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iPhone 6s diary: Day one first impressions – forget the similarities, this is a whole new phone


Put the iPhone 6s next to its predecessor, and I’d challenge anyone to tell them apart. You start to notice the difference as soon as you put your thumb on the Touch ID sensor. Apple says that the new sensor is faster, and I was surprised to find that the difference – while small – is definitely noticeable. I had to use both a number of times to persuade myself that it wasn’t just a placebo effect, but I did end up convinced.

I’m going to play with the camera this evening when I have something a bit more interesting to photograph than my office and a view through the window of a very ordinary street, so mostly what I’ve been playing with today is the new Peek and Pop features using 3D Touch.

I was impressed by the idea – it was really this that persuaded me to upgrade despite my earlier doubts – and now that I’ve used it, I would now say there is no doubt at all: 3D Touch fully justifies the upgrade from the iPhone 6 … 

As you’d expect, almost all Apple apps use the feature – though I was surprised to find a few exceptions, like Activity, Pages and Numbers. I’d have thought peeking at your current activity rings would have been an obvious application there. There are also a number of third-party apps already taking advantage of it.

If you’re not already up to speed with 3D Touch, force-touch any compatible app from the homescreen and it opens up a contextual menu. It’s the direct equivalent of right-clicking on a Mac. For example, in the Messages app it offers you the opportunity to create a new message, including a shortcut to recently-messaged contacts.


Similarly with the Phone app, it offers you the choice of adding a contact or calling one of your Favorites – super convenient.


3D Touching Apple Pay offers you a choice of cards. I only have one registered, but if you registered several, this would be a really convenient way to make your selection.


The new iOS 9 capabilities of the Notes app get their own shortcuts.


3D Touch has also solved one of my irritations about the Camera app – I always seem to be on Video when I want to take a photo or vice-versa, and sliding between them is fiddly. On the iPhone 6s, you can get directly to either from the Home screen. You also get direct access to slow-mo videos and selfies.


I could go on, but a set of photos will tell the story just as well (click/tap to enlarge).

You can also Peek at content. For example, a text message confirming mobile payment for a parking space included a link to the website, and 3D Touching on this shows a preview of the website. Pressing harder opens the site. A great way to get a quick preview of a link to see if you actually want to open it.


Likewise, you can press on an email in your list and preview the contents. Here Apple was offering me Personal Setup on my new phone (nice of you to offer, Tim, but I’m good).


One thing I haven’t yet had time to play with properly, but am intrigued by, is the new trackpad feature. Press hard on the keyboard to turn it into a trackpad.


Selecting text on an iPhone can definitely be fiddly, so I’m looking forward to seeing whether that makes life easier.

I think Apple generally does well on its S releases. Siri was enough to persuade me to upgrade from the iPhone 4 to the 4S. Touch ID didn’t personally persuade me to upgrade to the 5S, but it was a decent headline feature. But 3D Touch … I’m already sold. I’m already viewing iOS 9 on the iPhone 6 as only half an upgrade. If you want the whole thing – and I think you should – you’re going to need the iPhone 6s.

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  1. PMZanetti - 8 years ago

    So happy that the trackpad mode/text selection uses 3D touch. Its OK on iPad with two fingers, but is going to be great with 3D Touch.

    • Ditto. I tried it out with two fingers on my iPhone to see if it worked. Um, no. First, didn’t work. Second, exceptionally awkward. 3D touch sounds like the perfect way to implement it.

    • Paul Wharff - 8 years ago

      Does trackpad mode work with 3rd party keyboards such as Swype and/or Swift? I hope so, it would really suck to have to go back to the default keyboard just for this feature.

      • ericesque - 8 years ago

        If it doesn’t work by default there is nothing preventing developers from implementing it. Swiftkey already allows you to use the space key as a scrubber for the cursor.

  2. epicflyingcat - 8 years ago

    “Whole new phone”

    *demonstrates press harder on icons to access shortcuts to save one second instead of going into the app*

    *can save a second by previewing links without having to open the app*

    *only works in Apple apps right now*

    Wow! Everything is so different! I’m sure it’s not your mind trying to justify paying $700 for a tiny upgrade! :)

    • matthewr1990 - 8 years ago

      Justifying the spendature of your own hard earned cash is a requirement now. The blokes offering his opinion he is not justifying anything to anybody.

