Apple just announced the iPhone 6s and... it's pretty much exactly what we expected. Staying true to tradition, the iPhone 6s looks practically indistinguishable from last year's device (there's a new iPhone 6s Plus as well). It's built out of the same 7000 series aluminum as the Apple Watch Sport (which should allay bending fears), and it includes an even stronger glass display. The iPhone 6s also brings over the Watch's "Force Touch" feature, except now it's called "3D Touch." It allows you to press down on the screen to open up new options throughout iOS 9, and it offers a bit of tactile feedback as well thanks to a revamped "Taptic Engine."
In the Mail app, for example, you can hold down on a message for a quick preview, or you can peek at directions in Maps by holding down your finger. Third-party apps like Facebook and Dropbox are already taking advantage of 3D Touch, and we also caught a glimpse of it in an upcoming game called Freeblade. Basically, it's a feature that has the potential to fundamentally change how we interact with iPhones.
Under the hood, the iPhone 6s is powered by Apple's new A9 processor, which it says is 70 percent faster than the A8 at CPU tasks and 90 percent faster at graphics work. The new chip also has an upgraded M9 motion co-processor built right on (before it was a separate chip), and this time it's always on. There's also a second-gen Touch ID fingerprint sensor, which should be faster and more accurate than the last model.
Apple also upgraded the camera to a new 12-megapixel shooter, which marketing head Phil Schiller says packs in 50 percent more pixels than the last camera. All those pixels should make for far more detailed photos -- at least, judging from the shots Apple showed off. And yes, as we expected, the new camera can shoot 4K video (good luck shooting that on the entry model's piddly 16GB of storage). The iPhone 6s front-facing camera also got a few upgrades: It's now using a 5MP sensor, and it has a selfie-flash capability that lights up the phone's screen briefly.
3D Touch also makes its way into photos: A new "Live Photos" feature lets you hold down on pictures to play video clips. It looks like the phone is basically shooting a bit of video every time you take a shot, similar to the way HTC's Zoe feature worked. You can also set a Live Photo as your home screen on the Apple Watch. Third-party developers will be able to take advantage of the feature, too -- Apple says Facebook has a Live Photos-capable app coming later this year.
Pricing-wise, there aren't any surprises. The iPhone 6s starts at $199 on-contract for the 16GB model, with 64GB and 128GB options available for $299 and $399, respectively. Pre-orders begin this Saturday, September 12th, and it'll be available starting on September 25th. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, meanwhile, get discounted by $100. It's a shame to see Apple stick with a 16GB entry model when Android phone makers have been squeezing in 32GB of storage for a while now. Basically, it just makes many people upgrade to the 64GB model, which means better margins for Apple, but a worse user experience for people stuck with only 16GB.
Apple also announced a new iPhone Upgrade Program, which allows you to get an unlocked iPhone every year starting at about $32 a month. That price also includes Apple Care, which might make it a better deal than signing another contract or paying monthly installment fees to your carrier.
As with all of the "S" iPhone models, the 6s is more about refinement than massive design leaps. It's not exactly a device meant to entice existing iPhone 6 owners; instead it's meant more for people stuck with older iPhones, or those whose cellphone contracts didn't allow them to upgrade over the past year. And for those who've waited, it looks to be worth it.
Get all the news from today's iPhone event right here.
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