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iPhone 6s first impressions: This year’s ‘S’ stands for ‘speed’

Published Sep 28th, 2015 3:14PM EDT
iPhone 6s First Impressions Review
Image: Chris Smith, BGR

I bought a pink iPhone 6s last week and was fortunate enough to get it right on launch day. The moment I took it out of the box on Friday, I had this deja vu feeling you get with each S generation — except for the new color, the design is similar, and nothing is changed. But that’s where most of the people trying the iPhone 6s after an iPhone 6 would be wrong. Nothing is changed design-wise — or at least the modifications aren’t perceivable to the naked eye — yet everything is different.

Apple was right on stage when it said that everything changes with iPhone 6s, even if that might not be immediately apparent to many users.

DON’T MISS: Hyped about next year’s iPhone 7? History suggests you should wait for the iPhone 7s instead

Speed above all else

The “s” in the iPhone 6s this year should really stand for “speed.” From the first moment you get your hands on the device, that’ll become more than clear to you. Disregard what your benchmark tests are sayingignore the specs for a second, and you’ll see how fast the phone actually is at loading apps and contents.

The best way to test the new handset is restoring it from the freshest backup you have — which is what I did, moving from a 64GB iPhone 6 to the iPhone 6s. You’ll notice how snappy and responsive the phone is only after you start using it as you would normally, with your full set of apps, data and app habits in action.

For me, that means a mix of work-related and leisure activities, like keeping up with the news and social media at various times during the day, playing quick games of Hearthstone, chatting with friends, family and colleagues over a slew of messaging and mail apps, streaming music and watching clips, and keeping track of my fitness. There’s plenty of Internet browsing and email as well, whether it’s in Safari or dedicated apps that handle other Internet-related chores and services. In short, every app that I tested loads faster than it does on the iPhone 6. And, most importantly, so does the content inside the apps.

The camera’s awesome new trick

The upgrade to a 12-megapixel sensor has made the iPhone’s camera better than ever — and it was already among the best smartphone cameras on the market.

Aside from the overall photo quality, I’ve found that Live Photos — the iPhone 6s feature that lets you take individual GIF-like photo-and-video captures — isn’t a must-have feature. Yet the trick is fantastic to use — even if it’s only three seconds of video added to each picture, a Live Photo tells an incredible story of a place, a feeling, or an event. Just use it to take pics of your children or pet, and you’ll see it instantly. I tested Live Photos at a friend’s kids birthday party over the weekend, and the results are incredible — too bad I can’t share with them the full Live Photos, as the new format is only supported on certain devices.

On a camera-related note, I don’t need 4K video in my life just yet, and I’m not going to bother recording videos in that format even if I have plenty of local storage for that.

Re-learning iOS is a now a must

It’s during regular daily use that you start realizing there’s more to this iPhone, and to fully grasp it you have to change the way you use the handset yourself. 3D Touch is a new way of interacting with the smartphone. New actions, peeks and pops will get you faster to where you want to be. And this will change the way how you use the iPhone.

In a way, new smartphone users will be at an advantage over iPhone veterans like myself. They’ll learn to use iOS 9 with 3D Touch built in whereas I have to adapt everything I know about iOS.

I don’t have to keep pressing the home button to switch between apps, and I can now almost instantly message my sister if I want to do that without going into the iMessage app. Fast calls are also one deep press away, and selfies with friends have just gotten insanely better, all thanks to 3D Touch and the new depth of interacting with iOS. Similar shortcuts are available for almost all of Apple’s iOS apps that you might use during a regular day, and some third-party apps are slowly starting to adopt them.

Yet, in spite of all that, I still do iOS the old way because that’s how I’m used to using it. In fact, I’m glad that not all third-party developers have deployed their own 3D Touch shortcuts inside apps, as I have plenty of time to get acquainted with the way Apple wants us to use iOS now. Once I’m there, though, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.

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