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iPhone 6S vs. iPhone 6S Plus: Spec showdown

While the iPad Pro and Apple TV may have been poised to the steal the thunder at Apple’s latest media event, it remains to be seen whether either actually did. Like past events, much of the splashy fanfare revolved around the newest editions to the iPhone lineup, the aptly-named iPhone 6S and 6S Plus. CEO Tim Cook welcomed both devices with open arms at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Wednesday morning, quickly highlighting the increased horsepower, enhanced camera capabilities, and stronger aluminum enclosures unique to each of the forthcoming Apple offerings.

Many might see the incremental improvements as pedestrian at best — Apple’s larger overhauls occur every other year — but additions such as the pressure-sensitive display help solidify a company with a few innovations up its sleeve. Now, the only question is: how does the iPhone 6S compare with its larger brethren, the iPhone 6S Plus? Check out the comparison below for a closer look at the hardware powering both models.

Apple iPhone 6S

iPhone 6S

Apple iPhone 6S Plus

iPhone 6S Plus

Size 5.44 x 2.64 x 0.28 inches 6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches
Weight 5.04 ounces 6.77 ounces
Display size 4.7 inches 5.5 inches
Resolution 1,334 x 750 pixels 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
OS iOS 9 iOS 9
Capacity 16, 64, 128GB 16, 64, 128GB
Processor A9 chip with 64-bit architecture, M9 motion coprocessor A9 chip with 64-bit architecture, M9 motion coprocessor
RAM 2GB 2GB
Connectivity 4G LTE, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, NFC 4G LTE, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, NFC
Camera 12MP rear, 5MP front 12MP rear, 5MP front
Video 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 30 or 60fps 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 30 or 60fps
Bluetooth 4.2 4.2
Sensors Touch ID fingerprint sensor, barometer, three-axis gyro, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor Touch ID fingerprint sensor, barometer, three-axis gyro, accelerometer, proximity sensor, ambient light sensor
Apple Pay Yes Yes
Battery 14 hours of talk time on 3G 24 hours of talk time on 3G
Charger Lightning Lightning
Marketplace Apple App Store Apple App Store
Avg. Price $650, $200 with 2-year contract $750, $300 with 2-year contract
Availability September 25th on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile September 25th on AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile
DT Review Coming soon Coming soon

Power and productivity

Power increases with each successor in the iPhone lineup… that much is a fact. However, like past iterations of the iPhone, it can be difficult to pinpoint how the increased processing power of each translates to real-world performance. Both the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus come outfitted with Apple’s newly-minted 64-bit, A9 processor, which touts a new transistor architecture for better energy efficiency. Apple claims the processor is roughly 70 percent faster at performing CPU tasks than the A8 chip in past models, and moreover, a staggering 90 percent faster when it comes to graphical performance. The integrated M9 co-processor also constantly tracks your steps and other fitness metrics, while allowing features such as “Hey Siri” to run all the time at lower power. Given the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus run on the same processing components — and both make use of the Apple’s forthcoming operating system, iOS 9 — we can can assume performance speed will be very similar. The larger, higher resolution display of the 6S Plus could conceivably create a larger overhead in terms of processing power, but there’s very little else to separate the two, and they both reportedly come with 2GB of RAM. Connectivity is also virtually the same, regardless of which phone you opt for.

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However, much like previous models, the iPhone 6S Plus triumphs over the iPhone 6S when it comes to battery life. The larger iPhone boasts up to 24 hours of talk time on 3G, whereas the smaller model only affords you 14 hours or so using the built-in lithium-ion battery. More battery-intensive games and apps — along with overall higher performance demands — will likely cause the battery on the iPhone 6S Plus to drain a good deal faster than the 6S, though, even if it does flaunt bigger battery capacity.

Design

The processing power on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus might be identical, but the design is not. Both iPhone models tout the same design as their predecessors, but with a few minor changes to accommodate more advanced hardware and increased color offerings. The two devices now come in a rose gold finish in addition to the silver, space gray, and gold iterations Apple previously offered. The two phones also now utilize the new 7000 series aluminum used in the Apple Watch, along with the Ion-X glass used on the Apple Watch Sport. These improvements help with durability and prevent unwanted bending. Size remains the main difference in terms of design, however, with the iPhone 6S Plus offering 5.5 inches of screen real-estate compared to the 4.7-inch display in the 6S. The increased screen size and resolution — 1,920 x 1,080 versus 1,334 x 750 — does tack on an additional 1.73 ounces, though.

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Relative size aside, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus don’t differ much. Each phone comes equipped with an faster Touch ID fingerprint sensor and touch-sensitive display, which is specifically designed to take advantage of Apple’s new 3D Touch. The feature, which bears some resemblance to the Force Torch feature in Apple’s MacBook, allows you to press down on the display with different amounts of pressure to pull up various menus, activate shortcuts, and interact with the iPhone in new ways. The Taptic Engine gracing recent entrants in Apple’s laptop line also makes an appearance on both iPhone models, providing a touch of physical feedback as you apply pressure.

Camera

Apple, understandably, likes to emphasize just how capable the iPhone camera has become in recent years. That said, the built-in cameras on the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are identical, consisting of a 12-megapixel iSight camera on the back of the device and a 5-megapixel FaceTime HD camera on the front. The latter also allows you to capture 720p video, while the former gives you the option to record 4K video at 30 frames per second, 1080p video at 30 or 60 fps, or 720p video at up to 240 fps. The ability to record slo-mo support video and time-lapses is still there, though, only the iPhone 6S Plus offers optical image stabilization. Exposure control, burst mode, 63-megapixel panoramas, and all the usual fanfare also come as standard on both devices, along with a new Live Photo feature that captures short video clips of every photo you take, so you can bring still shots to life. It’s somewhat novel, but it’s a welcome addition to both models nonetheless.

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Price and availability

Like previous models, Apple will sell the iPhone 6S for $200 and the iPhone 6S Plus for $300, both with two-year contracts. You can also purchase them outright starting at $650 and $750, respectively, or opt for an installment plan through your carrier. Installment plans typically start at $27 per month for iPhone 6S and $31 per month for the iPhone 6S Plus, and moreover, Apple even offers an iPhone upgrade program designed to land you a new iPhone every year. Both models are slated for release in select countries on September 25, though, pre-orders opened on Saturday, September 12.

Conclusion

So, which is better? Well, in the end, it really is a matter of personal preference. The iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are nearly identical when it comes to internal hardware, even if the 6S Plus does offer some slight advantages when it comes to battery capacity and optical image stabilization in the camera. Both phones boast the same processing power and exterior design, and the cost difference is pretty negligible if you opt for any sort of installment plan, which is quickly becoming the go-to method of payment among carriers. The 6S Plus is simply the best option for those looking to tap into the phablet market and get a bigger, higher resolution screen, while the 6S represents a more practical (and affordable) solution for anyone who doesn’t want such a big device.