iPhone Q&A - Updated November 7, 2017
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What are all the differences between the iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s/iPhone 6s Plus? How much better are the newer models than their predecessors?
With even a fairly detailed look at an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus and a newer iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus it would be easy to mistake them for one another, as the general designs practically look identical, although the small "S" on the backside of the iPhone 6s models (and the lack of FCC iconography) is a dead giveaway.
There actually are four iPhone 6 models, four iPhone 6 Plus models, three iPhone 6s models, and three iPhone 6s Plus models, but this Q&A mostly covers collective differences for relative simplicity.
At the time of introduction, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus were available in black and space gray, white and silver, or white and gold, but Apple discontinued the gold color option on September 9, 2015 upon introducing the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus (but re-introduced it in China and Taiwan with a 32 GB variant in February and March 2017). The newer models are offered in black and space gray, white and silver, and white and gold, as well as a new white and pink-tinted "Rose Gold" option (pictured above).
The overall design of both lines is quite similar -- with aluminum cases dominated by the display and softly rounded sides -- but the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have a slightly less slippery finish, are slightly thicker and heavier, and made from aerospace-grade 7000 series aluminum, which is much less likely to bend than the aluminum used by its predecessors. The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus also have a new rubber gasket around the display to reduce the risk of internal water damage.
Although the specific parts are different, the "Retina HD" display in the smaller iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s devices both are are 4.7" (1334x750) with a 1400:1 contrast ratio, and 326 ppi pixel density and the the larger iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus devices are 5.4" (1920x1080) with a 1300:1 contrast ratio and 401 ppi pixel density.
However, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus displays are covered by an ion-strengthened glass cover that Apple boasts is the "strongest glass on any smartphone." Furthermore, these displays incorporate new pressure-sensitive "3D Touch" capability with support for gestures that Apple refers to as "Peek and Pop" to "dip in and out of content without losing your place" for quicker access to a variety of functions within the iOS and third-party software.
The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus also have an advanced "Tapic Engine" in lieu of a simpler vibration sensor and a faster "second generation" Touch ID fingerprint sensor in the home button for biometric authentication. Both lines have a bottom mounted headphone jack, microphone, Lightning connector, and a single speaker. Each ships, or shipped, with "EarPod" headphones that include the integrated Remote and Mic, as well.
The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus have much more advanced cameras than their predecessors. The front cameras have a "FaceTime HD" camera with a 5 megapixel sensor compared to a 1.2 megapixel camera on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.
The rear-mounted "iSight" cameras have even more significant differences:
Although some independent tests concluded that the camera difference between the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus and their predecessors aren't as dramatic as the specs might indicate, more detailed tests do show a significant difference as well as steadily improving camera quality for the iPhone year after year.
It is easy to differentiate between the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, and iPhone 6s Plus when they're side-by-side based on dimensions and the presence or absence of an "S" on the back, but identifying the device requires more precise data.
Nevertheless, for the purpose of this Q&A, it is sufficient to note that the following model numbers refer to these devices:
However, also note that multiple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices share model numbers, so each only can be uniquely identified by other identifiers. The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models, however, can be uniquely identified by the model number alone.
EveryiPhone.com's Ultimate iLookup feature -- as well as the EveryMac app for iOS 5 or later, Android, and Kindle Fire -- can precisely identify these iPhone models by Order Number (referred to as "Model" within the iOS "Settings" app under General > About), and their Serial Numbers, as well.
Battery Life Differences
The smaller iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s models have the same battery life as do the larger iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus models:
The larger iPhone 6 Plus and iPhone 6s Plus models provide longer standby time as well -- up to 16 days -- compared to just 10 days for the regular iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s.
Wireless Connectivity & Data Differences
In basic terms, the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models support more advanced wireless connectivity than their predecessors. All four devices support 802.11a/b/g/n/ac with MIMO, GSM/EDGE (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz), and UMTS/HSPA+/DC-HSDPA (850, 900, 1700/2100, 1900, 2100 MHz), as well as LTE/4G connectivity, but iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models support LTE band 30 (WCS) for improved speed and reduced data congestion.
Otherwise, connectivity varies considerably between variants of the fourteen different models. For details, if desired, refer to these separate Q&As:
- iPhone 6 (Four Models)
- iPhone 6 Plus (Four Models)
- iPhone 6s (Four Models)
- iPhone 6s Plus (Four Models)
When they were first shipped, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus models supported Bluetooth 4.0, but with iOS 9 installed, Apple upgraded the Bluetooth capability in these models to Bluetooth 4.2. However, on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Bluetooth 4.2 only supports improved privacy rather than increased speed. The newer iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models fully support Bluetooth 4.2.
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have a number of similarities internally with one another as do the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, but the later models have twice as much RAM and faster architectures:
All of these models have an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip to allow digital payments in conjunction with "Apple Pay" software, too.
iOS Support Differences
The iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus both originally shipped with iOS 8 and subsequently shipped with iOS 9. The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus originally shipped with iOS 9. Both lines support iOS 10 and iOS 11, also.
iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus & iPhone 6s/iPhone 6s Plus Comparison Chart
These differences as well as other details and pricing information are summarized below:
For pricing in dozens of countries, see the "Global Prices" on the specs page for each iPhone as well as the "By Global Original Prices" section of EveryiPhone.com.
So, should I buy an iPhone 6/iPhone 6 Plus or an iPhone 6s/iPhone 6s Plus? Which is best for me?
Most users should consider a new iPhone model. However, compared to one another, you should buy a newer iPhone 6s or iPhone 6s Plus model as they're essentially designed as an improvement of the earlier models (unlike the iPhone 7/iPhone 7 Plus and later models, they have headphone jacks, as well, which may be of interest to those with older, expensive headphones in particular).
The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus provide (1) a stronger and more water resistant case, (2) stronger displays with more advanced capability, (4) a faster Touch ID sensor, (3) better cameras with 4K video support, (4) faster performance, (5) twice the RAM which likely means longer iOS support, and (6) more advanced connectivity. That's a great deal of improvement for the price difference.
However, if you're on a tight budget, the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus remain well worth consideration, particularly on the used market at discount prices.
Site sponsor Sprint sells new iPhone 6s models for upfront purchase as well as on a variety of inexpensive lease plans starting at only US$12.50 per month. Site sponsors PowerMax and BuyBackWorld sell a wide variety of used iPhone models.
Please also see EveryiPhone.com's Ultimate iComparison feature to dynamically compare any iPhone model to any other iPod, iPhone, or iPad.