Overview
Introduction
Design
Display
Hardware
Software
Camera
Audio and video
Performance
Battery life
Conclusion
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Apple iPhone 6s Plus (64GB)

A powerful, iterative phablet but expensive to the pocket
By Samir Makwana on 2015-11-26
Key Features
  • 5.5-inch Retina Display
  • 3D Touch support
  • 12-megapixel iSight camera
  • 4K video recording
What we like
  • Intuitive 3D Touch 
  • Fast, responsive TouchID
  • Supports 4K Video recording
  • Best in class music experience
What we don't like
  • Expensive
  • Lacks a versatile video player
  • Average battery life
8.3
Our Score
Introduction

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Introduction

Until last year, Apple did not believe in the concept of large screen smartphones. Then Apple transitioned to large screen smartphones with the iPhone 6 Plus (which had a 5.5-inch screen) alongside the iPhone 6 (4.7-inch) last year. Despite initial apprehensions with the 6 Plus’ rather uncomfortable size, people still lined up to buy this large-screen smartphone also known as a phablet. To be able to compete with large Android smartphones or phablets, Apple upped its game in the screen-size department.

The iPhone 6s Plus which was launched for a price tag of Rs.72,000 this year, features a 5.5-inch Retina display along with a powerful A9 chipset and improved camera sensors. These are also the three key changes which distinguish it from its predecessor, the iPhone 6 Plus. Now that India is the costliest place to buy the iPhone 6s Plus, the device has a lot to prove to be able to justify its price tag. We got our hands on a 64GB variant of the iPhone 6s Plus in Rose Gold. Here’s what we think of the iPhone 6s Plus.

Design
8.5

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Design
In terms of design, the iPhone 6s Plus looks similar to the 6 Plus, using the same Retina display, an anodized aluminum back, and a Home button. Apple boasts of using a 7000-series aeronautical grade aluminum to build a stronger chassis on the 6s Plus, since it was reported that the iPhone 6 was prone to bending with some pressure. This chassis contributes to the weight of the device, and so the 6s Plus at a weight of 192g, is heavier than the 6 Plus which weighs 172g. In terms of thickness, the 6s Plus (7.3mm) measures almost the same as the 6 Plus (7.1mm). 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Design 2

The 6s Plus has well-rounded corners, and thick bezels above and below the screen. Below the screen is a Home button with an improved second generation TouchID sensor integrated. At the centre of the bottom edge is the lightning port, with a 3.5mm audio port to its left and a speaker grille to its right. There are two microphones at the bottom: one is next to the audio port while the other one is the first one out of the eight prominent holes. The remaining seven holes are for the speaker out. The volume control buttons and a ring/silent key are placed on the left edge. The power button is located on the right side of the frame. Above the display is the earpiece with the front-facing camera to its left and a proximity sensor above it. While the rear is smooth, it also feels quite slippery. We recommend that you use a good jacket case so that you don’t risk slipping it.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Design 3 

The new 12-megapixel iSight camera is present at the back. This camera protrudes a bit, because of which the phone wobbles slightly when placed on a flat surface. The 6s Plus comes in a unibody clamshell design, with a non-removable battery underneath it. It is available in four colour options: Silver, Gold, Space Gray and Rose Gold. Overall, while the 6s Plus bears the same design as its predecessors, it gives off an impression of a sturdier device that has a great in-hand feel.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - TouchID
 

Display
9.5

Apple iPhone 6S Plus Review - Display

The 5.5-inch IPS LCD display has a resolution of 1080x1920p which translates into a pixel density of 401 PPI. Apple uses the new 2.5D Ion-Exchange Glass on the iPhone 6s Plus which protects the screen. As always is the case with the display on an iPhone, the display on the iPhone 6s Plus is gorgeous, which offers close to accurate colours. The viewing angles are fantastic. While the display is not brighter than on its predecessors, it offers a 1300:1 contrast ratio. The Retina HD display also introduces an all new 3D Touch feature that is powered by a new Taptic engine and capacitive pressure sensors stacked just under the glass. Touted as the next level of multitouch, the new 3D Touch gives shortcuts to various function right from the display, by simply tapping the icon of select native apps and a few third party apps. With the new 3D Touch, Apple has taken a lead against its closest rival, Samsung. The oleophobic coating protects the display from smudges.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Display 1

 

Hardware
8

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Hardware 1
The iPhone 6s Plus houses a 64-bit architecture that supports a dual-core 1.8GHz Apple A9 mobile chipset embedded within the M9 motion processor. Unlike many other manufacturers which have been taken in by the multi-core chipset craze, Apple uses only a dual-core chipset and nevertheless manages to deliver a challenging performance.

