Please never buy a phone on specs alone. In the grand scheme of things, most don’t matter. But if you’re looking to see how well Apple’s playing the specs game with its two new iPhones, you’ve come to the right place.
Before we get to the competition, you should probably see how little the iPhones themselves have changed.
Go ahead, hit the little magnifying glass icon on this image.
Not only do the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus have the same external designs as their predecessors—antenna lines, camera bulges and all—they still have the same 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens, the same amount of storage, and the same battery life according to Apple. But they’re actually notably heavier than their predecessors, and a teensy bit thicker too.
The big changes are on the inside, where they gain a new Apple A9 processor with up to 70% faster CPU performance and 90% faster GPU performance, 3D Touch with haptic feedback from the new Taptic Engine, higher-res cameras with 4K video recording, a way to use the phone’s screen as a front-facing flash, and a new Touch ID 2 fingerprint sensor which Apple claims will log you in twice as fast.
All of which still leaves the iPhone 6S in an awkward position—specs-wise, anyhow—in the new smartphone pack. (Here’s the old smartphone pack, in case you’re curious.)
When you look at the best smartphones for people with reasonably sized hands, the iPhone 6S isn’t particularly competitive. It’s a hair thicker and heavier than the Samsung Galaxy S6, despite having a smaller and less impressive screen. It also has no wireless charging or quick charging, unless Apple forgot to tell us about such features.
While it does add 4K video recording, that’s merely playing catch-up, and I’m particularly bummed it didn’t add the excellent optical image stabilization of the iPhone 6 Plus—another par for the course feature these days. Plus, it costs more even for the 16GB model you shouldn’t buy.
What about the big phones? Again, the iPhone 6 Plus feels a little behind the curve. The 1080p screen is a bit more competitive, but it probably won’t have the eyepopping colors and inky blacks of Super AMOLED technology. Also, it’s still crazy how broad-shouldered this phone is compared to its relatively small 5.5-inch screen, without even having a stylus or wireless charging to take up that space. Here, though, you’ve got that excellent optical image stabilization. That’s something.
Since the last time we looked at a new iPhone, though, there’s been another interesting shift in the landscape. The end of the carrier subsidy means that cheap phones are now a thing. How does the iPhone stack up against phones that can be had for under $400?
That’s a more interesting comparison even if we’re just talking about specs. The screens on devices like the OnePlus 2 and Moto X Pure Edition are only on par with Apple now, instead of a step ahead, and features like optical image stabilization, wireless charging and fingerprint readers are hit and miss. An iPhone 6S Plus should feel quite a bit more premium than these devices, even before you consider all the other reasons people buy iPhones to begin with. Of course, you’ll pay hundreds extra.
The iPhone 5S, however, isn’t looking so great anymore unless you really, really need a smaller phone, a cheaper iPhone, or can manage to get it free on contract. At $450 unlocked, it’s offering a good bit less value for money than its new Android rivals.
A few other things to consider that didn’t show nicely on a chart:
- The iPhone 6 and above, the Nexus 6, and the Moto X Pure have the LTE bands for and compatibility with any major US carrier. You can take them with you.
- The LG G4 has a removable battery. The others don’t.
- The iPhones require you to use their own (excellent) Lightning connector for charging, instead of the ubiquitous microUSB.
- None of these specs mean jack if you want an iPhone. If you’re hooked on iOS and its apps, the no-hassle iPhone camera, 3D Touch, and all the other things Apple brings to the table, other people can moan all they want about specs. Smile, nod, and get on with your business.
Contact the author at @starfire2258.