iPhone 6s owners won’t care if the iPhone 7 is faster

iphone 6s iPhone 6s plus application load times load
Credit: Steven Max Patterson

iPhone 6s users won’t care that the iPhone 7 will be much faster. Its A10 SoC that will power the iPhone 7 will be much faster based on projecting the Geekbench3 benchmarks of the A10’s predecessors by Primate Labs. On average, the A10 could be 50% faster than the A9. But for most apps, iPhone 6s users won’t perceive the speed.

Benchmarks don’t matter, Visual Reaction Time does

Benchmarks like the one run by Primate Labs below are useful for comparing processors but not application performance. Benchmarks do not account for the user’s interaction with the device. The A10 performance projections were made based on the average incremental performance improvement of A6 through A9.

apple a10

How Visual Response Time was measured

YouTube game reviewer Mad Matt TV posted two videos showing speed comparisons between the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 6s Plus: one that compared the execution time of various apps, and the other that showed the time for the fingerprint reader Touch-Id to unlock both devices. There's no question that in most tests the 6s Plus won, but except for a few apps, users won’t perceive the difference.

The chart at the top of the story compares the difference in load times of the apps on the iPhone 6s Plus to its predecessor the 6 Plus. The comparison of the performance of the iPhone 6 and 6s can be expected to be very close. The difference is measured by comparing the completion times of the app load times in the videos measured in hundredths of seconds. To give the response times context , the red line represents the mean visual reaction time (331 milliseconds, or about one-third of a second; 331 milliseconds was cited as the mean visual reaction time in a paper titled Comparison between Auditory and Visual Simple Reaction Times in Neuroscience & Medicine.) Visual reaction time is the time to perceive a visual stimulus and react, which researchers generally peg at 300 to 500 milliseconds. If you want to explore this idea further, you can test your visual reaction time on this website.

The performance differences in three apps were below the visual reaction time, and two more were near the visual reaction time. Only three apps, Apple App Store, Apple Maps and Angry Birds ran perceptively faster.

With a few exceptions such as high-end games, app developers don’t build apps to take advantage of the fastest, newest phones. Quite the contrary, they optimize apps to run well on most phones shipped during the last two years. A recent visit to Facebook’s automated mobile testing lab showed how Facebook monitors and tests new software releases to make sure that performance doesn’t become sluggish or battery draining.

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There is too much competition among app developers to let app performance drift because users will uninstall the offending app and install a better performing one like it. In most cases, the speed and performance differences between the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s are barely perceptible. The performance of the iPhone 7 compared to the iPhone 6s will probably be the same, meaning iPhone 6s users will need other incentives than performance to upgrade.

Apple will need to offer other incentives to motivate iPhone 6s users to upgrade

The iPhone 7, like its predecessors, will be beautifully designed. The new design and probably a new color will show that a user has bought the newest most fashionable iPhone. Buying an iPhone 7 is a waste of money for iPhone 6s users unless they have opted into the one-year upgrade plan when they bought the iPhone 6s.

On Sept. 7, Apple will tout the A10’s feature size shrink to 14-nm, faster clock rate, and benchmarks, not the barely imperceptible app performance compared to its predecessor. Apple isn’t growing the number of users of its phones, so it has to convince them to upgrade.

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