The hardware model of our unit of the 6s Plus is N66AP. This A9 chipset has been manufactured by Samsung. This is important only because Apple had been under the radar quite recently for its chipsets. It was reported that its chipsets were being manufactured by two companies, TSMC and Samsung, and that the devices that featured the chipsets made by Samsung had a terrible battery capacity. The third generation motion processor M9, is actually a co-processor dedicated for fitness apps. The M9 processor basically collects data by interacting with built-in sensors such as accelerometer, compass, gyroscope and barometer. Information such as steps taken and distance travelled is calculated using the sensors and then presented in a much more comprehensible fashion through the fitness apps.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Hardware

The 6s Plus has 2GB of RAM, which is twice than that of its predecessors, and therefore, we expect apps and games to load much faster. The Home button integrates an improved and responsive TouchID fingerprint sensor which mostly aids as a security layer. This TouchID sensor is also required for Apple Pay services, which has not been introduced in India as of date. 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Hardware 2

The device has a nano-SIM slot. It supports 4G LTE (Cat. 6) network. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with MIMO for faster downloads and Bluetooth 4.2. The device has a 12-megapixel iSight camera at the back and a 5-megapixel camera with Retina flash in the front. With the kind of hardware that it packs, the iPhone 6s Plus is Apple’s most powerful smartphone till date but cannot be compared to the Android-based flagship devices that pack an octa-core chipset and 4GB of RAM.

 

 

Software
8

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Software 1

Every time that Apple introduces its ’S’ model of iPhones, it makes several changes from its predecessor, with the idea of making the device faster and more efficient. The iPhone 6s Plus too sees several improvements in terms of speed, search and stability. The 3D Touch which was first introduced on the iPhone 6s, now has a new level of interaction with the interface. It feels a lot like Force Touch on the new Macbook models. All you’ve got to do is hard press an app icon, which pops-out shortcuts for the app directly from the home screen. For example, when you hard press the Camera icon, it pops-out a menu with options such as take selfie, record video, Slo-mo, and take photo. If you select the ‘record slo-mo’ option, it starts to record a slo-mo video. This saves you the trouble of going through numerous steps, as most of these functions are now at your disposal right from the display screen. However, there are only a limited number of apps that support 3D Touch currently, and Apple wants its iOS developers to update the existing apps with this feature soon, so that the app experience on the 6s and the 6s Plus is more interactive. 
 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - 3D Touch

The second generation Touch ID fingerprint scanner too, is phenomenally faster that the fingerprint scanner on the iPhone 6, and works like a charm. The News app was something which caught our attention and which we were excited about. It is basically a news reader app which has support for RSS Feeds and other sources. While the News app is limited only to a select few regions currently, we hope that Apple makes it available in India in the next couple of updates.

Apple's new app switcher has a different design now; all the open apps are now lined up in a side scrolling 3D carousel which can be invoked from the left edge of the screen. Additionally, Spotlight search has improved tremendously when compared to what it was on earlier iOS versions. It is now accessible from the left most pane of the home screen, and can handle simple calculations and currency conversions. 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Software

Siri’s capabilities for natural language processing have improved a lot. You can now search for photos based on specific dates and locations. You can also wake the phone up from sleep mode, simply by saying ‘Hey Siri’. There is a new feature called Siri Suggestions, in which Apple’s voice assistant, Siri predicts what you might be looking for, based on usage pattern. When you swipe right from the home screen, a list of the recently and frequently used apps and contacts show up right below the Spotlight Search before you type anything. If the location-based services are On, it will show you options for dinner, coffee, shopping, banks and ATMs. Below it are couple of news items. What’s to be noted here is that these items are automatically generated, even before you type in anything into the spotlight search. Siri Suggestions is undoubtably the icing on the cake. Apart from searching and launching apps, Spotlight Search also looks through native apps to find information that matches the searched terms. 
 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Software 2

With no major cosmetic changes to the UI, iOS 9 looks similar to iOS 8. Apps and games open much faster now, all thanks to the 2GB of RAM. However, when compared to the flexibility that Android allows, one might miss few of the popular features such as widget library, double tap to wake up, and gesture support in sleep mode. 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Software 4

However, we also found some rough edges to the software. When viewing images in the Photos app, the interface would break when the orientation of the phone was changed from portrait to landscape. Additionally, we found that a number of apps would crash at times, immediately after we launched them. Moreover, there are also Wi-Fi connectivity issues. iMessage is still far from perfect and we also noticed issues with Bluetooth connectivity. That apart, we also experienced lags and frame drops several times while watching videos. Animations also tended to stop automatically at times. 

