As expected Apple unveiled the new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus smartphones at its media event earlier this week. Because it’s an “S” year—the off year between major device overhauls—we didn’t really expect monumental changes in the iPhone design and Apple didn’t shock us with any. The new iPhone models are definitely incremental upgrades over the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
Don’t get me wrong, the new iPhones are still impressive in many ways. Here are five things about the new iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus that make the devices worth a closer look:
1. 3D Touch
Apple introduced its Force Touch touchpad on the new MacBook line earlier this year. It has been rebranded as 3D Touch in the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus but the concept remains the same. The display can sense how hard you are pressing and activate different features or capabilities depending on the pressure detected. The concept has a lot of potential to change how you interact with the device, but it requires apps designed to interact with it.
2. Hey Siri
The iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus catch up with competing Android and Windows Phone devices because now you can invoke Siri by simply saying “Hey Siri”. The “Hey Siri” feature exists for the iPhone 5S and iPhone 6 models as well, but only when the device is charging. If it’s not plugged in you have to push the Home button to activate Siri. With iOS 9 Siri will also now be able to learn your voice so it will only respond to “Hey Siri” commands from you specifically—and that capability spans all of the iPhones that work with Siri.
3. Better camera
Smartphones in general—and iPhones specifically—have transformed the way we capture moments and all but put the point-and-shoot camera industry out of business. It’s essential that your smartphone have superior camera technology. The new camera isn’t revolutionary but the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus have a 12-megapixel rear camera and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. The rear camera is now capable of recording 4K video, and the front-facing camera now supports full HD video and selfie panoramas.
4. Live photos
I’m not positive yet if this is purely a parlor trick novelty or really awesome. What I do know is that Apple’s Phil Schiller made it look very impressive in the iPhone 6S unveiling. Rather than just capturing a specific instant Live Photos captures about a second and a half of images before and after the instant—including sound. When you press down on the 3D Touch display it activates the series of images as a brief animation that looks like a short video clip. The motions and sound activate more senses and evoke a more visceral response than a still image.
5. More horsepower
The iPhone 6 is no slouch in the performance department but the iPhone 6S should blow it out of the water. The iPhone 6S A9 processor is built on a tri-core architecture that delivers 70 percent faster performance than the A8 in the iPhone 6 and it has a GPU that’s 90 percent faster. The iPhone 6S also doubles the RAM from 1GB to 2GB.
These are cool features and capabilities, but not truly compelling. Anyone with an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus is probably fine waiting until the iPhone 7 next year. Even an iPhone 5S user might consider waiting for a more persuasive reason to make a switch. When you do, though, you should kick your carrier to the curb and get your new iPhone directly from Apple through the iPhone Upgrade Program.