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Apple iPhone 6s review – mobileFreq
mobileFreq

The title says it all.  The iPhone 6s review is here.

It has taken just over a week, but it’s finally done.

I hope it will do an honest job of representing the iPhone 6s through HTML text.  Having an iPad Mini 2 and praising the heck out of it, I trust that my history with Android devices does not in any way invalidate the following review.

Here we go.

Design

iphone 6s

Where to begin with the design of the iPhone 6s?

I’ll start by saying that it’s fantastic.

That is probably not enough for the design section is it?  Ok I’ll keep going.

The best thing about the iPhone 6s design is that it feels incredible in your hand.  I’m just going to flat-out say that it is my favorite device to hold.  No other device can even come close to it.

Not once did I ever encounter hand fatigue from using it with one hand.  I wish I could have said the same about the LG G4 or Samsung Note 5.

It’s so close to being the perfect size for a phone.  It’s right around 99% of the way there.

I wish that Apple had brought the back of the iPhone 6s up to the top of the camera like the iPhone 5.  Make it thicker.

The camera bulge is unnecessary and they could have opted for a bigger battery.  Also, it seems like it could have been intentional so that you are “forced” to buy a case to have it lie flat on a surface.  If you happen to use the compass app with the level feature, you might notice that even if you put the iPhone 6s on a completely flat table, it will always give you a -1 degree reading.

What is completely necessary are the smooth, rounded corners of the device which, again, make it very easy to hold.  The material is what Apple calls, “7000 series aluminum” and it really gives the iPhone a premium feel.  It has a nice weight to it.  I like it when phones have a sense of being dense because then they don’t come off as being cheap plastic toys.

This new aluminum housing is also supposed to help keep the iPhone 6s from bending like its predecessor.

iphone 6s front

There are four different colors available.  I chose the gold.  The silver and gray versions are too plain nowadays and the red wasn’t quite dark enough.  It may be wishful thinking, but I would love to see Apple embrace their device lineage and bring back the bright blue, lime green, yellow, and red colors of the iPod Mini.  I guess they tried with the 5C, but shiny plastic wasn’t the best way of implementing it.

On the back of the iPhone 6s are two white antenna bands that really compliment the gold color the best in my opinion.  They also look incredibly similar to the HTC One.  Ok the antenna bands are practically the same.

At this point it seems like smartphone design is starting to plateau and it’s only a matter of time before most phones share incredibly similar characteristics.  It’s like the bottom of Samsung’s S6 and Note 5.  Eventually everyone will copy everyone else and I don’t condone this at all.  I want innovation, not imitation.

Speaking of the bottom, the iPhone 6s bottom sports a headphone jack, lightning port, and a speaker.

The speaker is loud and sharp.  It actually sounds really good and kind of changed my perspective on stereo vs mono speakers on phones.  A few times though the speaker’s location came into question because my hand covered it up when watching a video on YouTube.

On the left and right side of the lightning port are two small screws.  Pardon my French, but I freaking love them.  It’s such a simple, but effective feature to make the iPhone 6s radiate a sense of premium.

A volume rocker, mute switch, and a power button are found on the sides of the iPhone.  They feel very durable.

If I had to pick one word to describe the iPhone 6s design it would be “iconic”

Why that word?  Well it looks like an iPhone.  It has the same classic layout of every iPhone before it.  A timeless design.

Apple’s physical home button showcases this the most.  The simple circle at the bottom of the display just screams iPhone, which is good.

The home button is such an integral part of how you use the iPhone and I really enjoyed it.  I still prefer Android’s on-screen keys though mostly due to the back button.

However, since the fingerprint scanner is built-in to the home button I absolutely LOVE unlocking the iPhone 6s by pushing in on the home button.  I wish that every phone on earth had this feature.  It’s quick and it works.

Overall I’d have to be crazy not to recommend the Apple iPhone 6s for its design.  It’s excellent.

Battery

A few days ago Apple released a “smart” battery case that can charge your iPhone 6s to 80%.  This is the first time Apple has ever sold something like it.

