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iPhone 6s and 6s Plus review: The best iPhone ever, by a wide margin

Jason Snell | Sept. 30, 2015
“The only thing that’s changed is everything,” says the slogan Apple unveiled along side the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus.

Speaking of shooting video, these iPhones have received a major upgrade. They can shoot 4K video (3840-by-2160, or four times the pixels of a 1080 HD video). Right now there aren’t a lot of 4K TVs out there, but inevitably there will be someday. 4K video also gives you much more to work with in terms of zooming and cropping video when you edit later, because you can throw away a large chunk of an image and still have full 1080 HD resolution to work with. I imagine that all of those filmmakers who love shooting stuff with iPhones will snap up these new iPhones immediately, just because of the 4K video support.

As the parent of a teenager, I have come to appreciate that the FaceTime camera on the front of the iPhone is just as important as the one on the back. (Because selfies.) Apple has also gotten the message—the front-facing camera on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s plus is now 5 megapixels, up from 1.2 megapixels, and supports Live Photos and HDR mode. More importantly, Apple has built in a selfie-flash mode that uses the iPhone’s display itself as a flash, driving it to up to three times normal brightness and adjusting the color of the flash to one that’s appropriate for the scene.

I’m impressed with all of these upgrades, especially on the front-facing camera.

Tech upgrades

With a new iPhone comes a new Apple-designed processor, of course. This time it’s the A9, which for the first time integrates the motion coprocessor—this version’s called the M9—into the same physical chip. The M9 offloads tasks and runs with very, very little power use—handy for things like counting how many steps you take while your phone’s sleeping in your pocket. By integrating it with the larger whole, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus can also listen for a “Hey Siri” prompt at all times, not just when they’re plugged in to power as with older models.

(If you’re afraid of your friends and family waking up your iPhone endlessly by accident, there’s good news on this front, too—iOS 9 now asks you to train Siri by saying a few standard phrases. This doesn’t necessarily lock Siri to your voice, but it reduces the chance that a voice other than yours will set it off accidentally.)

The A9 processor itself is faster than the A8 found in the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus—and by a whole lot more than you might expect. Using Primate Labs’s GeekBench 3 testing app, the iPhone 6s models appear to be roughly 60 percent faster then iPhone 6 models at single-processor tests. On GeekBench’s multi-processor test, the 6s models are between 50 and 60 percent faster. Last year’s models were only slightly faster than the iPhone 5s of the previous year—this year’s update offers a much larger boost in speed.

 

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