Apple releases at least one new iPhone every year, and the coverage has become predictable: reviews (accurately) herald “the best iPhone yet,” typically based on “small but important changes that refine the user experience.” Based on everything we know about the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, you can expect the same narrative again this year — starting with the obligatory sigh of similarity that precedes the review of every S model, and ending with the common recommendation to “go buy one unless you can wait until next year.”
For professional reasons, I’ve owned every iPhone since the original 2007 model, and upgraded every single year regardless of how small or large the differences were between models. This year, for the first time, I sold off my current-generation iPhone to maximize the cash I’d get towards the purchase of a new model, and as an experiment, I went back to using the iPhone 5s (updated to iOS 9) to see whether any of the differences really mattered. After a week with the old iPhone, I can’t wait for a new one: there are a lot of reasons to prefer Apple’s bigger, better 6-series phones. So if you’re on the fence about going from any iPhone 4/4S or 5/5s/5c to a new iPhone 6S, trust me, you’ll want to upgrade…
The following 10 reasons to upgrade from an older iPhone to the iPhone 6S aren’t necessarily in order of absolute importance, but they’re in roughly the order that I noticed the differences between my iPhone 6 Plus versus the iPhone 5s.
Screen Size Really Matters. Once you’ve used an iPhone with a 4.7″ or 5.5″ screen for two or three days, your old iPhone will actually begin to look and feel like a toy. It’s profoundly obvious with an iPhone 4/4S, but still apparent with the 5/5s/5c. Virtually everyone who makes the switch to an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus comments on this at some point, noting that they’d “never go back” to the smaller screen. Why? You’ll realize that you’re not squinting any more. And you may also notice that typing feels better — you’ll get more accurate because the keys are larger.
Battery Life Is Hugely Better. This is a surprisingly big improvement, particularly on the “Plus” model. I went from constantly charging my 5s to never thinking about charging during the day with the 6 Plus. Going back to constant charging on the 5s was the biggest step backwards for me, and a major factor weighing in the larger Plus model’s favor.
Touch ID Matters, And Apple Pay Is Great. I wasn’t a Touch ID fan or user on the iPhone 5s. It seemed almost pointless in Apple’s first implementation, and unless you locked your iPhone with a password, no faster than swiping to unlock. But in newer iPhones, the fingerprint scanner is noticeably faster and more reliable. Moreover, in-store Apple Pay is a wonderful feature, turning your iPhone into a nearly complete substitute for a wallet. According to reports, Touch ID will be even faster and more reliable on the new iPhones, which may make swiping to unlock a thing of the past.
Camera Improvements Are Serious. Better photography was the single biggest reason I sold my iPhone to upgrade to the iPhone 6S. If you’re still using an iPhone 4 or 4S, you’ll notice a huge jump upgrading to even the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, but the iPhone 6S is highly likely to include major improvements to both the front and rear cameras. This is likely to be the biggest resolution boost to the selfie-snapping front camera in years, and the first jump in megapixels for the rear camera since the iPhone 4S. Expect to see superior low-light performance, too.
You’ll Notice Faster Speeds. Every year, Apple puts a newer, faster processor into the latest iPhone, and even if the speed differences aren’t gigantic from year to year, they’re very noticeable between two-year updates. The iPhone 6S appears to be ready for a big jump in processing power, as well as a doubling of RAM that will let you enjoy more apps and web pages without the need to re-load. Even between the iPhone 5s and iPhone 6, the improved app loading speed and 3-D performance are obvious when you try to go back from new to old. It’ll only be better with the iPhone 6S.
You Might Not Need Your iPad Any More. Between the larger screen, faster processing, and better battery life, the iPhone 6 (and particularly the 6 Plus) seriously undercut the value of iPad minis and even some full-sized iPads. Many iPhone 6 Plus users have reported that their iPads began to gather dust once they had a 5.5″ screen to use on the iPhone. Depending on the way you use your tablet, you may well agree.
Split Screen iOS + Landscape Mode. The iPhone 6 Plus expanded the iPhone’s support for landscape-orientation apps, sometimes letting the screen split in two panes and — for the first time — including a landscape Home Screen orientation. If you’ve ever felt like you didn’t want to hold your iPhone upright after passing the Lock Screen, you’ll find that the 6 Plus (and 6S Plus) make that a lot easier than earlier iPhones.
Apple Watch Support. Depending on how old your iPhone is, you may find that the iPhone 6S is your first device with support for the Apple Watch. As fans of the Apple Watch will attest, the iPhone is handy for tracking your activity, adding Apple Pay cards and Passbook passes, and sharing all sorts of data with your wrist. Even if none of this appeals to you, support is there if you change your mind in the future.
Force Touch. My colleague Mark Gurman has explained how Force Touch on the iPhone 6S will let you take one-press shortcuts through iOS apps that previously required multiple presses and hunting through menus. Apple will detail the feature when the new iPhone is unveiled next month, but you can safely expect to see very cool uses of a pressure-sensitive screen that will make traditional iPhone displays feel old.
Color Options. Depending on the age of your iPhone, you may be upgrading from a white- or black-only model, a silver, gray, or gold model, or a plasticky model to the iPhone 6S. If rumors pan out, this will be the first time an iPhone is available in pink metal — otherwise you’ll have the ability to get the latest tweaked gray, gold, and silver variants, this time made from a more resilient aluminum alloy than past iPhones.