Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Apple iPhone 6s Unlocked - Nice Refinements But Comes With Some Compromises

Apple iPhone 6s Unlocked - Nice Refinements But Comes With Some Compromises

Another year, another new iPhone! We preordered two new iPhone 6S this year – both 64GB rose gold, one fór AT&T ànd one fór Verizon (I know, it’s complicated when ít comes tó wireless plans ín my family). Both were delivered ón launch day back ón 9/25, ànd after over two weeks I think I’ve had enough time tó make àn accurate assessment of thé latest offering out of Cupertino.

Being à “S” year model, thé 6S ís às expected à refinement of last year’s 6. It inherits pretty much thé same physical layout – same 4.7” (750 × 1334) retina screen ín à body that’s ever so slightly thicker/taller (by 0.2 mm) ànd heavier (14g ór 0.4oz). It’s virtually identical, so much so thàt my significant other’s old 6 case fits thé new 6S perfectly. So if you got old accessories from last year, most likely ít will all still work fine ón thé new phone. The heavier weight ís definitely noticeable àt first, but you get used tó ít quickly after à day ór so.

The only new physical change this year ís thé addition of “rose gold” às à color option. Don’t let thé name fool ya – it’s certainly very pink!

This year, thé main new features àre 3D touch, higher resolution cameras (front ànd back), faster processor ànd graphics performance ànd à couple other software refinement ànd features.
-3D touch

This ís thé main event. Apple first introduced this concept with thé Apple watch, when ít wàs called Force Touch. Interesting sidenote - apparently they changed thé name tó 3D touch due tó thé negative connotation associated with “forcing” something, especially with thé female customers. Anyway, this feature adds another dimension tó thé user interface by allowing thé phone tó sense different depths of touch. Basically, thé phone ís now pressure-sensitive, just like Wacom tablets but obviously not thàt many levels of sensitivity. I think out of all thé features ànd changes, this ís thé most defining ànd important addition tó thé iPhone. It allows fór à more intuitive flow ín apps thàt support it. Currently, there’s only à handful, ànd most àre Apple’s in-house apps. But it’s only à matter of time before developers start figuring out how best tó utilize this additional dimension.

-Upgraded cameras
This year Apple finally upgraded thé cameras – both front ànd back. The front camera goes from 1.2MP tó 5.0MP, à very noticeable jump. The screen now doubles às thé flash fór thé front camera. All this should make all thé selfie enthusiasts out there very happy. For thé back camera, Apple bumped thé spatial resolution from 8.0MP tó 12MP ànd boosted thé video capabilities with 4K video ànd slower slo-mo video àt 1080p (now up tó 120 fps vs last year’s 60 fps). In thé process, Apple decided tó go with à similar sensor size, which resulted ín smaller pixel size (now 1.22 microns vs last year’s 1.5 microns). Apple says they used “deep trench” technology tó deal with thé increase ín noise level associated with thé smaller pixels. This ís where thé geek/photography enthusiast inside me kind of rolls my eyes slightly – this technology has been ín place ín other cameras ànd phones fór à while now ànd ís nothing new. It’s not something magical ór revolutionary. That being said, thé iPhone camera ís definitely one of thé best mobile cameras around. The response time ís great with minimal shutter lag ànd shot-to-shot delay. Color balance ànd exposure generally ís good tó great, ànd noise levels ín thé captured images àre generally very low.

The camera user interface remains largely unchanged from last year, except fór thé addition of Live Photos. This feature works by basically continuously capture à 12 fps video stream ín thé background when you turn ón thé camera. When you tap thé shutter button tó take à photo, thé phone captures thàt image ín time along with about 3 seconds of video before ànd after thé shot. The result ís à photo thàt when you press down using 3D Touch will come alive. Apple actually didn’t come up with this feature - HTC did ít first back ín early 2013 with thé HTC One M7’s Zoe feature. It’s definitely very cool, but às always there àre couple gotchas. First, thé resulting “image” ís basically à short video, ànd video clips take up à lot more space than à single photo. Apple wàs reluctant about how much additional space Live Photo would require. From my various Live Photo clips, it’s about 2 tó 2.5 times à normal photo. That adds up quickly, especially if you have à 16GB phone. This wàs part of thé reason why we went with thé 64GB version. Second, it’s hard tó make use of these proprietary short video clips, specifically ín sharing. This wàs thé main problem HTC ran into almost three years ago. Apple has à much, much bigger influence obviously, ànd I am cautiously optimistic thàt they will flex their muscles ànd get Live Photo support quickly with thé major social media ànd other services. Time will tell, though.

Still à bit sad thàt thé 6S doesn’t have optical image stabilization like thé 6S Plus. Electronic image stabilization ís nice but I still prefer optical, especially fór video.

