Yes, the iPhone 6S is cool. Buy the iPhone 6 instead.


tech_iphone_reuters
Photo by BECK DIEFENBACH |

The new Apple iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are displayed during an Apple media event in San Francisco, California, September 9, 2015. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach


TL;DR: If you're a college student interested in an iPhone and are looking to save $100 or more, you won't feel left behind with the iPhone 6.

Autumn carries different associations, depending on the person you ask. Fall foliage, start of a new football season and of course, the start of a new school year (sans the 15 pounds that come with it). But I'm kind of different — I think of the next generation of Intel processors, the last couple of new Android devices (including the Nexus devices from Google) and of course, the latest and greatest from Cupertino.

This year, Apple unveiled their newest iPhones, the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6S Plus. They have the new 3D-touch displays, slight changes under/on the hood, and a new pair of cameras.

The iPhones 6S and 6S Plus went on sale recently, and if you're a college student and you were about to buy an iPhone 6S, but decided to read this article first, you’ve made a wise choice.

I know what you're thinking. Sid, are you saying that the iPhone 6S isn't great?

No. To the contrary, I think it's a great phone. I think it builds on an already wonderful iPhone 6, and adds a singular future-proof feature that makes it worthy of the "S" status. But the real question to be asked is whether the new features are worth your precious extra dollars.

Let's look at what improvements the 6S brings more closely.

This comparison follows a specified feature: iPhone 6S versus iPhone 6 format. For the purposes of this article, I'm going to primarily refer to the 6S, but apart from the larger screen, the optical image stabilization (OIS – which I'll discuss), and the battery capacity on the 6S Plus, there isn't much of a difference.

Build quality: Aluminum 7000 Series versus iPhone 6 Aluminum

The new aluminum is actually an improvement made to prevent the infamous iPhone "bend-gating." But here's the thing — it adds a little more weight (not so much that you'll be uncomfortable, but enough that you'll notice the difference side by side), and it doesn't protect the 6S any better from drops or underwater expeditions, which are more important concerns to the average consumer. You're still going to have to put a case on either iPhone if you want to protect it from anything more than a hard tap, and most cases make the bend-gate argument moot anyways.

CPU/GPU: M9 vs M8 and RAM: Speculated 2 GB versus 1 GB

I'm putting both of these under the same category because they contribute to an overall improvement to 6S performance.

But here's the thing — the iPhone 6 is already one of the fastest phones on the market. That’s primarily because of the optimization and light weight of iOS.

And even though Apple claims that the CPU on the 6S is 70 percent faster than the 6, and the GPU is 90 percent faster, you're not going to notice a real world improvement, simply because improvements in speed nowadays are indiscernible to the human eye. It's like comparing half-second on the iPhone 6 versus fourth of a second on the iPhone 6S, when opening an application (and this is just an example, both iPhones are a lot faster than this). Would you really notice the difference between half-second and fourth-second? No. But on paper, manufacturers can say that they improved performance by 50 percent. It's a marketing ploy, and a clever one at that, but Apple isn't the only one that does this. 

Cameras: 12MP Rear-Facing (4K at 30 fps) and 5MP Front-Facing Camera versus 8MP Rear-Facing and 1.2 front-facing cameras.

This seems like a compelling argument at first glance, right? Four more megapixels on both the front and the back? But why? An iPhone 6 already takes amazing pictures (and as many reviewers will tell you, better than any of the Android competition), and those extra megapixels on the back won't make much of a difference other than slightly sharper pictures (and that’s if you zoom in quite a bit). More megapixels on the front is equally pointless when you consider that you don't need those extra pixels when you take a picture of your (and your friends') face.

Another camera feature that was announced for the 6S was Live Photos, which takes 1.5 seconds of video when you take a snapshot, giving a video Snapchat-esque effect to your photos. And that's the thing — you and your friends already use Snapchat (where you can shoot a about 7 second .GIF), and there's no incentive to shift to Live Photos. In fact, switching to Live Photos would be worse, not only because of storage constraints, but also because you'd only be able to share your Live Photos with friends that have Apple devices.

