iPhone 6S Plus Review

To put it bluntly, the iPhone 6S Plus is the best iPhone I’ve ever owned.

There are models of iPhones that were more fun when new. I shot a ton of video on my 3GS, and of course, the 4 was a breathtaking piece of engineering and design.

Back in the spring, I wrote about switching to the 6 Plus. All the good things about the bigger phone — the display, battery life, camera and more — are just as important to me this time around.

The 6 Plus wasn’t perfect, however. With just 1 GB RAM, it struggled under load. It had been years since I saw an iOS device stumble like the 6 Plus could, and it got old quickly. Those extra pixels were just too much for the internals to handle at times.

The 6 Plus was like that kid at prom who clearly just borrowed one of his dad’s suits. It was passable, but not great.

With the S in the name — and in that stupid box on the back of the phone — the Plus is out of its awkward stage.

2 GB of RAM means multitasking is smooth. Audio doesn’t skip when Safari tries to reload a tab. Camera.app opens quickly, every time.

It’s kinda insane that I just wrote that sentence in 2015, of course. But the reality is that Apple’s gotten this phone right this time around.

On the outside, the 6S Plus looks like the outgoing model, but the aluminum and glass are stronger than before, and the whole thing weighs a touch more than last year.

As I wrote in my first impressions, I like the additional 20 or so grams that the new case, cover glass and display have brought. The phone isn’t heavy, but it is solid. It feels great in the hand. It still fits in Apple’s leather case from last year, but I’m using it caseless most of the time.

3D Touch is no gimmick. While I have adjusted the sensitivity to the lightest setting, its taken just a couple of weeks to make things like Quick Actions and the Peak/Pop combo to become part of my muscle memory. Zooming around the phone really is faster than ever, and added with iOS’ new context-aware back buttons, I feel like I see the home screen less and less.

The accompanying taps from Apple’s Taptic Engine are brilliant. Not only do Peek and Pop’ vibrations feel great under your thumb, since the Taptic Engine replaces the old, much harsher, vibrate motor. The 6 Plus vibrator was garbage; this thing is simply great.

Live Photos are interesting. I like the context they add to them, and I like that they are playful, but the implementation needs work. The UI blurring when loading them feels really jarring, and sharing them to other apps and devices is still just broken in many cases. I know that broader support will take time, but until then, I’m almost hesitant to shoot a lot of Live Photos.

The camera itself is great, as usual. I haven’t shot much in 4K, but when I have, its buttery-smooth. Still photos are better than ever; that upgraded sensor allows for a lot more details than before.

When Apple announced the iPhone 3GS, it was said that the “S” stood for speed. In my head, that’s been the case ever since, and the 6S Plus continues that tradition. Past the additional RAM, the new A9 chipset is crazy fast. Things like games, applying photo filters and just navigating the UI are notably faster. While — like all performance increases — this feeling will wear off, I’m still surprised by it while doing familiar tasks.

The chipset isn’t the only thing faster on the 6S Plus. TouchID is crazy fast. A simple tap is enough to unlock the phone. I have to remember to hit the power button if I want to skim my notifications, since simply bumping the home button doesn’t work anymore to wake up the screen: the phone unlocks instead. While I appreciate TouchID improving, this seems a little too fast at times.

I know the Plus isn’t for everyone, but it is for me. The 5.5 inch, 401 ppi display isn’t just beautiful, but I find the additional space (and increased battery capacity) useful as this is the most-used device I own. Thankfully, every year, my pocket computer gets better, right on schedule.