Just like I’ve done every two years since 2007, I’ll be buying a new iPhone this year. Tomorrow morning at 3am I’ll be visiting AT&T’s website to preorder a 64GB iPhone 6s in space gray. I’m not thrilled about the lack of options in the 4-inch form factor, but I suppose that’s just something I’ll have to deal with until I make my next iPhone purchase in 2017.
There’s a lot I do like about the iPhone 6s, though. And if Apple’s iPhone 6s photo gallery is to be believed, the new 12MP camera is at the top of my list. The photos Apple was able to get out of this thing are absolutely stunning.
Every year, just before the new iPhones come out, there’s always an Android phone that has a camera system which manages to leap frog the previous year’s iPhone in picture quality. And just like every other year, Apple manages to jump ahead of the competition with the announcement of their next iPhone. This year is no different in that regard, but it seems to me that Apple managed to get further ahead of the pack with the iPhone 6s than in previous years.
4K video recording, “deep trench isolation,” and a 5MP FaceTime camera, is just scratching the surface. Apple’s new smartphone offering also takes what they refer to as “Live Photos.” Have you ever wished you could take photos that would feel at home in the pages of The Daily Prophet or on the walls at Hogwarts? When you take a photo with the new iPhone 6s it also saves the moment before and after the photo was taken with motion and sound.
Now, these Live Photos take up a bit more space than a traditional 12MP shot and my 16GB companions aren’t going to be able to take quite as many photos as they used to. It’s still unbelievable to me that Apple hasn’t increased the storage capacity at the low end, but at least they’ve lowered pricing on their iCloud storage options. 50GB of storage now costs $0.99 a month, which is a small price to pay to keep all of your photos backed up to iCloud Photo Library (let’s be honest, the 5GB Apple gives you for free is a joke).
I’m really excited about Live Photos, though. I’ll be getting married this April to my lovely fiancée and, even though we’ll be hiring a photographer to document the event, I’ll probably take a few shots with my iPhone 6s for the Live Photos feature alone. I can’t imagine what it will be like to look back on Live Photos in 20-30 years and be able to have a better sense of the moment it was taken. This is the kind of feature that doesn’t get the credit it deserves until you look back at it in hindsight.
The iPhone 6s’ other landmark feature is 3D Touch which is an advancement of Apple’s Force Touch technology introduced with the Apple Watch. It offers an additional level of pressure sensitivity and brings with it two new gestures — peek and pop. You can, for example, press on a message in mail to “peek” at a larger preview and then press more deeply to “pop” it open.
I’m sure I’ll be peeking and popping my way around iOS 9 soon, but I have a feeling I’m going to mostly forget about these gestures until I’m reminded of them in an article or podcast. What really stands out to me with 3D Touch is its applications for shortcutting on the home screen. For example, press on the camera icon and be given options to take a selfie, record a video, record a slow-motion video, or take a photo. This is an immensely powerful feature for getting to the areas of an application you need, quickly.
The jury’s still out for me on 3D Touch, though. I recognize that it’s a very powerful new feature for interacting with your iPhone in new ways, but I’ll definitely have to experience it for myself. I don’t know how easy it’s going to be to invoke it — you want it to be sensitive enough that you can perform presses and deep presses every time you want to, but not too sensitive that you’re pressing when you only wanted to tap. I’ll have to live with it for a while to make sure it happens when I want it and not when I don’t.
I can appreciate that Apple built the iPhone 6s to be ready for the abuse it’s going to take from the use of 3D Touch, though. Sure, the 7000 series aluminum will help ward off any #bendgateredux worries, but I think it was primarily used because of the additional force necessary for users to perform presses and deep presses.
One last bit on 3D Touch, you can now press on the left side of the screen and swipe into application switching. This explains why Apple changed the user interface in iOS 9. But I’m not too keen on it. I’ve never liked gestures that required you to swipe from the side of the screen. The need to press instead of tap might prevent this, but I’ve always had trouble getting these types of gestures to fire when I wanted them to and all too often I perform them accidentally. It’s extremely frustrating and I hope I don’t start jumping to my previous app when I’m just trying to scroll around a webpage.
The iPhone 6s is a solid upgrade from the previous model and I’m excited to get my hands on it. I still wish Apple announced a 4-inch model, but I suppose I’ll give the 4.7-inch form factor a try this time around. I doubt I’ll fall in love with the new size, though. If Apple announces a new 4-inch model in 2017, I think I’ll be tempted to return to it.
I will be purchasing my iPhone from AT&T this year because it’s the only way to get 2-year contract pricing. I’m not interested in the carrier (or manufacturer) financing model — it’s clearly a way for companies to get more money out of customers by luring us in with the whole “upgrade every 12-months” dog and pony show. But regardless of how I’m buying, at 3am tomorrow morning I’ll be sitting in front of my MacBook Air, with credit card in hand, ready to make my purchase alongside everyone else.