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Deep dive review: The iPhone 6S Plus delivers the goods

Michael deAgonia | Oct. 19, 2015
Top-notch performance, better cameras and the arrival of 3D Touch make it a great choice.

There are all sorts of ways to take advantage of 3D Touch, and it's not just limited to built-in apps. Developers can also use the tech for their games, and there are drawing apps that change the sketch based on the pressure you use while you draw. Under Wallpaper in Settings, there are now nine choices in the Live section, six of which are beta fish in three black and three white backgrounds; the remaining three are variations of clouds/smoke. Select any of these for the lock screen and they'll animate when pressed.

Live Photos

That brings us to Live Photos. When this feature is enabled -- by tapping the circle icon dead center on the top of the Camera app -- and you take a still image, the phone also records video and audio from a second-and-a-half before you took the picture and a second-and-a-half after. When you press on the photo that was created with Live Photo, the result is something straight out of Harry Potter: Photos that animate a bit before settling back into a still image.

In practice, the effect is sometimes really cool -- other times, it's clear that the video isn't at the same resolution as the image and the 15 frames-per-second (fps) video comes across choppy and jumpy. In my initial look at the iPhone 6S Plus, I said that I wished Live Photos were 24fps and a little higher quality. After spending more time with the feature, I also wish the transition used wasn't a fade/dissolve. It's too jarring, given the high quality of the images and video the new iPhone is capable of.

One last thing: Live Photos can be used on the lock screen and, like Apple's Live Wallpapers, can be animated with a press. Also, if you're on an iPhone and receive a Live Photo -- say, from a text message or email -- you can still see the animation by pressing and holding the photo even if you don't have 3D Touch.

Better camera systems

The new iPhones both sport cameras with notably better specs. The rear iSight camera can now shoot 12-megapixel images with 1.22 micron-pixels, and can now shoot panoramas up to 63 megapixels. Otherwise, things are pretty much the same as last year.

In the Camera app, there are options for burst mode and timer photos, and there is still fast autofocus with Focus Pixels, plus face detection and geotags. HDR mode remains a great option if the background and foreground offer too much contrast in light, and the True Tone flash -- for better color matching in low light -- is still here. Don't be surprised to see a lot of noise in low-light photography, though.


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