2015's Best

A review of the iPhone 6s and Nexus 6P


 

Google Nexus 6P

Starting at $499 USD
Storage — 32 GB, 64 GB, or 128 GB
Finishes — Aluminium, Graphite, or Frost

Apple iPhone 6S

Starting at $649 USD
Storage — 16 GB, 64GB, or 128 GB
Finishes — Silver, Gold, Space Grey, or Rose Gold

 

6P10.jpg

2015 was the year where every company got on stage and threw the best performance they could offer. Apple made their best phone even better, Google showed the world how beautiful and amazing Android can be, and Microsoft harmonically mixed great hardware with good software. Although I'm excited about what's in store for 2016, I still haven't had the chance to really state my opinions on two critically acclaimed smartphones—the iPhone 6S and Nexus 6P.


Design

iPhone 6S

It's remarkable that Apple is able to maintain a deep notion of precision for a product that's sold to the masses. Rolls Royce's are sold in the hundreds and Leica's aren't being bought as frequently as a Canon Rebel, but Apple is arguably the only company that can produce hardware that's physically "perfect" while being made in units of millions. However, this isn't news. It's something most are aware of, but the one of the reasons why Apple is able to consistently maintain this trend is because of it's tick-tock release cycle. Every two years, Apple traditionally releases an iPhone with a new form factor, and subsequently they release "S" variants, which are cosmetically identical, but totally different under the hood. This gives them a gap year to refine their hardware while working on the next number release iPhone.

This years iPhone cosmetically introduces two new things: 7000 series aluminium and a new colour —"Rose Gold". The 7000 series addresses durability and flexibility issues found in the iPhone 6. This means that technically, the 6S is heavier and thicker than it's predecessor, however, when I using my iPhone 6, it was hard for me to tell the difference.

I decided to buy my 6S with the Space Grey finish because of its cohesive aesthetic, but after a few weeks I had consumers remorse and wish I picked the Rose Gold finish. It's arguably the most vibrant finish you can get on the iPhone 6S and, well, it just looks cool.

Nexus 6P

I used to reserve the title "Best-designed Android phone" for the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, but the Nexus 6P now claims that title. Google and Huawei really nailed it on the Nexus 6P's design. It's actually more inviting to hold than the 6S Plus. The 6S Plus feels like holding a slim bar of soap, but the Nexus 6P has an angular profile that allows me to naturally grip it will little difficulty.

If you get the 6P, consider selecting the Frost or Aluminium finish because the Graphite finish will remind you how easy it is to accumulate fingerprints. One thing I really love with the 6P is that regardless what finish you select the phone's front will still be black, allowing for a unformed, monolithic look.


Feature(s)

iPhone 6S

The most important feature the 6S has is 3D Touch, a feature that senses how much pressure you apply to the display. At first, when people asked me if upgrading [from an iPhone 6] to a 6S was worth it because of 3D Touch, I told them "No". But after using it for a few weeks, and developers adopting the 3D Touch features on their apps, I started to change my answer to "Yes, if you have the spare cash." The reason why 3D Touch is so useful is because it integrates a sense of instancy with the way you interact with the phone. Now, with 3D Touch's Quick Actions, I have the option to add a contact from my home screen with fewer steps, among other useful shortcuts enabled from 3D Touch's "Peek and Pop" feature. This feature allows you to preview content with a slight press, and if you press deeper, the content Pops to allow you to fully interact with it. I found this to be useful for the following situations:

  • "Peek" the text your ex sent you without her knowing that you read it.
  • "Peek" the YouTube link your buddy sent you to make sure you're not getting Rick-Rolled for the fifth time.
  • View the selfie you've taken while you take the 20th one.

All jokes aside, many praise their favourite 3D Touch experience as bringing up a trackpad on the phone's keyboard, but, for me, it works about 60 percent of the time, even when I've adjusted the amount of pressure needed to activate 3D Touch.

If you have the chance to, read this Bloomberg piece on how 3D Touch was built.

