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Opinion: The iPhone 6s vs. iPhone 6s Plus choice was trickier than expected


I honestly did not want to order both an iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus this year. After many years of comprehensively reviewing iPhones — an exhausting process — I was looking forward to spending this year’s iPhone release kicking back and enjoying one of the two new models like a regular customer.

The only problem: I couldn’t decide which model I wanted.

I’ve used an iPhone 6 Plus for the past year, loving the typing experience (for the first time on any iPhone) but hating its size in my pockets (also for the first time on any iPhone). My hope was to switch to an iPhone 6s, and I expected to do so if the 6s proved to be nearly as good as the 6s Plus. But after a weekend playing with both new iPhones, alternating full days of usage between them, I think I’ve come to a different conclusion…

Cameras. This feature is more important to me than any other — I love taking photos and recording videos with my iPhones, so this year’s upgrade to 12MP stills/4K video/5MP selfies was justification enough for me to get one of the new models. On paper, the iPhone 6s Plus’s optical image stabilization (OIS) should have been a key deciding factor. But after reviewing a lot of video footage shot by others, and doing a few tests on my own, I found the real-world iPhone 6s/6s Plus camera differences to be much less significant than I’d expected.

Last year’s 6 Plus was introduced with OIS, but Apple said very little about what the feature would actually bring to the table — it turned out to be useful only for slightly improving low light performance when snapping still pictures. This year, the 6s Plus rear camera OIS can be used when shooting video, as well. In practice, it only appears to make a real difference when the iPhone is really being jostled — think “recording in a bumpy car” rather than “walking through your house.” On the still side, I did some direct photo comparisons in varied lighting conditions, finding a typical difference of one ISO step (50 to 100 or 1600 to 2000), but occasionally a larger difference (as shown above). Sometimes, this translates into a small but visible difference in the amount of light and detail gathered. Other times, the differences are invisible.

In short, iPhone 6s Plus pictures and videos are likely to be extremely similar to iPhone 6s features under normal circumstances. So don’t consider the Plus OIS a “must” unless you have very, very specific needs meeting the conditions above.

Battery. Despite smaller batteries, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus run times both seem roughly comparable to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus that preceded them under normal usage conditions. I’ve seen suggestions that the 6s Plus slightly underperforms the 6 Plus in longevity, and they’re consistent with what I’ve noticed. But the 6s Plus remains the iPhone to choose if you don’t want to worry about mid-day charges. I gave each phone a highly comparable full-day spin, complete with Apple Watch pairing; the 6s was nearly dead by early evening, and the 6s Plus was ready to last through the end of the night. If you’re thinking of dropping $50 to $100 on an external battery pack that will thicken your phone to extend its life, you’re better off just going with the iPhone 6s Plus in the first place.

Screens, 3D Touch, and Haptic Feedback. There are no obvious visual differences between the screens of the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus relative to their predecessors; they both remain Retina-quality despite their significant pixel count differences and sizes. Your naked eye won’t likely notice a difference between them in resolution, color, or any factor other than size. The biggest issue you would notice may well be the distance your finger travels — swiping from the left of the screen to the right takes more physical motion on the larger screen than the smaller one, which could matter for some gestures (including multitasking and page flipping).

On the other hand, though they’re more similar than I’d expected, the haptic feedback from 3D Touch feels a little lighter on the iPhone 6s than on the iPhone 6s Plus. And on a related note, the somewhat overaggressive vibration engine on the iPhone 6 Plus has been toned down on the iPhone 6s Plus, which was one of the small annoyances exclusive to the larger model last year.


Size and Weight. Yes, each phone is a little larger and heavier than its immediate predecessor, and yes, the weight difference is a little more noticeable on the 6s Plus than on the 6s. Old cases still fit, albeit with a very slight bulge; new cases tend to be more forgiving. In any case, the extra weight doesn’t matter. I’m personally just glad that Apple has switched to a more resilient aluminum this year, reducing the need for a thicker, reinforced shell to prevent the real or imagined risk of bending.

Another way to look at this: the iPhone 6s Plus itself isn’t more comfortable in the pocket than the iPhone 6 Plus, which was a major factor steering me towards the smaller iPhone 6s. But thanks to the superior construction, it has less of a need for a thick case, which could indirectly improve its profile for some people.