That may be an indication of what the battery life is like with the iPhone 6s for a majority of users.

Now it wasn’t terrible by any stretch of the imagination.  While I used it, the battery definitely got me through a day.

My first day of battery testing consisted of normal use.  Texting, Twitter, Facebook, kik, camera, internet browsing and checking email.  I did all of this without the power saving mode on.  At the end of the day I had 53% battery left.  Not too bad!

I taxed it a bit harder the next day by playing a few games, using ESPN Fantasy Football, and other media apps, but made sure to have power saving turned on this time.  When I went to plug it in at night I had about 8% left.  Again, not too bad.

Like all Apple iPhones the battery is internal and cannot be replaced by a user.  Again, I wish that Apple had made the iPhone 6s just a bit thicker so the battery could have been bigger.

Overall the battery was ok.  By no means is it anywhere close to the battery life of my Sony, but I felt more comfortable getting through the day with the iPhone 6s than I did with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

I’m not sure if I can recommend the iPhone for its battery considering the recent release of Apple’s smart battery pack.

Camera

iphone 6s camera

The camera was kind of disappointing.

Apple has been praised in the past for the iPhone camera’s performance.

Complete anecdotal remark coming at you.

I’ve heard way too many people say that they buy an iPhone simply for its camera.

After using it for a week I cannot say that I share those same beliefs.

In darker environments it had a hard time focusing on the subject.

If you were too close it had a hard time focusing on the subject.

It just didn’t “WOW!” me like the LG G4 continues to do.

Below is a comparison of the iPhone 6s taking the same picture that I took with the Galaxy Note 5.  Both photos were taken with HDR set to auto and uploaded to Flickr for the RAW data.  It is a remarkable difference.

Before you think I purposefully lowered the settings for the iPhone 6s, consider this: how would I?

There aren’t any settings to change besides HDR, timer, flash, Live photos, and switching between selfie/back.  If you go into iOS settings there are three more camera preferences that you can change: adding a grid, video resolution, and slo-mo resolution.  Pretty much nothing.

The iPhone 6s camera has only a few settings

The iPhone 6s camera has only a few settings

I will say that the simplicity is nice because anyone from a kindergartner to a senior citizen can pick up an iPhone 6s and snap a picture.

Maybe in the future they will release a software update that allows for “pro” features like LG, Samsung, Sony, and HTC include.  One can hope.

Ok enough negativity, let’s end the camera section on some positives.

The Live Photos are kind of neat, but take some time to get used to.

In well-lit areas the iPhone 6s camera takes really good photos.  The color replication seemed to be absolutely on-point.

Weirdly enough I think the best part of the camera is capturing video.  It was what put a smile on my face the most.

Recording video was very smooth and auto-focused very fast at 1080p 60fps.  I cannot say the same about my Sony Z3v and envy the iPhone tremendously.

Click here to check out the RAW images captured with the Apple iPhone 6s on Flickr with all of the EXIF data!

Overall I get the same reaction I had with the HTC One M9.  It’s not the best camera, but it’s ok and will take sufficient-quality pictures at the end of the day.  However, if you’re looking for camera-first on a phone I’d consider a different device.

Software/features

iphone 6s software

I’m going to keep this section relatively short because I’m planning on doing an iOS vs Android vs Windows Phone review soon.

Using iOS is as straightforward as it gets.

Your apps aren’t “hidden” in an app drawer.

iphone 6s

The iPhone 6s comes with no bloatware

If you want to change settings you simply click the Settings app.

To return to the main screen just click the Home button once, press and hold for Siri.

Swipe down from the top to see your notifications and swipe up from the bottom so you access the quick settings dock.

It’s comparatively easy and I think it is mostly due to Apple forcing you through a long initial setup process so everything is in working order when you’re done.  Android does the same thing, but not to the extent of Apple.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Getting started with the iPhone 6s

Even 3D Touch is easy.  I thought I’d never say this, but this feature is not a gimmick.  Not one bit.

