A grand phone: Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus reviewed

Mobile performance is another area Apple has changed things, and what you’re looking at here is a faster modem than in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, with a move to Category 6 technology.

Previously, the iPhone 6 relied on a Category 4 LTE modem, a set of terms that basically meant a maximum of 150Mbps downloadable at any one time from a 4G capable network, while 50Mbps was the maximum it could do back up the pipe, you know, when you were sending information back to somewhere.

This time, the specs of Apple’s iPhone have changed, and one of them is to include support for “4G LTE Advanced”, which is a little different from just plain old 4G, it seems. While Apple won’t tell us if this is Category 4 or 6, speed tests seem to paint a picture of the latter, with 150Mbps easily possible, which is almost never found with a Category 4 modem.

For those who think this is just a pile of numbers and useless jargon, you’re not far off, but the easy way of explaining it is a larger Category number can mean faster download speeds altogether, network dependent of course.

In the case of the iPhone 6s Plus, we suspect this is a Category 6, which means speeds as high as 300Mbps are possible depending on what network you’re using, how busy it is, and where in town you are. With a Cat6 device, your speeds can max out at 300Mbps, but will often hit between 40 and 120, while Cat4 devices max out at 150 and often hit between 40 and 80.

Sufficed to say, the iPhone 6s Plus is bloody fast, and Australians living in capital cities, as well as any other place where 4G is served should find hyper-fast speeds for their new phone without any problems.


Tested on Telstra’s 4GX network in Sydney’s CBD, we found speeds ranging from that 40Mbps mark to the 150Mbps mark, and while this isn’t the fastest mobile speed on the block — that honour goes to Samsung’s Note 5 and Galaxy S6 Edge+ devices — it is still bloody fast all the same.

You won’t be disappointed.


Battery life is also pretty good, and it’s interesting to see the combination of a new operating system and new processor really working out without a huge loss of power.

In fact, battery life is bang on what it was for last year, with the faster chip and use of 3D Touch not really making the dent you might think it would, or even should.

We managed a good day and a half of battery life with Bluetooth switched on with the iPhone 6S Plus, and we could probably have hit that second day if we curbed our usage considerably in the second day. That sort of performance tells us performance users will have no problem seeing a full day out of the 6S Plus, while people who are a little more relaxed and aren’t reliant on wireless gadgets will easily see two days, which is pretty good.

Just make sure you let the phone run itself down naturally over the first day or two, because the battery doesn’t perform as nicely in your first day or so of ownership, with us only reaching a day of life in that time, and then boosting two the day and a half in the subsequent days.


The camera is also impressive, and as is par for the course on Apple’s products, you can expect a pretty top notch experience with the iPhone 6s Plus.

Apple hasn’t really reworked the interface here, so you’ll find the typical swipe left and right changes what mode you’re in, allowing you to jump between photo mode, square photo mode, video mode, slow motion video mode, time-lapse video mode, and panorama mode just from a simple swipe.

Really, the part of the camera you want to look out for is what’s inside, because like people, that’s where everything matters.

Camera sample from the iPhone 6s Plus
Camera sample from the iPhone 6s Plus

Tested in day and night, the improvements to the sensor and its ability to pick up on colour are excellent, with solid light and dark recreation, and a sensor that can recreate colours really well.

Apple’s iPhone 6s Plus may not boast the highest amount of megapixels on the block, and it’s beaten by pretty much every flagship camera megapixel quantity out there, but it doesn’t really need to deal with this dilemma as the quality is just that good.

Up front, the image quality is excellent again, with no excess beautifying mode to soften things and a supported “flash” that turns the screen into a bright colour to “flash” that skin of yours.

That’s not a thoroughly new feature, and we’ve seen it before on at least one phone in the past, but it’s still a welcome addition all the same, and it’s not the only one.

Selfie without and with the screen flash. Neat.
Selfie without and with the screen flash. Neat.

You’ll find you can capture extended images with the iPhone 6s Plus if you want, and when this option is set — middle option, it kind of looks like a target — the phone will capture a second on either side of the image, grabbing a hint of video to push the image into more of a look as to what the scene was at the time the frame was captured.

It’s one of those neat inclusions that is cute, but won’t be useful to all, especially if the actions immediately before and after weren’t so much fun but rather utilitarian.

On the other hand, we’re delighted to see an update to video included here, with video capture capable of bringing in 4K Ultra HD.


To activate this one, you’re going to need to go into the settings and switch it on, but once that clumsy technological change has been switched, you’ll find one minute consumes almost 400MB of space, so make sure you have a big phone — 64 or 128GB storage — if you plan to use this feature, which should provide more detailed video, equating to roughly 8 megapixel video.

There is one catch to the whole 4K video thing, and that’s getting the files off and over to a 4K Ultra HD screen.


Right now, your choices are limited because neither Apple TV nor Lightning has the necessary support for the technology.

We suspect the easiest way through an Apple ecosystem to do this would be to grab the iMac 27 Retina 5K model and watch the video there, but Apple cites the use of 4K video for something other than TVs, with a “zoom mode” added to the iPhone 6s Plus, allowing you to zoom in with your fingers and see more detail that you’ve captured.

It might be something you want to get a closer look at, or even just the detail in various textures. Whatever it is, videos captured in 4K Ultra HD can do just that in the videos app on the iPhone 6s Plus.

Camera sample from the iPhone 6s Plus
Camera sample from the iPhone 6s Plus