I've been using the iPhone 6S for two weeks, ever since Apple loaned it to me to review after announcing it at their massive event in San Francisco. When Tim Cook first debuted it I think the audience was wondering what all the fuss was about -- after all, similar to past "S" models it has the same form factor as the iPhone 6, and that's usually the biggest difference in new models (try holding an iPhone 5 after a 6, or a 4 after using a 5, and you know how even a slight difference becomes the norm and it's SO HARD to go back to the old one).
Apple played its new commercial for the iPhone 6S during the event, and the tagline was "the only thing that's changed is everything." New features -- Live Photos and 3D Touch. New upgrades -- a better camera, 4K video. Since the device is available in Canada starting this Friday, September 25, I thought I'd break down what the main differences are and answer the question on everyone's minds: should I upgrade to the new 6S, or wait until they inevitably launch the iPhone 7 in 2016?
The must-have updates:
Rose gold iPhone
This is the first rose gold Apple device, and it will probably be on every pink-lover's list, even if you're putting it in a lavender leather case like me. Just remember: it's not pink, it's rose gold. Which is somehow way classier.
This is by far my favourite feature of the new iPhone. I've been a fan of cinemagraphs for years, ever since Toronto-based startup Flixel sparked my interest in the photos with an element of movement (examples here).
Live Photos is like a mix between a cinemagraph and a video -- it's a default setting in your camera (which you can turn off, since Live Photos take up twice as much space as a regular image) which automatically captures 1.5 seconds before and after your photo. Press down on the photo after you take it and see the image come to life -- a feature you don't think you need until you try it out and realize how cool it is to see a short burst of activity around your photos.
I've been keeping the default setting on and have captured hundreds of Live Photos in the past two weeks from my company retreat and my weekend trip to Chicago. Whether it's my colleagues jumping between the rows of a vineyard, a bonfire crackling at the cottage we rented, water rippling on our architectural boat tour in Chicago, or my friend's cool baby, Live Photos are quite simply the coolest thing to hit the iPhone camera -- see one I capture this weekend here.
The only downside? It's hard to share Live Photos right now, so we'll have to wait until Facebook, Twitter and Instagram support the format to share them all with our friends. Facebook has already announced that it's planning to add support for Live Photos, so I'm waiting (im)patiently. (You can currently share Live Photos via iMessage, Airdrop, or iCloud.) The Live Photos also help show off the beefed-up iPhone 6S camera -- a five-megapixel, front-facing camera for those awesome selfies (vs. a 1.2 megapixel camera on the iPhone 6), and 12 megapixels on the back (vs. eight megapixels on the iPhone 6).
As I wrote in my recap of the event earlier this month, 3D Touch is Apple's way of introducing us to gestures beyond swiping and pinching. They've added pressure sensitivity to the screen, so you can now get different reactions by pressing lightly (same as before), a little harder ("Peek," which lets you get a glimpse at something but doesn't open it completely), and pretty hard ("Pop," which fully opens an email/photo or anything else from a peek). You can also press any app icon lightly on your home screen to view shortcuts (or as Apple calls them, "Quick Actions"). For example, you can press lightly on the Mail app to quickly compose a new message, or press the camera app for a "Take Selfie" shortcut, one I bet I'll be using often.
You'll know you're viewing an app shortcut or using the Peek/Pop features because of the haptic feedback -- slight vibrations that are used on the Apple Watch (and one of the things I love most about my watch). I have to admit I haven't used the 3D Touch features that much, mostly because it's introducing us to a whole new set of behaviours on our phone. I imagine I'll use them more as I get used to them, and they'll become as natural as swiping and tapping (for example, you can use 3D Touch to navigate between apps and multitask, something's that's been missing on the iPhone for years).
Currently, 3D Touch is only available on Apple's pre-installed suite of apps, but the feature will be integrated into third-party apps including Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram in the near future.
So, what's not so great? In my opinion the form factor is the biggest downside of the new phone -- let's admit it, part of the reason we upgrade is so our friends, colleagues and family will go "OMG YOU GOT THE NEW IPHONE LEMME SEE IT" at Thanksgiving dinner. Since the new 6S is indistinguishable (unless you get rose gold), you'll be missing the cool factor a little bit, and I doubt people who own the 6 will be as motivated to update.
Those are the notable features from the iPhone 6S (I'm using the 6S vs. the 6S Plus -- just depends if you want bigger screen real estate; I prefer smaller). If you're looking for an in-depth review of all features like 4K video and the new processor check out Nilay Patel's in-depth review in The Verge.
There are also a bunch of updates in iOS 9 which I've been using and loving, like the Low Power Mode (Wired says it can get you an extra hour of battery life when it kicks in at 20 per cent battery), the new Notes app (now with sketching!), and the ability to multitask between apps, but of course you can take advantage of those on older iPhone models as well. The combo of the new features in the 6S and the iOS updates do make it feel like a completely new phone from the 6S though, which is probably adding to the reasons I'm liking the new device.
Should you get the new iPhone? The short answer: the 6S has some really amazing new features and upgrades, and if you're reading this on an iPhone 5 I would say run to the Apple store (or call your carrier) and upgrade. If you're using an iPhone 6, you'll still be impressed with the updates, and I'd add it to your Christmas list or find someone to buy your 6 so you can upgrade economically.
Disclosure: Flixel recently became a client of 88 Creative. Apple loaned me the new iPhone to review.
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