Apple has finally released its much awaited iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus in India just in time for the festive season. There have been mixed reactions regarding the pricing strategy Apple has gone ahead with. Considering this is the ‘s’ variant of the iPhone, you will barely see any design changes on the outside, but there are a lot of architectural improvements under the hood.
Apple has released its phones at a time when the market is flooded with flagship phones from its Android competition. Although that is not such a concern for Apple as we have seen over the years from its sales numbers, the offerings from Samsung, Sony and even the Nexus line are nothing to scoff at. So let us check out the Apple iPhone 6s Plus 128GB variant and see if this is the flagship phone to go for.
Build and Design: 8/10
The first thing that strikes you as you hold the iPhone 6s Plus in your hands is that it doesn't look much different from its predecessor, the iPhone 6 Plus. Considering this is the ‘s’ variant of the iPhone release cycle, external changes are minimal. This time however, Apple has released a Rose Gold variant of the iPhone 6s Plus which we got for testing. For all practical purposes, this is a pink phone with a fancy name.
Thanks to the taptic engine housed inside the phone for the 3D touch interface on the display, the iPhone 6s Plus is slightly thicker and heavier than the iPhone 6 Plus. It weighs around 192 grams and is 7.3mm thick. This is the only differentiating element as far as design is concerned from the previous generation.
Apart from this you have the same rounded edges and corners with the white patches for better radio reception. The metallic volume rocker buttons are placed on the left hand side just below the notch to silent the ringer, whereas on the right hand side you have the power/standby button. On the front, you have the 5.5-inch full HD display and the circular home button at the bottom. On the base edge there is the charging and data transfer lightning port with the 3.5mm audio jack on the left and speaker grill openings on the right hand side. The camera on the rear side protrudes out slightly from the plane of the body.
Apple has used Series 7000 aluminum in the construction, so hopefully there will not be any ‘Bendgate’ issues with this iPhone. As has always been the case with Apple’s metal unibody phones, the build quality is top notch on the iPhone 6s Plus as well. But having tested a lot of 5.5-inch and 5.7-inch Android smartphones, we’ve got to say that the iPhone 6s Plus is a bit too broad and tall in comparison, thereby giving a lesser screen-to-body ratio.
The bezels at the top and bottom are quite thick when you compare them with the bezels on other Android flagships such as the 5.7-inch Moto X Style or even the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+. This factor becomes particularly annoying when you use apps where to go back you have to tap somewhere in the top region. Sure Apple has implemented the Rechability feature whereby double tapping on the home button, brings down the display from the top, but you can’t keep doing that all the time. One handed use is out of the question, thanks also in part to the slippery finish.
Apple has improved the interior components with this phone. For starters, the iPhone 6s Plus features the Apple A9 chipset which has a 64-bit architecture along with the M9 motion co-processor along with it. The A9 chipset has two cores clocked at 1.8GHz and this is paired with 2GB of RAM. There is a 5.5-inch full HD display which Apple calls Retina display.
The phone runs on Apple iOS 9 and by the time we got done with our review, it had already upgraded to 9.1. We will be speaking more about the OS in the software section. There is a single nano SIM card slot on the right hand side edge. The home button on the front, also functions as a fingerprint scanner. It comes with Touch ID version 2 which makes things a bit more faster than the previous generation iPhone 6 Plus.
The iPhone 6s Plus comes in three storage variants - 16GB, 64GB and 128GB - our test unit being the 128GB variant. It is still a surprise why Apple still has the 16GB variant, specially now with its Live photos feature which we will get to in a while. As usual there is no provision to expand the storage.
On the camera front, you get a 12MP rear camera and a 5MP front camera. It comes with all the expected connectivity options - 4G/LTE support, Wi-fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and also features Assisted GPS and GLONASS, Digital compass.
Apple iPhone 6s Plus comes bundled with iOS 9 which is now upgradeable to iOS 9.1. This is a light OS by Apple standards occupying just 1.3GB of space on your phone. Apple has refined upon iOS 8 with this iteration. Let us take a look at some of the interesting features on the phone.
