iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6S Comparison: Worth the Upgrade?

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6S Comparison: Worth the Upgrade?

Normally, I don’t compare two phones unless I have both of them in front of me. That’s not the case today. In fact, I sold me iPhone 6 on September 8 in preparation for the iPhone 6S.

I did spend 11 days short of a year with the iPhone 6, so I think I can speak with authority on it. The only thing I can’t do that I usually do is take photos at the same time. I do have sample photos from each phone and I also have screenshots of benchmarks, so we’ll take it from there.

The iPhone “S model” has a reputation of being a minor, incremental upgrade. This is generally because people are too dumb to see past a physical redesign. After all, there were much more significant changes in the iPhone 4S, 5S, and 6S then there were in the iPhone 4, 5, and 6.

The iPhone 4, 5, and 6 were only redesigns with incremental improvements, such as better processors, more RAM, a better display, and a better camera. The iPhone 4S, 5S, and 6S brought us Siri, TouchID, and 3D Touch, respectively, which were changes that actually changed the way that we use our iPhones, so I think it’s fair to say that the S model is the major upgrade.

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6S: Specs

iPhone 6 iPhone 6S
CPU 1.4 GHz Dual Core A8 1.85 GHz Dual Core A9
GPU PowerVR GX6450 (quad-core graphics) PowerVR GT7600 (six-core graphics)
Display 4.7″, 750p, 326 ppi, IPS LCD 4.7″, 750p, 326 ppi, IPS LCD
Body 138.1x67x6.9 mm, 129 g 138.3×67.1×7.1 mm, 143 g
Camera 8 MP, 3264×2448, 1.2 MP Front 12 MP, 4032×3024, 5 MP Front
Video 1080p – 60 fps, Front 720p – 30 fps 4K – 30 fps, 1080p – 60 fps, Front 720p – 30 fps
Aperture f/2.2 f/2.2
Sensor Size 1/3″ 1/3″
Focal Length 29 mm 29 mm
Storage 16/64/128 GB 16/64/128 GB
RAM 1 GB 2 GB
Battery 1810 mAh 1715 mAh

Apple doesn’t report the RAM in their iPhones. I think that if Apple had their way, they wouldn’t tell us the specs at all. I think they would rather have us judge the device by real world performance. I tend to agree.

As we can see, quite a bit has changed here and quite a bit hasn’t. The body and display hasn’t changed; however, the iPhone 6S is a bit thicker and a bit heavier.

The new dimensions of the phone are underrated. On iPhone 6 launch day, I bought an iPhone 6 Plus. After reviewing the iPhone 6, I returned the iPhone 6 Plus in favor of an iPhone 6 because the iPhone 6 just felt so good to hold. The iPhone 6S doesn’t give me that same feeling.

3D Touch

3D Touch is widely known as the largest change from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 6S. Personally, I disagree. On the home screen, it provides shortcuts to the app. If it was a bit more interactive, I think it would be better. For example, if I Force Touch on the Notes app, I can decide to take a new note. It would be nice if I could just start typing, rather than launching Notes and taking it from there.

Let’s be clear about something. In the nine days that I have had the iPhone 6S, I have not used 3D Touch in real life. There are certain uses I would use it for when I get used to it, such as switching between apps or using it as a cursor.

Make no mistake. The iPhone 6S is the first iPhone since 2007 to come with a learning curve. Apple has been revered as having the ability to create an interface to where users don’t need a tutorial. This is the first feature that users won’t know how to immediately use and will require quite a bit of experimentation.

Luckily, it doesn’t matter. Many have compared 3D Touch to right clicking; however, that’s not a good analogy. If I see a photo online that I want to save, I have to right click to save it. There’s no other way.

3D Touch is all about shortcuts that are easily achieved through other means, with the exception of turning the keyboard into a little mouse.

NOTE: The feature that allows the user to use the keyboard as a cursor DOES NOT work on third party keyboards, so you can get Skype or you can get a cursor, but you can’t have both, which sucks.

Personally, I think 3D Touch will get really interesting in about four years, when all supported iOS devices have it. Then, it’s not just going to be for features that are easily achieved elsewhere.

TouchID vs TouchID 2.0

While 3D Touch is generally known as the major change, I think it’s TouchID 2.0. You could use the iPhone 6S for two years and never use 3D Touch. TouchID 2.0 is a learning curve that you can’t get around.

TouchID 2.0 is really fast on the iPhone 6S, like really fast. For years, iPhone users have been trained to use the home button to unlock their phones and to access the lock screen.

You can’t access the lock screen with the home button on the iPhone 6S unless you use a finger that’s not trained on TouchID. Oherwise, you’ll just fly to the home screen.

Personally, I wish there was an option in Settings to delay TouchID, to give that extra half second that we were allowed in previous models.

