Apple promised three major updates with the iPhone 6s: 3D touch, camera and performance. Let's go through the checklist.
The A9 chip easily delivers. Already outstanding responsiveness and fluid handling are taken to the next level. No issues there. The 12MP stills and 4K videos may be late but they're executed in the typical Apple fashion. A long-awaited camera upgrade finally delivered. Not quite picture-perfect, without OIS and considering owners of 16GB iPhones may be running out of storage pretty soon. 3D Touch? Well, the new touchscreen is the beginning of the journey to a richer user experience but not quite the destination yet. We'll have to wait and to see the really clever implementations that developers are going to come up with.
We'd call that 2 and a half out of three - not a bad score card. The big stuff still missing: some sort of water resistance, wireless charging, higher screen resolution. Now, none of these could've been delivered in a phone that's re-using last season's design. The iPhone 7 perhaps? If ever.
Here's the deal. The regular iPhone models update the design, and once in a while, screen size. The S models focus on the insides. The iPhone 4S introduced Siri and the first big camera upgrade. The iPhone 5S brought about 64-bit processing and a fingerprint sensor. Alongside another camera upgrade, the big thing to look at in the iPhone 6S - and look forward to in Apple in general - is the pressure-aware screen that does add an extra dimension to how you interact with a device.
This is yet to reveal its full potential but looks like something developers will be keen to play with. It can be the new pinch zoom (something we do take for granted but which was a huge breakthrough back in its time). That said, Android makers are experimenting as well. ZTE and Huawei in particular - not the names you'd expect in the same review as an iPhone but it goes to show how the market has evolved.
We cannot help the thought either that someone at Apple was looking at the Samsung Note, the hovering S-pen and Air Command thinking, "We need to be able to do the same. With a tip of a finger. "
Anyway, we'll have a good look at the potential rivals in due time.
Looking at the big picture, the iPhone 6S might be the most exciting product to come out of Cupertino in a few years. 3D Touch may become a big deal but it is not there yet. Regardless, it's the first time since the iPhone 4 that Apple tried to do what it does best - change the smartphone game for good. The company has been reduced to following market trends for the past few years and it was about time it rediscovered its passion for innovation. It may flop or win big time, but credit is certainly due for trying.
Meanwhile, the last-gen iPhone 6 got a price cut. If you aren't too keen on beta-testing 3D Touch or wouldn't want to go for a pricey 64GB model to have enough storage for 4K videos and Live photos, there is a good chance you may prefer that one instead.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 edge is the most likely toughest competition. While it can't give you force touch, it sure impresses with a 5.1" QHD Super AMOLED screen, a fast chipset and one of the best camera departments in the market. Samsung also wins the design battle in this round, although it had to give up on its expandable storage and removable battery advantages to achieve it.
The latest Nexus also brings an alternative. The LG Nexus 5X runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow on capable hardware and matches the iPhone 6s' camera resolution, while also packing a larger sensor. It is guaranteed to receive the latest Android updates as soon as they come for at least two-years ahead - just like the iPhone 6s is.
The Sony Xperia Z5 Compact has water protection and an amazing camera on paper, which we've yet to properly test. It's powered by a Snapdragon 810 chip that can't quite match the A9, but still delivers heaps of performance on a 720p screen. The Sony compact flagship can't quite match the aesthetics of the iPhone 6s, but it does offer a significantly larger battery.
The major manufacturers are in frantic pursuit of higher screen resolution and size, and monstrous chipsets. This is in big part driven by Apple - the iPhone's is still the user experience to best, most Android flagships needing 3 or 4GB of RAM to match what Apple is doing with 2GB. And note that the iPhone 6s is only the second Apple device to have 2 gigs of RAM after the iPad Air 2.
Maybe it's the 4K videos or the live photos, or Apple may have finally tried to sort the reloading of the background tabs in Safari. Either way, with everyone sprinting around them, Apple thinks it can afford to take it slow. So far, it's been working out just fine.
With 3D touch, Cupertino hopes it puts the pressure back on the competition and doesn't have to rush with higher screen resolution, stereo speakers, 32GB of storage as the starter option, water protection or wireless charging. Useful stuff, at least some of it. Apple just hasn't re-invented it yet.