This is coming from the guy who said, “So they basically put Snapchat into iOS?”

There are a few times I don’t really understand what Apple was thinking with 3D Touch (Safari hyperlinks), but 98% of the time I thoroughly enjoyed it.

My favorite uses of 3D Touch include quickly searching for apps from the Home screen, composing a new Tweet, and starting a new note in the Notes app.

Apple’s iOS is also very fast and fluid.

I never encountered a stutter or lag while using the iPhone 6s.  As Apple says in their commercial, “[T]he hardware part makes most of the software part,” and I’d have to agree.  Besides a Nexus, it’s the most harmonious smartphone experience you can get with hardware and software.

Apple Pay is also neat and works fine, but it’s far from revolutionary.  I’ve been using Google Wallet in stores for years on my various Androids.  I’m glad that Apple users now have the option to look like George Jetson in Wegman’s buying groceries.

Another useful gesture is double tapping the home button.  It shifts the top of the screen down so you can access apps along the top row or use features within apps themselves.  I thought the Galaxy Note 5 did it better, but I’m retracting that statement and saying I like Apple’s implementation.

The settings are probably the only thing that isn’t intuitive.  I can’t believe I’m about to say this, but changing your settings is easier to do on an Android than on an iPhone.

Seriously.  Let me repeat.

ANDROID SETTINGS ARE EASIER THAN iPHONE SETTINGS.

Apple has a setting for just about everything and makes Android look like child’s play.  This is great, but also leads to infobesity.

The only thing that makes it less stressful is the search bar because you can find exactly what you need without browsing through the seemingly unorganized list of settings.

The final feature I really liked was the Health app.  On days that I forgot to wear my Garmin Vivofit, I’d just check to see how many miles I walked on the iPhone 6s.

Overall I would have to recommend the iPhone 6s for its software.  Most users are already familiar with iOS and it has pretty much stayed the same since its inception in 2007.  If my 80-year-old grandmother can figure out how to use an iPad it must be user-friendly.

Updates

This is the reason you buy an iPhone 6s.

You were probably curious as to when I’d get to the reason you buy the device, eh?  Well here it is.

Apple knows how to update their devices.  My iPad Mini 2 is receiving updates to this day and I’m sure if you have an iPhone 5 it most likely is as well.

During my time with the iPhone 6s, Apple pushed two updates to the device.  That is more than Sony and Verizon have sent to my Z3v since January.

23548718905_3321d54d9e_o

An Android user’s dream!

I can’t say enough of how much I appreciate Apple for sending out updates.

Known security exploits can quickly be patched and sent out to all iOS users.  I wish I could say the same about Android as a whole.

If you want a phone that will stay updated for a least two years you should buy an iPhone.

Specs

Octa-core (A9) processor: Will it be able to handle gaming and most day-to-day tasks?  Yes.  It is technically a dual core central processor with a six-core graphics processor.

2GB of RAM: Will it be able to multitask and handle intensive gaming?  Yup.  IOS is streamlined and makes the most of the iPhone’s hardware.  It multitasks as well as the Note 5 with 4GB.

16/64/128 GB of storage:  The storage is sub par.  In 2015 no phone should start with 16GB of storage and not include an SD card.  Charging $100 for an extra 48GB is heartbreaking.  Oh and 16GB doesn’t mean you get the full 16GB to use.  It’s closer to 11GB.  C’mon, Apple.

1715mAh battery:  Will it get me through the day?  If you are among the group of “average” users, maybe?  I’m not really sure.  For me it did.  If the new smart battery pack is any sign of “normal” use then maybe not.

Ion-strengthened glass:  Is the screen durable?  In most use-cases, I’d say so.  I’d rather trust Gorilla Glass 4 though.

4.7 inch LCD:  Probably the perfect size for a display and for whatever reason it isn’t 1080p resolution.  I really don’t get it.  Nonetheless it is vibrant and easy on the eyes.

Fingerprint scanner:  The scanner reads your fingerprint very fast. I really enjoyed using it and never encountered any errors.

