If you follow me on social media you know that I’m an avid user of multiple mobile operating systems, Android, Windows Phone and iOS. My current lineup of devices I own personally is, iPhone 6s Plus, Samsung Galaxy Note 5, Moto X Pure, Apple Watch, Moto 360 V2, Lumia 545, Lumia 745 and a handful of Android tablets. I have no loyalty to any of them, I tend to use iOS more as it syncs well with my primary PC, my MacBook Pro Retina. So I tend to try and make my reviews as balanced as possible and this is my iPhone 6s Plus review.
UPDATE: The scores for this review have been updated as the black screen of nothing issue has been resolved. The reviewer had to setup the iPhone as a new iPhone which resolved the issue. While this isn’t the ideal solution we have bumped our review score from 3.8 to 4 out of 5 stars.
The Black Screen Of Nothing
So having had my iPhone 6s Plus now for a few weeks there is something of great concern to me with this phone. I usually start off reviews by touching on design, hardware, features, software and all that jazz. But I felt that I would be doing everyone a disservice if I didn’t start off by pointing out one of the most glaring issues I have been experiencing with this phone since I have had it, the black screen of nothing.
Within the first day the phone shut down by itself and would not respond to either the power button or the home button, the screen remained black…dead. Of course this concerned me as the iPhone 6s Plus is not a cheap device by any stretch of the imagination. So I checked for a software update and noticed iOS 9.0.2 was waiting in the wings to be installed so I went ahead and proceeded to do that. I was fairly confident that Apple likely fixed the issue with this new software update and went on about my days ahead. After a few days of clean operation I was pleased not to have had any issues but that didn’t last very long. I was back to having to hold the power and home button down (hard reset) to get the phone to power on at all.
Within a few days of installing 9.0.2 the phone started its most interesting habit of shutting off and not responding. Needless to say this is very frustrating to have happen to any device. A few days later, we reported that Apple had commissioned two different chip makers to produce their new A9 chipset, Samsung and TSMC. Due to the demand for iPhones Apple had to outsource 40% of the chip manufacturing to Samsung in order to make enough material to produce the amount of phones the company projected they needed. The problem with this is, the Samsung and TSMC chipsets aren’t built equally as Justin Jelinek explained in our coverage:
Teardown and reverse engineering site Chipworks found the two different processors during their teardowns of the iPhone 6s. From their findings the Samsung A9’s are on 14nm chips while the TSMC’s are 16nm. The TSMC is also very slightly larger than the Samsung, coming in at 104.5mm2 vs. 96mm2.
The differences do not end there, however. In a series of tests run independently of one another, it seems that the Samsung chip has some problems. Some users found that the Samsung chip drained the battery faster, while others found it ran hotter than the TSMC chip. To add further insult to the Samsung chip, other tests found that the TSMC A9 chip ran slightly faster than its Samsung counterpart.
As I write this review now, my appointment to visit the Apple Store is set and I plan on getting a replacement this week, hopefully with the TSMC chipset. I felt this part of the review had to be at the beginning because it was a large part of my experience with this phone. This experience alone could be a deal killer for some users, while some of you may desire to take the risk on getting one anyway. Now let’s move on to the rest of the review.
The iPhone 6s Plus design hasn’t changed much over the previous version, the only real major change and overhaul was the use of 7000 series aluminum over the 6000. The reason for the upgrade in aluminum was to prevent another bending issue that the last generation had before. The addition of a heavier aluminum is very evident here, the phone is noticeable heavier (not twice as heavy but noticeable). It also gains a bit of thickness due to the aluminum and the addition of 3D Touch.
Overall the design remains the same to the eye, in the hand there is a difference in how it feels but just looking at it, you won’t see much of a difference. As I said last year, the protruding camera is fairly unattractive and the antenna lines on the back casing are butt ugly. Of course most people will be housing their phone in a case so that wouldn’t matter to them. But I like to look at my phones out of cases from time to time and part of buying an iPhone is to admire the design. I just don’t admire this design as much as I would have liked to.
One other thing I’ll touch on here is that 7000 series aluminum and extra thickness actually makes the 6s Plus much easier to handle than the 6 Plus. The phone does feel much easier to hold and less prone to slipping out of the hand which I appreciated very much as I do like to run my phones naked from time to time. Overall the design when it comes to aesthetics still lacks what I expect from Jony Ive and Apple. On a functional level, the design is better than last years model as the build quality is better and it feels much better to hold without dropping.
The iPhone has always had a very nice display since it started in with its Retina panels and this display is no exception. At a full 1920×1080 the IPS display is crisp and clean. There is no oversaturation and colors are represented nearly realistically. Watching movies on the 6s Plus is great and playing games is equally an awesome experience. The display performs well in bright sunlight though as with any display there will be a bit of glare or trouble viewing.
While I tend to usually say that other flagship phones are on par with the iPhone on a yearly basis, I’ll have to stray from that conclusion this year and say that the Samsung Galaxy Note 5’s screen is just slightly better than what Apple produced this year. This doesn’t mean Apple’s panel sucks, it just means they didn’t work as hard as some others did. You’ll still get tons of enjoyment and good use out of the iPhone 6s Plus display.
The arguments circling throughout the tech communities over this is mind boggling. Of course you have the Android camp saying that Android has had this for years then point to an indie developer making a simple APK that will “prove” it. And of course you have the Apple camps declaring yet another innovation of technology in Apple’s favor. It’s all very boring to be honest with you, reading the back and forth between two sets of fanboys is like…well it’s like this gif to the right here.
