But my view now is that Apple may have pulled a rabbit out of the hat. The company has, I think, successfully dealt with three of my five reasons for being skeptical about the sales potential of the 6s:
Force Touch is a techy feature, with limited mass-market appeal
The camera improvements are nice, but the iPhone 6 camera is already great
The iPhone 6 still feels like ‘the new iPhone’
So let’s look at each in turn, and see why I think Apple may have managed to prove me wrong …
Force Touch to 3D Touch
Force Touch on the Apple Watch is a very handy feature. Along with the digital crown, it plays a very significant role in creating a workable user-interface on a very small screen.
I was less convinced then that it could be a headline feature on an iPhone. I started to question my view when Mark Gurman revealed that the 6s was going to get a more sophisticated version of the technology, but still wasn’t sold. Until Apple showed us with 3D Touch what it was doing with this new technology: Peek and Pop.
Peek and Pop are, I think, two small features that will make a massive difference to how we use our iPhones. Peek is almost exactly like Quick Look in OS X, where you can press the spacebar while any file is highlighted to get a quick preview of it. That’s a feature I use pretty much every single day.
If I’ve got a bunch of photos in a folder, and want to decide which is the better one to use, Quick Look is a really easy way to preview them – especially in list view, where I can just highlight the first one, press the spacebar and then down-arrow through the rest. If I want to look up a figure in a spreadsheet, Quick Look is much faster than opening it in Excel. If a company has been annoying enough to send me a press release as a Word document, Quick Look is an easy way to skim-read to see whether it’s of interest. Peek on the iPhone 6s will, I suspect, prove equally useful.
Pop gives immediate and intuitive access to contextual menus. Effectively things that currently require two or more steps on current iPhones will feel like a single step on the iPhone 6s. Sure, the reality is we have to bring up the menu then make our selection, just as we do when right-clicking a document on the Mac, but it’s going to feel a lot slicker.
I may have been right that Force Touch alone isn’t a headline feature for mass-market consumers, but I think 3D Touch – with its Peek and Pop functionality – is.
I said before that, welcome as the camera improvements would be, the iPhone 6 camera is already great – and that Apple had touted it as such, long and loud. It would, I argued, have a tough job to persuade us that the 6s one was dramatically better.
And then along came Live Photos. I’m not yet sure what to make of this feature. Will it be a novelty that we’ll enjoy a few times then never look at it again? Will it be something we’ll appreciate on a few photos, but not bother with for most? Or will it be a feature people will absolutely love, feeling that it brings back the memories in a way that the still photos alone don’t?
It’s early days yet in our poll, but at the time of writing around 40% of you love the idea of it, and only 15% see it as a novelty that will wear off.
The increase in pixels may make little difference in a world in which the vast majority of photos are never viewed on anything larger than an iPhone or iPad screen, or as a greatly-reduced image on Facebook. But with Live Photos a feature unique to the 6s, Apple has effectively transformed the camera into a headline feature.
‘The new iPhone’
I argued before that the iPhone 6 still felt like ‘the new iPhone.’ The change in size and design over the iPhone 5s was so dramatic that I still was still hearing people refer to it by this term almost a full year after its launch. With few external changes, I wondered how many of those who like to be seen to be using the latest and greatest iPhone would bother to upgrade to something that was virtually identical in appearance.
But while the hardware has scarcely changed, the software has. Most years, anyone with an older model iPhone can accept the upgrade to the latest version of iOS and get most of the new features. The software experience on last year’s iPhone is little different to the software experience on the latest model. This time, though, it’s different. Peek, Pop and Live Photos are three headline features you can only get with the iPhone 6s. And it’s those features, I think, that are going to make last year’s 6 feel rather more like the old iPhone.
Trade-in data from NextWorth seems to support that. The company tells me that trade-ins are up 210% on last year, but the really interesting part is this: last year, only 25% of trade-ins were of the previous year’s model – this year, it’s more than 50%.
And me? Will I upgrade from the 6 to the 6s? I don’t have a fixed pattern to my upgrades. I always buy my iDevices outright, unlocked and free from contract, so it all depends on how much the new features appeal to me. I went from the iPhone 4 to the 4S for Siri, but skipped both the 5 and the 5S. I bought the iPhone 6 primarily for Apple Pay, though I’ve also come to really appreciate Touch ID.
I’m kind of thinking that Live Photos are a gimmick, though I do think they are something you have to experience before you can really tell. But Peek and Pop? Those are tempting.
Perhaps I should take my Apple Watch approach: buy one and see, taking it back within the refund period if it doesn’t sell itself to me. iPhone 6s Diary, anyone?
What about you? Take our poll, and let us know your thoughts in the comments.