iPhone 6s and 6s Plus: Early impressions
After a ridiculously fun week playing inside virtual reality worlds with Oculus, we're back to the (slightly less fun) world of smartphones. You might have heard about a pair of them that launched this week: let's take a quick first look at Apple's iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.
We knew the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus were thicker and heavier than their predecessors, but it's more noticeable in hand than we expected. These are still relatively light and thin flagships (outside from Samsung, you won't find many premium-built phones that are better in this respect). But the difference is big enough from last year's iPhones that we'd no longer call light and thin killer features. Samsung is now the clear leader in that category.
That puts a lot of pressure on 3D Touch – the new feature that caused the new models to bulk up. So far 3D Touch looks very cool; if you've used an Apple Watch or 2015 MacBook, you're already well familiar with the basic concept. The phone can recognize not just touches on the screen, but deep presses and (unique to the iPhones) deeper presses.
It's handy having quick shortcuts that jump straight into commonly used sub-sections of apps. A deep press on the phone icon, for example, lets you create a new contact, and a deep press on iBooks lets you search the store. There's also Peek and Pop: a first-level deep press gives you a pop-up preview of something like an email or photo, and a second-level press pops you all the way into it (full screen).
Our favorite 3D Touch feature so far is cursor control. In a text entry field, press on the keyboard and you can slide your finger around as a cursor, to make text editing easier. The iPads also got this capability with iOS 9, only it's activated by placing two fingers on the keyboard, instead of deep-pressing (which no current iPads support).
There's no reason, though, that last year's iPhone 6 Plus couldn't have gotten cursor control support by using two fingers. It would be a bit more cramped than it is on an iPad, but apart from needing to use 3D Touch to sell this year's models, it's hard to see why cursor control was left out of last year's phablet.
We aren't yet sure if 3D Touch is a groundbreaking feature, or whether it's just adding an unnecessary layer of complexity to smartphones. At the very least, though, it's going to be a handy shortcut tool, a bit like right clicks on desktop PCs.
The other big upgrades are speed and cameras. Our early test shots look good, but we'll wait to say much about photo quality until we spend more time with them and run our full review. Both new iPhones are noticeably zippier than last year's models, but we still think the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus are plenty fast and powerful for most smartphone shoppers.
We'll cover much more ground in our full iPhone 6s and 6s Plus reviews. Right now they look a lot like other S-year iPhone updates: better than last year's models, but owners of those phones will do just fine standing pat.
Product page: Apple