What’s So Cool About the New iPhone 6s and 6s Plus?

Apple’s new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are set to hit a handful of countries starting September 25. Are the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus just a newer version of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus? Or are they something truly new?

The answer is a little bit of both. Apple has a great ad that says everything has changed, but the real question is this: What has changed that really matters?

As it turns out, there’s a handful of new features that are pretty cool, and the combination of them might be enough to tip even current iPhone 6 owners toward an upgrade. Here’s what’s so cool about the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus:

iphone 6 plus

The new iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are fantastic upgrades for iPhone 5/5s owners as well as iPhone 6 camera addicts.

3D Touch

The screen on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is now pressure sensitive, giving you a new set of menus, navigation, and app features. The core new way to use 3D Touch is by what Apple calls Peek and Pop: Push on the screen to “peek” at some content related to what you’re pushing on, like an email or a photo, and push harder (deeper, according to Apple) to “pop” into the content completely. Plus, Apple has a bunch of “Quick Actions” that provide shortcuts in iOS, letting you do things like send a message by pressing on the home screen.

Like the Force Touch trackpads in the new MacBooks (might be renamed to 3D Touch), Apple has its Taptic Engine underneath the screen. It provides feedback through complicated taps and vibrations to make give you clues about how deeply you’re pressing down and what’s going on with your force touches. (Expect this to get better over time, particularly as you get used to the feedback and start processing it in your lizard brain.)

Live Photos

A camera setting in the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus let you take “Live Photos” instead of regular photos. What’s a live photo? A photo that, when you press or click on it, can reveal video action 1.5 seconds before and 1.5 seconds after the photo was snapped. The idea is to help life’s cool moments come alive. Of course, the photo is also just a static photo that you can share without the video, which will work seamlessly on newer Apple devices. Basically, it’s a new Apple way of taking and consuming photos, and it’s awesome.

New Cameras

Apple’s iPhone cameras are surprisingly smart. The new iSight camera (the one on the backside) is now a 12-megapixel camera that’s also capable of shooting 4K video with a resolution of 3840 x 2160. The sensor is better and the brains are smarter, all of which means that your 12-megapixel photos should still look great zoomed in, with little noise.

The FaceTime (selfie) camera is now 5-megapixels, and combined with the new “Retina Flash,” you’ll get better selfies than ever. And what’s the Retina Flash? Instead of installing a separate LED flash in the front of your iPhone, Apple now lights up the entire front display to produce a True Tone flash. For selfie addicts, the new FaceTime and flash system is a compelling upgrade.

The Panorama file size is now up to 63 megapixels, up from 43 megapixels in the iPhone 6.

What about Slo-mo video? The 6s will record video at 1080p at 120 fps and 720p up to 240 fps. (The iPhone 6 does 720p at 120 or 240 fps.)

Unfortunately, the iPhone 6s does not have optical image stabilization (again, this is a feature only available in the monster-sized iPhone 6s Plus).

64-bit A9 Chip

The processing power in the iPhone 6s is delivered by Apple’s A9 chip, which boosts overall performance by up to 70 percent over the previous generation. The graphics boost is even better — up to a 90 percent. This is pretty freaking amazing, really.

Apple also more directly integrated its M9 motion coprocessor so that it’s always on and ready to be used. Where will this matter most? You can now activate Siri faster by simply saying “Hey Siri” whenever your iPhone 6s is nearby.

Better Glass, Stronger Body

Apple doesn’t describe it in detail, but the company is now using a special dual ion-exchange process that produces glass screens that are stronger than the glass in the iPhone 6.

Remember that flurry of debate over the bendability of the iPhone 6 last year? They new iPhones use 7000 Series aluminum, the strongest alloy Apple has ever used in an iPhone.

Faster Touch ID

If you like Touch ID, you’ll appreciate that it’s even faster at recognizing your fingerprint.

Faster LTE, Faster WiFi

The iPhone 6s uses LTE Advanced and supports 23 LTE bands, which is the most in any smartphone, making your iPhone 6s better for worldwide roaming. Better yet for most of us, WiFi is up to twice as fast — at least, if you’re using a faster WiFi router and internet service, that is.

Should You Get the iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus?

All-in-all, the iPhone 6s is fantastic upgrade for anyone not already on an iPhone 6, and if you are on an iPhone 6, the most compelling reason to upgrade is to get that hot new camera system with Live Photos.

About the author

Chris Maxcer

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I've been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and I still remember the clacking Mac keyboards from high school -- Apple's seed-planting strategy at work. I'm a big fan of elegant gear and great tech, but there's something to be said for turning it all off -- or most of it -- to go outside. Online I like to call out cool stuff on Wicked Cool Bite and blog with my buddies at Man Makes Fire. To catch me, take a "firstnamelastname" guess at the url of this site.