Apple iPhone 6s review: A solid phone, even years after its release

Price when reviewed

Apple iPhone 6s review: Design

Since this is an S year for the iPhone, there isn’t much from a design perspective that has changed. The flat front and rear remain, as do the smoothly rounded sides and corners. It’s a design that has split iPhone fans over the past 12 months and I suspect will continue to do so in the year to come.

Some, and I count myself among them, like the phone’s soft-edged and ultra-slender profile. Others think it too slippery and take umbrage at the “ugly” protruding camera lens. I think it’s somewhat harsh to say the iPhone 6s is anything other than achingly pretty.Apple iPhone 6s review: Touch ID fingerprint reader

Regardless, the iPhone isn’t entirely identical to its predecessor. If you’re used to handling an iPhone 6, you’ll notice the first time you pick up a 6s that it’s a touch heavier, primarily due to the extra electronics required to make 3D Touch work. It’s also thicker, supposedly, but it has expanded by a such small amount that I struggled to tell the difference, even with the two phones side-by-side on my desk.

Apple has made some improvements to the materials employed in the iPhone 6s’ design. The aluminium frame is built from a stronger alloy now – 7000 series aluminium to be precise – which happens to be among the strongest forms of aluminium available. The screen glass has been strengthened, too, although that’s impossible to verify without trashing a handful of rather expensive iPhones. Apart from that, Apple has only provided me with one review sample, and I need to keep it looking spick and span.

There’s now a fourth colour option – “Rose Gold” – to supplement the existing Gold, Space Grey and Silver models. In this humble reviewer’s opinion, the new colour is execrable, but don’t disregard it completely. Everyone’s taste is different, and you may well find you like it if you take the time to saunter down to your nearest Apple Store and meet it in the flesh.

That’s it for official design changes for the iPhone 6s. However, it’s also possible that Apple has quietly sneaked in a rather significant change completely under the radar. According to iFixit, the eponymous smatphone teardown website, almost every port, socket and significant component now has the extra protection of a rubber gasket, making water ingress damage far less likely than on any previous iPhone.

Apple hasn’t said anything officially about this, presumably in an attempt to forestall users from immersing their phones deliberately, but if you believe the YouTube videos, one of which I’ve embedded below, they’re capable of surviving an impressively long period of time fully immersed in water. As ever, I don’t recommend you try this at home, but it’s an interesting development nonetheless.

YouTube video

Apple iPhone 6s review: Performance

And yes, the new iPhone is faster than it was last year. It has the new A9 processor and this, Apple would have us believe, is up to twice as fast as the A8 in the iPhone 6, while graphics performance is claimed to be faster still. I’ve run the phone our normal selection of benchmarks, and can confirm it’s much, much quicker.

While its raw number-crunching abilities are impressive enough – as the Geekbench 3 results above illustrate – it’s the GFXBench gaming test results (see below) that are most illuminating.

Indeed, the Apple iPhone 6s is so fast in the Manhattan 3 onscreen tests (run at native resolution) that it’s butting up against the screen’s 60fps refresh rate cap imposed by the screen. At the higher offscreen resolution of 1080p, it’s just as impressive, doubling its rival’s results and hitting a frame rate of 40fps.

What really surprises me is that, a year on from the launch of the iPhone 6s, even Android phones with the latest chips inside – the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 in the OnePlus 3 and Samsung Exynos 8890 in the Samsung Galaxy S7, S7 Edge and Note 7 – still struggling to match the Apple A9’s performance across the board.

There’s one area where Apple’s rivals edge ahead. The multitasking capabilities of the quad-core CPUs contained within the octa-core chips mentioned above, are clearly superior to the A9, which remains steadfastly dual-core. However, when it comes to single-core performance, the A9 remains the top dog, just edging out the fastest phones on the market.

Interestingly, storage performance is also impressively fast. I ran the Passmark PerformanceTest Mobile benchmark, which revealed sequential read and write speeds of 416MB/sec and 258MB/sec. While the read speed is slightly slower than the Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s fastest score, the write speed is the best I’ve seen in a smartphone by quite a long way.

Apple iPhone 6s review: White and red cases

What this means in the real world is less clear cut. To all intents and purposes, the iPhone 6s is a phone no modern app or game will stress, and in daily use you’ll hardly notice the difference between it and the iPhone 6.

Apps do launch a fraction of a second quicker. Transitions around the OS – from homescreen to the search screen and the new iOS 9 Siri Suggestions screen – feel ever-so-slightly speedier, too, but you can only really tell the difference between the two phones by performing those actions at exactly the same time with the two right next to each other.

The only aspect of performance that is noticeably quicker in real world use over the iPhone 6 is the Touch ID sensor, which now offers almost instantaneous unlocking. It’s a saving of less than a second, though, so nothing to get too het up over.

Apple iPhone 6s specifications


Apple A9 with integrated M9 motion co-processor



Screen size


Screen resolution

750 x 1,334, 326ppi (Ion-strengthened glass)

Screen type


Front camera


Rear camera

12MP (phase detect autofocus)









Memory card slot (supplied)





Bluetooth 4.1 LE, A2DP


Yes (for Apple Pay only)

Wireless data


Size (WDH)

67 x 7.1 x 138mm



Operating system

iOS 9

Battery size


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