‘The only thing that’s changed is everything.’
This is the already famous tagline for Apple’s iPhone 6s, and as taglines go, it’s pretty gutsy. It’s the type of blurb you usually see under the face of an American presidential candidate, or on a giant screen at a stadium rock concert.
At U2’s career-changing Zoo TV shows in the early ’90s, the band beamed a similar message out at fans: ‘Everything you know is wrong.’
It’s apt that Apple has reworked a mantra from U2, given the company caused so much controversy when it dumped the Irish band’s new album in everyone’s iTunes folder this time last year.
Twelve months on and Apple has delivered a slightly more anticipated (sorry, Bono) product to the masses: the iPhone 6s.
But is it an awesome Achtung Baby or a so-so Rattle and Hum? I’ve had a play with it this week to find out…
You got the touch. You got the power.
The ‘s’ at the end of an iPhone model’s name used to stand for, ‘Should just wait for the next one’, but in the case of the 6s, it could mean ‘Sleeve’, because it’s got a lot of wizardry hidden up it.
The main selling point for the 6s is 3D Touch, which revolutionises the interactive experience between phone and user. You know that bit in Michelangelo’s painting on the Sistine Chapel ceiling where God reaches out to create Adam with his finger? Well, 3D Touch is a bit like that.
Much more than just a gimmick, 3D Touch changes the way your fingers talk to your iPhone, responding to the pressure you apply by acting accordingly. There are several ways in which this happens.
Firstly, 3D Touch gives you the power to Peek and Pop (Apple’s words, not mine), allowing you to dip in and out of content without filling your screen with it. For example, you can apply light pressure to view an email. If it’s not dreadfully urgent – your boss emailing to ask you to do some work, maybe – lift your finger to ditch the preview and revert back to your inbox. Or if you want to read it (you should ALWAYS read emails from your boss), press a bit deeper and the message will fill the screen.
The same technique can be used to preview web pages if someone messages you a link.
Life in the fast lane
3D Touch is also used for Quick Actions. Press firmly on an app on the home screen, and instead of opening it, your phone will give you a list of dropdown options to choose from that will take you straight to the action.
If, heaven forbid, you want to take a selfie and you want to take it quickly, press hard on the Camera app and it’s one of the choices that will pop up on the home screen.
Quick Actions are so simple, but will save you a heck of a lot of time in the phone’s lifespan.
Another very cool facet of 3D Touch comes when you want to type something. Apply extra pressure to the keypad and it will turn all blurry – but don’t be alarmed; this is just to let you move the cursor to whichever position you require. In your face, typos.
3D Touch is harnessed by capacitive pressure sensors between the iPhone’s retina HD display and its taptic engine (uh… yeah), but you don’t need to know any of the tech mumbo jumbo behind it.
All you need to know is that it gives you the power to, effectively, right-click on your smartphone. And it makes you feel like Zeus.
Pressure! Pushing down on me, pressing down on you
So the 3D Touch works great and is also great fun, we’ve established that. If you’re an Apple nut, you’ll get to grips with it in seconds. And even if you’re a bit of an old-fashioned button banger like I am, you can make the experience more in tune with your fumbling thumb by adjusting the pressure.
Go to Settings>General>Accessibility>3D Touch and you can change the pressure sensitivity between Light, Medium and Firm depending on your individual handling.
3D Touch also allows you to switch between apps instantly – just hold down on the left edge of the screen and swipe towards the middle.
If I had a photograph of you, or something to remind me
For better or worse, we live in the age of the gif, and the 6s taps into that world of moving pictures in a really fun way with Live Photos. If the option is enabled, your phone will capture the 1.5 seconds of sound and movement before and after your snap your picture.
If you want the resulting image to have a bit more life, just press down on the photo. You can save Live Photos to your lock screen if you want a moving wallpaper and you can also share them on iMessage and iCloud.
Expect inventive video artists to do all kinds of cool stuff with Live Photos in the coming days and weeks.
As for the camera itself, the new iSight’s 12-megapixel photos make even the clumsiest snapper (ie. me) look like a bit of a lighting genius. For those who actually take their photography seriously, the possibilities are endless. The camera also shoots 4K video, which you can then edit on the iMovie app.
After the (rose) gold rush
Apple broke records when it sold 13 million iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models in the three days after their launch last week. Word has it that much of that 6s success is down to the iPhone’s brand new colour, rose gold, said to be accounting for anything between 30 and 40 per cent of sales, perhaps because, on the outside at least, it is one of the few features that distinguish the 6s from last year’s iPhone 6.
If rose gold is a bit too ostentatious for you, there’s always silver, space grey and plain old normal gold to fall back on.
Under my thumb
The iPhone’s Touch ID has also had an upgrade, and Apple say its new sensor has given it up to twice the speed of earlier models, making unlocking your device extremely speedy. It’s hard to dispute this, given that you barely need to graze the home button and the phone bursts into life. Good to know if you’re going to use it everywhere you go for Apple Pay.
The 6s also has a more secure passcode function – for the first time the iPhone asks you for six digits instead of four. If that’s too many numbers to remember, go to Settings>Touch ID & Passcode.
After entering your six-digit password, select Change Passcode, then enter it again (!) and select Passcode Options, and then pick the 4-Digit Numeric Code option.
Help! I need somebody
If you haven’t heard of Wi-Fi Assist and you’ve got an iPhone 6s and you happen to like money, pull your finger out and change its default setting.
Wi-Fi Assist automatically searches for a strong 4G signal if your Wi-Fi isn’t up to the task – good in theory, but in practice it will burn a great big pound sign-shaped hole in your data plan.
Is 3D Touch enough to justify an upgrade to the 6s? The answer is simple and the answer is yes. Similar to the iPhone 6 on the outside, the 6s has so much extra hidden under the hood.
3D Touch should be a constant source of exploration – apps such as Instagram, Pinterest and Dropbox are already planning to get in on the act – and it just makes the iPhone more receptive and, crucially, more fun.
There’s always something new to find – the Quick Actions pressure push on the Maps app to reveal instant Directions Home is sure to receive a lot of usage at the end of millions of nights out on the town.
Apple’s own direction, then, is clear: packing its ‘s’ models with enough extra bang for your buck to make them stand alone with their more celebrated ‘s-less’ counterparts.
And with the iPhone 6s, they’re off to a flyer.
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