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iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6S - should you upgrade?

David Ludlow
19 Mar 2016
iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus

Page 1 of 2iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6S - should you upgrade?

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Has the iPhone 6S got enough it it to make it a worthy upgrade from the iPhone 6? We find out with our in-depth analysis

Apple has a fairly consistent launch schedule. It starts with a brand new design on year, performing an internal upgrade a year later for its S models with the option for a couple of cosmetic changes. Given that the S models don't look that much different from the previous models, the internal upgrades have to be great enough for most people to justify the upgrade. That's exactly what I'm going to do here, comparing the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 6S. I'm focussing on the standard models, although it should be noted that most of the comparisons are valid for the bigger iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6S Plus models, too. There's plenty to go through this year, as Apple did make significant changes to the 6S: the innovative 3D Touch, a better camera and a faster processor are all core upgrades that all users will want.

Before I get into the main comparison, it's worth looking at my iPhone 7 rumours article. This phone will launch in September 2016; if you've waited until now to think about the iPhone 6S, you may want to wait for Apple's brand-new phone. It looks set to be a significant upgrade on previous years with an even better camera, a bigger battery and a new(ish) design.
For those interested in the differences between the two existing handsets, I've split this comparison into sections, so it's easy to compare the features that you're interested in.

Design

Dimensions: Surprisingly, there are some differences between the regular 6 and 6S models, although you'd have to have the best eyesight and senses to tell that from looking at them. First, I'll take the smaller handset. While the iPhone 6 measures 138x67x6.9mm and weighs 129g, the iPhone 6S measures 138x67x7.1mm and weighs 143g. It's a similar story with the larger handsets, and the iPhone 6 Plus measures 158x78x7.1mm and weighs 172g, and the iPhone P6 Plus measures 158x78x7.3mm and weighs 192g. As you can see, the new phones are a fraction thicker than the previous models, and they weigh a little more. I'll explain the reasons for the differences below, although the main thing to point out is that the changes don't make any difference day-to-day and you won't perceptibly be able to detect the changes. 

In in terms of usability, the iPhone 6S Plus remains a large phone that won't suit some people. Personally, after more than a year of using Plus versions, I have to say that I'm completely used to the handset and wouldn't now want anything smaller. For everyone else, the iPhone 6S is a great size that fits easily in one hand and neatly balances screen size against physical size.


Apple iPhone 6S side

Materials: Both new and older handsets are built using a curved glass front screen (ION strengthened to prevent scratches) and aluminium bodies. For the 6S editions, Apple has used higher-quality and stronger aluminium, which helps explain a bit of the weight change. It also means that the new iPhones will be slightly tougher than the old ones. More cynical people will say that this is because the original iPhone 6 Plus could be bent (bendgate), but I think it's important to point out that this only happened if undue pressure was put on the handset and there weren't that many cases. Why make the new phone stronger, then? Well, the simple answer is, why not? Tougher phones are better all round. So, while the old phones are tough, the new ones are tougher. It's not enough to make a difference when choosing a handset, though.

Colours: The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus get one additional colour, Rose Gold, adding to the Gold, Silver and Space Grey editions. It's quite a nice shade and rather subtle. Now the iPhone and Apple Watch range are available in the same colours.  

Design conclusion: Unless you absolutely have to have an iPhone in Rose Gold, there's nothing between the 6 and 6S models, bar the new one's tougher build. Both phones remain exceptionally well made and, in my opinion, some of the most attractive handsets available.

Display

Screen size: The iPhone 6 and 6S both have a 4.7in screen. This is a good compromise between screen size and physical phone size and strikes the right balance for most people. The iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus both have a 5.5in screen, which is large. I love this screen size, as it's part way between a regular handset and a tablet, although appreciate that it's too big for some people. 

Should you not be able to use the phones one-handed, they all have Reachability. This control, introduced with the iPhone 6, is activated by double-tapping the TouchID button and makes the entire screen slide down to the lower half of the display, so you'll always have the top of the screen within reach at all times. You don't need to use this feature very often, as most of the screen is within easy reach of a thumb, but for those occasional times that you need it Reachability does a useful job.

iPhone 6S Plus hero shot

Screen resolution and technology: The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6S have a 1,334x750 resolution, which is 326PPI. Both screens have the same image quality and sharpness. That's to say that both smartphones have excellent image quality. Given the competition, I'd like a bit more resolution, but there's nothing wrong with what's here.

In comparison, the iPhone 6 Plus and 6S Plus have a resolution of 1,920x1,080, which gives a pixel density of 401PPI. I like the extra resolution and screen sharpness over the regular iPhone models. I have to say that competitor smartphones with more resolution don't look a lot sharper. Image quality from the IPS screen hasn't changed between models. Both of the Plus models have additional landscape modes (a home screen and better mailbox view, for example) than the regular models.

3D Touch: What the new iPhone models give you is 3D touch, which requires an extra sensor to detect pressure to be installed under the screen (again, this helps explain the thicker body and extra weight). 3D Touch can detect two additional levels of pressure on the screen. For example, in the Mail app you can press hard to Peek at an email, with it popping up in a window; pressing harder again Pops you into the message proper. 3D Touch is also used on the home screen, too: press the Phone icon and you get a menu with your favourites on it, the Camera icon gives you shortcuts to common modes, and so on. It's really a very different and more intuitive way of using the iPhone and is something that no other phone has.

Display conclusion: 3D Touch is one of the best features to hit a smartphone in recent years and, if you want it, you need to buy one of the new 6S models to get it. Other than that, screen quality and sharpness remains the same between the handsets.

Page 1 of 2iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6S - should you upgrade?

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