Having used to work for Apple, Friday was the first iPhone launch in five years I wasn't directly involved in. And while I admit it used to be fun watching grown men line up around a mall in the middle of the night for a new toy, I was happy to not be anywhere near an Apple store that day. This was also the first year I wasn't planning on upgrading to the new iPhone. But somehow, by noon that day, I ended up with a shiny, new 128GB iPhone 6S. After using it for more than 48 hours now, here's what I think:
Force, 3D... Whatever Touch
The revolutionary new feature this year is 3D touch, which is essentially the same technology Apple refers to on the MacBook Pro and Apple Watch as Force touch. They call it something different on the phone because... because... well nobody really knows. They're Apple; they can do whatever they want.
Right now, 3D touch is a cool trick. It's functionality is limited to mostly Apple's native apps. Push in on the Phone app and a list of frequent contacts will pop-up. Push on an email message and you can preview the message without actually open it. That's all you can really do with it right now until more third-party developers incorporate it into their software.
Despite it's limited availability, 3D touch functions exceptionally well. The biggest drawback is deciding if it's actually saving you any steps in performing an action. For example, here is Twitter with and without 3D touch:
The updated notes app is one I found that made great use of 3D touch. On launch, I prefer this view of the folders. But as you can see, there's no where to start a new note from here (left).
But now, I can initiate a new note right from the home screen (right) and move it later. This makes the entire application seem multidimensional and that will be a game changer.
Yes, every year Apple claims the iPhone gets a bit faster. This usually comes because of an OS update, new processor, or some other breakthrough. With previous updates, sometimes I noticed it and sometimes I didn't. But this iPhone 6S is fast as all hell!
What changed this time? More RAM. Apple doesn't like to advertise how much RAM they use in their iOS devices, but it's been confirmed on the inter-webs that the 6S and 6S Plus contain 2GB, x2 as much as the 6 and 5S. And that's a hardware change you can absolutely feel.
Launching applications, multitasking, and the general UI of the phone just feels much more fluid than the previous model. I can easily run with 8-10 tabs in Safari now as opposed to the usual 3-4. There is virtually no lag when flipping between playing a game and having an iMessage conversation. These are improvements that everyone will notice, not just us geeks.
iPhone "Something" and 1/2
We're in a loop folks. Apple comes out with a "whole number" phone which brings with it a new physical design like a bigger screen or thinner body. Then, the following year, they release the ".. and 1/2" model that keeps the same skin but revamps the internals. This is now the 9th iteration of the iPhone and I'm tired of the routine.
Yes, I love getting new toys. Sure I think it's great when Apple puts out new features and even changes the way we use the iPhone. That's what keeps it fresh. But it's hard to ignore the fact that while you're lining up for the current phone, the folks in Cupertino are already working on the next one. I believe both the hardware and software need time to mature.
I'd like to see a new phone every other year. One that is a culmination of both the physical improvements of the whole numbers and revolutionary features of the "S". But what about the in-between years? Well that's when a new iOS would be released, taking full advantage of the latest hardware. This would allow both components to mature properly while still keeping an eye on what's coming next.
It doesn't matter what I think. Apple is going to do things in a way that keeps those people wrapped around the malls and pre-ordering online at 3am. It seems to be working out well financially for them.
As for me? Yeah- I'm enjoying the 6S. It's a great phone. And so will be the iPhone 7. And then the 7S. And then...