Conclusions. Despite my reservations about the iPhone 6 Plus, I’m pretty sure that I’m going to stick with the same form factor this year and keep the iPhone 6s Plus. While the camera differences weren’t important enough to swing me in one direction or the other, the balance of other factors pushed me to the larger device. It’s hard to go back to a smaller screen even though the iPhone 6s is entirely sufficient for most purposes, and the noticeable difference in battery life between the iPhone 6s and Plus is difficult to ignore. I’m looking forward to switching from my thicker prior-generation iPhone 6 Plus case to something smaller and more pocket-friendly.

What did you decide to do this year? I’m interested to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below!

More From This Author

Check out more of my How-To guides, reviews, and editorials for 9to5Mac here! I’ve covered a lot of different topics of interest to Mac, iPad, iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and Apple Watch users, recently including guides to getting the best old iPhone trade-in price to upgrade to iPhone 6stransferring your old iPhone’s files to your new iPhone 6s, and safely wiping your old iPhone for resale or trade-in.

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  1. jxslepton - 8 years ago

    Was set on swapping out my 6+ for a 6S for the same exact reasons(pocket) but after reading this article maybe there’s something I forgot about why I originally switched from a 6 to a + in the first place. I’ll be visiting an apple store soon to test it out.

    • Rich Davis (@RichDavis9) - 8 years ago

      Yeah, I originally bought the iPhone 6 and after a few months, the screen grew too small. I had a friend that had the iPhone 6+ and the more I played around with it, the more I liked it better, so I opted to replace the 6 with a 6+. Yeah, it’s a little bigger, but that doesn’t bother me THAT much. My biggest problem is I have poor eyesight so the bigger screen is definitely better. I wish the 6+ screen was a little bigger and it didn’t have that edge on the bezel. That would be nice. Plus I don’t know if it has to be so tall. So if they shrunk it down from top to bottom a little, that would be nice.

  2. I wasn’t sure of which one I was getting, good points in this article. Camera wasn’t a factor but battery to me is.

  3. I had the 6 previously and moved up to the 6S Plus this time. I won’t be looking back. The larger size works well.

  4. Thai Tran (@Thai82) - 8 years ago

    Switched from the 6 Plus to the 6s. I miss the battery life and the larger screen of the plus but love the one handed usability and pocket-ability of the smaller version. Going to keep it.

  5. mpias3785 - 8 years ago

    I went for the 6s simply because I find the smaller size more practical. I was thinking that the 6s+ might be a nice compromise between an iPhone and an iPad until I realized that between my MBP and my iPhone, I only rarely use my iPad and have no desire to get another.

  6. Victor Garcia (@vic867) - 8 years ago

    I went from the 6 plus to the 6s. It is mainly due to portability. I want a phone that fits in my pocket and I can handle with one hand.

  7. taoprophet420 - 8 years ago

    I only have problems pocketing the 6 plus in some shorts. In jeans the size is fine.

    As for as typing and etched I generally use 2 hands no matter the screen size so the 6 plus makes more sense to me.

    The video comparisons I seen on of video between the 6s and 6s plus seems like a pretty big difference of how stable the 6s plus videos are.

  8. spiralynth - 8 years ago

    6s for me. The Plus is just too unweildy for my interests. Sure, I’d love the extra screen estate, but I’ll wait for the chinless and smaller foreheaded iPhone 7 for an optimal form-factor.

    Also, I’m on my iPad Air 2 far, far more than I am on my iPhone for the “big screen” fun, and I can’t wait to get my hands on an iPad Pro.

  9. J (@xtr3me_fx) - 8 years ago

    This year i choose an 6S, because i already have a 6 Plus ,and i want a phone with a little size, i’m still with my 6 Plus and have no problem with battery, even i already have a External power bank 15.000mah, so the battery is not an issue, and the Camera thing… well last year i think that the OIS should be better than a 6 Regular, but the differences are not enought or noticiable with each photo, so i can live without it. i’m still waiting for my 6S it should comes ends this week.

  10. atomgross - 8 years ago

    I switched from a 6 Plus to a 6S and I couldn’t be happier. One handed navigation is something I did not always have with my 6 Plus.

