Many people will surely label the iPhone 6s as a minor update over last year’s phone, quickly dismissing it just because it’s an “S” update. In some ways, the new Apple phone is similar to last year’s version. But once you start digging under the hood, you’ll quickly realize that the iPhone 6s series brings a slew of improvements over last year’s model that likely make it the best “S” upgrade in Apple’s history – just look at the comparisons below.
The iPhone 3GS brought us a digital compass, voice control for phone and music features, zoom to read text, video recording support, and photo editing features. Hardware-wise, the 3GS packed a faster 600MHz ARM Cortex-A8 chip, faster graphics, twice the RAM (256MB), fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating and a slightly bigger battery (1,219 mAh).
The device also had a better 3.2-megapixel camera (vs. 2.0 megapixels) with autofocus, auto white balance and auto macro. The iPhone 3GS was the first to launch in a 32GB version.
The iPhone 4s came with Siri support, iMessage, GSM and CDMA cellular support, speech-to-text support, picture-taking during video recording, turn-by-turn navigation, iCloud media sync, iMessage support (working on many iOS devices) and Twitter and Facebook integration.
On the hardware front, the iPhone 4s was almost a copy of the iPhone 4. The device had a better dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 A5 chip (vs. single-core A8), a dual-core GPU, and a bigger 1,432 mAh battery (vs. 1420 mAh). The device had the same dimensions as the iPhone 4 but was 3g heavier (140g vs. 137g).
The iPhone 4s camera brought the 8-megapixel sensor that Apple kept in place though 2014, and Full HD video recording. Apple’s 4s was also the first to come in a 64GB capacity.
The iPhone 5s’ signature new feature was the Touch ID fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button, protected by sapphire glass. Other new capabilities included camera burst mode and panorama mode.
When it comes to hardware improvements, the iPhone 5s brought us the first 64-bit dual-core processor, the A7 chip that was significantly faster than the dual-core A6 found in the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5c. The iPhone 5s also had faster RAM (1GB LPDDR3 vs. 1GB LPDDR2) and a bigger battery (1,560 mAh vs. 1,440 mAh).
The camera of the iPhone 5s brought over an f/2.2 aperture and a dual-LED flash, while the front-facing 1.2-megapixel camera also got an f/2.2 aperture.
The iPhone 5s also brought users a new color option: gold.
The iPhone 6s’ brand new feature is 3D Touch display, a way of interacting with the screen by applying different amounts of pressure with a finger. 3D Touch had a massive impact on design, as it requires capacitive sensors under the screen and a Taptic Engine to provide vibrating feedback. As a result, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are slightly thicker and heavier than predecessors, while battery size had to be slightly decreased to accommodate new hardware components.
One other notable design change concerns build quality. The device is made of more durable 7000 Series aluminum.
Other software features unique to the iPhone 6s include Live Photos, motion wallpapers, 4K video recording, and zoom during video playback.
Specs-wise, the iPhone 6s has a new 64-bit A9 chip that can deliver 80% faster CPU performance and 90% better graphics performance. The M9 coprocessor is built into the A9, making it a chip that’s always on (and enabling always-on Siri support).
The iPhone 6s models have twice the RAM of the iPhone 6, and they have better connectivity across the board. That includes LTE-A support (up to 300Mbps theoretical speeds vs. 150Mbps for LTE), 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with MIMO (double the speed of 802.11a/b/g/n/ac) and Bluetooth 4.2 (vs. Bluetooth 4.0). Even the Touch ID sensor has been improved to provide faster readings than its predecessor.
For the first time since the iPhone 4s, Apple made significant changes to the camera as well. The main camera has a 12-megapixel sensor that can shoot 4K video (also a first) and slow-mo videos, while the front-facing shooter got a 5-megapixel sensor and a “Retina flash.” The iPhone 6s can take Live Photos as well, which are GIF-like animations with sound.
Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus also gets optical image stabilization during video recordings, and the iPhone 6s can take 8-megapixel photos as you record 4K video.
The iPhone 6s also brings a new color to the lineup: rose gold.