It was about a month ago today that I took delivery of Apple’s new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, and I’ve been on something of a roller coaster ride ever since. I finally met an iPhone I couldn’t live with, but ditching the massive iPhone 6s Plus left me with a device that packs the best overall user experience available in a smartphone today. The hardware is premium, the software is a cut above rival offerings, the performance is unmatched, and the overall user experience is simply the best in the business. To be honest, however, I expected all that. I know what Apple is capable of producing year in and year out, and I hold the company to a high standard, as all users should.
But as much as Apple delivered on my expectations, there were still some surprises in store for me over the past month.
Since 2015 is an “S” year, it’s pretty crazy that Apple fans are currently enjoying the company’s biggest-ever smartphone upgrade. Apple has conditioned us to expect iterative updates every other year in between new model number launches. But with the iPhone 6s, Apple piled on vast improvements in several areas including build quality, speed, camera quality and more. Then, tack on new features like 3D Touch, and you’ve got quite a device on your hands.
Again, however, we expected much of this long before Apple even unveiled its new iPhones last month. There are some things I’ve noticed while using the iPhone 6s over the past month that have surprised me though, both in positive and negative ways.
First and foremost, 3D Touch is a great new feature that deserves to be positioned among the stars of the show on Apple’s new iPhones. It really does add a new dimension to our interactions with a smartphone for the first time since capacitive touchscreens proliferated.
But I want more.
I use 3D Touch at least a few times a day, but the functionality is extremely limited right now. Yes, it’s nice to be able to move the cursor around more easily with a firm press on the keyboard. Yes, the ability to Peek at a web page before I open it without leaving an app is great. And sure, Quick Actions menus are nifty when I can actually remember which apps support them. But I’m surprised Apple didn’t fan this feature out a bit more and extend its capabilities ahead of launch. After all, 3D Touch was five years in the making.
On the flip side of the coin, I’m surprised at how fast the iPhone 6s still feels after using it for a month.
Typically, a new phone feels fast for a day or two after you first get it. The next-generation components and software optimizations all vendors tout with each new model obviously have an impact, but that impact fades over time as the user adjusts to his or her new phone.
With the iPhone 6s, it still feels fast. So, so fast.
When I click the home button to wake my iPhone 6s, Touch ID unlocks the phone in a split second and the home screen is ready and waiting before I even finish lifting up my phone. When I tap an icon to open an app, it springs to life before I even finish repositioning my fingers to begin using it. When I swipe to switch back and forth between my most recently used apps, each one is ready to go by the time it comes into view.
Apple’s work with the iPhone 6s is yet another reminder: specs are only part of the story. With a dual-core processor and 2GB of RAM, the user experience offered by the iPhone 6s is miles beyond any other smartphones on the market, including the ones with octa-core processors and 4GB of RAM.
Another thing that surprised me about the new iPhone is the battery life over the past month. Don’t get me wrong, battery life is still the worst thing about the iPhone 6s, but it actually is better than the battery life on last year’s iPhone 6.
I know what you’re thinking: a new model should have better battery life than the phone it replaces. You’re right, but Apple says the iPhone 6s offers exactly the same battery life as last year’s model. What’s more, the iPhone 6s has a smaller battery than the iPhone 6 — 1,715 mAh compared to 1,810 mAh in the 2014 iPhone.
Apple’s next-generation components and the software optimizations in iOS 9 really do have an impressive impact on the iPhone 6s. It still won’t get you through a full day of very heavy usage, but you won’t be hugging the wall as soon as you could be with the iPhone 6.
The last thing that surprised me perhaps the most peculiar: I miss the iPhone 6s Plus.
I wrote about trying the 6s Plus and decided that I couldn’t live with it, and I’m glad I switched back to a phone that can be used with one hand. But the difference in display quality between the 6s Plus and the 6s is noticeable, and I still see it even now, weeks after ditching Apple’s phablet.
What’s more, there is also a noticeable difference in image and video quality. The lack of optical image stabilization on the iPhone 6s is a big strike against the phone. Images captured with an iPhone 6s Plus are more crisp, and the difference in video stability is night and day.
It’s a shame that users are forced to make these sacrifices when choosing the smaller of Apple’s two new iPhones, but hopefully the company manages to fit a bigger, better display and OIS into next year’s iPhone 7.