    • Jordan Ingram - 8 years ago

      Same here. I chose the 6s because it was $100 cheaper and 64GB is a must. The 16GB version is a joke.

  11. Vithujan (@atVithu) - 8 years ago

    I have exact the same problem. More or less luckily the new iPhone comes only in 11 days to Switzerland. So I have the possibility to read some opinions. Now having the iPhone 6 Plus, I’m struggling with the pocket-problem. Therefore I tend to switch to the iPhone 6s than to the iPhone 6s Plus. But still I’m afraid that I can’t go with a smaller screen. Gaming, typing and watching videos/movies on a 6 Plus screen is really fun. My eyes are used to it.

    I’m anxious about making a fault and I can’t afford both models. ;P

    • islandgirl45 - 8 years ago

      Have you tried a kickstand case from ZeroChroma? They make it much easier to hold the 6/6s Plus for one handed use.

      • islandgirl45 - 8 years ago

        Sorry, I meant to reply to atomgross.

  12. Paul Van Obberghen - 8 years ago

    The 4/4S was for me just perfect in size and it fell rock solid in the hand. I couldn’t sell mine and everytime I take it out of its box, I feel this was _the_ right iPhone. I have a 6 and surely the screen size is great, but the 6 looks wrong to the point I needed a case I never needed for my 4S, partly to hide its uglyness (protruding lens, plastic joins). And it feels fragile and like it would easily slip from my hand, and before I got the case, it did several times. I knew that I had my 4S with me because of the weight; I need to check all the time with the 6, and surely I forget it on my desk more often than my 4S.
    I would be perfectly happy with a 4/4S form factor with anything the 6S have.

  13. srgmac - 8 years ago

    Very tough choice…I will say though, since around here Samsung gets accused of copying Apple all the time — it’s my opinion that the Plus sized iPhones would not even exist if it was for Samsung. Samsung was one of the pioneers into the “phablet” market. If anything, in the end, it’s better for everyone to have the option / choice to make on their own. I think multimedia in general is going to be a better experience on the Plus. My main device is still a 5S, and I like it, but it does feel too small at times…I think the 6 is the perfect size, but my GF likes the Plus better.

  14. Robert Dupuy - 8 years ago

    I think when Apple makes the iPhone Plus model a bit smaller, it will make it the ‘no brainer’ choice (except for the cost conscious).

    I have to admit, having used many phones for development, the perfect size phone, I find to be a tad smaller than the 5.5″ iPhone 6S plus – I’d take a 5″ phone. But rather than make the screen smaller, if they had the phone without bezels, edge to edge screen, remove the physical home button – they’d get that phone down close to that perfect size range.

    The iPhone 7 should be a thing of beauty…wireless charging will be nice too.

    With that said, ultimately I decided not to wait and get an iPhone 6S Plus anyway….just ordered it online – and I am waiting out the 2 to 4 weeks to receive it.

    That A9 SoC is awesome, I’m not waiting a year for that, lol

    • Jeremy Horwitz - 8 years ago

      I agree entirely with your screen and size sentiments.

    • amazingrugs - 8 years ago

      I agree. The Plus design feels very lazy to me, like they just magnified all the dimensions of the 6s and called it a day. The phone is much too wide for comfortable use for me. I know it works for some people, but I will wait till they have a better form factor for the larger device before I consider one.

  15. 98cobra - 8 years ago

    I went from 6+ to the 6S for much the same reasons everyone has mentioned. I couldn’t stand having a patio paver in my pocket. It looked stupid, I had to take the phone out of my pocket just to tie a shoe, in extended use I found that my hand would fatigue with the size/weight, one hand usability was terrible, I found that I was terrible at speed typing on the wider keyboard, the larger phone is significantly more prone to dropping, and good luck digging it out of your pocket while you’re sitting in a car.

    On my new 6S, all of these issues are resolved. Yes, I sometimes miss the larger screen, and no question the longer battery life, but I can still easily get a full day out of the smaller phone including having an Apple watch. I use my new iPad Mini 4 for couch surfing and it does a lot better job than the plus phones for that.

