Apple is probably going to have another big hit on its hands with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. In addition to the new custom aluminum alloy for the case, the first-ever Ion-X screen and a faster processor, the 6s series has two significant upgrades from past iPhones.
The most obvious is the new 3D Touch screen that responds to how hard you press it, which is either going to be a game changer or a stumbling block for a lot of users. However, right now we're concerned with the other upgrade, which could turn into a major headache if you buy one version of the iPhone.
For the 6s series, Apple finally replaced the solid-but-aging 8 megapixel camera from previous iPhones with a new 12 megapixel model. In addition to the increase in pixels, there's a new image signal processor, new pixel technology that reduces interference, and other little tricks to improve photo quality.
In addition to better image quality, the new camera brings two features. The first is that you can shoot video at 4K resolution, also known as Ultra HD. This blows other smartphones that shoot 1080p out of the water.
The second feature is Live Photos. When you tap the screen to take a photo, by default it doesn't just capture a single frame, but 1.5 seconds before and after you tapped, or 3 seconds total.
Later when you're looking at photos, a hard press on the photo will play the full recording, along with audio. Suddenly, pictures of your kids will come alive, or you'll be able to watch a surprising moment that happened right after the photo was taken.
These are all impressive features, but to take advantage of them, there's one model you can't buy.
Apple decided to give the least expensive models of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus only 16 gigabytes of storage space. A few generations ago, 16GB was a lot of space, but today it's almost nothing.
Once you get a bunch of apps, music, photos and home videos on your phone, it's gone. That's why other manufacturers have moved to 32GB for their base model. And thanks to Apple's upgrades, 16GB is about to get even less useful.
4K video has four times the pixel density of 1080p video, which means it's takes up a lot more room. One minute of 1080p video at 30 frames per second uses up from 67 to 96 megabytes, so with 16GB of space you can record a few hours of video. In contrast, one minute of 4K video is anywhere from 270 to 380 megabytes, so with 16GB of space, you're looking at less than an hour of video. And those figures assume you have nothing else on the phone.
Then there are the Live Photos, which are basically short video clips, and have an even higher resolution than 4K video. OK, they aren't standard video clips; Apple says it developed "space efficient frame-to-frame technology" that's somehow different.
Still, a single 12MP image on its own can take up several megabytes, but now each "photo" has several, potentially a dozen, frames. Each "photo" is going to be 10 megabytes or more. If you take just a hundred Live Photos, you could be using up a gigabytes of space before you know it.
Now, it's true you can offload photos and videos to Apple's iCloud or other services to free up space, but then you're going to spend a lot of time managing what's on your phone and what's in the cloud. And if you ever want to show photos or stream video from the cloud to your phone, you're downloading them. If you're using cellular, you're going to burn through data fast thanks to such large files.
At first, this looks like a misstep on Apple's part, but if you look at the range of storage sizes, it knew what it was doing. The 6s line storage options are 16GB, 64GB and 128GB.
Apple could have easily made the 16GB model a 32GB model with virtually no change in profits, but it looks like it wants to push people to the more expensive 64GB model. After all, would you rather pay $100 to get an extra 32GB of space or 48GB? The second option is much more attractive.
So, if you were buying a new iPhone, would you stick with the less expensive 16GB model or pony up the $100 for the 64GB model? Let us know in the comments.
The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus weren't Apple's only announcements this week. Get the full scoop on Apple's newest hardware, how it stacks up to the competition and more.