Upgrading to the new iPhone 6s models delivers faster connections and better selfies

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2015, 7:58pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2015, 7:58pm

Hong Kong's 4G network operators are betting on a wave of upgrades to Apple's latest iPhone 6s and 6s Plus models as these new large-screen handsets deliver faster mobile broadband connections.

SmarTone Telecommunications, China Mobile Hong Kong, Hutchison Telecommunications' 3 Hong Kong and market leader HKT, which runs the csl and 1010 brands, will begin offering the new iPhone models to their subscribers from Friday. Pre-orders started on September 12.

Alex Arena, the group managing director at HKT, has said the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus are so-called "Category 6" handsets, with two built-in antennas in each device.

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Such hardware configuration supports the 4G standard known as Long Term Evolution Advanced, which provides theoretical mobile broadband download speeds of up to 300 megabits per second - about double what the early 4G networks offer.

A Category 6 smartphone can connect to two spectrum bands at once, providing faster download and upload speeds.

"That is probably the biggest advantage the iPhone 6s has over the iPhone 6," Arena said in a recent press conference.

"For iPhone users, this is a good catch up." 

When connected to advanced Wi-fi networks, the new iPhone models can also handle theoretical data speeds of up 866Mbps.

Rival smartphone suppliers such as Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics and Huawei Technologies already have certain Category 6 models with the same two-antenna configuration. 

The iPhone, however, has remained the perennial top-selling smartphone in Hong Kong. Apple has buttressed its lead in the city even when its "s" models, which retain the external design of the previous's year's model but offer significant improvements under the hood.

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"I believe these [new iPhones] will be very popular models in the market," SmarTone interim chief executive Stephen Chau Kam-kun said.

This reporter had the opportunity to test the iPhone 6s model over the weekend, and found the connection speeds were fast as advertised on his 4G network service provider in the city and in the outlying islands. 

What was thoroughly impressive from this review was the picture-taking capabilities of the new iPhone model.

The new iSight camera, as Apple calls the camera on the back of the iPhone, captures sharp, detailed and vivid 12-megapixel photos. This can also be described as a "catch up" for iPhone users because there were already certain premium smartphone models with a 12-megapixel back camera.

That higher-resolution back camera allows for panorama shots of up to 63 megapixels. It can also shoot brilliant 4K video, which provides resolution of up to 4,000 pixels x 2,160 pixels, while using autofocus, face detection and taking 8-megapixel still shots. 

The front camera now has a much improved 5-megapixel camera supported by the display's unique flash function, called Retina Flash.This is terrific for taking selfies in dark or low-light conditions with the iPhone 6s Plus.

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When you snap a selfie, a so-called preflash detects the lighting around you. Then a True Tone flash on the display matches the ambient light for a gorgeous shot with more true-to-life colours and more natural-looking skin tones. Retina Flash is powered by an innovative technology - a custom display chip that allows the display to flash three times brighter than usual.

What puts the picture-taking prowess of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus above those offered by the competition is "Live Photos".

Live Photos introduces an amazing way to relive scenes by capturing on video, with sound, about 1.5 seconds before and 1.5 seconds after a still shot is taken.

To capture a Live Photo, simply press the shutter button just like with any shot. It also works with the 5-megapixel FaceTime HD front camera. 

This reporter took a snapshot of a man crossing a street. This picture caught him taking the few steps to cross and the moment after.

Live Photos is on by default. So users can catch friends making silly photos before dinner, or save the sound of the waves breaking on the beach as the tide comes in. Apple should have made this feature available years ago.

Simply press anywhere on the photo to see the movement in the pictures taken with the iPhone 6s. These same pictures will not show movement when you viewed on older iPhone models. But you can view Live Photos on the Apple Watch running watchOS 2. 

Users can set Live Photos snapshot as your iPhone's Lock Screen wallpaper. Live Photos can be shared using iMessage, iCloud Photo Sharing, or AirDrop. 

Powering that iPhone 6s experience is the company's proprietary A9 chip, which is touted by Apple to be 70 per cent faster than the prior generation. 

Another fun new feature is 3D Touch. It senses how deeply a user pressed the display, letting you do things more quickly and simply. The iPhone responds with subtle taps, so not only will a user can see and feel what a press can do.

In addition to familiar gestures like Tap, Swipe, and Pinch, 3D Touch introduces Peek and Pop, which lets a user preview all kinds of content and even act on it - without having to actually open it.

With a light press, this reporter opened an e-mail in his inbox without fully opening it. It is a time-saver for getting though both important and less important e-mails. Press a little deeper and the full e-mail popped out for viewing.

Because of the new M9 motion coprocessor embedded in the A9 chip, Siri voice command is now always on. It can be easily be activated by saying “Hey Siri” whenever the iPhone 6s is nearby.