      • Charlypollo - 8 years ago

        In the end he clearly states that if you want the “whole thing” you will need to spend 700. And as EpicCat sarcastically states, I also don’t think that this is is enough to justify that spending.

        And yeah, you can also use 700 dollar bills to clean your dogs poop if you wish. But that is not the point.

      • matthewr1990 - 8 years ago

        Yeh he says to get the whole experience. Which is true as 3D Touch is only available on the new S models. He’s not telling you that you HAVE to buy it.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      The upgrade cost is about £250 – the difference between the cost of my new phone and the amount I have sold the old one for. Obviously everyone makes their own decisions about the value of any upgrade (the 5S didn’t sell me, for example), but this definitely does.

    • Sell old phone for $650 and the upgrade costs you $50. The smart money is on upgrade your phone at full price, UNLOCKED, every year. Sell old phone 1 to 1.5 months before the new one is available.

      • adiquepl - 8 years ago

        I did exactly that. Kind of. Numbers slightly differ, but the scheme is the same. (Sold my iP 6 for a 2700 PLN, which is approximately the market price of a new iPhone 6; a full 1000 PLN less that official pricing, the new iPhone 6s including). Just can’t decide whether I should go for a 6s + mini 4 as planned or make do with a 6s Plus (despite being phablets’ hater).

  3. matthewr1990 - 8 years ago

    Have to say, that using my 6S Plus for about 8 hours now and the touchpad keyboard from 3D Touch is the best feature yet. Having a 6 plus previously, I know it is hard to reach the text boxes and not only that but the old magnifying glass text select etc was adequate but cumbersome. So yeah force pressing the keyboard is definitely the best thing I’ve discovered thus far.

  4. Hesh (@heshamf) - 8 years ago

    You can in fact release your finger after 3D touching an app like the phone app before selecting one of the options, you don’t need to slide you finger while keeping it on the screen.

  5. chrisl84 - 8 years ago

    I expect that the 7 will be leaps and bounds ahead of the 6S that the 6S is not worth the upgrade from the 6 and is a mere teaser of big changes ahead….so unless you upgrade every year I would say hold onto your 6 or that 6S will look like a dinosaur in 12 months.

    • scumbolt2014 - 8 years ago

      Then wait for the 7 like I’m sure many others will. Don’t call this a minor upgrade to justify waiting until next year for yourself – it’s not. I’m going to believe the people and reviewers that have actually used it, not you.

      • chrisl84 - 8 years ago

        I am commenting based on Ben’s statement in the article….don’t like peoples comments stay the F up out the comment section…..

      • chrisl84 - 8 years ago

        Further Dipstick I didn’t call it a minor upgrade….

    • Chris Cooper (@clcooper) - 8 years ago

      You didnt directly say it is a “minor upgrade”, however you implied that by your comment that you expect the 7 to be leaps and bounds ahead of the ‘S’ models, and that the S models will be dinosaurs in a year.. (FTR, I am waiting for the 7 like you, and I have a 5s with 16GB.. The horror!! ;-) )

      • chrisl84 - 8 years ago

        6S will be a leaps and bounds ahead because the 7 will also introduce iOS 10….there is no doubt in my mind Apple drops a mega release with iOS 10….a soft roll out for 3D Touch this year then major implementation on the 7, brand new designs, with major iOS release….6S is not minor to the 6 but will be a wet blanket to what Apple drops on an overhauled design with ios 10 on top of it.

    • You’ll be wrong. The leaps and bounds always come on the S years. The non-S phones are always the lesser upgrades in terms of performance, but do usually bring the advancements in screens and of course form factor.