Interlude

If you haven’t guessed it yet, the iPhone 6S feels like change. It might be good change and it might be bad change, but it’s change nonetheless.

As human beings, we’re not comfortable with change. We’ve used our iPhones in a certain way for almost a decade. It doesn’t feel good to have to use it differently now.

I loved my iPhone 6. When Apple announced it, they made a big deal about the A8 processor, saying that because of the 20 nm process would allow the phone to never heat to the point where it throttles.

When they said this, you have to wonder if they had tested an iPhone with a Snapdragon 810. I’m sure Apple tests these things, just to see how their own processors stand up to Qualcomm’s.

They were right. The iPhone 6 was the only phone all year that I could record video with for an hour without it overheating. It was an incredible phone to use, even a year after it was released.

With the iPhone 6S, it feels like some of that is gone. There was something about the iPhone 6 that was just a pleasure. Now, I press the home button to wake my phone and a notification flashes past my eyes. In my frustration, I swipe down to access the notification center to find it.

The key word is frustration, because the iPhone 6 was frustration-free.

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6S: Rear Camera

OK, I can do this one of two ways. Like I said, there was no particular time that I could have went out with both phones to take pictures. I can take separate samples that I’ve taken with each phone and put them next to each other, or I can use a control group.

Luckily, I have a control group. I wrote a comparison between the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and the iPhone 6 and I have a comparison between the Note 5 and the iPhone 6S.

Apple increased the resolution on this year’s iPhone from 8 MP to 12 MP. They also added 4K video, which I implored people to just shut off unless they are planning to edit it and crop their video.

Everything else remained the same, which is the 1/3″ sensor with a f/2.2 aperture.

Apple added a Live Photos feature which I’m sure they could have added to the iPhone 6 if they wanted to. Unfortunately, there’s no way I can share those Live Photos with you here.

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iPhone 6 – Samsung Galaxy Note 5

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iPhone 6S – Samsung Galaxy Note 5

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iPhone 6 – Samsung Galaxy Note 5

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iPhone 6S – Samsung Galaxy Note 5

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iPhone 6 – Samsung Galaxy Note 5

[image-comparator left=”http://fortheloveoftech.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20150927_005219519_iOS.jpg” right=”http://fortheloveoftech.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20150926_205304.jpg” width=”100%” left_alt=”iPhone 6S” right_alt=”Samsung Galaxy Note 5″ classes=”hover”][/image-comparator]

iPhone 6S – Samsung Galaxy Note 5

[image-comparator left=”http://fortheloveoftech.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/20150905_031757912_iOS.jpg” right=”http://fortheloveoftech.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/20150904_231823.jpg” width=”100%” left_alt=”iPhone 6″ right_alt=”Samsung Galaxy Note 5″ classes=”hover”][/image-comparator]

iPhone 6 with Flash – Samsung Galaxy Note 5 with Flash

[image-comparator left=”http://fortheloveoftech.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20150927_005225385_iOS.jpg” right=”http://fortheloveoftech.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/20150926_205309.jpg” width=”100%” left_alt=”iPhone 6S” right_alt=”Samsung Galaxy Note 5″ classes=”hover”][/image-comparator]

iPhone 6S with Flash – Samsung Galaxy Note 5 with Flash

I’m not sure that I could really present the differences in the cameras with these examples. Normally in a comparison, I try to provide at least 25 samples. I urge you to go deeper into this. Check out the two comparisons with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 that I linked to above and I’ll link to again at the bottom.

I also urge you to check out the Photo Archives for the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6S. That’s why I put so much work into creating the Photo Archives, so people can compare photos from different smart phone cameras if a comparison doesn’t exist. Again, I will link to all of this at the bottom.

Anyway, the general feeling that I got when I compared the cameras with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is that the iPhone 6 had a better camera. When I compared the iPhone 6S with the Galaxy Note 5, it felt like the Note 5 had more detail and better contrast, a feeling I didn’t get when I compared the iPhone 6 with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

Note that a higher resolution doesn’t mean more detail. I’m looking at these photos on a Surface Pro 3, which has a 1440p resolution, which means that anything over 3.7 MP has to be scaled down anyway. 720p would be 1 MP, 1080p would be 2.1 MP, and 4K would be 8.3 MP; however, that’s all at 16:9. Apple doesn’t let us take photos at 16:9, so at 4:3, anything over 6.2 MP needs to be scaled down to fir the display.

In other words, don’t assume that since the iPhone 6S has more megapixels that you’ll see more detail. More megapixels only gives you more room to crop and zoom without losing quality.

