Pros: Improved speed, better cameras, always-on Siri, and pressure-sensitive 3D Touch display compared to last year’s 6 Plus. And it has slightly better battery life, a bigger higher resolution screen, and optical image stabilization for photos and video that can make a difference.
Cons: It’s really big. It costs more than the smaller iPhone. Other phablet-sized phones offer longer battery life.
In General: The iPhone 6S Plus has a few key advantages that give it an edge for serious iPhone users, but its big body still may not fit for a lot of people.
Just like last year, the new iPhone 6S Plus and iPhone 6S are nearly similar except for a few key advantages on the larger model. The Plus gets you a 5.5-inch display instead of the 4.7-inch one of the iPhone 6S. And while the Plus’s camera sensor and resolution is identical to that on the smaller iPhone, it adds optical image stabilization, which can deliver more blur-free photos in certain light conditions (especially if you’re zooming). Unlike last year’s Plus, that stabilization works when shooting videos, too. And you get a bigger battery that lasts just a bit longer. It costs more, but its perks are worth it if you’re a mission-critical user of your phone camera.
For some people, the Plus might not be too big at all. But for many others it is. There’s nothing wrong with a 5.5-inch screen, but the 6S Plus — like the 6 Plus before it — seats that screen into a phone that has a larger top and bottom bezel than many big-screened Android phones. End result: it’s wider and longer than similar 5.5-inch competitors, albeit thinner. See the photo below for comparison, next to the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and last year’s Nexus 6. The Note 5 is a tiny bit less wide and tall, but has a larger 5.7-inch screen. The thicker and ever-so-slightly wider Nexus 6 has a 5.9-inch screen.
You do get a 5.5-inch 1,920×1,080 resolution display instead of the 4.7-inch 1,334×750-resolution screen of the iPhone 6S, which matters mostly for photos, videos, and Web browsing. You can fit a bit more of everything on screen at once, as long as apps take advantage (many do, some still haven’t upgraded).
Super-powered with 3D Touch and better speed
Know that the new A9 processor and double the RAM (2GB) from last year’s iPhones means faster-feeling system speed, and apps that load better when you swap between them. And the extra perk of always-on Siri means that, especially for drivers, hands-free operation works even the phone’s not plugged in.
3D Touch is the promise of a whole new type of interaction with the touchscreen; this phone has a pressure-sensitive display that does different things when you press in with your finger. Everything from pop-out menus to previews of Web links before you open them, and a growing library of apps and games that are starting to make the most of this tech. It can measure a whole range of pressure gradients, which means this could be used for sketching and art apps in particular. On a larger-screened tablet-type phone, that could get very interesting. At the moment, however, 3D Touch is more subtle additions and potential than anything eye-popping or world-changing. It’s definitely worth keeping an eye on, however, because iOS is bound to transform to take advantage of it down the road.
Battery life: Better than the smaller iPhone
Over a regular day of use, the Plus got enough juice. It’s an all-day experience. On the iPhone 6S, towards the end of the day, you’ll need to consider power-saving or recharging.
The battery run test, which uses a video loop played back on the phone in airplane mode, lasted 11 hours, 54 minutes. The iPhone 6S (non-Plus) lasted 10 hours, 30 minutes. That doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but in everyday, real-life use it amounted to a last-through-the-day experience, versus a need-to-recharge one. However, last year’s iPhone 6 Plus running iOS 8 ran for longer on that same battery test: 13.3 hours. And there are plenty of larger-screened phones packing larger batteries that last longer than this. The Plus is the longer-life iPhone, but like the smaller 6S, it could still do better.
A note on different processors in the iPhone 6S
It turns out that this year’s iPhone 6S A9 processor has been sourced out to two different manufacturers, meaning your iPhone 6S (or 6S Plus) could either have one or the other. According to Apple, battery performance between the two variants (TSMC and Samsung) only varies by around 2 to 3 percent. Others online are reporting varying performance difference. Testing has been done with iPhones containing both types of chips, and will be updated. The review iPhones had processors made by TSMC. So far we haven’t seen anything worrying.
Some apps still don’t take advantage
It’s about a year since Apple introduced a Plus-sized iPhone, and still find a lot of apps that never bothered to optimize for its larger-screened, higher-resolution 5.5-inch screen. Some still don’t allow for landscape mode or clever semi-split-screen functions, either, like you see in some of Apple’s core apps like Mail. Instead of pushing for unique features, a lot of apps seem to settle for more subtle upgrades.
Does that make the Plus less desirable? I don’t think so. The Plus is really about that extra size and resolution for Web browsing, reading, games and videos/photos.
Conclusion: If only this phone were a bit smaller
You’re paying up for the Plus, and if you consider what it offers, the $100 increase — £80-90 in the UK, AU$150 in Australia– at every storage capacity versus the 6S isn’t unreasonable. (As with the smaller iPhone, skip the entry-level 16GB model, and pay up for at least the 64GB version.) But it also means a more expensive iPhone, and I still say that most people don’t need its extra perks. Its speed and performance, except for battery, are largely the same as its smaller sibling.
If the Plus shaved its bezels down and got just a bit smaller and more hand-friendly, maybe this would be the ultimate phone. You actually do want an iPhone somewhere in between the 6S and 6S Plus — perhaps a 5- or 5.2-inch screen, but very little of anything else to get in the way. Could it happen? Lets hope so, in the iPhone 7, which should get a redesigned body.
Or, if the dimensions of the Plus shrunk down a bit to accommodate that large screen in a slightly smaller frame. It could happen, especially if the home button were removed (or shifted).
If you’re a serious iPhone user or someone who relies on their phone camera for work, you should get the Plus. If you can live with its size.