And finally, the 4K argument. Being able to shoot 4K is something that many phones are able to do nowadays. But would you actually want to shoot 4K video? Unless you have a lot of storage in your iPhone (which at 16 GB base, you don't), you won't be able to shoot more than 34 minutes of 4K video at 16 GB capacity. And that's assuming that you don't decide to store anything else on your iPhone, which means that you spent about $800 on a camera phone, when you could've gone for a DSLR. And as any professional photographer will tell you, pictures taken on a DSLR (even one that is less than $700), will blow the iPhone pictures out of the water.

Both generations can capture photos and videos at 1080p, and it would be in your (storage’s) best interest to stay at that.

3D-Touch Display

Now this is the highlighted feature of the iPhone 6S that really is quite impressive. Your display senses how much pressure you've applied, and makes a response based on that. Believe me, the potentials are endless - games, particularly racing and FPS would be a lot better, in-app functionality and capabilities would be much improved, and so on. But that's the thing — we're stuck at the potentials, and apart from Apple's own iOS apps, there really haven't been any other app developers that have taken advantage of this, because they haven't had time to integrate it. It's a new concept — and development takes time. Just as how NFC, which came out on phones starting in 2011, is really becoming popular only now because of various payment capabilities (like Apple Pay, Android Pay, and Samsung Pay), the same problem exists for the 3D-touch display. It'll be at least a year before most of the apps that you use actually support it and integrate it, and by that time, the next generation of iPhones will be out.

Okay, so what hasn't changed/improved?

Battery capacity/life: 1750 mAH vs 1810 mAH (or for the 6S Plus 2750 mAH vs 6 Plus 2915 mAH)

I know — 5 percent smaller capacities in the newer models. To be honest, you're not going to notice the difference in battery life (you might get an extra 10 minutes on the 6 and extra 20 minutes on the 6 Plus), but the trend is disappointing, especially when you consider that battery life on the iPhones has never been known for their longevity.

No Optical Image Stabalization (OIS)

(Not applicable to the iPhone 6 Plus or the 6S Plus – both of them have OIS).

You know what's more important than megapixels when it comes to video? Being able to get a stable picture. Now this isn't too important when you're just taking a regular picture, because that's just a single frame, but it is important when you're taking videos, because you can be moving around more over a greater period of time, and software alone can't fix the problems with shaky cam. That's where OIS comes in, a piece of hardware which tries to fix jitters while you're taking video in real time. And neither the iPhone 6 nor the newer 6S has it, which is slightly disappointing, especially when you consider that many Android phones, at the same price point (or lower), have it.

The improvements in the iPhone 6S (or 6S Plus) don’t necessarily make it a compelling buy over the iPhone 6 (or 6 Plus). Combine that with the fact that you're under a tight budget as it is, as a college student, and the marginal benefit of getting an iPhone 6S drops significantly.

So what you can do with the extra $100?

-Upgrade your storage

I can't tell you how valuable storage on your smartphone is. Let's face it, 16 GB just doesn't cut it anymore — especially when you consider that the preinstalled OS and apps take a good chunk out of your available space, leaving you with about 12 GB to start with. Then you install your essential apps, like Facebook and Spotify, maybe a couple of other apps and games. And maybe you want to download some music and movies onto your iPhone, and oh wait, you've got less than 5 GB to work with. And expandable storage is not an option. Between more storage (an extra $100 pushes you to a healthy 64 GB of storage) and the S features, I'd go for the greater storage.

-Get a kindle:

I highly recommend Kindles for reading without the pain of lugging around all of your books. They have great battery life (weeks-months), are lighter than your average tablet, and are great companions at the beach or on the bus.

-Buy a textbook

-Get a whole year of Netflix/Amazon Prime.

-Buy a lot more cups of coffee at Starbucks/Au Bon Pain without feeling too guilty about it.

-Buy at least 10 meals at Chipotle (with guacamole!).

-Buy a gift for your significant other.

-Put it in your savings account and make your parents proud.


Siddhesh Dabholkar

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