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6S: Front Camera

The improved front camera was the feature of the iPhone 6S that I was second most excited about. Don’t get me wrong. The front camera on the iPhone 6 was great. In fact, it was as good as you could possibly get on a 1.2 MP sensor. I just got through pointing out the amount of megapixels in your display, so you know by now that 1.2 MP is in between 720p and 1080p.

There’s only so much that you can do with 1.2 MP, so I actually got to a point where I would always have a second phone with me in case I wanted to take a selfie with my girlfriend. First, that phone was the LG G4, which has an awesome front camera. Next, that phone was the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.

iPhone 6 iPhone 6S

As we can see, both cameras are great, but try an experiment. When you click on one of the images and the carousel opens, click “View Full Size Image”. Play with it. Zoom in on them. You’ll see the difference rather quickly.

Another feature that Apple added in the front camera is a software flash that lights up the display. This is a feature that’s already in the new Moto G as well as a bunch of LG phones. Like I said, it’s a software flash, so like with the Live Photos, I’m not sure why Apple didn’t add it to the iPhone 6 with the iOS 9 update. They surely could have.

iPhone 6S iPhone 6S with Flash

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6S: Benchmarks

I really hate benchmarks. They very rarely provide any insight into real world usage of a device. While I provide this disclaimer in every article where I use them, I still use them because they are the best tool we have for writing down the performance of a device.

Fortunately, we have two devices that are running the same software (yes, the iPhone 6’s tests will be on an older version of iOS), so these scores are a little more unbiased then when we’re running AnTuTu on two different platforms.

First, battery tests. I advise you to take these with a grain of salt. While benchmarks rarely provide insight into real world usage, battery tests are even less so.

Geekbench 3 provides two settings for battery tests, with a dim screen toggled on or off. First, we’ll look at the test with the dim screen toggled off, since that’s how we use our phones.

iPhone 6 iPhone 6S

iPhone 6 iPhone 6S Battery Bright iPhone 6 iPhone 6S Battery Dim

The one thing that I actually would take away from this is that iPhone battery life is effected very little by a different in brightness.

I would also point out that the battery life on the iPhone 6S is awful. Perhaps we can blame that on Chipgate, but always take battery tests with a grain of salt. I ended up returning my iPhone 6S due to the horrid battery life.

Next up is Geekbench 3 tests. It’s also where the benchmark section gets interesting.

iPhone 6 iPhone 6S Geekbench

As we can see here, the A9 is a massive improvement over the A8. The single core score is beyond anything else on the market. With the A8, I felt the same way at the time but Nvidia put out some really solid stuff. The multi core score outperforms any phone that’s powered by a Qualcomm processor, but not the Samsung Exynos 7420 that powers the Samsung Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, and Note 5. The single core score of the A8 still outperforms all Qualcomm and Samsung processors.

iPhone 6 iPhone 6S AnTuTu

AnTuTu pretty much confirms what we already know, which is that the iPhone 6S outperforms all phones on the market with the exception of Samsung phones. It also tells us that the iPhone 6 is still on par with all of those non-Samsung phones coming out, even the new Nexus and LG phones that were just announced last week.

Next up is graphics tests and this is where the iPhone historically shines. Apple uses Retina display, which means that a user can’t tell the difference between Retina and anything more at an “average viewing distance”. This is why Apple sticks with 750p on the iPhone.

I think it’s the right choice, since when you compare graphics performance with a new Android phone with a 1440p display, the iPhone blows it away. Personally, I do like to play games on my phone, so I want that performance and it saddens me that the Android market is degrading to a point where display resolutions are getting so uselessly high that it’s effecting performance in a negative way, but I digress…

First up is GFXBench 3.1 and then GFXBench 3.

iPhone 6 iPhone 6S GFX 3.1 1 iPhone 6 iPhone 6S GFX 3.1 2 iPhone 6 iPhone 6S GFX 3 1 iPhone 6 iPhone 6S GFX 3 2

As you can see, there’s a massive improvement in graphics performance from the iPhone 6 to the iPhone 6S, but that’s what happens when you pack a better CPU and GPU in a phone with the same display.

iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6S: Conclusion

I’m going to be completely honest here. I wrote this article because I miss my iPhone 6. The year old phone is still awesome and I don’t like having a learning curve on my new iPhone.

You probably came here to see if you should upgrade your iPhone. I would say that if you take a lot of selfies, sure. Other than that, just wait for the iPhone 7 next September.

TouchID 2.0 is really great, but it makes it hard to access the lock screen. 3D Touch is cool, but I haven’t found it useful.

Ultimately, ask yourself why you want the new phone. Don’t do it just because it’s the new iPhone and therefore must be better. Do it because there’s a feature that you really want.

About the author
Rich Woods

Being a computer programmer wasn't enough to fulfill his love of technology. In 2013, Rich founded For the Love of Tech and has been writing about his love of tech ever since.