Long-term iPhone 6s Review: We re-review Apple’s iPhone 6s for 2017, to see if time (and iOS 10) has been kind on this excellent 4.7-inch smartphone. Should you splash out on the iPhone 7 or is the iPhone 6s a worthy and more wallet-friendly option?
It’s kind of terrifying that the iPhone 6s is already well over a year old. This was Apple’s second stab at a 4.7-inch phone, improving in many ways over the game-changing iPhone 6 despite looking exactly the same. Most of the specs were updated in some way, primarily the 12-megapixel iSight camera and 5-megapixel FaceTime camera, as well as that nippy new A9 processor of Apple’s own creation.
Of course, Apple phones don’t tend to drop in price too quickly, and at the time of writing (January 2017) the iPhone 6s still starts at £499. That’s only a hundred quid cheaper than the £599 iPhone 7, which launched at the tail end of 2016.
So should you pay top dollar for the more recent iPhone 7, or save yourself a little bit of cash with the still really rather good iPhone 6s? Here’s our full iPhone 6s re-review to help out. And check out our iPhone 7 hub for all you need to know about Apple’s latest handset.
Long-term Apple iPhone 6s review: Design
When it comes to look and feel, the iPhone 6s is your typical Apple handset. You don’t get the new emo-friendly black finish of the iPhone 7, but the silver, gray, gold and pink hues give you plenty of variety, while the phone still feels great in the hand.
In fact, the iPhone 6s feels pleasingly compact compared with the influx of massive 5.5-inch Android phones, and of course Apple’s own Plus-sized model. You can use it comfortably with a single mitt and the curvy edges sit neatly in the palm, without digging.
For the past year-and-a-bit I’ve had my iPhone wrapped in a leather cover, because I’m absolutely terrified about the screen smashing to bits. After all, Apple’s devices are among the most expensive smartphones out there. However, that metal casing is still reassuringly rugged whenever I slip the iPhone 6s out, and certainly not prone to scratches.
One of the drawbacks of the 6s compared with Apple’s latest iPhone is the lack of water resistance, although it’s rarely an actual issue. The 6s is still pretty splash proof, so can be safely used in a bit of rain (albeit with a bit of breath-being-held apprehension during particularly heavy downpours). In fact, the only time I miss that water resistance is when I enjoy a deep bath, Alan Partridge style, and want to piddle around on the web at the same time.
Long-term Apple iPhone 6s review: Screen and media
Of course, one advantage that the iPhone 6s has over the iPhone 7 is its headphone jack, still taking pride of place on the bottom edge. If you’re not a fan of Bluetooth headsets or irritating adapters, preferring to stick to your quality 3.5mm ‘phones, then that’s a serious relief. Personally I just hook up some LG wireless earphones anyway, which do a solid job.
I’m still a fan of the iPhone 6s’ Retina screen too. Although it doesn’t have the same wide colour gamut of the newer iPhone, it’s still perfectly sharp and pumps our pleasingly realistic images. You’ll definitely be satisfied if you watch plenty of video on the move.
This was also the first iPhone (alongside the iPhone 6s Plus) to introduce 3D Touch, which even a full year on is a criminally underused feature. Despite offering a whole new dimension of control, it’s only really useful for the occasional app shortcut – as you’ll see from our best uses of 3D Touch feature, which kind of scrapes the barrel until you can see the dirt beneath.
Media fans who don’t have a big data allowance should look to the 128GB model, as the 32GB iPhone 6s fills up in no time at all; especially if you shoot a lot of video. It’s a shame there’s no 256GB model, like you get with the iPhone 7. It’s also a shame that microSD memory cards aren’t supported, like with many Android phones. However, that 128GB of space has only filled up a couple of times in my year with the handset, prompting a lot of backing up and deleting of home movie footage.
Long-term Apple iPhone 6s review: OS and features
The iPhone 6s has actually improved since launch thanks to iOS 10, an updated version of the operating system that runs on all of Apple’s mobile devices.
For a start, it actually made 3D Touch part-way useful, by introducing support for hard presses on the lock screen. Prod a message and you can reply to it there and then, for instance. You also get an improved Control Center with plenty of useful toggles and shortcuts, as well as updates to pretty much all of Apple’s apps.
Check out our complete guide to iOS 10 for more info.
Apple’s TouchID fingerprint sensor is still one of the better fingerprint scanners out there, although my home button is getting a little creaky after 14 months of use. That’s where the iPhone 7’s haptic feedback sensor definitely has the advantage, despite feeling weird at first. Here’s hoping the button doesn’t get completely knackered in the coming months, but I’ll definitely be going easy on it.
Of course, you can also use the TouchID sensor to authorise your Apple Pay purchases as usual, which is a neat little time saver.
Long-term Apple iPhone 6s review: Performance and battery life
Like the best Android phones out there, the iPhone 6s hasn’t shown any signs of ageing in the past year. Apple’s A9 processor is still more than capable, even when it comes to blasting through the latest games or editing home movies on the fly.
Read next: Android vs Apple, which phones are the best?
Battery life hasn’t been impacted by the various software updates or general ageing either – at least not in my experience. I can still get a day and a half of general use from a single charge, or roughly a day if I start to use apps like Skype or kill time with some gaming on the go. Not exactly a stunning effort, but not a bad one either.
Apple’s handsets tend to boast strong longevity, so we’re expecting the 6s to handle Apple’s iOS updates for a while longer. It certainly shouldn’t struggle with iOS 11 unless something goes horribly wrong, and that won’t be hitting your iPhone until October 2017. Which means if you bag yourself an iPhone 6s now, it should still be running quite smoothly by the end of 2018.
Long-term Apple iPhone 6s review: Cameras
Although the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus sport a new, updated 12-megapixel iSight camera, we’re still big fans of the iPhone 6s’ 12-meg snapper.
By shunning manual controls and making the thing as easy as possible to use, Apple has produced one of the best smartphone cameras for the everyday user. The lens snaps onto your subject in double-quick time and can take floods of photos with zero delay. Best of all, your photos almost always come out looking great. Results may suffer in low light, something improved upon by the iPhone 7, but in every other test the iPhone 6s was pretty much just as strong.
Check out our iPhone 7 camera review vs earlier iPhones for full samples and our analysis of how the iPhone 6s stacks up for shots.
Of course, the iPhone 7 Plus has a strong advantage over the iPhone 6s with its funky dual-lens setup, including a telephoto lens that boasts proper optical zoom. Check out our full iPhone 7 Plus camera review for more info.
You can also record up to 4K Ultra HD resolution video on this older iPhone, but we’re sure that 99 percent of users don’t even know it. After all, the option to turn on this feature is buried away in the iPhone 6s’ settings menu, rather than easily accessible through the camera app. That’s one of our only complaints about this otherwise excellent snapper.
Flip the iPhone 6s around and you’ll find a solid 5-megapixel FaceTime camera, which is brilliant for Skype sessions (and the odd inevitable selfie). It’s sharp, adjusts well to dodgy lighting and even has its own ‘flash’ feature (which lights up the screen to illuminate your mug). Great stuff.
Long-term Apple iPhone 6s review: Verdict
The iPhone 6s is still a fantastic handset in 2017, offering solid performance, strong optics and a reliable and comfortable design. Even though it’s already been succeeded by the iPhone 7, we heartily recommend bagging yourself the 6s if you see it on offer from one of the UK networks.
You can buy the iPhone 6s from O2, starting at £41 per month on contract.