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Deep dive review: The iPhone 6S Plus delivers the goods

Michael deAgonia | Oct. 19, 2015
Top-notch performance, better cameras and the arrival of 3D Touch make it a great choice.

Apple's new iPhone 6S Plus looks just like last year's 6 Plus -- but looks in this case are highly deceiving. While the 2014 model represented a major new step in design and performance, this year's version, which arrived on Sept. 25, delivers changes to just about everything you can't see.

Existing features of the 6S Plus (and its smaller sibling, the 6S) have been improved and there are even a few groundbreaking features thrown in for good measure.

Unlike the 2014 iPhone launch, when numerous issues -- including an unstable iOS 8, a botched software update that killed cellular coverage for some iPhone 6 models, and, ugh, "Bendgate" -- put a damper on things, this year's rollout went smoothly. Apple reported that it sold over 13 million iPhones in the first weekend of retail sales; the iOS 9 update has been generally responsive and stable; and, only a few weeks after release, Apple asserted that over 50% of iPhone users had the latest version installed on their devices and that over 13 million phones were sold in the weekend following the launch.

Look and feel

The iPhone 6S Plus looks just like its predecessor: A smooth aluminum casing curves to meet the glass-covered front with the display framed in white or black; for the case, you now have the choice of Rose Gold along with the previous colors of Space Gray, Silver and Gold.

The Home button, which also doubles as the Touch ID fingerprint scanner, still sits centered at the bottom of the display. The power button remains on the right side, with volume buttons and a mute switch on the left. The latest models are slightly heavier and slightly thicker: The 6 Plus was 0.28 in. thick and weighed 6.07 oz. while the 6S Plus is 0.29 in. thick and weighs 6.77 oz. It's not much, but you can feel the difference. (The iPhone 6S is now 0.28 in., which is .01 in. more than last year's model, and weighs 5.04 oz., as compared to last year's 4.55 oz.)

The new case uses 7000 Series aluminum and has been strengthened at the points where last year's models were susceptible to bending.

Apple also used a dual ion-exchange process on the glass for the new display that, Apple execs say, increases the strength. The glass shields a 4.7 in. (for the 6S) or 5.5 in. (for the 6S Plus) Retina display, with 1334 x 750 pixels at 326 pixels per inch (PPI) crammed into the smaller display, and 1920 x 1080 pixels at 401 PPI in the larger iPhone. I was able to compare my iPhone 6S Plus to a 6S owned by a co-worker; both are bright and show off a great range of colors without overdoing saturation.

 

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