Early iPhone 6S reviews: Apple's got another winner

Early iPhone 6S reviews: Apple's got another winner

As I await my iPhone 5 replacement -- a shiny new iPhone 6S -- to make its way from the FedEx facility in Tennessee, I'm stuck reading early access reviews of the new Apple smartphones. And while my motivation to get the phone was driven more by my son's push to get my current phone than for me to acquire a new one, the reviews now do have me looking forward to getting my hands on the 6S.

I've been most interested in the iPhone 6S's improved camera, 12mp on the back camera and 5mp on the front (not that I'm a big selfie guy). Early reviews are that the cameras are better and that the new Live Photos feature (think Harry Potter moving paintings) is more gimmicky than addictive.

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The Verge's Nilay Patel writes:

Apple CEO Tim Cook says he thinks Live Photos will be "a new form," but more people will have to be able to watch them before they can blossom as an entire kind of media. Right now, you can share Live Photos with anyone using iOS 9, WatchOS 2, and OS X El Capitan.

Reviewers also warn that Live Photos, which when turned on captures one-and-half seconds of action before and after the photo image, takes up twice as much space as normal photos. So you might want to only turn it on when you really think you might like to use it.

I don't spend a lot of time thinking about my iPhone 5S's performance -- I'm still scarred from using a BlackBerry for browsing in what I wish was a more distant past. -- so the iPhone has served me just fine. But I'm glad to hear that the iPhone 6S performance is stellar.

Christina Warren from Mashable delivers an extensive review, and loves the performance powered by Apple's dual-core A9 CPU, which the company says is 70% faster than the previous edition of the CPU:

Historically, Apple doesn't like to overly tout the specs of its phones, focusing more on what they can do rather than clock speeds. Still, by any objective measure, the iPhone 6S is a beast.

The iPhone 6S is fast. It’s theoretically faster than anything on the market and in practice, it never lags and never stutters. It won't be a noticeable difference if you're on an iPhone 6 — except when it comes to web browsing.

Unfortunately, that power boost doesn't really extend to battery life, reviewers say.

In fact, Wall Street Journal's Joanna Stern dives right into lack of battery life improvements in her review, which is more subdued than others I read.

Let’s get this out of the way first. The No. 1 thing people want in a smartphone is better battery life. And the iPhone 6s doesn’t deliver that.

The 4.7-inch 6s will get you through the day, but you’ll struggle to make it til bedtime with moderate to heavy use. And it seemed to drain even faster than my 6 when I used the new processor-intensive camera features like Live Photos.

Perhaps the biggest revelation I came across in the reviews is that the pressure-sensitive 3D Touch capability is pretty easy to come up to speed on. As someone who has never been as big a keyboard shortcut or finger swiping user as I probably should be, I found this comforting, and can see myself using the peek and pop features depending upon how widely and consistently app makers support them.

Mashable's Warren wrote: 

The learning curve for 3D Touch is very low. The key is to realize you need to focus on pressing hard, not pressing long. Long, normal presses will still work the same as they did before 3D Touch. Once your brain realizes that pressure is the new variable and not the duration of a touch, it becomes easy to use.

You can adjust the strength of 3D Touch in the accessibility settings, setting it firmer or softer.

Buzzfeed's John Paczkowski is also high on 3D Touch, which he describes as a reason to upgrade to the 6S.

Currently, it supports two interactions “peek” and “pop,” with peek calling up a preview of an app or message, or a brief contextual menu, and pop launching the app itself. Each interaction is accompanied by a different tiny vibration that helps you distinguish between them. It is surprisingly useful — particularly for power users who do a lot of work from their iPhones. I’m already using it constantly, and I am impressed with how good it is at interpreting the force of my touch. It’s very much an Apple innovation — a seemingly subtle change so thoughtfully executed that it proves transformative.

Does that also sound like Jobsian hyperbole? Probably. But I think 3D Touch is likely the biggest innovation to the iPhone UI since the iPhone UI. And it’s largely why the answer to the question I posed earlier [should I get an iPhone 6S/] is “yes.”

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