Apple iPhone 6s Plus review: Big, beautiful and still fabulous (but still no bargain deals)

£619
Price when reviewed

Nearly a year after release, and the iPhone 6s Plus still doesn’t come cheap. The iPhone 7 is just around the corner, so realistically you should probably hold off to see if the new handset offers a significant upgrade – or what kind of impact it has on the iPhone 6s Plus’ pricetag.

Still, if you absolutely must have the iPhone 6s Plus today, then there are some decent deals out there. Mobiles.co.uk can sell you the 16GB model for £75 upfront, and then a 12 month contract worth £31.50 per month with o2, which is a reasonable deal including a generous 3GB data. Alternatively, if you don’t want to pay anything upfront you can get similar terms with Vodafone for £37 per month.

Buying the phone SIM free isn’t much more appealing. Currys sell the 16GB handset at £599, which only £20 less than the Apple store, so not too much of a bargain. Seriously, if you can: give it a month. 

The original review continues below.

When Steve Jobs first mocked the trend for giant smartphone screens, he couldn’t possibly have envisaged how popular they’d become. I’m all but certain he’d have spun it in his favour, though, simply by stating that Apple’s phones, though late to the party, “did it better”. Fast-forward to now, a year after the super-sized iPhone 6 pairing first hit the market, and Apple has released the Apple iPhone 6s Plus – it’s no bigger, but it is most definitely better.

I’m going to leave a lengthy discussion over the size of the iPhone 6s Plus aside for this review. Physically, it’s much the same phone as last year. A fraction thicker and very slightly heavier, maybe, but in isolation you’d struggle to tell the 6 Plus and the 6s Plus apart.

To my mind, though, it’s a little too bulky for a 5.5in phone. Companies such as Samsung and even Huawei have produced handsets that squeeze bigger screens into ever smaller bodies – by comparison, the iPhone 6s Plus feels oversized and heavy. It badly needs to go on a diet.[gallery:1]

Apple could also do with getting rid of the unsightly camera bulge at the rear, which remains from last year. If you choose to snap a case on your iPhone, it’s not an issue – but that’s not to everyone’s tastes. Choose to go without, though, and the phone will rock slightly when you put it down on a flat surface.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus: Bigger screen and battery

Still, there are some tangible benefits that the iPhone 6s Plus carries over its smaller, more pocketable sibling. The first of those is its larger, 5.5in (1,080 x 1,920 resolution) display, which makes it far better for watching movies, playing games and browsing the web.

The extra screen real estate also helps out with the pop-up menus that appear when you employ the phone’s new 3D Touch system. You can read about how I think 3D Touch is going to change the way we use our smartphones in my Apple iPhone 6s review, but on the iPhone 6s I occasionally found that fingers and thumbs would obscure menus and options – here it’s much less of an issue.

Despite the extra layers of pressure-sensing technology, screen quality remains a match for the 6s and last year’s 6 Plus, offering a top brightness of 584cd/m2, a contrast ratio of 1,331:1 and sRGB coverage of 91.3%. It’s not quite the match of the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+’s fantastic Super AMOLED screen, but it’s still very, very good.

Apple iPhone 6s Plus review: 3D Touch is more usable on the 6 Plus' 5.5in display

The iPhone 6s Plus also has a bigger battery than the standard iPhone 6s, which delivers tangibly longer life between charges. In real-world use, I regularly reached the end of a day with a fair amount in reserve – between 30% and 40% – and even on days where I used the phone more intensively, iOS 9’s new Low Power Mode was there to help out.

Low Power Mode disables certain background functions in an attempt to give you longer battery life. Switch it on and you’ll notice that certain animations are disabled, background email sync and downloads are turned off, as is the always-on Hey Siri command.

In the Alphr smartphone battery tests, the iPhone 6s Plus performed extremely well. When streaming audio over 4G, with background tasks set to a minimum and the screen off, the battery ran down at a rate of 2.3% per hour. Playing a 720p video with the screen set to a brightness of 120cd/m2 consumed capacity at a rate of 5.5% per hour.

These results are slightly worse than last year’s, but only by a smidgen, and the iPhone 6s Plus remains among the longest-lasting smartphones on the market. Unfortunately, if that still isn’t good enough for you, you’re stuck with it, at least from an official standpoint. Although Apple has released an official battery case for its 4.7in iPhone 6s it hasn’t done the same for the larger iPhone 6s Plus.

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