Why I’m increasingly tempted to get an iPhone 6S

I’ve been an Android adherent (well, for phones, anyway) ever since I got into technology. Having used a myriad of devices from the Nexus 7 (2013), the HTC One, Samsung S3, Xperia Z2, etc. , I thought picking a new phone in 2015 would be an easy choice for me. However, this year is very different from the last few.

The first problem is the problem of the Snapdragon 810, a very unusual misstep for a typically very good chipset maker. Although Qualcomm’s PR has been working overtime to smooth over the chip, and it is true that the problem is not as severe as previously thought, it is clear it is still running into many throttling issues, and long term performance suffers accordingly, as seen here. As a result, it has gimped many phones, from the One M9 to the Xperia Z3+. Even the Z5, which uses dual heat pipes and thermal paste, has had many reports of getting unusually hot in comparison to it’s previous brethren.

So that leaves us with the few phones that are using the Snapdragon 808, Exynos 7420 or Mediatek Helio chips. Helio can be dismissed almost out of hand – with an outdated manufacturing process, worse developer support and worst-in-class GPU chips, they really don’t have much going for them. The 808 has an anaemic GPU (418) which is worse than the previous generation 805, and is really not much better than the (two year old) Snapdragon 801/800. The Exynos is the only real alternative, and also suffers from being locked down thanks to Knox and Samsung Pay, with very buggy ROMs as Samsung still refuses to issue appropriate documentation for the phones. (If people question whether all this power is necessary, I play Order and Chaos 2, a very recent MMORPG release which requires a lot of horsepower, particularly for events where hundreds of people can be attacking one target at one time – even an 801/1080p combo lags horribly. In addition to games and applications getting more demanding, I also think we will start asking more of our phones – a good example is the new 950 and 950XL, which can switch between full Windows and Windows Phone in seconds)

So, it seems either you accept a sub-par chipset or limit your tinkering and flashing ROMs, which leads to the point – in that case, why not just take the increased stability and reliability of iOS?

This is only made worse by the fact the A9 in the 6S happens to not only have far and away the best GPU performance, and even rivals its Android rivals on multi-core, but happens to be ridiculously consistent. Whereas the S6 and Z5 show signs of heavy throttling after just 10 minutes of heavy gameplay, the A9 is capable of 3-4 hours of sustained performance, even with very heavy benchmarks.

Well, that’s fair enough, but I’m heavily tied into Google’s system, so I can’t move anyway, right? I was fairly surprised to find that not only does Google’s services work on iOS, they work well. In some cases (I’m looking at the Android Hangouts team here), they actually work better than on Android! What’s up with that, Google?

I suppose on balance, that does make sense, as Google ultimately makes its money from services, not hardware, but still, just why, Google, why.

Battery life, traditionally a strength of Android phone models, has also eroded significantly this year. Although Apple has (as usual) stood still, everything from the S6 to the Z5 have seen a noticeable drop in battery life, which is disappointing to say the least. Therefore, whilst the iPhone was poor in this regard last year, this year it is average, perhaps even slightly above that this year.

The move to QHD has only accentuated both of these problems, particularly the manufacturers who thought it would be intelligent to pair QHD screens with Helio chips or the 808. I still maintain that anything beyond 1080p is not worth the trade off in battery life and GPU usage, and placing it on a 5.1 inch screen (hello, S6), is pointless. Even the AMOLED screens worry me. Whilst burn in seems to have disappeared off the radar in recent times, Android Police reported the soft buttons on the 6P already showed signs of burn in just days of usage, and indeed having ever present back, home and multitasking buttons cannot do any good for the lifetime of the panel.

As a slightly unrelated side note, I also used a 6S plus for a few hours and was pretty impressed with the tight feedback and careful use of 3D Touch – whilst it still feels slightly gimmicky to me I have to applaud Apple’s implementation, and it definitely has potential.

Anyway, it’s difficult to say whether I will actually make the switch. There are still lots of problems I have with iOS, and I’m not a huge fan of the bezel heavy design either. But the combination of a disappointing Android segment with a very strong iPhone release by Apple is definitely tempting me.

 

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