3D Touch is one of key USPs of the iPhone 6s series. It basically lets you activate functions by applying a mild pressure on the phone’s display. There are certain Apple apps as well as some third party apps, applying pressure on these apps’ icons brings up some contextual menus. For instance, if you press on the camera app, it will slide out four options such as Take Selfie, Record Video, Record Slo-mo and Take Photo, which you can select by just sliding your finger. It basically ends up saving a couple of navigational steps - a sort of right click for the phone if you may.
Every 3D Touch optimised app will throw up menus which are contextual. For instance hard pressing on the Twitter app will let you directly post a tweet, or hard pressing on the Phone app will let you directly add a contact. If an app isn’t optimised for 3D Touch, then the icons will start jiggling, waiting to be moved around or uninstalled. This will definitely take a couple of days to get used to, but it really adds a lot of value to the overall experience. Even hard pressing on the left hand edge of the screen will pull up the app switcher, which is generally triggered by double pressing the home button.
The other trick of 3D Touch is this Peek and Pop interface. This lets you press lightly to ‘Peek’ into something - basically getting an overview and then pressing harder to ‘Pop’ into it. For instance if you are in the Mail app, you can press lightly and get a preview of the mail and pressing harder will take you into the mail. While you are peeking, you can slide up to take actions such as Reply, Forward and so on.
With links in messages, you can peek into the link without leaving the message and if you find it important enough, you can pop into it. You can even long press on the keyboard and it becomes like a trackpad letting you quickly correct that typo you made while typing a long document. It is only a matter of time before more third party apps use the 3D Touch feature to their advantage. As compared to Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+’s dual curved displays, the 3D Touch offers a lot more productivity.
Apple’s voice assistant Siri has been around for a couple of generations now. With the iOS 9 Siri responds quite fast and we liked the fact that it could pick up Indian accents without any issues. Of course, do not attempt searching for directions using the Indian road names. Apart from doing regular tasks such as setting reminders or alarms using Siri, you can now also ask contextual questions such as, “Show me the pictures I shot yesterday” and Siri will open your Photos app showing you the pictures you shot the day before. Proactive search is another feature which lets you search for terms across your phone's contacts, apps as well as on the web and based on your usage, the phone throws up relevant information even before you ask for it. Something similar to Google Now.
A lot of the Apple iOS 9 features such as News app, Transit maps, Apple Pay are not available in India. You can try out the 3 month trial of Apple Music for free before Apple starts charging you Rs 120 per month. Beats Radio can be heard for free. Floating notifications let you respond without leaving your current screen.
Apple iPhone 6s Plus sports the same 5.5-inch retina full HD display that was seen on the iPhone 6 Plus. This gives you a pixel density of 401ppi. The viewing angles are quite good and unlike the AMOLED displays that we have seen, the display on the iPhone 6s Plus does not have any warm tinge to it, in fact it is quite balanced in terms of colour reproduction. The display is glossy so that can be an issue if you have a direct light source behind you. Otherwise there are no issues. For an LCD display, the contrast levels are superb. Deep blacks are still better on the Samsung flagships though. But be it watching movies, playing games or going through photographs, the display on the iPhone 6s Plus really shines.
The major innovation on the display is the new interface called 3D Touch as we've spoken before. It works in tandem with the Taptic engine that is housed under the display. The 3D Touch is different from a long press and will require the user to apply some pressure on the display. The display on the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus is pressure sensitive and based on the amount of pressure applied, it will respond with a vibration.
This is possible thanks to the capacitive pressure sensor under the backlight. Below these sensors you have the Taptic engine. which is able to recognise the amount of pressure being applied and throwing up contextual menus accordingly.