Nexus 6P

For me, the iPhone 6S has the most intuitive fingerprint scanner I've used. And when it comes to Samsung's Galaxy devices, they don't have enough real estate on the home button (because of its pill-shaped home button) to properly render your entire fingerprint, yielding its function inconsistent, in my experience. However, the Nexus 6P has the fastest fingerprint scanner I've ever used. And before someone raises a pitchfork, yes, I know that Apple improved the speed in the 6S' fingerprint scanner, and yes, it is quicker than its predecessor, but, with the Nexus 6P, I didn't notice any lag between me and the home screen.

6P02.jpg

Although the Nexus 6P has an amazing fingerprint scanner, it's placed on the back of the phone. I understand that this was a conscious decision that was probably fuelled by the fact that they wanted to retain a relatively slim bezel, but it makes the fingerprint scanner only accessible when you're holding the phone. When my iPhone 6S is on the desk, faced up, I can still access my home screen quickly because the fingerprint scanner is on the same side as the phone's screen. However, when my Nexus 6P is on the table I have to pick it up so I can register my fingerprint on the back of the phone. This "issue" is not the end of the world but it feel like two steps forward and one step back.


Battery Life, Performance, and Cameras.

iPhone 6S

When news got out that the 6S' battery size is technically smaller than the 6's, the internet was ready to sharpen it's pitchforks. The battery life in the 6S, to me, seems virtually the same as the 6. Because iOS 9 introduced a Low Power mode, I always enable the feature when I'm not home or carrying my charger. I've found it to preserve around 25 percent battery life that would otherwise be consumed if the feature wasn't enabled. This makes me rarely compromise my phone usage regardless if I'm using battery intensive apps like Strava and Snapchat. To make a long story long, Low Power mode is a god-send and it's unobtrusive, because all it primarily does is decrease your phone's CPU speed and stops fetching new emails and refreshing apps in the background. Needless to say, it doesn't visually interrupt how you interact with iOS 9.

Camera

The iPhone 6 has a 8-megapixel camera, whereas the iPhone 6S has a 12-megapixel camera. The initial difference in megapixels isn't that noticeable if you primarily view your images on an iPhone, but you start to notice the difference when you either print the images or view them on a large Retina LCD.

One of the features that's only present with the 6S and 6S Plus is the ability to capture Live Photos. A Live Photo is a combination of an image and three-second video that grabs up to 1.5 seconds of video before and after you tap the shutter button. At first I thought it was gimmicky, but after using it for a few months and looking back at Live Photos, it adds a dynamic liveliness towards nostalgic moments. I have it turned on all the time because I have a 64 GB 6S, however, this is not a feature you'll want to enable all the time if you have a 16 GB 6S. The amount of storage Live Photos take will add up over time.

The 6S also has an option to record 4K video—videos that have four times the amount of pixels that a 1080p video has. This is something I heavily advise anyone with a 16 GB 6S not to enable, because one minute of 4K video takes up approximately 375 MB of storage. That means that three minutes of 4K footage recorded on your iPhone 6S will be a gigabyte. Nonetheless, I've recorded a few 4K videos here and there, but mainly keep my video setting at 1080[ HD at 60 frames per second.

Nexus 6P

I never found myself charging the 6P more than once a day. The battery life in the 6P doesn't warrant any compromises or issues, because of Android 6.0's smart battery management; it really does put in the leg work and allow this phone to sip battery life rather than jug it.

In terms of performance, the Nexus 6P is fast and has buttery smooth animations. Never did I once experience any form of lag on the phone, which is something I can't say for other Android phones. I'm looking at you, Samsung...

Camera

The Nexus 6P's camera won't win any awards but in most conditions, it takes accurately exposed, sharp images. You're getting a fairly good camera in a great phone for a price cheaper than a Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6S.

The 6P has 4K video recording capabilities but as with my 6S, I rarely take 4K videos because 4K videos accumulate lots of storage. One thing it has that I'm glad to see on Android is the ability to record 720p HD slo-mo videos at 120 or 240 frames per second.

The Bottom Line

Many want to wait for the next best phone, but if you follow that approach then you'll always be waiting for something better to come around the corner. Right now, if you're reading this in January 2016, the best phones you can buy are the iPhone 6S and Nexus 6P. Both are equipped with an unparalleled sense of beauty and power and deserve to be considered the next time you want to buy a phone.

There's nothing better than these two right now.