Although, Apple’s iOS 9 makes several improvements in its software, there is still a lot left to be desired. 

Camera
8.5

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Camera

The 6s Plus boasts of a new camera setup. There is a new Live Photos feature which records a very short two second videos and turns it into an animated file. This is quite similar to a .gif or animated photos. These images can also be animated using 3D Touch and set as wallpapers. Apple finally bids adieu to the 8-megapixel BSI-CMOS sensor, and has finally upgraded to a new 12-megapixel rear camera on the 6s Plus. The camera app also allows for 4K video recording. We were pretty excited to try out the new iSight camera with F2.2 aperture and a 6-element lens.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Camera Sample 1

The camera app has the same interface as on its predecessors, and is quick to launch. The Live Photos option is located between the Timer and the HDR on the left side when you launch the app. Images captured with this new camera app didn’t impress us greatly, and we found them to be pretty similar to what we’ve seen before on the iPhone 6 Plus.
 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Camera Sample 2

Colours were accurately represented along with supporting contrast. The tap to focus feature worked well, but tended to capture over-exposed images when not tapped on the screen. However, the images had ample details and great dynamic range. We captured images with the Auto HDR mode turned off, and the resultant images were satisfactory. With the HDR+ mode enabled, we were able to take impressive pictures of landscapes that had good colours and contrast.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - HDR+

Images taken in low light were also pretty good, despite the fact that the F2.2 aperture on this device isn’t as great as on the LG G4 with F1.8 aperture. In contrast to last year’s 6 Plus, the camera on the 6s Plus deals with colours and depth rather well. In short, the quality bump is imperceptible and you can barely notice a difference between pictures taken on the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 6s Plus. With a smaller 1.22-micron pixels on the sensor (the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 6 had 1.5-micron pixels), Apple has managed to keep the noise low with a rather balanced image processing. 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Macro Shot

Though the camera app is user-friendly, we miss the Pro mode. We would’ve enjoyed some more manual control in features such as ISO, Shutter speed, and focussing options. For those of you who can’t do without it, a ProCamera app is available for Rs.300. The front-facing 5-megapixel camera has a BSI sensor which makes watching 720p resolution videos and making FaceTime HD video calls, an absolutely enjoyable experience. A new feature that wasn’t present on its predecessors, the Retina flash, aides the front-facing camera for taking selfies. While capturing a selfie, the Retina display illuminates to almost thrice the standard level of brightness and acts as a flash (thus called Retina Flash). 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Camera Sample 4

The front camera has support for Live Photos as well. Images captured by the front-facing camera have a lot of details. However, using the Retina Flash felt more like a gimmick rather than a fix. The ability to shoot 4K videos is one of the most exciting features of the camera on the 6s Plus. One can access it through the Photos and Camera option in the Settings app.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Dark - Flash ON

Do bear in mind that you need to select 4K videos at 30fps, because by default it shoots at 1080p. In the video recording mode, the camera app only offers flash control. With OIS enabled, low light video performance sees some improvement. You can shoot slo-mo videos in either a resolution of 1080p at 120fps or a resolution of 720p at 240fps. Apart from the new slow-motion feature and 4K video recording capabilities, the 6s Plus is also capable of taking some good videos.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Camera Sample 5

Audio and video
7.5

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Audio and Video

Apple’s Music app combines your existing library of music on the phone with a Spotify-like streaming music service. Google Play Music mimics the same thing, but Apple Music library clearly trumps it with a much more intuitive interface and library. We streamed the latest songs by subscribing to Apple Music. Music synced via the iCloud account also played without any issues. Quality of sound was quite clear and while the sound was fairly audible, it wasn’t as loud as on some of the Android-based smartphones.  If you’re into watching movies and TV shows on the go, you’ll be relieved to know that Apple still hasn’t changed the process of transferring files to an iPhone. One has to hook the iPhone to a PC/Mac running iTunes, add the files to iTunes, after which, iTunes takes a while to convert the video into an iPhone friendly format. As opposed to that, one can simply transfer videos with almost any file format, directly to an Android device and then play it without much of an hassle. 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Music

Having said that, the iPhone 6s Plus can play 4K resolution videos smoothly, as well as the ones in .mp4 and .m4v file formats. Although Apple offers support for a variety of audio and video file formats, it doesn’t support as many file formats as a typical Android device does. For instance, audio files such as .flac and .ogg and video file containers such as .mkv and .avi files, are not supported. Also, transferring these files through iTunes is tiresome. Just for this reason, we find it a bit cumbersome to enjoy videos completely on the iPhone 6s Plus. 

