Tested: iPhone 6S long-term review

EDGAR gets its hands on the latest piece of kit from Apple.

Peter Iantorno October 22, 2015

We're testing out the new iPhone 6S over the long term. To read the review chronologically, scroll to the bottom of the page and work your way up. Keep checking back for updates. 

December 10: Power struggle

Battery life is a bone of contention for just about every smartphone on the market today and that is no different with the iPhone 6S. The truth is, despite Apple’s claims of ever improving power consumption, under heavy use – running lots of apps, using the internet and GPS, watching videos and talking on the phone throughout – the battery simply doesn’t have enough juice to survive the day.

It’s certainly a shame, however realistically, any phone that is as sleek and slender yet powerful as the 6S is always going to lack the battery life for prolonged use. Gone are the days when your Nokia 3210 would last you a full week’s worth of polyphonic ringtones and regular high-score attempts at Snake; if you want the latest tech packed into a tiny handset, you’re going to have to compromise somewhere.

In fairness, on a regular working day, we found the battery life of the 6S to be sufficient for everything we needed, generally dropping below 20 per cent on most days but always lasting a full day on a charge the night before.

There are, of course, options for those heavy users who need more than a fully charged battery to see them through the day. Apple’s recently released power pack – the AED 379 Smart Battery Case – will provide enough juice to last most users a whole weekend when combined with the phone’s normal battery. However, the unsightly bump it adds to the back of the phone will undoubtedly put many off.

On balance, battery life of the 6S, as with any other leading smartphone, is always going to be an issue for heavy users, but for most people who aren’t using their phones 24/7, the battery is absolutely fine.

November 5: The need for speed

After getting to grips with the new headline features such as 3D Touch and Live Photos, we have found that it is actually the little things on the 6S that make the biggest difference. 

For example, the fingerprint Touch ID is twice as fast on the 6S as it is on the 6. The speed of the fingerprint sensor might not seem like a big issue if you are a 6 owner, but after using the 6S for two weeks, the unlocking process on our old 6 feels tortuously long in comparison. 

And the Touch ID isn't the only thing that's faster on the 6S, as it is equipped with Apple's new A9 chip, which delivers 70 per cent faster CPU performance than you get on the 6. 

Again, the processing speed of the 6 is hardly slow, but after using the console-class 6S for a couple of weeks, where everything is absolutely instant even with all our favourite apps running at the same time, the upgrade really does become apparent. 

October 29: Live Photos

As well as the 3D Touch technology, the next most notable upgrade on the 6S is a new feature called Live Photos. Pitched as "a new way to relive your favourite memories," this feature transforms your normal 12MP photos into mini videos by capturing the moments just before and after you hit the shutter button. 

Our first thought upon hearing about the Live Photos feature was that it is novel, yet not entirely necessary - and after a couple of weeks of using the phone, we can conclude that our instincts were true. 

While taking Live Photos does result in capturing the odd cute or funny moment that would otherwise be missed in a normal image, the vast majority of Live Photos end up either blurred and out of focus, or just boring videos of people posing for pictures.

On the upside, though, when you do manage to capture a good Live Photo, you can use it as your screensaver, which looks pretty cool, and it can also be viewed by anyone using the latest version of iOS even if they don't have a 6S.

October 26: 3D Touch

The headline innovation included on the 6S is the presence of 3D Touch technology, which basically means that the screen reacts differently according to how hard it is pressed.

When we heard about this feature we feared a super-sensitive screen leading to an erratic user experience, with little control over the phone’s functions, however, thankfully this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The first time we witness 3D Touch in action is when scrolling through our emails. Using a new feature that Apple calls ‘Peek and Pop’, we are able to preview or ‘Peek’ at an email with a light press and then if we decide we want to open it fully we simply have to press a little deeper to ‘Pop’ it up. This can be used on messages, too, and we can see it saving a lot of time. 

While Peek and Pop is certainly handy, a part of the 3D Touch technology that we found even more useful is the new Quick Actions feature. This allows us to do all the everyday functions – make calls, send messages, take photos etc. – much quicker and in fewer steps, often straight from the homepage.

The only issue we can see with this at the moment is that there are still a few third party apps where this function hasn’t been developed yet, but Apple has opened this technology up to developers and the major ones such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have all incorporated it already.

October 22: First impressions

First things first: Yes, the iPhone 6S looks quite a lot (read: exactly) like the iPhone 6. But let’s not condemn the 6S as a pointless pseudo-upgrade just yet, because while Apple’s marketing slogan, “The only thing that’s changed is everything” is probably slightly wide of the mark, beyond the aesthetic, it seems that the 6S might actually be packing a few fairly significant improvements over the 6.

Before we even switch on the 6S, we notice that it feels decidedly sturdier than the 6. At 143g, it is slightly heavier than its predecessor, and this extra weight can be put down to the all-new 7000 Series aluminium used for the case – the same stuff that is used in the aerospace industry. The cover glass on the screen is also new and claimed to be the toughest ever – although we don’t dare drop it to find out.

Details: AED 2,599 (16GB), AED 2,999 (64GB), AED 3,399 (128GB). Visit apple.com/ae