TechNook: Is the new iPhone an upgrade or a whole new phone?

Blake Cooper / Sun Star

At its “Special Event” last week, Apple announced the latest models of their popular iPhone line. Dubbed the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, the new devices were given a release date of September 25th. Following the announcement photos of the iPhone 6s series began flowing through the internet, and many Apple users were left wondering if Apple had made any changes at all to their flagship mobile device. Visually the new iPhone 6s looks almost identical to it’s predecessor but Apple wants the public to focus on the inside of the phone instead of the outside.

Said Apple CEO Tim Cook during the announcement, “while they may look familiar, we have changed everything about these new iPhones.”

Though the exterior look of the 6s series is near-identical to the previous version, there are some physical changes. The outer shell of the 6s is available in four colors (adding Rose Gold to the selection of Gold, Space Gray and Silver), and is made of a stronger grade of aluminum. The screen is also reinforced with a new glass material to decrease crush and shatter accidents. This added durability will be a major plus for Apple as they attempt to gain market share in the middle class.

In addition to the strengthened glass, the screens of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus sport a new feature called “3D Touch,” which allows the phone to detect the intensity of user touch inputs. The phone can use those subtle differences to offer alternate functions (such as opening the camera app to take a quick selfie) and refined tactile feedback.

Though 3D touch necessitated a small increase in the thickness of the phones, the screen has stayed the same size on both models. Some other improvements have been made with no change in layout. The home button’s new fingerprint sensor will allow for faster detection times. The optics, too, have received a substantial bump in quality, boasting a 5 megapixel front camera, and a 12 megapixel rear camera capable of recording 4K video. Since these new features resulted in few physical changes, most cases and screen protectors built for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus should work for their newer counterparts.

While new iPhone may look much the same, the internals are very different. The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus feature a new 64-bit CPU dubbed the A9, which (according to Apple) runs as much as three times faster than its predecessor. In addition, though Apple has yet to release full specifications, the new models are purported to contain 2GB of RAM, double the amount of the 6 and 6 Plus. Though the marketing copy is naturally bombastic, critics who have tried the new phones say the extra speed is noticeable.

The graphical capabilities of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus have received an upgrade over the previous versions as well, which is a shrewd tactical move for Apple. With a faster CPU and a much more powerful graphics processor, developers who normally write games and apps for Windows or Android might consider developing games for the iPhone instead. With flashier games, Apple may be able to woo entertainment-oriented consumers away from competing platforms.

With so many changes to the internals of the phone, one might wonder if the battery has been changed to account for the increases in power. Unfortunately, Apple hasn’t mentioned anything about battery life or specifications on the 6s or 6s Plus to date. This has led to speculation that new model batteries may be the same as the previous iteration. With many Apple competitors emphasizing phone battery life as a major selling point, one is left to wonder why no details on the iPhone have been offered.

In all, this is definitely a new phone with an old skin. Although there wasn’t much hype for the 6s and 6s Plus, the substantial upgrades and changes make them a sizable upgrade for consumers using an earlier version of iPhone – unless they feel inclined to wait for the almost certainly more powerful iPhone 7. Be sure to check back for a hands-on review of the iPhone 6s series on September 29.

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