      • chrisl84 - 8 years ago

        Not a chance….the 7 will also be iOS 10. Let me repeat while you let that soak in, the 7 will introduce iOS 10…..let that sink in. 3d touch is just a teaser on 6s of what ios 10 will introduce on the 7

    • Jake Becker - 8 years ago

      I’m gonna skip this one for the iPhone Virtual, where the phone exists in Apple servers orbiting the planet and I send and receive messages and activate apps via my brain waves.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        Hmm, relying on iCloud does mean your phone would disappear from time to time, and Apple would swear it was in your hand …

  6. Dustin Moskowitz - 8 years ago

    Seems like some of the 3D Touch features in iOS 9 on a 6/6S could be accomplished with a long press – peeks, pops, selections, etc. Why not implement that as well for older phones?

    • scumbolt2014 - 8 years ago

      Because 3D touch uses a different screen/dislpaly than the iPhone 6. Have you read anything about the 6s than this?

      • He didn’t ask about the technology, he asked if it could have been implemented differently.

        I know you think you’re smart by reading your comments but inability to comprehend seems to suggest otherwise.

    • rogifan - 8 years ago

      It uses different display technology as well as haptic feedback via the Taptic Engine. Not similar to long press. Apple is never going to implement a flagship feature two different ways. Poor UX plus a nightmare for developers.

    • Matthew Judy - 8 years ago

      One reason is that the “Long Press” gesture is already known and used by apps on iPhones prior to 6S. Developers have already written apps that respond to that gesture, so to overload it would cause all kinds of problems.

      • Mike Beasley - 8 years ago

        Yep. One place Apple has actually used a long press to simulate a 3D Touch is in the Photos app. If you send a Live Photo to a non-6s phone, you an long press it to play back the video. Works in Messages too from what I understand. Probably anywhere a photo viewer is that’s capable of viewing Live Photos.

    • David Moreau - 8 years ago

      Probably because long press is already used for other functionality in iOS.

  7. tomtubbs - 8 years ago

    “One word of warning here: you have to slide your finger to the contact to make the call, you can’t lift it.”

    Nope. Can lift then tap the option.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      So you can – must have been a glitch the first time. I’ll correc that later.

      • dcj001 - 8 years ago

        Are you suggesting that it was an iPhone glitch or a Ben Lovejoy glitch?

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        My lawyers advise me not to comment. :-)

  8. Hoang Dinh - 8 years ago

    I have to say the Touch ID is definitely faster. On iOS 9, you can double click the Home button on the lock screen to bring up Apple Pay. On my 6, after double click, I would have to keep my finger on for another second for the phone to read the print, but on the 6s, just double click and the phone has already read my print and have Apple Pay ready. It’s only a tiny difference in time but I’m impressed at how fast the sensor is now.

  9. Chandler (@piacere2327) - 8 years ago

    For me, the “s-Upgrades” have always been the real upgrades. The design overhauls are certainly visible (and when it came to screen size it also changed the way your iphone felt). But the 3GS became so much snappier, 4s had Siri and a better camera, 5s had TouchID…. The stuff that actually mattered and shaped the iPhone experience (usage) significantly for much longer. Just my opinion though.

    • taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

      The 3GS was really the only meaningful s upgrade in my opinion. Siri is just now getting useful 4 years later. 2 years later Touch ID is still just coming to major banking apps, Bank of America just added Touch ID logins.

      The technologies you mentioned are important but usually takes at least a year before developers widely use them or Apple makes them more revelant. Touch ID just supported logins and downloading apps in the App Store the first year. It wasn’t until other apps could use it and was made part of Apple Pay that it was useful.

      • Chandler (@piacere2327) - 8 years ago

        I unlock my phone … I don’t know… maybe 30-40 times a day. TouchID was a major improvement over the usual pin code. With other apps, it’s nice to have TouchID there, but the killer feature is having it to unlock my phone.

    • The 4S was also MUCH faster than the 4 and has so far received two years worth of additional OS updates.

    • David Moreau - 8 years ago

      The 3G was a major upgrade. Going from Edge to 3G was a big deal.

      iOS was also too quick too change back then. For example, folders didn’t come to the 3G. It was abandoned pretty quickly by Apple as the hardware was so underwhelming back then.

    • Mike Beasley - 8 years ago

      Ah but think about it. If you skip the S upgrade and go with the next redesign, you get all of the goodies introduced in the S model with some improvements AND a new design. Best of both worlds!

