Every year, the inevitable release of Apple’s new iPhone, usually sometime in September, is always a big event. Equally as inevitable are the rash of boring reviews stating the same thing over and over. “The best iPhone yet,” “Like the old iPhone but better!” So on and so on.
Since we’ve never really been Apple’s best buds, we’ve only just received our first new iPhones just like everyone else in the world, so we’re going to spend the next week tearing into the iPhones’ newest features — from all the big stuff paraded on stage earlier this month to the small tweaks tucked in darker corners. We’ll be exploring it all.
But first lets look at possibly the most important feature of any smartphone — its lasting first impression.
The iPhone has never historically had problems grabbing the longing attention of soon-to-be owners thanks in part to its primarily aluminium design, and like all s-series iPhones before it, it looks much like last year’s model, exactly in fact, minus a millimetre or a gram here and there.
Oh, and there’s a rose gold option now. I got the rose gold. It’s nice! Gold, you know, with a rosy colouration.
Other than that, it’s still incredibly thin, incredibly slippery, and incredibly well-built. There’s no visible difference. Whatever wowed you on the outside last year, still applies here. It’s a great looking piece of phone.
So all attention turns toward the iPhone innards and iOS 9, which comes with a portfolio of newness meant to entice you from whatever pocket computer your wielding to the new iPhone 6s. Does it work?
A step towards a more useful iPhone
I’m mostly an Android user, but I’ve always appreciated the high-level of spit shine that Apple applies to smartphones, making them easily accessible for everyone. Still, one of my personal problems with the iPhone is the almost complete inability to become a power user (other than jailbreaking the thing). For example, you can’t customise your home screen except by just moving tiles around. Widgets (a relatively recent addition to iOS compared to Android) are all relegated to a drop down menu, and as a whole, the operating system just has limited optimization options where Android has legion.
But with the iPhone 6s equipped with iOS 9, you can see that all changing. It’s a partnership between hardware and software that’s actually making the iPhone feel like something you can actually optimise in some ways. The two big powerful updates are Siri and 3D touch.
All iPhones from 4s on have the ability to access the all-new iOS 9 Siri. The added Proactive feature, which intelligently suggests apps, contacts, news, and all sorts of stuff, is one example of Apple opening up just a little bit. Don’t get me wrong. I’d still take a fully integrated Google Now over what Apple is currently selling, but it’s at least a step in the right direction.
Combine the new Siri with the iPhone 6s’ coolest new feature, 3D Touch and well, now you’re on to something. For those of you who don’t know yet, 3D Touch is a new multitasking layer built into iOS 9, utilising new hardware in the iPhone 6S. Now, you can deep press on icons for shortcuts to specifics actions within those apps. A regular tap does what you’d expect — like opening a like or a shortcut — but a slightly longer touch does something entirely different. When you activate 3D Touch, the phone gives you a little haptic tickle, which helps guide you along.
In just the brief 24 hours that I’ve had it, I can feel myself thinking differently about how to actually use an iPhone. For example, instead of thinking “Open Instagram”, I’m already remembering some of the actions enabled by 3D Touch’s hard press, like “Direct”, “Search”, “View Activity” or “New Post”. I’m noticeably getting things done quicker. Saving a little time here and there really adds up a more seamless experience. When it works, it’s really, really great.
With the new powers comes a learning curve. For one, not all apps are created equal. Some apps just don’t have any 3D Touch capabilities — at least not yet. So often you’ll hard press on an app and just get a little angry haptic feedback right back at you, without anything actually happening. Learning all the apps that work well with 3D Touch will require trial and error and while many apps don’t use the feature yet, most likely will eventually.
Beyond 3D Touch, there are a few other features I think I could grow to love. For example, I’m intrigued by Live Photos, which are are animated for a brief second before showing off the actual shot you took. (HTC and Nokia have been toying with this general concept for years.) The iPhone 6s’ 4K video might also set me clamouring to the Apple Store, but I still feel there aren’t very many ways to actually play 4K content. What, you haven’t shelled out big bucks for a 4K TV yet?
After only 24 hours, the iPhone 6s already feels a little more grown up, a little more powerful, and honestly, a little more useful. It allows someone to actually become a pro at using the iPhone, leveraging new 3D Touch-enabled shortcuts and Siri’s upgraded intelligence.
I’m looking forward to the week ahead.