My least favorite thing about the Apple iPhone 6s is…

…the storage.  I know it’ll never happen, but I just want an iPhone with an SD card.  That’s all.  It can still be 16GB, but I want to be able to store my hi res videos and Live Pictures on an SD card without having to back them up to iCloud.  I also don’t want a yearly subscription fee for extra storage.  It makes no sense.  Paying $50 for a 128GB SD card would be fantastic.

I was left feeling confined and too dependent on streaming services.  I know a lot of users have adopted the streaming lifestyle, but it isn’t for me.

The only good that might come of it is if the majority of users are dependent on streaming their content then maybe wireless carriers will expand their data options per month to compensate.

Consider the following:

Apple adding an SD card or Verizon bringing back unlimited data.

It’ll be a cold day in hell if either of those happen.

My favorite thing about the Apple iPhone 6s is…

…that it’s up-to-date.  For too long have I gotten burned by Android devices and carrier exclusives not receiving updates.  That shouldn’t happen.  Software updates are just as important as new hardware.  Vulnerabilities happen and new operating systems roll out.  As a consumer that is paying several hundreds of dollars on a device, I want the reassurance that the company will take the time to keep working on fixing its bugs for a few years.

A close second is the Apple Store.  If there is anything wrong with it I can easily drive to the mall and either swap out the iPhone 6s or get it fixed.  You can’t get your Android or Windows Phone fixed at AT&T, Verizon, Best Buy, Walmart, etc.

It’s December 11th, would you buy the Apple iPhone 6s?

iphone 6s recap

No and I’m probably going to receive a lot of criticism for this and be called an Android fanboy.

The overall experience with the iPhone 6s was positive.

For the past several years I’ve patiently waited for THE iPhone to come out.  The iPhone that met all of my criteria.  Every year I’ve been left with more Apple gift cards waiting to buy an iPhone.  I really really want one.  I grew up on Apple products since the beige Macintosh.  We were a Mac-exclusive family.  I saw them rise from the brink of collapse and usher in the new era of mobile devices.

You can imagine how frustrated I’ve been with Apple the last few years.  They had such a giant lead in the industry that I’ve expected them to really push the boundaries of smartphone technology.  It’s similar to how a basketball coach expects only the best from his senior point guard who played four years of varsity.

Instead they have scaled back and made marginally “safe” upgrades every year.  I feel like Apple has abandoned who they were, who I know they CAN be, but choose not to.

Pressuring their loyal customer base to shell out $300+ for a 64GB model is depressing.  I really feel for bad for those who were looking to upgrade this year.  I have so much empathy that my stomach turns in a knot and I honestly feel sorry for them because it is like they are stuck between a rock and hard place.  If some heavily invested Apple users decide to switch to Android they will have to buy a lot of their apps over again.

I prefer to protect the consumer than a brand.

If you have the disposable income, then an iPhone 6s with 64GB of storage would be on my list for the holidays if you need an iPhone even though I just said the price hike is poor business.

I hope people can vote with their wallets this year so Apple can turn around with the iPhone 7 and really push us forward.

Until then, I would recommend an LG G4, Sony Xperia Z series, or finding an iPhone on eBay/Swappa.

UPDATE:

I’d like to make a brief update to this post.  I was informed by a reader that Best Buy is selling the Apple iPhone 6s 16GB for $99.99.

Now that is a deal that is worth your investment.  I see nothing wrong with the iPhone 6s costing $100 for that amount of storage and I’d definitely put it on my holiday wish list.

You can also get the 64GB version of the iPhone 6s for $199.99.  I stand by what I said earlier as this is the one you should go for, but don’t buy it from Apple directly because they don’t have this same discount.

I’m not sure how long this deal will last.

Just letting you all know.

I really hope you enjoyed this review.  It was a bit stressful to write.  As always, please let me know what you think in the comments below.

Recent Penn State grad who loves all things mobile. Has a knack for teaching and enjoys a bit of alliteration.

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