In the Android side of things, we are always hearing about octa-core processors, more GB of RAM and so on. Apple has never really played the numbers’ game and with the kind of wonderful integration between the hardware and software, it does not need to. The iPhone 6s Plus works as a flagship phone should. There was absolutely no lag when opening or switching between apps, animations were smooth and even when playing heavy games such as Asphalt 8, Modern Combat 5, we barely noticed any dropped frames. Things just ran smooth!
The phone does get warm while playing heavy games or shooting 4K videos, but it never heated up the way some Android phones have in the past. The dual-core processor paired with 2GB of RAM gave impressive scores on the synthetic benchmark tests that we ran. Please note that there are two A9 variants - one put together by Samsung and the other by TSMC, we tested the Samsung one. While the Samsung made one is based on the 14nm process, TSMC one is made on the 16nm process and according to Apple there is a 2-3 percent performance difference between the two in some benchmarks. But there is really no way for buyer to know it before hand if the chipset is made by Samsung or TSMC. In terms of real life performance there isn’t much of a difference.
When compared with the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, the iPhone 6s Plus got a relatively lower score in AnTuTu, but the GFX Benchmark gave 59 frames per second, which is almost double the frame rate seen on the S6 edge+. All other benchmarks gave the iPhone 6s Plus a superior score. The Geekbench 3 single core score of 2528 is almost 1000 points higher than the single-core score on the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+. No two ways about it, this phone is fast on all counts.
Call quality on the phone was excellent with sufficiently loud earpiece speakers. The response of the TouchID was quick, much quicker than the fingerprint scanner we’ve seen on the Galaxy S6 edge+. In fact it is so quick that you will most likely miss out seeing notifications on lock screen when you activate the phone by your finger print. But even if there is a little bit of moisture on either the home button or on your selected finger, the phone will not respond. The sound quality on the speakers was good, they are sufficiently loud and do not distort even at higher volume levels.
The Apple iPhone 6s Plus has finally retired its 8MP sensor and we see a brand new 12MP iSight camera on the 6s iPhones. The pixel size is at 1.22 microns and the lens has an f/2.2 aperture. The iPhone 6s Plus also features optical image stabilisation that isn’t seen on the iPhone 6s. Even with the front camera Apple has replaced the 1.2MP camera with a 5MP front-facing camera.
Also instead of adding a front-facing flash, it has included a mechanism called Retina Flash, wherein the display flashes at a 3x the maximum brightness level, keeping in mind the ambient lighting, thereby lighting up the scene. It is quite an interesting way to click selfies in low light areas. The video camera on the iPhone 6s/6s Plus is capable of shooting 4K videos as well. It also lets you zoom in while shooting in or playing back a 4K video. The 4K video recording mode supports video stabilisation as well. Slo-mo videos can now be captured in 1080p at 120fps and 720p at 240fps.
Live Photos is the new feature on the iPhone 6s Plus which lets you shoot a second of video before and after you have clicked an image. This feature has been seen on Nokia Lumia phones as well as a lot of Android phones in the past. But thanks to the iPhone 6s Plus’ 3D Touch interface, you can see the videos along with audio, by just pressing hard on an image. By default the Live mode is on, but you can disable it. At the moment, you cannot share your Live photos, but Facebook has promised support so get ready for that.
Please note: Click on the images to see the high resolution uncompressed images
The camera has a simple user interface, which an Android convert may or may not like. It is great for someone who does not tweak the settings much, but things like digging deep into the general settings just to change the video resolution, is frankly annoying. Why not have that option in the Camera app itself?
When it comes to camera performance, the iPhones’ cameras have always set a benchmark. With the iPhone 6s Plus, the story is the same. Daylight images are packed with details, with sharpness seen in the centre as well as around the edges. The focussing speed is quick during daytime, however when shooting at night we did notice the phone to be hunting for focus.
We liked the fact that there is no overprocessing of images. When compared with the images from Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, we noticed that the edge+ had a slightly warm tinge. The HDR mode on the iPhone 6s Plus gives wonderfully balanced photographs. There was barely any purple fringing noticed around the edges in brightly lit scenes.
