iPhone 6S Plus review: still bigger, and a bit better

Apple's phablet is back, and it's better than ever

TODO alt text

For

  • 3D Touch
  • Premium design
  • Slick interface

Against

  • One-hand use is tricky

The iPhone 6S Plus is always going be a phone that's caught in the shadow of the 'regular' iPhone 6S, but that would miss some really good bits of this new handset.

Want to read our very latest iPhone reviews? Check out the iPhone 7 review, iPhone 7 Plus review and iPhone SE review.

Apple's back with a brand new phablet, or so it wants you to believe. The iPhone 6S Plus is 'all change', but it looks suspiciously like its predecessor.

The 'S' handle is also a warning that the 6S Plus is more iteration rather than innovation from Apple, but it's done it before with the iPhone 3GS, 4S and 5S - so it doesn't come as a surprise.

There is a host of new goodies under the hood however, with a new A9 chip, Live Photos, 3D Touch and a 12MP camera ready for you to get your teeth into.

iPhone 6S Plus dimensions and build

As we've already alluded to, when it comes to design the iPhone 6S Plus doesn't break any new ground. None. Zero. Zilch. You get the idea.

Button placements are the same, the speaker is still a single affair on the base and the iSight camera still protrudes from the top left corner on the rear.

In fact the only discerning feature which reveals you're rocking the 6S Plus rather than the 6 Plus is the letter 'S' on the rear of the handset under the word 'iPhone'.

Apple may not of upgraded its design, but to be fair it didn't need to. The iPhone 6S Plus sports the same supremely premium, rounded aluminium chassis which really does look and feel the part.

You're going to be spending a lot of money on this handset, but at least its design matches the price tag.

There's no getting away from the fact that the iPhone 6S Plus is a big handset, with sizable bezels, an extra 0.2mm in girth and an increase of 20g in weight over its predecessor.

It's therefore tricky to use one handed, and the slick metal body provides little in the way of grip. The iPhone 6S Plus is a brilliantly designed handset, just as long as you keep both hands on it.

iPhone 6S Plus screen

It's more of the same in the screen department, with the 6S Plus inheriting the same 5.5-inch, full HD display from its predecessor.

In a world where Samsung, LG and Sony are now sticking 2K and 4K displays inside their handsets it's a shame Apple hasn't followed suit, but the panel on the 6S Plus is still a strong contender and the bonus is it consumes less power.

Colours pop, text is crisp and images look great on a screen which boast impressive brightness, making it easy to read outside in sunlight. The screen does however shield a secret...

iPhone 6S Plus 3D Touch

... say hello to 3D Touch! Apple's latest iPhone innovation brings you the Force Touch technology we've seen in the screen of the Apple Watch and track pad of the new MacBook Pro to the smartphone display, complete with catchy new name.

3D Touch allows the iPhone 6S Plus to detect how much pressure you're applying to screen. This opens up a variety of different options depending on how hard you want to press on the screen.

The best example of it can be found in the Messages and Mail apps, where confronted with a bulging inbox you can prod your finger onto a particular communication and pop up a preview of it on screen.

Releasing your digit will return you to your inbox, while pressing harder will fully open the message. The most useful feature here is when you're still in the preview bubble, with a right swipe marking the missive as unread, a left slide archiving/deleting it and a upwards movement giving you quick access to actions as reply and forward.

3D Touch has been enabled throughout iOS 9, from shortcuts on app icons, to previews within Photos, iTunes, Music and more. Some aspects are genuinely useful, but there are a number of scenarios where 3D Touch feels a little tacked on - almost pointless.

It's still early doors for the technology and the hope is developers will take 3D Touch and build it into their apps and games - which is where it'll get really exciting.

iPhone 6S Plus Live Photos and camera

There's lots of goodies in the camera department of the iPhone 6S Plus. First up the rear facing snapper has been given a bump to 12MP - up from 8MP - while round the front you'll now find a 5MP FaceTime camera. Selfies on your iPhone have never looked so good.

While you let the news of Apple actually upping the megapixel count on its smartphone snappers, prepare yourself for some witchcraft.

Live Photos brings your images to life, as if by magic. Of course, it's not magic - it's actually the 6S Plus capturing 1.5 seconds of video before and after you hit the shutter - but it sure is fancy.

What's even better is you're unlikely to even know you've captured such a mystical shot. The 6S Plus performs just a fluidly with this mode switched on, with a speedy shutter and an in focus snap at the end.

It's not until you visit the Photos app and start flicking through your gallery when you notice movement on your photos.

Prod at a picture with 3D Touch and it'll play the short clip (with sound) to bring the moment to life. It's a fun feature which adds an extra dimension to your photos - but it's not perfect.

You really need to hold the iPhone still to ensure you don't end up with choppy footage, and for now there's not a lot you can do with them outside of your iPhone. Facebook will be bringing support for Live Photos soon - but it's still a relatively limited sharing platform.

Apple's camera app is fuss free, with only a limited offering of functions. For budding professional photographers it may be too limited, but the iPhone 6S Plus does a sterling job of adjusting settings in the background to give you the best results possible.

The results speak for themselves, with well lit, bright and airy shots which have required very little work from yourself to get right. Quality is slightly improved over the 6 Plus, but don't expecting jaw-dropping differences.

iPhone 6S Plus battery

Thanks to its larger size the iPhone 6S Plus manages to pack in a bigger battery than the iPhone 6S - and it's certainly noticeable. We were able to easily get through a whole day on a single charge.

When it came to climbing into bed at the end of a long day the 6S Plus generally had between 20% and 30% left in the tank. That's after a 16 hour day with multiple calls, texts, social messages, music streaming and gaming.

It'll still need a decent charge overnight, this isn't a handset that will give you two days usage, but you can at least feel confident hitting it pretty hard throughout the day without being caught sort come supper.

A bonus addition which arrives with iOS 9 is low power mode, allowing you to eke out the last drops of 6S Plus battery life. You'll be prompted to turn it on when you start to get low, but if you want the security you can switch it on at any point.

It kills the 'hey Siri' command, background syncs and interface animations to conserve power, and we found it worked very well - allowing us to partying into the early hours of the morning.

T3 verdict

The iPhones 6S Plus is the best Apple phablet around. That's not exactly difficult when it's only got the 6 Plus as competition, but Apple's done enough to upgrade the 6S Plus in some key areas.

There won't be enough improvements and new features for some, and it's fair to say if you currently have the iPhone 6 Plus there's no need to upgrade to the 6S Plus - unless you just want bragging rights for the latest tech in your pocket.

The screen is excellent, if only full HD, battery life is better than the iPhone 6S and the reinvigorated camera will find its way into many iPhone owners.

3D Touch shows a lot of potential and it will change the way you use your phone, while Live Photos still really needs to prove itself as a worthwhile feature.

If you're in the market for a supersized iPhone then the 6S Plus is for you, but if you can only afford the 6 Plus you're unlikely to be disappointed.