Muffled by the rumors Apple TV had gone Hollywood and the giggles the Apple Pencil provoked, the latest additions to Apple’s core product line — the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus — had to settle for a smaller share of the headlines coming out of last week’s Hey Siri event.
Although the iPhones received less media attention this year, it was not due to any compromises over quality or lack of forward-facing features.
For starters, Apple flattened any new Bendgate issue before it could arise by upgrading the iPhone 6s line to 7000-series aluminum. The Retina displays are crafted from what Apple called the “strongest display glass on any smartphone,” adding no asterisks to that assertion.
Thanks to improved relations with frenemy Samsung, which maintains several chip foundries, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are fitted with third-generation Apple processor designs. The graphics processing side of the A9 chip is about 90 percent faster than the 6 and 6 Plus’ A8, and its central clock is about 70 percent faster.
There are those camera improvements as well — the ones fans have been demanding and that Apple previously suggested were not all that necessary. While downplaying Samsung’s and LG’s push for higher-resolution cameras, Apple touted picture processing over pixel counts.
The latest refresh of the iPhone steps up the rear camera’s resolution from 8 MP to 12 MP — get ready for another photography campaign! The dated 1.2-MP Facetime camera has been buffed to 5 MP.
Then there’s 3D Touch, which senses the pressure of fingers poking the phones’ faces.
A Fresh Touch
3D Touch, a new way to interact with apps, eventually could have a huge impact on the overall user experience, said Adam Fingerman, chief experience officer at ArcTouch.
“At this stage, without many apps to take advantage of it, we don’t see it as a big driver for consumers to upgrade to the iPhone 6s or convince Android users to switch,” he told TechNews World. “However, it is big news for app developers and will change how we do UI in app projects going forward, giving us the ability to create new user experiences around it.”
3D Touch and its functionality essentially open up a brand new area for Apple, according to tech consultant David Giannetto. However, its rollout could mirror that of the iPhone 5’s Touch ID — that is, its true potential may not be realized right away.
Still, “it’ll give Apple the feedback it needs to make it a really useful feature, perhaps in the next release or the one after that,” Giannetto told TechNewsWorld, “and if they didn’t take this step, they would never get there.”
Alluring or Lackluster?
Despite the marked improvements in the iPhone’s hardware, a stronger lure for existing customers appears to be the company’s new service plan, noted ArcTouch’s Fingerman. Starting at US$32 a month and offered exclusively at Apple Stores, the new service plan offers subscribers the latest iPhones each year and AppleCare+.
Opting for the service plans saves consumers about 60 percent of the cost of stepping up to a new iPhone without subsidies, he observed.
“People who have been frustrated in the past by being locked into 2-year plans might jump at this,” Fingerman suggested, “and if you’re already someone who upgrades every year, it’s a no-brainer. Second, the improvements to the camera and the new Live Photos feature made for a pretty compelling visual demo — and might persuade a few consumers who were on the fence that it’s time to leap.”
Some current iPhone users and potential Android defectors may be hesitant to adopt a phone with what appear to be incremental feature improvements, but the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus just might turn out to be landmark releases for Apple, according to Giannetto. “Everything going on behind the scenes is a real leap forward.”