iPhone 6S: Specs, 3D Touch and Everything You Need to Know About Apple's New iPhone

By Gerald Lynch on at

iPhone 6S. It's real, as if you were ever in any doubt, with Apple revealing its all new iPhone at its "Hey Siri" event. So, were the rumours about Apple's new iPhone true? Yep, mostly. 3D Touch, a 64-bit A9 chip that's 70 per cent faster than the A8 and packed full of new iOS tweaks, it's a solid (if iterative) evolution of last year's iPhone 6.

"We are driven to innovate at Apple - you've seen that all morning," said Apple CEO Tim Cook. "And there's no product driving that innovation more than iPhone."

"These are the most advanced iPhones ever. In fact, they're the most advanced smartphones in the world."

Design

Let's not beat around the bush; it looks almost identical to the iPhone 6. The iPhone 6S is just a touch thicker than its predecessor, but we're talking millimeters here – unless you've got some laser-sighted measuring stick, you won't be able to tell any difference. Again, there's a 4.7-inch screen exactly the same as the one you'll find in the iPhone 6, and Apple's again gone for the rounded edges for the chassis, as first seen in the iPhone 6.

Ion-X glass (sounds like a comic book hero's weakness, no?) makes the screen more durable, while new 7000-series aluminum alloy, a custom made, has been used in the phone, which first featured in the Apple Watch Sport.

3D Touch

3D Touch (not Force Touch) is the headline feature, working from the homescreen and inside applications to give you new access to shortcuts.

Apple popped ‘Force Touch’, a pressure-sensitive display tech that provides haptic feedback into Apple Watch last year. It’s now found its way into the 6S, under the guise of ‘3D Touch’. So what does it do? Well, how strong are your fingers? I jest. The touchscreen can tell how hard you’re pressing, differentiating between a tap, a harder press, and a stronger press, but it's all pretty subtle by the sounds of things. You can use that to help you move around your phone faster. There are new gestures too – pushing lightly lets you ‘peek’ at things from the homescreen or within apps, while a deep press causes it to ‘pop’ out, complete with shortcut controls.

This Is Apple's New iPhone 6S

Examples: deep press on the phone icon to dive into your voicemail. Deep press on a song in Music to get playback controls. Press extra-hard on a location in Maps, and your phone will start turn-by-turn navigation there with no further prompting.

Apple’s hammering how this will help you navigate around without losing your place — rather than having to tap into a email to read it, you can lightly press to peek preview, and then longer press to dive in if needed.

Basically, 3D Touch should let you navigate around your iPhone much quicker. It doesn’t add much (if any) new functionality, but in a lot of places, one deep press replaces two or three normal taps.

There’s also haptic feedback — the screen has little motors behind it, which buzz in a particular way when you press the screen. It should feel something like clicking a trackpad.

It’s worth pointing out that Apple is not the first company to use this kind of technology, in either a laptop, or a smartphone. The technology to make it possible has been around for a while — it’s all about combining that with the right software mix to make it useful.

Camera

The iPhone’s camera has always been very solid, but this year Apple’s looking to do a little better than that. Both new camera modules, on the front and the back, are a real doozy.

The front-facing camera is getting a major upgrade to deal with the rise of the selfie generation. It’s now a much larger sensor, capable of taking 1080p video or 5MP stills. The software that controls it is also getting a revamp: you’ll now be able to take ‘selfie panoramas’ (although, just because you can do something, does not mean that you should), slow-motion video, and use the phone’s screen as a makeshift flash.

The real magic is happening around the back, though: a new 12-megapixel camera, able to take much better stills, but also capture 4K video. That’s not a first for a smartphone — that crown was taken all the way back in 2013 — but here’s hoping that integrating 4K video into an iPhone will make the format more popular.

New iPhone 6S: Better Camera and Improved Multitasking

It’s not all about the megapixels, though: using new technology like ‘deep-trench isolation’, the sensor has been improved to give better color accuracy, less noise, and superior low-light performance. The long and short: better, prettier pictures.

New iPhone 6S: Better Camera and Improved Multitasking

Guts

There’s a new A9 processor, with all the kinds of improvements you’d expect — 70 percent faster at CPU tasks, 90 percent faster for GPU, according to Apple’s scrupulously honest stats guys.

As always, that will allow increasingly graphics-intensive games to run — games which, buy the way, will make use of 3D Touch as another way to play.

The motion co-processor that tracks your activity also gets a shout-out: this time around, it’s integrated right into the A9 processor.

TouchID is here as well, and 2x faster to boot.

Software

The new iPhone will be shipping with iOS 9, the latest and greatest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. We’ve already had the chance to play with beta versions of that software for a few months now, but the new iPhone will be getting a few tricks we haven’t seen before.

For starters, the always-listening ‘hey Siri’ feature now really is always listening: it used to only work when your iDevice was plugged in, but now it will work whenever your phone has charge (just like Google Now, ahem).

New iPhone 6S: Better Camera and Improved Multitasking

There’s a new thing called ‘Live Photos’, as well: basically, still photos that have a couple seconds of video and audio integrated around them. By default, your phone will grab those little moments whenever you get a photo; force-touch on an image in your library, and it will ‘come to life’. Viewing support will happen on any iDevice, from iOS to WatchOS and OS X, and Apple will add third-party support, starting with Facebook later this year.

Apple isn’t the first company to do this kind of live-photo trickery — along with a whole plethora of apps, HTC’s Zoe app and Nokia’s Lumia phones were doing the same kind of thing three years ago. As ever, it will be all about third-party developers (and Apple’s crazy-huge user base) to make this work.

New iPhone 6S: Better Camera and Improved Multitasking

iPhone 6S UK Pricing and Availability

The iPhone 6S will hit Apple stores in gold, silver and space grey, plus the new rose gold metallic shade. Prices start at £539 for the 16GB model, £619 for the 64GB model and £699 for the 128GB model. Pre-orders kick off on September 12th. Networks are already starting to announce contract options, too.


Looking for more news from the iPhone 6S "Hey Siri!" launch event? Find a tonne of news in our Apple event hub.