​iPhone 6s Plus review: Apple fans deserve a better phablet

Everything great about an iPhone dogged by a body too big

Apple iPhone 6s Plus
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
  • Apple iPhone 6s Plus
  • Expert Rating

    3.50 / 5

Pros

  • Powerful CPU and GPU combo
  • 3D Touch streamlines navigation
  • TouchID finger scanner leads the market
  • Higher resolution cameras
  • Excellent battery life

Cons

  • Needlessly large form factor
  • Primary camera could still be higher in resolution
  • Expensive

Would you buy this?

  • Best Deals (Selling at 1 store)

This phone has appeared in our Which phones have the best cameras? list.

A discussion would’ve taken place during the development of the iPhone 6s Plus. “Do we retain the iPhone’s identifiable styling or make a comfortable phablet,” would’ve been asked. A credible question worthy of serious consideration.

The first time Apple increased the display of its iPhone, it redesigned the smartphone’s body to accommodate. The departure in design language was radical and undoubtedly influenced by user comfort.

It would make sense then that an iPhone with a 5.5-inch screen would adopt a style to suit the increase in size, but the iPhone 6s Plus, the successor to the 6 Plus, is proof Apple would rather side with its identifiable design language than make a smartphone that is easier to live with.

Every measurement deems it a monolith. It is taller than Xiaomi’s Mi Note, wider than Samsung’s Galaxy Note5 and heavier than Motorola’s Moto X Style, and yet all of these smartphones have a larger screen than Apple’s phablet.

Adding insult to injury are harsh, straight lines. All of the aforementioned smartphones liberally adopt accommodating curves for a more comfortable fit in the palm. Each one aspires to politely share your space. The 6s Plus does not. Its design is intrusive and it demands fingers conform to its shape.

Using 3D Touch to access a shortcut menu on the iPhone 6s Plus
Using 3D Touch to access a shortcut menu on the iPhone 6s Plus

Apple has developed a whole software feature dedicated to hedging the annoyances brought about by its size. Double tapping the home button triggers ‘reachability’, which shifts the screen’s content halfway down. Here, the software comes to you.

This feature is somewhat unique to Apple’s phablet, and that’s because the design of most 2015 phablets deem it redundant. Reaching the top of an LG G3, which too has a 5.5-inch screen, is substantially easier.

Read more: Strike now while Apple iPhone 6s prices are cheapest or face paying more

Many buy a complimentary case that doubles as a wallet, choosing to carry less money in order to compensate for the 6s Plus’ size. Needless to say, this Apple smartphone does not come cheap. Outright pricing for the 16GB variant starts at $1229 outright.

What a waste of an opportunity. And a let down for longtime fans of Apple, who would’ve fallen in love with the convenience of the iPhone’s smaller profile in its early days.

3D Touch in action on the iPhone 6s: from SMS to flightpath
3D Touch in action on the iPhone 6s: from SMS to flightpath

Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, is among the most — if not, the most — aesthetic. The version running on the 6s Plus resembles that found on Apple’s iPad as apps split into two panes in landscape orientation. The homescreen and native applications, such as the messaging app and the mail app, have an extended functionality as a result. And because Plus versions of Apple’s iPhone have a higher 401 pixel-per-inch density, it looks all the more attractive.

Separating the 6s Plus from its predecessor is the introduction of 3D Touch. Pressing firmly on the screen can either generate a preview or act as a shortcut between two different applications. This feature both streamlines how an iPhone is used and intuitively anticipates upcoming needs. Going from an address in the browser to GPS directions happens in a single gesture, for instance.

One feature in particular makes the iPhone 6s Plus an attractive buy. Built into its supersized enclosure is a 2750 milliamp-hour battery, and although it is 5 per cent smaller than the battery equipped in last year’s model, it is 39 per cent larger than the one in the 4.7-inch iPhone 6s. The result is above par battery life. In our testing, the 6s Plus would last 35 hours on average.

Further differentiating the Plus from the smaller iPhone is a key camera component. Its 12MP rear camera comes with optical imaging stabilisation, a module which steadies the camera to reduce blurring. It reaps rewards by allowing more light to enter the lens.

The beauty of the camera in Apple’s iPhone is that it can capture good photos easily. Like the iPhone 6s, this smartphone excels at taking daytime photos, with the increase in megapixels making room for more detail and its aptitude for colours rendering landscapes in a wide gamut of vibrant hues.

Photos taken as the sun sets continue to impress. Ample light highlights plenty of detail without washing out colours. There is a tendency for photos to look grainier due to a rise in image noise, particularly during night shots; however, these photos can still be used comfortably on Facebook and Instagram.

Taken with the iPhone 6s Plus
Taken with the iPhone 6s Plus
Taken with the iPhone 6s Plus
Taken with the iPhone 6s Plus

Joining the improved primary camera is a 5 megapixel front camera. The increase in resolution is joined by a software flash, which works well identifying a scene’s ambient lighting and then by flashing just the right colour for the occasion.

Beyond the larger screen, bigger battery and a better camera lies an ordinary iPhone 6s. Like its sibling, the 6s Plus is powered by Apple’s A9 processor, along with its motion (M9) co-processor. This year’s variant has double the RAM at 2GB and comes in internal storage options of 16, 64 and 128-gigabytes.

Running 3D Mark’s ice storm unlimited benchmarking test reveals the 6s Plus is among the highest performing. Its score of 27,622 trails only behind the iPhone 6s (28,348), and is greater than the results yielded by Sony’s Xperia Z3 (18,841), LG’s G4 (18,862), Motorola’s Moto X Style (19,509), HTC's One M9 (21,123) and Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge (22,248).

Internet speeds are similarly fast. The smartphone’s compatibility with Cat6 LTE gives it a theoretical maximum speed of 300 Mbps, provided it is coupled with the right network. It supports 23 LTE bands globally, which makes it an appealing choice for anyone keen on travelling.

A speedtest performed in our North Sydney offices with an Optus SIM card yielded promising results. The 6s Plus achieved a maximum download speed of 21.3Mbps and an upload speed of 3.3Mbps.

The iPhone 6s Plus is a phablet undermined by compromise. There is no one iPhone that has excellent battery life, a large screen and a body that is comfortable. The ordinary 6s is stumped by mediocre battery life, and although the 6s Plus excels in this regard, its enormity discounts its appeal as a smartphone. People locked into Apple’s ecosystem will have to live with one of these shortcomings, and this is why the phablet space remains dominated by Android.

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Read more on these topics: Apple, iPhone, iOS 9, 6S Plus, 3D Touch
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