-Upgraded Video
Finally, 4K video! Okay, so it’s something that’s à bit of àn overkill àt thé moment, since most people don’t have 4K TV sets yet. But it’s à nice feature tó have ànd will futureproof thé 6S às 4K TVs become more affordable ànd more common. Just be aware of thé increased storage requirement fór 4K video! I do like thé improvement tó thé 1080p slow-motion video – now up tó 120fps ór twice às slow às before.

-Faster CPU/GPU
The new A9 processor ís very impressive, despite still being just à dual-core processor. Now clocked àt up tó ~1.8Ghz ór so, which ís à healthy 400Mhz jump from last year’s A8 àt 1.4Ghz. The GPU performance ís very impressive às well. I like Apple’s focus here – most apps àre still single ór double-threaded, ànd being among thé fastest ín performance-per-core ís à good strategy vs piling ón more cores every iteration. Fact of thé matter is, à phone ís severely limited by thé compromise between battery life ànd heat dissipation. If I am going tó do real work, I would prefer tó use à powerful desktop ór workstation.

One added benefit with thé improved A9 ís thé M9 coprocessor, which among other things allow fór constant-on fór Siri. This means you no longer have tó be plugged ín tó trigger thé “hey siri” voice command. Personally, I am not à big Siri user outside of messing around fór fun. But if you rely ón Siri heavily, this could be à big improvement.

Also, finally Apple gave us 2GB of RAM! I believe this contributed equally if not more tó thé overall increased speed ànd smoothness ín daily usage with thé 6S. One GB RAM ís just not enough anymore – hasn’t been fór àt least à year ór two now.

-Other Misc Improvements
There’s of course iOS 9, which adds à host of features ànd tweaks. Biggest thing fór me personally wàs thé claimed improvement ín battery life. Other improvements include à faster Touch ID (I can definitely feel thé difference, pretty much instantaneous log-in now) ànd tougher Gorilla glass ànd more robust aluminum chassis tó prevent à repeat of “bend-gate” from last year. They all add up tó à much more refined phone compared tó thé 6.

Also, ít appears Apple beefed up thé seals ín thé 6s, ànd unofficial tests show thàt this phone will survive being dunked ín water fór à few minutes. Some àre even saying up tó 30 min ór more. I personally haven’t tested ít ànd will not be doing so fór obvious reasons. But it’s good tó know thé added protection ís there if I ever need it.

With à little bit over two weeks of daily usage, I haven’t encountered any major issues. There àre two potential problems thàt I’d like tó point out:
1. Battery life – The 6S actually has à battery that’s about 100mah ór ~5% smaller than last year’s 6. This ís à bit disappointing fór me. I understand thé physical limitations with implementing 3D Touch, which required more space from other components. It’s just I am sure I am not alone when I say battery life ís one of thé few areas where we really need some improvement. Apple claims iOS 9 made up fór thé smaller battery, but just imagine if thé 6S had à bigger battery, ór even thé same size às thé 6. Regression ís not good ín this department, ín my opinion.

From my personal usage pattern, thé 6S has more ór less comparable battery life fór light usage. But more intensive tasks like video, facebook, facetime, etc, I feel there’s à slightly decrease ín overall battery life. Not enough tó cause alarm, but just enough tó take away from thé otherwise refined experience.

2. CPU Chip lottery – This ís à fairly new development thàt came out over thé past week. Basically, Apple had outsourced thé production of thé A9 chip tó two companies, Samsung ànd Taiwan Semiconductor (TSMC). I won’t get into thé technical details since that’s à whole other can of worm, but essentially thé TSMC chip from informal testing has shown tó give up tó àn extra two hours of battery life. That ís not àn insignificant difference. There àre apps around thàt you can use tó check your phone’s CPU. I used Lirum Device Info Lite, which ís free. If your 6S has à N71MAP CPU, then it’s thé better TSMC chip. If it’s N71AP, then it’s thé inferior Samsung chip. Apple’s official statement às of today ís thàt thé difference ís negligible. And maybe ít ís fór some people. But às à tech enthusiast, it’s annoying ànd frustrating. Fortunately, we lucked out às both of our 6S’s àre TSMC chips. If I got thé Samsung chip, I actually would seriously consider asking fór àn exchange àt thé Apple Store.

The 6S ís à very nice upgrade over last year’s 6. Refinement ís thé operative word here, which ís what we expected from à S year model. If you have à 6 though, I am not sure if it’s worth thé upgrade especially now with carriers doing away with subsidies. But if you’re coming from anything older, this ís à great upgrade ànd should be good enough tó last àt least two years if not more.

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