Having said this, Apple is no longer the king of low light photography. We did an extensive test of the iPhone 6s Plus along with the Galaxy S6 edge+ and Moto X Style where you can see the output. We will be conducting similar tests when we get our hands on the Xperia Z5 as well as the Nexus 6P.
Images coming out of the iPhone 6s Plus had more noticeable noise than that of the Galaxy S6 edge+, but because it was luminance noise, it did not look so bad. The low light image quality is still better than many Android flagship phones we have seen this year. But on the whole the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+, rather the S6 series, has shown better noise control and image quality in low lit conditions.
With the new iPhone 6s Plus, you can now shoot 4K videos which is pretty much in line with most flagship Android devices. It also offers you the option to shoot full HD videos as 60fps. Thanks to video stabilisation, the output is quite good, with lot of detail.
Apple hasn’t specified exact battery capacity in its specifications sheet, but a quick online search tells you that it houses a 2,750mAh battery. Most of the Android flagships that we have seen off-late, have over 3,000mAh capacity batteries. But having said that, iOS 9 claims to have some battery optimisation features which ensure you get a good battery life.
In our testing, we noticed that the standby battery life was quite impressive, showing just a drop of a few percentage points when left unattended overnight. In our daily usage, the phone easily lasted us for 14-16 hours on regular usage involving surfing the web, streaming audio and video, clicking photos, calling, messaging and playing games. With the iPhone 6s Plus, you also get a Low power mode, which will try to keep background tasks such as Hey Siri, automatic downloads and so on to the minimum. You can activate it at anytime or the phone prompts you to activate if after your battery level falls below 20%. On your own you cannot set the critical battery level to turn on the Low power mode. Unfortunately, there is no fast charging or wireless charging capability on the iPhone 6s Plus.
Verdict and Price in India
Coming to the price. Well, the iPhone 6s Plus 128GB variant is priced at Rs 92,000. It is certainly an excellent phone and the 3D Touch execution is truly innovative. Live photos, 4K video recording, a generally fast user experience is what makes this phone stand out from competition. Sure there are some flaws as well such as limited scenarios for one-handed use, digging into general settings for things which could’ve been implemented in native apps among them.
The price of Rs 92,000 makes it the most expensive phone we have tested in the last couple of years. If price is not a barrier, then go for the iPhone 6s Plus 128GB. But if you are already an existing iPhone 6 / 6 Plus user, hold on to your money for a year and wait for the iPhone 7 instead. Unless you absolutely cannot wait to have a phone with 3D Touch, as that apart from a faster overall performance, is the advantage the 6s Plus offers over the 6 Plus.
For those of you considering getting the iPhone 6s Plus, but are not too keen on shelling out Rs 92,000, the next best option is the iPhone 6s Plus 64GB variant at Rs 82,000. Yes, ridiculously high price again, but that’s what you get with this generation of iPhones. Do not even think of getting the 16GB iPhone 6s Plus or 6s for that matter. The live photos and 4K videos will fill up that storage in no time. It’s a real pity that Apple still has that as a base storage option.
Compared to last generation iPhones, this year there has been close to Rs 8,500 to Rs 10,000 price gap in the phones’ launch prices. Apple blames the dollar fluctuation for it. But if you are an Android user pondering to move over to the iOS ecosystem, we feel the iPhone 6 / 6 Plus still offer more value for money, relatively speaking. Sure you will have to forego the 3D Touch, but why not make a couple of more taps on your phone and end up saving almost Rs 20,000. Agreed, that someone willing to spend over Rs 50,000 on a phone would keep experience above everything else, but still!
On the Android side of things, the Apple iPhone 6s Plus has good competition in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S6 series of phones. If productivity is what you are after, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 priced around Rs 64,000 for the 64GB variant is another option to consider. We have to still test the Google Nexus 6P and the Sony Xperia Z5, which also offer top of the line feature sets at much lower prices in comparison.