iPhone 6S review

Same frame but with a brilliant new touchscreen

iPhone 6S review

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The camera app on the iPhone 6S is very similar to previous years, with a few small tweaks to add in new features.

The first is Live Photos, which takes a 1.5 second picture before and after the snap and turns it into a small video you can play to capture the memory. Apple's clearly realised that you can only do so much to enhance the camera in terms of image quality and started to work out how to capture more of the moment you're after.

It's hardly a new idea though - although the integration here is impressive and is less onerous than trying to use the Zoe mode on the HTC One series, for instance. The speed with which you can take a photo hasn't diminished either, so you can take multiple pictures in quick succession and the iPhone's A9 processor can work out what needs to be saved to create the Live Photo.

Viewing them is simple too - when in the gallery just prod the screen harder to activate 3D Touch and the memory will come to life. Apple's demo showed beautiful images of waterfalls and children smiling, and it seemed the option seemed to really capture the warmth of the situation.

iPhone 6S review

I'm a bit less bothered by the new information screen accessed by swiping all the way to the left of the home screen - which is your favourite people and some internet news.

Here you've got the ability to start a search within the phone or on the web, tap into apps that are most relevant to you at that point, or talk to the people that your iPhone thinks you'll want to talk to.

The iPhone 6S has now gained a free upgrade to iOS 10, bringing with it a host of new features including greater 3D Touch functionality, rich lockscreen notifications, enhancements to Siri and a whole lot more.

And I'll be fair - I've been using this phone for a month and I've enjoyed Live Photos far more than I thought I would. 90% of what I took is boring when viewed as a Live Photo - it's just vague movement of people posing, and the software update to get rid of the bit where you put the phone down can't come soon enough - but there were a few genuinely great moments.

The first was at a surprise foam party. It's hard to convey the beauty of being covered with foam by a grumpy-looking man in the corner, but a picture doesn't do it justice. Showing our exploits to others was a series of wet-looking people as pictures, but poking the screen showed foam flying everywhere and the music we were all dancing to.

Again, there was the weird speeding up of the footage and a really choppy look to things, but the magic of the night was brilliantly captured.

iPhone 6S review

The option to toggle Live Photos on and off is good though - it's only a tap in the bottom corner of the phone, and the feature can still work with HDR mode activated too.

The camera itself is fine - with a bump to 12MP, the sensor can capture more than ever before, letting you zoom in a little more and get more refinement in your snaps.

Apple doesn't seem to have upgraded the camera much here beyond bumping the megapixel number though - the launch focused on the fact that the pixels are more adept than ever at focusing quickly and eliminating cross talk, and that's fine.

iPhone 6S review

It's just the 8MP iSight sensor on the iPhone 6 took really great photos too, and focused quickly, and didn't have a huge amount of crosstalk.

A cynic might suggest that Apple's only bumped the number up to compete with Samsung and Sony, who are getting great snaps from 16MP and 23MP sensors - but that would take away from the great quality of pictures on offer here.

In practice I really couldn't see a great deal of difference between the iPhone 6 and the 6S in terms of picture quality. There were some differences, obviously, and that was mostly seen when zooming in on the pictures - but the brightness levels or colour reproduction seemed pretty similar.

In extreme testing, there are improvements to be found, as with almost minimal light, the new iPhone is more adept. That's all the more impressive given the higher amount of pixels, which usually leads to poorer lower light performance.

Better selfies

The iPhone 6S comes with a 5MP camera to help improve those pictures that can only be taken from the front of the phone and the rear 12MP iSight camera simply won't do.

The front facing camera is imbued with all the same features as the rear sensor, and that means it even includes a flash.

iPhone 6S review

Before you spit out your smoothie / tea / soy latte in amazement at the thought of an iPhone having a front flash though, don't get too excited. It's not an LED light taking up precious space from the front of the phone, but Apple's way of using the screen more effectively.

The LG G3 had a special mode to illuminate selfies, but that just shoved the viewfinder into a smaller image on the screen and lit up the edges, which provided an erratic glow.

The iPhone 6S has a smarter mode: it'll take a quick look at the surroundings by brightening the screen then amp up the brightness by three times to provide said flash. What's impressive is that the phone works out the colour balance of your surrounding and then provides the right level of white to get the best picture.

It's awesome to have all the same options - HDR mode, filters, timer and flash - all available in the front-facing and rear-facing camera - and the quality of the photos is improved as a result, with the 5MP sensor providing a real enhancement over the paltry 1.2MP sensor used in previous models.

iPhone 6S camera samples

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.