  10. taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

    It will take a year for developers to fully take advantage of 3D Touch. Bank of America just adopted Touch ID logins. Most developers are slow to implement new features. 3D Touch will get.more attention from Apple in iOS 9. No iPads support it at this time and probably won’t until the next 9.7″ iPad if it even has 3D Touch

    I think it’ will be confusing for users that are used to one set of touch interaction in one device not being able to interact the same with others. 3D touch makes it easy to finally kill the home button. Updated FaceTime camera is the only thing that really would make me want to upgrade. Combining the better cameras and 3D Touch still is not a compelling enou reason for me to upgrade. The 6s’s are still the least pleasing to look at iPhone Apple has made.

  11. theagentmike - 8 years ago

    Does 3D Touch have any effect on rearranging apps on the home screen?
    I know in previous iPhones you gotta touch and hold the icon until they all jiggle then you can move them about the screen.

  12. RP - 8 years ago

    I think we are getting to the peak of the smartphone curve. The point where your phone is good enough. Where the state of the art is good enough that you do not have the need to upgrade as often and still have a great experience with it.

    Other than the larger screen this time around with the 6, my 5s does juts fine with most everything I throw at it. Actually the 5s is so good, and so well made, and so sexy, that I felt I was downgrading by upgrading.

    I WANT a new phone, but the logical part of me tells me I do not NEED a new phone and reminds me how nice the 5S is. So will skip the entire 6 cycle.
    I will definitely get the 7 no doubt, but I really do think we have reach the point where the state of the art can now be commoditized by anyone and will flood a market with smartphones that are good enough for everyone’s needs. Upgrade cycles , like with the iPad, grow longer and longer.

    The car may be Apple’a Ark to hedge against the flood.

    • History has shown us that what you mention about reaching a peak is not true. Or at least it’s true every time a new release happens. The state of software continues to push the boundaries, even if it’s only to increase complexity for the sake of causing older products to perform slower. There is no hardware product with a general-purpose operating system receiving regular updates where this is not true.

      There will also never be an iPhone that will prevent Apple from obsoleting it with a future OS update.

    • Charlypollo - 8 years ago

      I agree completely with what you say. But I think that in order to break the curve, we need another Steve jobs to change the game, just as he did with the iPhone. And after being an iPhone user since de 3gs, the new steve won’t come from Apple.

  13. Ben, you felt the speed improvements in Touch ID may have just been placebo? Gruber mentions that Touch ID is now so fast that he can’t use the Home Button to simply light up the lock screen – it reads his finger print so quickly the phone immediately unlocks on a normal press of the button.

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      I’d say that’s slightly hyperbolic, but it is definitely faster.

      • iphonenick (@iphonenick) - 8 years ago

        Ben, comparing touch id on my 6S to my older 6 Plus leads me to agree with Gruber’s observation. I had to verify the 6S was locking and then I tried pressing the home button with another finger to verify security was active. I’m blown away by the performance. Note – I have registered four fingers on the 6S versus six on the 6 Plus.

  14. Pedro Coimbra - 8 years ago

    I still don’t get the fuss of 3D touch in some apps. Ok it can be useful in the browser or email app, but the rest? What’s the difference in choosing the kind of note/photo/reminder in a shortcut that will then open the app, or opening the app and choosing the note/photo/reminder there?

    • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

      None at all if you know what you want to open. But if you want to look at an email to see whether you need to action it, then it’s quicker. Not *vastly* quicker, but quicker.

      • Pedro Coimbra - 8 years ago

        Well, I did say there was some functionality in the email app and browser : ), but for instance in the credit card, notes, photos, and reminders apps is next to irrelevant. Maybe not the 3D touch per se, but it’s implementation in these apps. I think those didn’t need any 3D touch, but Apple felt that having only 2 or 3 apps with that new tech was just too little and so it built it in (almost) every Apple app to boost the public and developer perception of that technology.

      • Ben Lovejoy - 8 years ago

        We definitely disagree there. For the camera app, for example, I love it. I think a lot of the examples I showed make a worthwhile difference.

