremendous; it takes realistic and usable photos now, not just pixelated approximations of moments from the past.7 Apple’s also taken a great idea from Snapchat and improved it with a feature called Retina Flash: the entire screen blinks white when you take a selfie in low light, serving as a makeshift flash. Inside, the chips are laid out differently to improve battery performance and let you activate the Siri voice assistant simply by saying, “Hey, Siri.” In the past, the phone had to be plugged in for that.

With Live Photos and 4K videos, your phone will fill up even more quickly, even with better compression to compensate for the higher resolution and animation. I noticed slightly better macro performance and slightly better bokeh in a few shots, but Apple’s been taking iPhone 6 photos and blowing them up to put on billboards for a year, so the bar is pretty damn high. And I found that I needed to have the camera roll open for a few moments before the system started recognizing my Live Photos by animating them slightly as I swiped through my shots; a little visual indicator would be much more useful. I would play with it for a while then flip it off and turn it on when you need it. (It would be super rad if the iPhone intelligently turned Live Photos on when the camera detected a face in the scene and turned it off when it didn’t. I have too many Live Photos of whiteboards, and not enough of people.) It shouldn’t be any surprise that 4K video looks great — it’s way higher resolution than what you’re used to from a phone, and Apple is very proud of the fact that the iPhone’s A9 processor can do all of its stabilization and processing magic while shooting 4K.

When sending a text or email, a force press anywhere on the keyboard makes the keys vanish and instead as you move the finger left and right the cursor in the text box moves accordingly. Even TouchID has been improved for faster recognition — it’s fast enough to recognize your fingerprint and unlock the phone in just about the time it takes to click the home button and wake the phone up, which means it’s almost invisible if you get the motion down just right.10 But the relative speed of the newest iPhone is a tricky thing to really talk about now — the major US carriers are all pushing payment programs that let you upgrade your phone every year or so, and now even Apple’s gotten into the mix with its new iPhone Upgrade Program. The upgrade cycle has gotten so accelerated that by the time developers make full use of the A9, everyone who cares will have a much more powerful phone. Huawei has already built something similar, though it’s not as cleverly implemented – expect other manufacturers to add this to their handsets as soon as they can. The new rear camera has had its pixel count boosted from eight megapixels to 12, promising reduced image noise, greater sharpness and realistic colours.

I’d love to say I’d noticed a big difference but the truth is iPhone photos are so cleverly processed they have always looked stunning and been hard to beat. Taking the shot is the key feature here: there are limited menus, few choices to make and little to distract you from the importance of point-and-shoot. Most of us don’t have a 4K TV to play such high-resolution video back on, but not only does it look great on the iPhone’s screen, it looks stunning when you pinch-to-zoom during playback. The battery may not be as big on these new phones as last year’s models but the improved processor and iOS 9 have meant that I haven’t noticed any drop in time between recharges. Though there are some features which rivals have and the iPhone does not – like wireless charging and widespread NFC use – the innovations Apple has introduced are useful, intuitive and just better, actually.

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