24 Hours with the iPhone 6s Plus

I have now been officially using my new iPhone for 24 hours. I spent a lot of time peeking, poking and otherwise kicking the tires. Here are some initial thoughts:

6s vs. 6s Plus

There was much gnashing of teeth last year over whether to get the big one or the small one. I too was flummoxed. Never have I had so much trouble deciding between two products. Initially I bought the big one and then I traded it in for the little one. When the iBooks Store began supporting my iBooks Author books on the phone, I bought a used 6 Plus so I could test and make sure the books looked okay on it. I had intended to sell the used phone back but in the meantime my wife fell in love with my iPhone 6 and I found myself with little choice but to keep the 6 Plus. So last year I ended up spending eight months with the small phone and four months with the big phone. After all that time, I realize that there really isn’t that much difference. With the bigger phone, it’s a little more difficult to carry in your pocket and with the little phone you get slightly less battery life and the text is smaller. This time I didn’t sweat it. I just ordered the big one.

Buying Options

The new variable in the mix this year is exactly how you buy the new phone. Carriers are no longer interested in contracts and there are several options for purchase from a variety of sources. I’ve been happy with my service from AT&T throughout my iPhone ownership but at the same time I’m not all that eager to get in long-term relationships with them. So I decided to buy it from Apple. In that case I had two options: either buy it outright or buy it on on the Apple upgrade plan. Since the upgrade plan price was the same (I was going to add AppleCare plus regardless) I ended up on the Apple upgrade plan. This gives me the option to upgrade it next year if I want, although I probably won’t. (In my family I hand down the phone every year to one of my daughters.) So I bought a space gray 6s Plus with 128 GB. The storage size may raise some eyebrows but I put a lot of media, photos, and video on my phone and (in my mind at least) it’s cheaper to pay an extra hundred dollars to avoid screwing with storage allocation for the next year.

3D Touch

I’ve heard from several sources that Apple spent years perfecting this feature before adding it to the phone. That shows. It was remarkable to me how quickly peeking and poking became second nature. Using 3D Touch in mail seemed like a gimmick until I tried it. Now it is a “thing” for me. If I see a mail in my inbox and I’m not sure what it is, I peek at it. An interesting feature is the ability to apply the swipe gestures while peeking at an email. It depends on your settings but for me swiping to the left deletes the email and swiping to the right allows me to move it to a different mailbox.

3D touching app icons to get immediate access to specific features and makes performing common tasks in your favorite apps easier than ever. It’s the most significant addition to spring board since the arrival of folders. I’ve now put my camera back on my home screen because it’s so easy to hard press on it and then select whether I’m shooting a movie, selfie, or traditional photo. It’s definitely faster than opening the app and swiping around to the appropriate camera.

One more example of 3D touch that still make me giggle like a school-boy is on the iPhone keyboard. If you press it hard and start moving your finger around, it moves the cursor as if you are on a trackpad. Press just a little bit harder and begin selecting text. Do this once and you will never be able to go back to the old way of selecting text. (It’s going to kill me that I don’t have this on my iPad.)

Live Photos

Live photos are strange feature. I’ve taken a bunch of live photos at this point and while they are fun, I wonder if they are a novelty. I do, however, like the idea of looking back at some of these pictures in a few years to catch just a few seconds of my daughters being silly while I took their picture and wish I had something like this of them when they were younger. An interesting notes is that you can send live photos to other iPhones (I tested it with my daughters 5s) and they display with a long tap.

The implementation is a little spotty. When viewing a live photo with a hard press, the screen goes blurry and then start showing the video. The delay and blur feel pretty odd. Likewise, the quality of the images in the video are not particularly good. I found it hard to keep things in focus even while resting the phone on a stable surface while taking the live photo.

My wife, who is not a nerd, loves live photos and has been using it nonstop since she got her phone. I think it is her big thing with the new phone. That makes me wonder that maybe I’m reading this wrong and non-nerds will really embrace live photos. If they do, I hope they are doing so on something bigger than the 16 GB entry-level iPhones.

Touch ID

I’m more impressed than I expected to be with the new Touch ID speed. It is so fast that I barely see the lock screen. When I wanted to test a live photo as my lock screen wallpaper, I couldn’t get to the lock screen because Touch ID was unlocking the phone so quickly. Instead I had to use the sleep-wake button on the side.

The New Camera

Every year the iPhone camera gets iteratively better. With the big move from 8 to 12 megapixels this year, I feel a lot more comfortable taking wide shots with the knowledge that I can zoom in on them later without losing too much image integrity. The camera quality of the iPhone 6 was pretty good to begin with. Taking pictures outdoors with good light, I couldn’t see much difference between the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6s. In low light however, the difference was noticeable. While the iPhone still is not going to replace your SLR or mirrorless camera, as a carry around camera, it’s pretty amazing. The below gallery shows some images I took last night at Disneyland with the new camera and some comparison shots with the iPhone 6 Plus camera. All images are not edited.

Comparison of the new front facing “selfie” camera isn’t fair. The new camera is far superior with the 5 megapixel sensor. The screen-as-flash feature really works and doesn’t make you look blown  out.

I did some tests for the amount of time it takes to take a photograph. I saw no noticeable difference between the 6 and 6s. However, the 3D Touch interface does let me get to the appropriate camera much faster than the old iPhone did.


Between the RAM (iPhone now has 2 gigabytes of RAM) and the A9 processor upgrades, the iPhone 6s is a screamer. I’ve only began to scratch the surface on this but I can already see that jumping through multiple tabs in Safari, downloading and updating a large OmniFocus database, and making alterations to photos are all noticeably snappier on the new phone. 

The most interesting story about the performance improvements for me is not what I can do today but what will happen tomorrow. With mobile devices approaching “desktop class” processing speeds, how much more awesome can app developers make the mobile devices. The powerful apps demonstrated by Adobe and Microsoft at the Apple event are just the tip of the iceberg. I expect in a couple years we are going to have a lot more “power” mobile apps available to us. 

There still are a lot of questions about how developers can create that market in the current “race to the bottom” pricing wars but there is no question the hardware and evolving touch interface can support a more advanced class of software. I can’t wait to see how this turns out.


One of my daughters is currently rocking her iPhone 5S and doing just fine with it. Nevertheless, every year the iPhone evolves and gets a little better. This year’s iteration feels like it has evolved a bit more than iPhones in the past. If your current iPhone does not support 3D Touch, you’re missing out. That doesn’t mean you have to upgrade though. Using a three-year-old iPhone is perfectly adequate and fully supported by the current iOS 9 software. All that said, with their own upgrade plan, Apple has made it easier than ever to get into the new iPhone and I expect a lot of people will be doing just that.