Review: Apple’s iPhone 6s And 6s Plus Go ‘Tick’

22 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Crunching the numbers: Should you buy or lease your next iPhone?.

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. As is usually the case in an “S” year (or a “tock” year, which follows the “tick” of an entirely new device), Apple has refined last year’s model. The new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models address that, with 50 percent more detail, while introducing animation for still images and brighter low-light selfies.

As part of its new product launch, Apple AAPL 0.51% introduced its first-ever iPhone Upgrade Program, a monthly payment plan that includes an annual phone upgrade option and extended AppleCare warranty. Apple itself has said that stores “will have the new iPhones available for walk-in customers”, but that they are “encouraged to arrive early”. By my count, there are three this year: 3D Touch, Live Photos, and upgrades to the front-facing camera. 3D Touch is a pressure-sensitive layer that’s been added to the iPhone’s display, allowing you to access shortcuts and previews when you press down on an icon or link. You can jump to a new text or a frequently called phone number from the home screen, see a preview of a message in your inbox, check the pictures on your camera roll without leaving the camera app. You can also buy an unlocked iPhone 6s (starting at about $649 and $749, respectively), then take it to the carrier of your choice and choose a no-contract plan.

Save for a new pink color option and some new touchscreen and camera tricks, Apple’s latest phones—which go on sale this Friday—look and feel exactly like the blockbuster iPhones released a year ago. Although that means a much higher up-front cost, it opens the door to a wider variety of carriers, many which cheaper service plans than the Big Four. You wouldn’t know how hard to press; you’d press too hard; there’d be a lag and you’d press again, only to find that you had pressed twice, probably causing you to throw the phone across the room. Or, with my finger still pressing the display, I can flick left and right to delete an email, or mark it as read/unread, or flick upwards to access another menu, which appears underneath.

It’s a two-year financing plan, but not a service plan: You’re paying just for the phone; you’ll still need to hook up with a carrier and purchase service separately. Also, if you take advantage of Apple’s upgrade option after one year, your financing plan resets, meaning you’ll be on the hook for another two-year lease. 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.

So, if the last iPhone’s hardware was just that good, the next iPhone should address the final, remaining complaints we have with smartphones, right? This is based on the entry-level option, the iPhone 6s with 16GB, (although you should at least spring for the 64GB model) and includes only a sample of current plans on the market. Hard pressing on a text message gives you a quick reply, a hard press on Apple Maps drops a pin and generates directions to a destination, its phone number or opens its website.

This last week, hundreds of people online and in person shared with me what annoys them most about their smartphones, and what they’d want most in their next ones. This breakdown is also based on a single user; the numbers, especially with regards to service, will vary if you’re looking at multiple phones and family plans.

The bigger 5.5-inch 6s Plus lasted longer and is the best choice if you’re a heavy user and want some juice left over at the end of the day. (Of course, battery life on any smartphone generally degrades over time.) Still, there is no battery improvement over last year’s iPhone 6 models. If I press hard on the camera icon, I can take a selfie, record a video or slow motion, or snap a photo. iPhone 6s introduces live photos, where the camera quietly snaps three seconds of video when taking a still. 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.

Exporting an HD video was three times as fast, scrolling through Facebook and Web pages was smoother and jumping between tons of open apps felt noticeably quicker. If you’re someone who likes a new phone every year, Apple’s plan has its appeal—especially considering you don’t have to pay anything up front. Plus, it’s a boon for clumsy types, since it includes the AppleCare+ policy, which covers you for up to two accidental-damage incidents (not including a $99-per-incident service fee).

Other features include higher resolution 12 and 5-megapixel cameras, a faster A9 processor with faster graphics, and a new sensor for Touch ID, which greatly increases the speed of fingerprint recognition. You barely place your finger on the button and you’re in. “You know, I really wish I could press harder on the screen.” Yeah, not one person I surveyed said that, but as Steve Jobs famously said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” That’s where 3D Touch comes in. 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. 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.

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. No iPhone 6 owners I spoke to complained about the camera. (Good thing, since my colleague Geoff didn’t find anything extra special about the new camera anyway.) In fact, only a handful of people requested a better camera. These otherwise-unglamorous performance boosts don’t get the crowd on their feet at product launches, but they’re exactly what a great smartphone needs to achieve its ultimate goal, which is to get out of your way. With prodigious speed, well-thought-out interfaces, and flawless hardware-software integration, these new iPhones provide the tool for whatever it is you’re doing and just let you do it. If there were ever an iPhone that needed more storage, it’s this one, yet Apple continues to rip off customers with a 16GB base model ($649 without payment plan/contract), rather than offer a 32GB one.

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. In fact, according to SquareTrade, an electronics insurance service, 15% don’t repair them, probably because they just assume it will only happen again.

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