Inspect the Tech: iPhone 6s


Brad Leuchte/THE GATEPOST


By Cesareo Contreras


What makes a great smartphone in 2015? Does it need a great camera, all day battery life, a digital assistant? Back in 2007, Apple set the standard for what a smartphone should be and helped change the mobile industry forever.


With the recent release of the iPhone 6s, does Apple still have the distinction of having the best smartphone around? I’ve been using the iPhone 6s for the last couple of weeks and here are my thoughts.


Hardware


The iPhone 6s, like every s model, is identical in form to its predecessor. Although, it should be noted that the 6s is slightly heavier and thicker than last year’s model. Others have reported this is due to the the new 3D Touch display.


Apple has equipped the 6s with its new A9 chip and has also doubled the RAM from last year’s model from one gigabyte to two. Never once did I have any real performance issues, save for the rare times the phone overheated. For the most part, the 6s is a very fast and reliable phone.


In terms of build quality, the phone feels nice in the hand and is solidly built.


Battery life


Battery life on the 6s is nothing special. With medium to heavy use, I can usually get through most of the day. On lighter days, I could go a little longer. However, I usually have to charge the phone at around late afternoon on a heavy day or in the evening on a light one. Apple’s new Low Power mode also helps extend the battery, but in my experience, it didn’t make much difference.


Camera


Apple took the iPhone camera from 8 to 12 megapixels and added a high-resolution 4K sensor, making it a legitimate contender in the photojournalism world and art realm. Its ability to reproduce colors and textures in poor light competes with many DSLRs. In well-lit conditions, the dynamic range, or number of steps between true white and black, is surprisingly wide.


In Apple’s built-in camera app, the settings are always correct, in my experience. I tried it out with an app called “Manual,” and at times it really makes me want to throw out all my bulky lenses and cameras in exchange for something I can fit right in my pocket.


It does have some drawbacks, though. It doesn’t have an optical zoom. This means it basically crops the image to simulate zooming. The native focal length is quite wide though, along with the aperture (f/2.2), which means it can let in a large amount of light and increases its ability to isolate the subject.


The front-facing camera is not as high quality as the back camera, but, by nature, it does not have to be. The resolution is only 5 megapixels, but that’s more than enough for quick selfies and Snapchats.


In addition, there is a new feature called Retina Flash, which switches the screen to all white and boosts the brightness three times above what can be used normally to act as a bash.


The 6s camera also has a new feature that may seem a bit gimmicky to some called Live Photos. This function captures what is happening on the camera three seconds before and after the photo is taken.


Overall, it is a very practical and usable camera. The automatic settings are smart; it produces images in practically any condition and fits in your pocket.


Software


Visually, iOS 9 doesn’t look much different than iOS 8, but this update brings a lot of new features that help refine the user experience. For one, the iPhone is a much more personal and aware device. Siri now can now be activated even when the display is turned off with a simple “Hey Siri,” although that feature is a little hit or miss. In addition, the phone now recommends apps for users to check out depending on the time of day and when a certain action is taken. For example, when I connected my phone to my car’s audio via Bluetooth, a little pop up for Spotify appeared on my lock screen.


Easily the most talked about feature of the iPhone 6s is “3D Touch.” Since the screen is now pressure sensitive, applications have started taking advantage of this new hardware feature. For example, in Apple Mail, if I press down lightly on an email, a little preview window pops up, giving me a quick “peek” into the email. By pressing harder I can “pop” it open.


“3D Touch” is pretty cool, but at the same time, a little gimmicky. Many developers haven’t really taken advantage of it yet, so it will take time before it becomes a killer feature, if it ever does.


Value


The iPhone 6s is an expensive phone – that can’t be disputed.


Even if one does pay for the phone in monthly installments, you still end up paying a very high cost. The base model is $650. I picked up my 64 gigabyte iPhone for about $750, an outrageous price in a world where very capable Android handsets can be purchased for less. Motorola’s Moto X Pure Edition starts at $399, and if one were to bump up the storage to 64 gigabytes, the phone would still be $250 cheaper than a 64 gigabyte 6s.


Even with the iPhone’s great camera, the same great app selection, and great customer support, I find it a little hard to justify why anyone should pick up this phone over a cheaper Android, unless of course you already have a deep investment in Apple’s products.


[Editor’s Note: The iPhone 6s camera was reviewed by Brad Leuchte, Editorial Staff.]



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