  16. Toby (@YtterbiumUK) - 8 years ago

    Seems like I did the opposite to most of you, I have a 6 and got 6S+, the bigger screen and longer battery seemed worth a go, I very rarely use iPad so I felt like the + could be a more versatile phone. I am concerned about the pocket ability like you have discussed.

    A few people at work said they loved the 4/4S due to the density being high, it felt good quality. The 4 screen does seem very small now though to me I almost jumped to Android after 5, as I couldn’t stand the small screen anymore. I agree 5″ would be a good size, but I feel like there all in for 2 sizes now.

  17. theagentmike - 8 years ago

    Right after reading this article, I went straight to the Apple Store to return and exchange my 6s Plus for a 6s. The bigger size was really kind of annoying to me actually. I decided its better to have a more portable phone than to have a bigger screen which in many cases doesn’t fit well in my pocket. I know the battery life was one of the key reasons why I went with the 6s Plus the first time. Since returning it I actually enjoy the slightly smaller size of the 6s. And it saved me $100 that I could probably just go ahead and put towards an iPad Pro later on.. :)

  18. henry ducot (@hducot) - 8 years ago

    I had the same dilemma. Was rocking the 6+ the last 365. I watched SEVERAL videos on the smaller 6. My reasons for getting the smaller iPhone was pocket ability and one handed use. After trading in my 6+ I was surprised how quickly I adjusted. Yes the 1080 screen and OIS will be missed, but I’m happy with my decision. Plus Verizon has a promotion where they’ll take $300 off a new iPad. I got the mini 2 for $50 so now I can have the best of both worlds.

  19. Andrew Valderas - 8 years ago

    Same experience. I’ve happily owned a 6+ for the last year. But his time around… believing I was “over” the big-screen craze… I pre-ordered and received a regular 6S. However, after a weekend of use, I quickly found that when I had other devices available (e.g. an iPad or MacBook), I immediately put down my 6S and jumped to using those devices instead. This is something I rarely did with my 6 Plus. The reason? Basically it’s that the screen on the iPhone 6/6S is far less enjoyable to read from and consume video content from than the larger screen available on the Plus models. Additionally, I now realized how reliant I’ve become on the significantly larger battery within the Plus models. So… this 6S is being shipped back in the morning, and I have a 6S Plus on the way.

  20. mytawalbeh - 8 years ago

    I’m switching to 6S Plus from the 6 Plus, because of the screen size & Battery. I have no problem with the big size, but the most I hated are the big bezels on top and bottom, so I’m switching to Space Grey where the front face is appealing just like the back.

  21. caiynegrant - 8 years ago

    Yeah I had the same issue last year. I originally went with the iPhone 6, I thought it was relatively small and easy to hold, I loved the design but the battery life, let’s be honest I was dead before 5pm. I than upgraded 5 months later for an iPhone 6 Plus, apart from the expensive price tag it was the best decision I could have made, partly due to the battery life being significantly larger and the size wasn’t too hard to get used to. I’m now going for the iPhone 6s Plus in October (out of stock) and I hope to enjoy all of the new features including 3D Touch and the game changin camera

  22. Marcraz (@mdaebert) - 8 years ago

    mpias3785 I totally totally agree with you. Gonna ditch the 6 Plus for the 6s this time…

  23. Moises Soto - 8 years ago

    I’m interested in knowing what is your opinion about using the iPhone 6/6s Plus on landscape.

    One of the major reasons (besides Battery Life) that I want a Plus version is that when you use the apps on landscape you get a different layout like you do with the iPad.

    Is that a feature that you would miss if you go from the Plus version to the smaller one?

    • Jeremy Horwitz - 8 years ago

      I personally hate landscape mode on the 6s Plus/6 Plus. Feels poorly executed and rarely of any value. Really wish they would completely rearchitect the landscape experience; for now I am on zoomed mode where it’s substantially disabled, and not missed at all.

  24. Lee Rutter - 8 years ago

    Amazing article! I went from the 6 Plus to the 6S because I wanted something smaller this go around despite the difference in battery size. So far, my battery is lasting a day and a half and I contribute a lot of it to how quickly Facebook and the internet brings in their pages now. I spend less time waiting so I can quickly get to what I need. On the previous version, I would sometimes wait 10 to 20 seconds waiting for an article to pull in. Those 20 seconds ad up! I also have a car charger now that cuts the charge time in half and I experience going from 18% to 60% in approx. half an hour. Shooting video in 4k and using the flash does consume more of the battery quicker, but I am appreciative that with the new camera I don’t have to use flash on the video or with pictures like I used to.