 

Performance
8.5

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Performance

The hardware of the 6s Plus seems to be an incremental change from that of its predecessors. Apple uses a 64-bit dual-core 1.85GHz Apple A9 chipset with 2GB of LPDDR4 RAM in the iPhone 6s Plus as compared to a 64-bit 1.1GHz Apple A8 chipset with 1GB of LPDDR3 RAM in the iPhone 6 Plus. What these specification really indicate is that the dual-core A9 chipset is a powerful upgrade that provides faster speed, and the DDR4 RAM offers higher memory bandwidth to be able to handle heavy apps easily. We installed the new iOS 9.1 update and found several instances in which there were frame drop, lag and animation bugs on prolonged usage. We were able to fix these temporarily by rebooting the device. But, only the next software update should be able to fix it entirely. 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Performance

We ran a couple of performance estimating synthetic benchmarks on the device. In terms of AnTuTu benchmark, the 6s Plus scored 57,685 in 64-bit mode, which was significantly better than was the the 6 Plus scored. Gaming was fun and a majority of games ran without any issues. We played Need for Speed: No Limits and Mortal Kombat. After gaming continuously for almost an hour, we noticed that the phone did get a bit warm. To test its gaming prowess, we ran 3DMark’s Sling Shot Unlimited using ES 3.0 benchmark that gave us a score of 2,340, which was higher than what many of the current flagship devices scored. 

Voice call quality was crystal clear, and the microphones helped cancel out ambient noise. However, we noticed that the phone struggled to maintain a consistent signal reception in places such as the lift or the parking area of a mall. Apple Maps continues to struggle in offering basic directions and still cannot outdo Google Maps. Thanks to Apple Music and our library of songs, we didn’t miss FM Radio at all. Lags, frame drops, choppy animations and other interface hiccups are a part of the iOS 9 experience, and we hope that Apple fixes these in its next update.

Battery life
8

Apple has reduced the battery capacity on the 6s Plus, and it now packs a battery capacity of 2,750mAh, which is lesser than the 2,915mAh battery on the 6 Plus. The 6s Plus takes about two hours to charge using the bundled 10W (2.1A) charger. We observed that the phone charged faster when the phone was put in Airplane mode. Our usage included making calls for about an hour and a half, gaming for an hour, taking images, listening to music for about five hours and using social networking apps throughout the day. This kind of usage required the phone be charged at least once a day. Do note that we kept On the Location services and Bluetooth on throughout the time. Even though the battery capacity has been reduced in the 6s Plus, we found that it lasted us for almost the same amount of time as the battery on the 6 Plus. The lack of wireless charging and Quick Charge technology, doesn’t work in its favour, though.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Battery

Conclusion

Apple has the reputation of releasing their best iPhones year on year, and with the iPhone 6s Plus, it doesn’t disappoint. The bad news for Indians though, is the cost. The 16GB variant of the iPhone 6s Plus is available for Rs.72,000, whereas the 64GB model is available for Rs.82,000. Up until last year, the difference between the two variants had been around Rs.7,000, which has now increased to around Rs.10,000. This hefty price tag is one of the key factors that you need to consider before buying the large-screen smartphone. The closest rival to the iPhone 6s Plus is the Samsung Galaxy Note5 which offers a metal and glass panel design along with an improved S Pen. The Note5 costs approximately Rs.50,000 for the 32GB model. 

Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review - Battery life

Without a doubt the iPhone 6s Plus is the best iPhone released so far. The 3D Touch also makes the iPhone 6s Plus more intuitive. The front-facing 5-megapixel iSight camera with Retina Flash delivers better quality selfies. The iOS app ecosystem keeps growing and evolving at a steady pace. Users of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6, who choose to upgrade to the 6s Plus, will get to enjoy a larger Retina Full HD display, a more powerful chipset, faster as well as twice the amount of RAM, intuitive 3D Touch feature, zippy TouchID experience and a new camera modules. However, while the 3D Touch and Live Photos are only in its nascent stage right now, for it to become widespread in the future, Apple will require developer support. Do bear in mind that Apple generally tests a feature in the ’S’ series of iPhones, and in its next version of iPhone, technology is usually more advanced.
 

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