The fact of the matter is, it’s a little bit of both. There are a lot of haptic type technologies involved here which have been around on Android for a long time. The biggest difference is that Apple layered haptic technology (which they call the “Taptic Engine”) and created some really slick software to work with that hardware. Of course there are those reading this that aren’t even going to read on but have their Wikipedia and xda-developers sources all cued up for troll responses because they simply cannot deal with someone else doing something cool, I won’t waste my time responding to childish comments so don’t bother.
3D Touch is the single best new feature on the iPhone and it’s better than I first gave it credit for. Yes Apple is using tech that has been there but it is doing it in a new way. While Huawei attempted to show up Apple by releasing their Force Touch on the Mate S just days before the iPhone event, theirs is nothing like Apple’s version. Apple’s software is what makes this work really well and it’s done very well. 3D Touch works by pressing down on the screen to interact with it, no this is not long press that is totally different and is still present here. You can still long press the screen to have some interactions such as deleting apps from the homescreen. 3D Touch takes it a few steps further in.
A short firm press is what Apple refers to as a Peek, this allows you to see a compatible link or app in a quick floating window of sorts. If you push down in even firmer you get what Apple refers to as a Pop, this opens up the link, app, photo whatever into a full window. 3D Touch is by far my favorite new feature that Apple put into the new iPhone and it does have many uses and does save time in certain applications. Overall 3D Touch is something you’ll have to play with to really get used to and understand but I think once you do you will enjoy what it has to offer. I will say that if you’re currently using the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, upgrading to the 6s version isn’t worth it for 3D Touch right now. I would wait until the iPhone 7 when even more apps will be taking advantage of the feature and it will likely be a little more polished.
I’ve very rarely had any performance issues with any of my iPhones (the 4s and 5 series had some issues) and that trend continues with the iPhone 6s Plus. While I have experienced the Black Screen of Nothing, other than those random shutdowns, everything I run on the new iPhone runs smooth and without any issues. Gaming is great, Need For Speed was fun to play on this screen and with the 2GB of RAM it runs smoothly. The added RAM was put in to optimize the performance of 3D Touch but it doesn’t hurt to have that little extra for other things that you run. Of course you have those Android fanboys who swear that Apple is still playing catch up. My advice is to tune that drivel out. Nothing will work as well as their own chosen OS and nothing is as good as their chosen OS and there is no argument against that as far as they’re concerned. Better to tune out someone who is ignorant enough to presume Google and Android have it nailed while Apple doesn’t, that is just pure fanboyism and people like that should be avoided. Overall the performance was spot on, when the phone wasn’t randomly shutting off as I explained in the opening of this review.
iOS 9.0.2, what can I say about that, it’s iOS. If you’re coming from an iOS device you’ll have no issue as most everything is the same as before. Sure there are some added features and apps but iOS as an operating system hasn’t really changed all that much since the start. I’ve said this before and I maintain that Apple needs a drastic aesthetic overhaul of iOS and they need to allow users to customize the look of the OS to their liking. The chances of that happening are slim, but hey, they finally relented on bigger screens so I’m optimistic.
The next significant upgrades on the iPhone are both the rear and front facing cameras. The front shooter gets a bump up from 2MP to 5MP and the rear shooter goes from 8MP to 12MP.
The new rear camera can now take video in 4K as well, something that Android has had for a bit now but is still irrelevant to 99% of the population. You can’t even watch those brilliant 4K videos on the phone to truly see 4K, the same with Android phones, it’s just really worthless at this point. Not to mention it eats up more space when you record in 4K. I’m not going too in depth here as many people have covered these cameras, you can watch Phone Dog’s video review after the break here for more. I will say though, if you’re thinking of upgrading to the iPhone 6s Plus from the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus because of the camera…wait for the next iPhone. The pictures taken here are nice but last years model still takes just as good pictures.
The new iPhones have a smaller battery in both cases but I don’t think it’s impacted the battery life as much as I thought it would. I typically unplug at 5:00am and use my phone lightly until 3:00pm after which I use it heavily until 10:00pm and I generally have 10-20% left on the phone. The most draining time for my phone are those late afternoon into evening hours. Battery life is always going to vary on any phone, mostly because we’re humans and we don’t always do the same things everyone else does.
This review got rather lengthy and a bit ranty as well so I apologize for that, but here’s the bottom line: I love my technology, I love my Android phone and I love my iPhone, they are equally good devices and they will get done what you want done. No device is perfect, no operating system is flawless (anyone who says otherwise has an agenda).
The iPhone 6s Plus is not a worthy upgrade over the iPhone 6 Plus, I would recommend waiting for the 7 if you’re using a 6 now. That being said, if you’re rocking anything that’s 5s or below, then this is absolutely a great upgrade. As far as moving from Android to iOS, that is something on a whole other level. Both operating systems have their pros and cons and both device ecosystems have ups and downs. If you have the means or can find a way I highly recommend you just test drive BOTH operating systems for yourself. Don’t rely on the Internet to steer you one way or the other, it’s often filled with trolls and fanboys and what matters the most is how you feel about the device you use. Use whatever mobile OS’s you can and make your own determination as to which works best for you and your needs. THAT is what matters in the end, NOT how someone else uses their devices or how they operate their lives, it’s how YOU do those things.[rwp-review id=”0″]
*We reviewed a retail unit of the iPhone 6s Plus purchased by the reviewer
Last Updated on November 27, 2018.