iPhone 6s review roundup: 3D Touch a major innovation, amazing cameras, fast performance

iPhone 6s 3D Touch in hand 006

The iPhone 6s review embargo lifted this morning, and as is always the case, many outlets immediately published their reviews. Those reviewing the new iPhone 6s have been able to use the new digs for almost two weeks, which is plenty of time to form an accurate opinion.

The consensus? The iPhone 6s is a performance beast, and features amazing camera quality. But what stood out to me most about nearly all of the reviews were the thoughts on 3D Touch. In a nearly unanimous chorus, reviewers praised the iPhone 6s’ flagship feature, which allows users to press on the screen to access new menus and features.

3D Touch

The Verge’s Nilay Patel:

“When you push down on the screen, the distance between them changes, and the phone can do things based on how hard you press, with precise bits of haptic feedback from Apple’s Taptic Engine vibration system. Apple won’t say exactly how many levels of pressure-sensitivity there are, but it’s definitely so many as to feel almost analog, like the interface is reacting in real time to physical pressure — the homescreen blurs in and out in response to how hard you press on an icon, for instance.”

The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple:

3D Touch is one of the handiest features that I’ve seen from Apple in a long time. It’s not just that it’s cool, it actually saves me time. It’s a new way to navigate the iPhone that’s quick, easy, and efficient.

Tech Crunch’s Matthew Panzarino:

3D Touch may, on the surface, appear to be a ‘neat trick’, but it’s the first major step since rich corinthian leather towards a future where our digital devices are as easy to comprehend and manipulate as the physical world is with our fingers.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern:

I had to remind myself to use 3D Touch at first, but after two weeks, it’s becoming part of my iPhone muscle memory. In Mail, I now press hard on a message to preview it, then swipe left to delete. I love how you can hold down on a link to see a preview of the website, without leaving the app you’re in. Press harder and you can “pop” into that app. Third-party app support could make it even more useful.

Live Photos

The Verge’s Nilay Patel:

Both cameras can take Apple’s new Live Photos, which are fun, if a little gimmicky. Nokia and HTC have released similar ideas, but Apple’s implementation is the most seamless

The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple:

You can also turn off Live Photos if you want—it’s right on the camera screen, so it’s really easy to get to. Having used it for a while now, I can’t imagine why you would want to though.

Tech Crunch’s Matthew Panzarino:

I could go on about Live Photos, I find them to be very, very powerful, but I think that the best uses of them are still undiscovered. I’ve gotten some lovely test shots, which you can see here and in our video above, and I’m going to leave the feature enabled. But there is some very, very interesting potential here for creative uses.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern:

The absolute best thing about the 6s is Live Photos. While capturing a still photo, it also captures a bit of live action. They’re awesome for reliving fun moments, especially of an active puppy or child, and anyone with an iOS 9 iPhone or iPad can view them. But they generally take up two to three times as much space as an iPhone 6 pic because they also save three seconds of video. Sure, you can turn them off, but you won’t want to.


The Verge’s Nilay Patel:

Let’s be real for a second: the front-facing camera upgrade to 5 megapixels from a paltry 1.2 on the iPhone 6 is the biggest news here. Selfies and Snapchats and video chats are part of the fabric of modern communication, and Apple’s been way behind the curve with its front-facing cameras. The improvement in quality from the iPhone 6 to 6S when using the front camera is just tremendous…

The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple:

One of the things I’ve noticed in using the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus is that I can now take much better pictures in low-light situations. I’ve always found the iPhone camera to be lacking in this area, but the new one is much better.

Tech Crunch’s Matthew Panzarino:

I was incredibly impressed by the differences in camera quality between the iPhone 6 Plus and the iPhone 6s Plus. It’s very, very noticeable and very welcome. The images aren’t over-sharpened because they don’t need to be — the detail is already there.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern:

The new 12-megapixel camera on the 6s captures sharper, higher-resolution photos—and they’re generally 1MB bigger. The new 5-megapixel “selfie camera” photos capture my mug and the side of my arm more clearly, yes, but those also take more room.

Battery Life

The Verge’s Nilay Patel:

Of course, every new iPhone gets great battery life for the first few months and then starts to fade, so don’t get too excited. My guess is that the iPhone 6S won’t offer you a power experience wildly different than previous iPhones you might have owned and used in your particular life / work patterns. Apple is very much just holding serve here, and if we’re going to eventually use our phones as our wallets and keys and everything else, they need to start lasting much longer.

Tech Crunch’s Matthew Panzarino:

Battery life is only worth mentioning in that there has been some talk about a slight reduction in battery size for the iPhone 6s. I don’t know about that, but I can say that battery life is spec’d to be exactly the same by Apple and that’s the way it felt.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern:

The 4.7-inch 6s will get you through the day, but you’ll struggle to make it til bedtime with moderate to heavy use. And it seemed to drain even faster than my 6 when I used the new processor-intensive camera features like Live Photos. The bigger 5.5-inch 6s Plus lasted longer and is the best choice if you’re a heavy user and want some juice left over at the end of the day. (Of course, battery life on any smartphone generally degrades over time.)

Touch ID

The Verge’s Nilay Patel:

Even TouchID has been improved for faster recognition — it’s fast enough to recognize your fingerprint and unlock the phone in just about the time it takes to click the home button and wake the phone up, which means it’s almost invisible if you get the motion down just right.

The Loop’s Jim Dalrymple:

The sensor is so fast now, I’ve had to change the way I touch the phone in order to see notifications. In the past, I could tap the home button, but it wouldn’t unlock, allowing me to browse through the notifications on the lock screen.

Tech Crunch’s Matthew Panzarino:

I pull my iPhone out of my pocket with my finger on the home button to tap it and check my notifications. That behavior is out the window now, because by the time it’s out of my pocket, it’s unlocked. It’s incredibly quick. So quick that I think some people will have issues adjusting. Eventually I had to switch to tapping the power button to wake it so I wouldn’t miss my notifications.

The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern:

Unlocking your phone is also much speedier. The new Touch ID fingerprint sensor is at least twice as fast. You barely place your finger on the button and you’re in.


In the end, it looks as if 3D Touch is a runaway success, and Live Photos, while sounding gimmicky at first, is a sleeper favorite for the new iPhone 6s. Camera quality has noticeably improved, as has Touch ID—it’s almost invisible now, that’s how fast it is.

The one “negative” take away is probably battery life, if you even want to call it that. It sounds like battery life is pretty much the same as last year’s model, even with a smaller battery. That’s likely due to the battery optimizations made in iOS 9.

We’ll be back with our own review of the new iPhones when they drop at the end of the week. What do you think about the reviews that have been posted thus far? Are you seeing any other notable opinions that caught your eye?