  25. Jay Bussiere - 8 years ago

    6s plus screen is pure magic! Google Maps on the go has never been more enjoyable.

    MUCH LESS “bring the phone really close to my face” to see/read the phone – experiences…

    I don’t have a case and put it in my dress pants and it just barely stayed hidden and was quiet flat.

  26. Janice Hamm - 8 years ago

    I’m a senior upgrading from iPhone 5. Thinking I’ll go to 6S Plus as I’m hoping its larger screen might replace using my old 16 GB iPad mini. Will the 16 GB on the new 6S Plus be enough or am I better to go with the 6S and put the extra $ toward a 6S 64 GB?

  27. Laurens Laudowicz - 7 years ago

    Good thing is that the iPhone 6S or 6S Plus will still work with the MFi certified cables and accessories. We make Premium cables that we call JUICIES+ and they actually look pretty cool with the phones since they come in Black, Silver and Gold. Now we are currently working on our Rose Gold version :-)

  28. Martin Munzar - 7 years ago

    I moved from 6+ to regular 6S. I’ve adapted faster than I thought. I was scared because of the smaller display size and battery life, but now I would not change back at all. It’s so handy and I can do pretty much the same things. I had to purchase small Xiaomi powerbank, but this set fits me much better than the one Plus device….

    For those who are not decided if to go small, don’t worry, you will be surprised. It was hard decision for me, but I did it right.

  29. Tommy Ace (@tommyace) - 7 years ago

    I bought the 6S Plus Gold 128GB on release day. I spent endless nights reading different articles and going into store comparing my previous 6 Plus with the smaller 6, and wishing I had the smaller one on some occasions. On the 14th day (last day of refund/exchange), I wanted to change my 6S Plus with a 6S. I ran to Apple before it was closing and asked if I could exchange to smaller size and what they had available, and they had a Rose Gold 128GB 6S in stock, so I took it. They were really nice about it too. It was fast, no drama.
    Seriously.. what a difference. Just holding it in my hand while walking felt amazing, but having a navy blue silicone case with my gold navy blue sports watch, aesthetically, it was the perfect match. I’ve been using phablets since the original Samsung Note, note 2, note 3 then the 6 plus. But how I’ve missed having a perfect sized phone. I text faster, I’m more active (run with the arm band or in my hand), email and reply faster on the move. The video/photos make little to no difference. I produce community films, so that’s why I originally got the 6S Plus, but my hands are steady, and still 4K or 1080P 60 frame (on facebook as it uploads max 1080 on iphone) looks exactly the same compared to my previous videos.

    Also, having a 6S Plus didn’t feel like I had a new phone from the upgrade. I felt kinda bummed and the size with the weight was getting to me?! So maybe thats why I love it more. But I hold my phone allot more with the 6S, still play need for speed and dragon hunter on 6S, and still feel like I’m not loosing out on a bigger screen. Same amount of app’s on the screen just closer together.

    I spend most nights on laptop viewing photos, yet when I had the 6 Plus, I’d never get my laptop out. Funny that, because now I use the phone only when I need to, not getting out facebook in social situations where I could be talking to people. Or working/playing on a crappy screen. I plan to get the ipad pro for the house and use my phone strictly for sms/phone and on the move.
    My advice, get the 6S. And Rose Gold isn’t girly or gay, its nebular mar’s, its wicked!

  30. I have been going back and worth whether to get the 6s or 6s+ and read tons of reviews and held both devices (currently own a 6). But this article made me overweigh continuing on the same path of 6 namely to get 6s. The reason is that if the photos are more or less the same then out of practicality of using the phone with one hand or putting it into my pockets or using it at the gym the 6s does the trick for me. As for the battery, it is indeed very important to me too, but I have a very thin powerbank which I often carry around in my bag when I go to work so in worst case scenario I can always charge my phone.

  31. Monika M. Wahi, MPH, CPH - 7 years ago

    Thanks so much for this careful review! I’m faced with the same question and this was very helpful.