Apple newest smartphones, the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus, look identical to their predecessors but add some intriguing new features. The question many buyers are likely asking themselves is if they should purchase one of the new devices or stick to last year’s iPhone 6 or 6 Plus.
In terms of design, the only real change between the new and old models is in build material. Apple is using a new aluminum alloy this time around, and has covered the display with Ion-X glass—the same kind used on the Apple Watch Sport. The company likely wants to avoid any more talk of the 6s and the 6s Plus suffering from bending problems.
Aside from the sturdier build material, the dimensions are almost exactly the same, but the 6s and 6s Plus are slightly heavier at 5.04 ounces and 6.77 ounces to their predecessors’ 4.55 and 6.07 ounces.
The increased weight likely comes from the 3D Touch feature that has been added to the new iPhones. It allows the 6s and the 6s Plus to use pressure-sensitive features like Peek to look at apps without having to open them. Enabling 3d Touch are capacitive sensors that are embedded against the backlight of the phone. Below those sensors is the Taptic Engine, an embedded haptic actuator that creates a buzz in response to the force.
Despite the addition of 3D Touch, the display hasn’t changed. The 6s and 6 have a 1,334-by-750-pixel Retina display with 326ppi. Likewise, the 6s Plus and 6 Plus have 1,920-by-1,080-pixel Retina displays with 401ppi.
All four devices, meanwhile, support iOS 9, but the 6s and 6s Plus get a Touch ID upgrade that Apple said is faster and more precise.
What has changed are the processors and batteries. The 6s and the 6s Plus use the new Apple A9 processor, while the 6 and 6 Plus use the A8. Apple has not confirmed how much RAM is in the 6s, but an iFixit teardown found 2GB, up from 1GB. That will make for better performance on the newer phones, but might not be enough to upgrade.
One odd downgrade is the battery size. According to Apple’s introductory video, the iPhone 6s has a 1,715mAh battery, which is actually smaller than the iPhone 6’s 1,810mAh battery—although Apple quotes the same estimates for battery life.
Aside from the processor, the biggest hardware change is the camera. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have been boosted to a 12-megapixel camera with a f/2.2 aperture and 1.22µm pixel size,compared with the 8-megapixel, f/2.2 aperture, 1.5µm pixel camera on the 6 and 6 Plus. The new phones also have 5-megapixel front-facing cameras, while last year’s models have 1.2-megapixel sensors. It’s not just a matter of raw megapixels. The 6s and 6s Plus are capable of 4K video capture, while the 6 and 6 Plus max out at 1080p. Apple also added a new image signal processor, called Focus Pixels, which improves tone mapping and brings optical image stabilization.
On top of that there’s also Live Photos, which essentially turns each picture into a three-second video clip. Retina flash is another feature unique to the 6s and 6s Plus—it essentially turns your entire display into a front-facing flash to improve low-light selfies.
Overall, there are some promising improvements and changes between last year’s models and the current iPhones. But unless 3D Touch and the new camera are really important to you, you’ll probably be just fine until the iPhone 7. That said, check back soon for a full review of each new phone to see if it’s worth the upgrade.