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iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6s: Is Apple’s new smartphone worth the upgrade?

Curtis Moldrich Katharine Byrne
23 Sep 2016
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We put the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 6s head to head and analyse the new specs, features and camera

After months of waiting, we’ve finally got our hands on the iPhone 7, and just like Apple, we think it’s the best iPhone ever made. Sure, it looks pretty similar to the iPhone 6s on the surface, but take a look at the iPhone 7 specs sheet, and you’ll find it’s actually quite different to the previous iPhone. So what’s so good about the iPhone 7, and if you have an iPhone 6s, is it worth upgrading? Here, we’ll take you through all the new features and specs of the iPhone 7, and compare them to those of the iPhone 6s, so you can see whether or not it's worth trading up.

iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6s: Features

Camera

Both phones use a 12-megapixel sensor, but the iPhone 7's camera introduces a number of improvements, including a wider f/1.8 aperture lens, optical image stabilisation (OIS), a six-element lens and a quad-LED True Tone flash.The iPhone 6s, on the other hand, only has an f/2.2 aperture, a five-element lens and a standard dual-LED True Tone flash. It doesn't have any optical image stabilisation, either.

What this means in theory is that the iPhone 7 should perform better in low light, as its wider lens will be able to capture more light, and its optical image stabilisation will help negate the effect of any unintended handshake. The quad-LED True Tone flash should be able to produce up to 50% more light, giving you more to work with when shooting at night.

Although the iPhone 7 camera was superior – especially in low light conditions, we found it's performance a little disappointing – particularly when it encountered shadows. In dark areas of pictures the iPhone 7 seemed to show digital artefacts, although this could be removed by a later software update.

Water-resistance

The biggest difference lies beneath the surface, as the iPhone 7 is IP67 water- and dust-resistant, offering much greater protection against spills and splashes (and accidental toilet dunkings) than the iPhone 6s. 

iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6s: Design

Apple was keen to show off the iPhone 7's new design at its official launch event, but at first glance, it doesn't really seem like much has changed since the iPhone 6s. Both phones are exactly the same size (138 x 67 x 7.1mm), and they each use a 4.7in display as well as an aluminium unibody. The iPhone 7's is a fraction lighter at 138g, but when the iPhone 6s weighed just 143g, it's not exactly the kind of difference you'll notice on a daily basis. The iPhone 7 also has a few new finishes, namely Apple's mirror-like Jet Black as well as a simpler matte black in addition to the usual silver, gold and Rose Gold colour options.

New home button

The antenna lines no longer go across the back of the phone – instead positioned around the edge of the rear chassis. The home button's changed, too, now supporting Force Touch, giving you thsore same kind of "taptic" feedback as the MacBook Pro's Force Touch trackpad. Touch ID isn't any quicker on the iPhone 7, though, so it will still unlock your phone and authorise contactless payment transactions in the same amount of time as the iPhone 6s.

iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6s: Specs

Display

At first glance, the display on both the iPhone 7 and iPhone 6s look almost identical. They're both 4.7in across the diagonal and share the same 1,134 x 750 resolution. Apple is also quoting the same 1,300:1 contrast ratio for each handset.

However, the iPhone 7's screen is much brighter than the iPhone 6s, with Apple claiming a peak brightness of 625cd/m2 compared to the iPhone 6s's 500cd/m2. The iPhone 7 also supports the DCI-P3 colour gamut rather than standard sRGB, so colours appear richer and more vibrant onscreen. DCI-P3 is the colour gamut used by digital film projectors, and it's also used by Ultra HD TVs to meet the UHD Alliance's UHD Premium standards, as a UHD Premium TV must be able to display at least 90% of the DCI-P3 colour space.

Performance and battery life

The iPhone 7 is powered by Apple's brand-new quad-core A10 Fusion chip, whereas the iPhone 6s only has a dual-core A9 chip. Apple says the iPhone 7's CPU performance will be 40% faster than the 6s, and our Geekbench tests show a huge increase in performance, too. Despite its boost in power, Apple's A10 Fusion chip provides longer battery life than the iPhone 6s, with Apple claiming up to 13 hours of wireless video playback compared to the iPhone 6s's 11 hours. In practise, we found that 13 hour figure was bang on. 

However, with the iPhone 7 losing its 3.5mm audio jack, its reliance on Lightning-powered headphones or wireless listening means its audio-playback battery-life figures are actually worse than the 6s. For instance, Apple quote up to 40 hours of wireless audio playback for the iPhone 7, but up to 50 hours of wired audio playback for the iPhone 6s. Of course, we'll put all these figures to the test once review samples are available, but it's worth bearing in mind if you're an avid audiophile.

Storage

With the launch of the iPhone 7, Apple has finally ditched its 16GB entry-level model. Now, the cheapest version comes with 32GB of storage, but you can also get one with 128GB or 256GB of storage if you want to pay extra. It's also worth noting that the Jet Black iPhone 7 is only available in 128GB and 256GB, so you'll have to pay extra if you want this particular model. The iPhone 6s originally launched with 16GB, 64GB and 128GB options, but all new iPhone 6s handsets will now come with either 32GB or 128GB of storage. Sadly, Apple hasn't carried over the 256GB option, but it's a welcome change nonetheless – as we've been complaining about the lack of a 32GB option for several years now.

Apple iPhone 6S side

Price

Of course, with new storage options comes new pricing, and this year the iPhone 7 is more expensive than ever. With prices starting at £599 for the 32GB version, they quickly rise to £699 for the 128GB version and £799 for the 256GB model. The iPhone 6s, however, is now cheaper, costing either £499 for the 32GB version or £599 for the 128GB version. Admittedly, that's only £40 less than its original entry-level price of £539, but at least you're getting double the amount of storage this time. Contract prices are pretty much the same too, so you should expect to pay something like £30-50 a month for a 128GB 2 year contract with around 10GB of storage. 

iPhone 7 vs iPhone 6s: Verdict

The iPhone 7 offers a decent number of improvements over the iPhone 6s, including a brighter, better-looking display, an improved camera, and faster performance. However, whether it's worth upgrading to is another matter entirely. If you're an iPhone 6 user coming to the end of your contract, then it's almost definitely worth picking one up, as the iPhone 7 improves on all the new features added in the 6s while introducing a handful of brand-new ones.  

But if you bought an iPhone 6s last year, then there's not a huge amount here to tempt you away from your current handset – especially since prices are now so much higher. Whether you upgrade or not will come down to how useful you think the iPhone 7's new features are. If you can live without water-resistance, a haptic home-button and live with a headphone jack, there's no real rush to upgrade just yet... 

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