  15. spark0919 - 8 years ago

    Unless if it’s a bug, force pressing Wallet only shows/offers your default card.

  16. Inaba-kun (@Inaba_kun) - 8 years ago

    Very standard S release. For me the things I want fixed are the ugly design (those antenna lines are still hideous), he protruding camera, smaller bezels, and a less slippery shape. It’s the ugliest iPhone since the 3G, and the S has only made that worse with the garish pink model.

  17. JB - 8 years ago

    I’m pretty underwhelmed with my iPhone 6s. The weight gain /is/ noticeable and wtf didn’t Apple include haptic feedback while typing with the keyboard or dialing a phone number? This really irks me.

  18. I’ve got multiple cards loaded into wallet and 3D touch doesn’t seem to give me an option of what to select. It just brings up the default. Hopefully can be addressed at some point.

  19. george264 - 8 years ago

    Honestly, I fully disagree. My whole family upgraded to the 6S. I upgraded from the 6 and my mom and dad from the 5S. I’ve been upgrading every year since the 5 and this is the most disappointing upgrade yet.

    I understand this is an S upgrade but it doesn’t have something radically useful to my life.
    The 5S had Touch ID which dramatically improved something that I did 100x a day.

    The 6S has the new 12MP shooter and 3D Touch.

    3D Touch does.. nothing in particular. Force touching, excuse me 3D Touching the camera app then selecting selfie mode or video mode takes ridiculously long. It seems like a good idea until you use it. If I needed something quick, I’d open from the lock screen. If I’m mid app, I open control center and tap camera.
    In Phone, it allows you to add contact or open up a favorite. You can Siri dial with Hey Siri or tap Phone, then favorites which is the time equivalent of 3d touch>tap. Same with contacts. Open Dialer then dial number and click the plus key.

    Peek and Pop in Safari would be useful if I could peek, scroll around then decide. Instead it opens a static webpage. Better off opening a site then going back or opening it in the background.

    The 12MP is sharper but I’ve found it worse in adjusting to the ambient light, adjusting white balance and often focuses slower or wrong compared to the 6.

    Overall, I’m disappointed. If it wasn’t for the sharper images, the 6 produces a brighter and more color accurate photo and overall better photo. This was a bad upgrade. :/ On the bright side: Hey Siri is awesome, 2GB RAM and Rose Gold are fantastic.

    (You can hate, but this is my opinion and my testimonial to the 6S)

    • mad1at35 - 8 years ago

      Interesting; one persons meal is another persons garbage.P

      I’ve had every iPhone starting with the 3G all the way through to the 6 Plus. I wouldn’t say it’s quite a whole new phone (though internally it is) but, even though I wasn’t overly optimistic before getting it, for me this is the biggest iPhone upgrade in a while, with lots of subtle improvements that I keep discovering. Apple’s attention to detail getting back into the game again.

      The 6s plus feels snappier than the 6 plus with virtually no lag flicking between apps or safari tabs. I guess the extra system RAM and the A9 make a big difference. I also like force touch gestures a lot and have found the trackpad idea very useful – let’s hope they eventually bring it to iPad. Even the few games that support it show it’s going to be a great ‘analogue’ feature.

      We’ve had lots of fun with the front facing, retina flash and Living Photos, both selfie and rear camera lol! Interestingly the OIS on video has helped too. We have a new long-haired cat who is black and hard to photograph but the 6s has run circles round my sons 6 in real use, bringing out detail and clear images, both in video and still photos – we can’t use flash as it spooks her and also can spoil reproduction of her fabulous coat colour.

      And untethered hey Siri was really useful yesterday when I was lost whilst driving – though it’s caused some laughter when I talk to family about it as Siri activates so we’ve given ‘him/her’ a code name when discussing it LOL.

      I could go on but one more comment, I like the bit of extra weight. It might only be 20g but it feels heftier and I find the phone more stable in my hand (I kept dropping my 6 plus as it felt less balanced and stable for some reason – probably weight distribution). It also sits better in my cheap car holder and the bit of extra weight seems to hold it steadier when driving.

      So one persons disappointment, another persons joy. Such it is to be human!


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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