Apple iPhone 6s Plus Review: More Of A Good Thing

User Experience and Software

Just as Apple coincided the launch of iOS 8 with the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, the new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus bring with them yet another new version of Apple's mobile operating system, iOS 9. It's not quite the exhaustive upgrade that iOS 8 was, which Apple described as "the biggest change to iOS since the introduction of the App Store," but it is filled with "across-the-board enhancements." Some of them are subtle while others are more significant.

iOS 9

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One of the things you'll notice is a new red News icon on the Home screen. The intent is to keep you connected to whats going on in the world with news stories that appeal to your interests, and to do that effectively, you first have to select from a list of media outlets when you first fire up the app. Sadly, HotHardware wasn't among the 165 choices, which ran a healthy mix of sports, technology, and general news sites.

You can then choose whether or not to receive curated news items via email. If you select "Not Now," you'll jump straight into the thick of things with a series of headlines that might be of interest. This is the "For You" section.

This is one of the options laid out at the bottom of the screen, the others being Favorites, Explore, Search, and Saved. You can remove selected news outlets in the Favorites section, as well as tap on any of them to dive into news from just that source. If you want to add more news outlets to the fray, you'll find them in the Explore section broken down by category. Finally, articles for offline viewing appear in the Saved in section (and so does your History).

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Apple made it easier to navigate in iOS 9. For one, there's a back button! Well, sort of. It's not the same as in Android, but let's say you're scrolling stories in the News app when you get a notification from Twitter about a tweet that demands your immediate attention. When you head over to Twitter, there's a "Back to News" link in the upper left corner that you can tap to bring you back to News (or wherever you came from). It's a subtle convenience, but one that's much appreciated.

Alternatively, you can still use the App Switcher (double tap the Home button) to navigate recently opened apps, only now it sports a complete redesign. Instead of a row of icons at the bottom of the iPhone (or iPad), open apps are laid out like a deck of cards that you can cycle through and jump into or whisk away by swiping up.

3D Touch

One feature that's unique to the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus is 3D Touch, which Apple calls "the next generation of multi-touch." You might also be tempted to call it Force Touch, as Apple mistakenly did at one point during its iPhone 6s launch event.

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The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus are able to detect how much pressure you apply to the display and respond in functional ways. One of those ways is Peek and Pop, a feature that lets you preview content without jumping in. For example, as you scroll through your list of emails, you can apply a light press to highlight it while all the others are slightly blurred, which would be giving it a Peek, while a harder press will open it up as you Pop into it. The Pop mode is especially handy as it often allows you to read an entire email (unless it's particularly long) without jumping completely in -- when you lift up your finger or thumb, the popped out email closes and you're back in your inbox.

There are a number of different ways to use 3D Touch. When taking pictures, you can preview a photo you just took by pressing and holding the thumbnail icon in the lower left corner. When you let go, you're plopped right back in the Camera app.

You can also use 3D Touch as sort of a right-click menu. The options vary by app -- applying a bit of extra pressure to the Facebook app brings up options to snap a photo or video, upload a photo or video, or write a post. The same action on the Messages app brings up a New Message option along with quick hits to three recent contacts.

3D Touch ranks as one of the nicest features of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus. It's not simply a gimmick that loses its utility after the gee-whiz factor wears off, but a functional way of interacting with your phone. Plus this is only the beginning, the feature is bound to become even more useful as developers come up with clever ways of utilizing it.

Is it enough to warrant upgrading from an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus? That's debatable. We lean towards no simply because smartphones are so darn expensive these days. However, if you're coming from an older phone or have the option of upgrading for not a lot of coin (such as Sprint's iPhone Forever program), then yes, 3D Touch support may be worth making the jump.

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