The wait is over. After months of hype, Apple has formally announced the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus and – as usual – the new handsets are polarising opinion. Fans are excited by some potentially game changing changes, while critics bemoan the stylistic similarities to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

What does this mean for you? Let’s break down the differences and find out…

Design – Familiar But Intelligently Improved

Yes, the new iPhones look much like the old iPhones. This is the number one area where many will complain, but look more closely and there are key differences.

The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus look familiar - but there are a lot of differences. Image credit Apple

The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus look familiar – but there are a lot of differences. Image credit Apple

Size and Weight Increases

In a first for Apple, the new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus are actually ever so slightly larger and noticeably heavier than their predecessors. The good news, while you are likely to notice the difference holding new and old models side-by-side, in isolation this will be pretty similar:

  • iPhone 6S: 138.3 x 67.1 x 7.1mm (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28in) and 143g (5.04oz)
  • iPhone 6S Plus: 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm (6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29in) and 192g (6.77oz)
    • iPhone 6: 138.1 x 67 x 6.9mm (5.44 x 2.64 x 0.27in) and 129g (4.55oz)
    • iPhone 6 Plus: 158.1 x 77.8 x 7.1mm (6.22 x 3.06 x 0.28in) and 172g (6.07oz)
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In fact, for me, the worst aspect about this design similarity has nothing to do with size, but the fact the new phones maintain the same ludicrously slippy finish as the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. That’s bad news for both models.

Of course I appreciate covers are a must for most owners, but it would be nice for Apple to at least try and make a phone which doesn’t act like a bar of soap and offers some ergonomics for the human hand.

The new iPhones use stronger aluminium than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Image credit Apple

The new iPhones use stronger aluminium than the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Image credit Apple

Strength Improvements

More positively, the other key takeaway is that structurally both the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus are significantly stronger. Apple openly mocked the so-called ‘Bendgate’ scandal last year when the iPhone 6 and, notably, iPhone 6 Plus were found to warp under relatively meagre pressures.

But privately changes have been made and internal thickening is thought to (at least partially) account for some of the weight increases. Consequently the new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus have switched from Series 6000 to Series 7000 aluminium. Series 7000 is over twice as strong and a video pressure test has already shown you’ll be highly unlikely to bend either model under any force you’d encounter in everyday life.

In addition Apple has improved the durability of the new iPhones’ glass displays, but it hasn’t given any details regarding how much stronger we can expect them to be.

Read more – iPhone 6S And iPhone 6S Plus: Best And Worst Features

Winner: iPhone 6S

It gets less of a weight bump while the iPhone 6S Plus is now a genuinely heavy phone, a problem when both remain so slippery

Displays – Ingenious Or Falling Behind?

Another area where the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus are receiving criticism is their screens as, despite late rumours to the contrary, the resolutions remain unchanged:

  • iPhone 6S: 4.7-inch, 1334 x 750 pixels, 326 pixels per inch (ppi)
  • iPhone 6S Plus: 5/5-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixels, 401 pixels per inch (ppi)

Should this matter? For me no. By comparison the iPhone 6S still has a pixel density similar to a 4K ‘Ultra HD’ resolution on a 13-inch laptop while the iPhone 6S Plus has a pixel density higher than a 4K display on an 11-inch laptop. Smartphones just live in a crazy specifications war where Apple refuses to fight.

Yes, I would be very surprised if the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus panels can top what Samsung delivered with the 2K Galaxy S6 and Galaxy S6 Edge, but few owners are likely to be disappointed when using either iPhone in real world scenarios.

