Before today, it was tough to get excited about rumors of a “6s” version of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, given that it probably just meant a faster phone with the same form factor as last year’s models. And to some extent, that’s proven true with today’s Apple keynote. But the company certainly had some surprises for us.
Form-factor-wise, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are the same as before, with 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch versions. But the phones are made of a new 7000-series aluminum alloy that could prove more resistant to the ridiculously named “bendgate” problem from late last year. The displays keep the same resolution, but have a new glass coating that’s stronger than last year’s.
The rumor mill already talked about Force Touch, and aside from the name change to 3D Touch, that has come to fruition; this phone’s display is more interactive than ever before, and could prove a generational leap beyond multi-touch if it works as well as it seems to in the demos. You can lightly tap on an app icon to get some shortcut options right on the home screen, for example, or touch harder on an address to see it on a map. And inside the phone, the new A9 SoC could enable some serious console-quality gaming, at least if you ignore the lack of hardware controls and the fact that you’re holding a small phone instead of staring at a living room television.
For several years now, Apple has really pushed the quality of its iPhone cameras, and the 6s may have the best one yet. The new models finally sport 12-megapixel sensors instead of eight, along with a bevy of hardware and software tricks including “deep trench isolation” to reduce noise and crosstalk that comes with the higher pixel count. The supposedly un-retouched photos Phil Schiller demonstrated on stage looked stunning and exceptionally vibrant for a phone camera, and Schiller talked up the camera’s ability to sort out difficult low-light and mixed-light scenarios while preserving natural color. The company also added 4K video recording and editing.
In addition, Apple is rolling out something called Live Photos, which snap dozens of frames 1.5 seconds before to 1.5 seconds after the “target” time for a photo. Then you can swipe between photos in your phone and see little mini-motion-picture versions that bring your baby, the movement of a waterfall, or the cars moving on a street to life, even though they’re not videos. Sort of. It’s a little confusing to see how this will work in practice, but the potential for unique art here is pretty strong.
The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus will keep the same exact pricing structure as before, starting at $199 for 16GB 6s models and going up to $499 for 128GB iPhone 6s Plus on contract, as well as with monthly payment options available depending on carrier. A new Apple Upgrade Program lets you sign up for a new phone every year along with AppleCare+ for a slight increase in monthly payments. There’s a new rose gold finish, which various Apple executives devoted a surprising amount of the keynote speech to (but hey, color sells phones more than anything else, studies have shown). The older 6 and 6 Plus drop 100 bucks, and the 5s now starts at free for the 16GB version.
Look for the phones to land in stores September 25th; iOS 9 will drop nine days sooner and will be available for existing iPhones.