“The only thing that’s changed is everything,” says the slogan Apple unveiled along side the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. It’s an attempt to address the perception that the odd-year “s” updates to the iPhone line are minimal and uninteresting.
Yes, the “s” models look more or less like their predecessors, but for quite a while Apple has used these cycles to upgrade a lot of the stuff on the inside. This year is no different: The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus offer some major improvements, with better cameras (front and back), much faster processors, more responsive Touch ID, and the single biggest improvement to the iPhone’s user interface in its history.
But other than that, y’know, no big deal.
Same style, different measurements
Let’s start with the part of the iPhone that doesn’t change on “s” models: the outside. While Apple’s new 2015 phones seem indistinguishable from last year’s models, if you check carefully you’ll discover they’re slightly larger and heavier.
Both iPhone 6s models are fractions of a millimeter wider, longer, and thicker than their iPhone 6 equivalents. I absolutely couldn’t tell the difference, and the Apple leather case I’ve been using on my iPhone 6 for the last year slipped onto the 6s without any trouble. (Extremely tight, precisely made cases might have trouble fitting the new models, but I’d wager that most cases won’t have any trouble being repurposed for a newer model.)
The change in weight, on the other hand—which appears to be related to the addition of 3D Touch sensors under the display, and possibly the new Taptic Engine—well, that’s noticeable. The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus both feel denser than the iPhone 6 models. The difference is less than an ounce, and it’s less than the weight of my Apple leather case, but it’s there. Just like getting used to the extra weight of a case, after a day or two you probably won’t notice the difference. But it is perceptible in a way that the changes in the iPhone 6s’s dimensions aren’t.
iPhone 6s (top) and the iPhone 6s Plus (bottom). Credit: Jason Snell
One of my least favorite things about the iPhone 6 design is that it feels a bit slippery, like a bar of soap. I never used to put cases on my iPhones, but my iPhone 6 has been in a case for the past year. Early reports suggested that the metal surface of iPhone 6S models, which use the stronger 7000-series aluminum Apple also uses in the Apple Watch Sport, was somehow more tacky or “grippable” than the older phones. When I asked Apple about this, they declined to say anything, and if I’m reading between the lines I think the suggestion there is that Apple doesn’t think there’s any difference.
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