Winner: iPhone 6S Plus

It continues to have a noticeably higher pixel density than the smaller iPhone 6S and with most rivals now sporting 2K displays, 6S owners in particular may feel a little shortchanged

3D Touch and its haptics vibration feedback could revolutionise iOS - Image credit: Apple

3D Touch and its pressure sensitive feedback could revolutionise iOS – Image credit: Apple

3D Touch – Initially Interesting, Potentially Amazing

While lack of a resolution bump will have disappointed many, there is compensation in the form of a new Apple party trick…

Like the Apple Watch, MacBook and MacBook Pro lines, the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus now sport a variant of Force Touch called ‘3D Touch’. This uses the same pressure sensitive panel as these devices to distinguish between different types of touch and gives vibration feedback to the user to confirm when force touches are recognised.

This isn’t new – BlackBerry offered something similar with its failed Storm smartphone in 2008 – but what Apple seeks to do differently is make 3D Touch an intuitive part of the iOS 9 experience. Doing this means starting slowly to avoid bamboozling users and off the bat initial user examples are fairly straightforward:

  • Apple Maps – deep press on a destination to jump to turn-by-turn directions
  • Apple Music – deep press on a track to automatically add it to a playlist
  • Safari – deep press a link to preview the website
  • Messages – deep press on a message to preview the conversation
  • Mail – deep press on an email to preview its contents
  • Apps – deep press on their icon to launch to a specific area of the app or deep press in the app to bring up the multitasking mode
A deep press with 3D Touch in Mail gives a preview of an email. Image credit Apple

A deep press with 3D Touch in Mail gives a preview of an email. Image credit Apple

Inevitably, however, gaming is perhaps the area with greatest potential for 3D Touch. Unlike 3D Touch in the Apple Watch and MacBooks, 3D Touch senses a range of pressures so, for example, the screen could be used like an accelerator in racing games.

How developers react will be crucial. 3D Touch requires dedicated hardware so it will not come to older iPhones so the level of motivation to implement it in apps will make or break it.

As such, while 3D Touch may not initially be the main reason users want to buy an iPhone 6S or iPhone 6S Plus, its ability to fundamentally change how iOS works (for the first time since 2007) means long term it is the most important addition to these new iPhones.

Read more – iPhone 6S Carrier Leak Confirms Date Sales Begin

Winner: N/A

Both models support 3D Touch

Finally Apple has increased sensor size to capture greater detail. Image credit Apple

Finally Apple has increased sensor size to capture greater detail. Image credit Apple

Cameras – A New Force To Be Reckoned With

While 3D Touch is what has techies enthralled, for end users perhaps the biggest pull of the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus is their new camera technology:

  • iPhone 6S and 6S Plus – 12 megapixel sensor, F2.0 lens, Focus Pixels, dual-LED flash – 4p video recording. Front: 5 megapixel sensor, F2.0 lens, 1080p video recording
  • iPhone 6 and 6 Plus – 8 megapixel sensor, F2.2 lens, Focus Pixels, dual-LED flash – 1080p video recording. Front: 1.2 megapixel sensor, F2.2 lens, 720p video recording

While on paper these changes don’t appear to be world changing, they drag the new iPhones back into a camera battle where both LG and Samsung had usurped earlier this year.

Yes, the megapixels and apertures on the back still don’t quite match what LG offers with the G4 or Samsung with the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ and Galaxy Note 5 (all use the same sensor) but 5MP front cameras run them close. More to the point their combination with Apple’s legendary image processing software, may just mean the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S come close to delivering the best phone camera experience once again.

4K video should look amazing, but it will eat up storage space (more later) - Image credit Apple

4K video should look amazing, but it will eat up storage space (more later) – Image credit Apple

Apple has also added a nice gimmick: ‘Live Photos’ records 1.5 seconds of video around a photo so it can be made to move, if a user prefers. This is something Nokia users have had for several years, but it makes a nice addition to iOS.

The big caveat: shockingly Apple has again snubbed the smaller iPhone with the 6S not receiving Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) like the 6S Plus. Instead it will have to put up with Digital Image Stabilisation (DIS) which should again give the iPhone phablet a noticeable advantage.

Winner: iPhone 6S Plus

The very disappointing absence of OIS from the iPhone 6S makes this an easy win