Dezeen Magazine

Apple updates iPhone 6s to create more robust and touch-sensitive devices

Apple has launched new versions of its iPhone 6 – the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus – featuring a new sensor technology called 3D Touch which interprets pressure applied to the screen (+ movie).

Apple has unveiled a range of new products, including the Apple Pencil – the company's first official stylus since the 1990s, designed to be used with a larger version of its iPad tablet – and an Apple Watch collaboration with luxury fashion brand Hermés.

The latter marks the first time it has released a watch in partnership with another brand, reinforcing its attempts to position the smartwatch as a lifestyle product instead of a gadget.

Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Plus

The company also debuted the annual update to its most popular device, the iPhone. Visually, the iPhone 6s and the larger 6s Plus appear much the same as the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus released last year.

According to Cook, the iPhone 6 is the most popular phone Apple has ever produced. "In fact these are the most popular phones in the world, but more important to us, these are the most loved phones in the world," said Cook. "How do you follow a success like this?"

The new versions have the same metal cases as their predecessors, the same round, raised camera lenses at the front, and the same screen sizes. "While they may look familiar, we have changed everything about these new iPhones," said Cook. "The team has worked hard to deliver new capabilities that are truly meaningful in our lives."

Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Plus

The new models are 0.2 millimetres thicker and use a strengthened aluminium alloy to make the devices more robust than their predecessors.

The launches of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were plagued by allegations that the phones, which were markedly bigger and thinner than previous iPhones, were prone to "bending" when carried in users' back pockets.

Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Plus

Apple has also updated the touchscreen capability for the new phones with a technology it calls 3D Touch, which responds to pressure as well as the existing gestures of tapping and swiping.

New functions include Peek, which offers a quick look at a piece of content or sub-menu and is activated by a gentle touch, while Pop responds to more pressure by taking the user into the content they've previewed. Both functions also work as shortcuts on the iPhone homescreen.

Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Plus

These new interactions enabled by the technology are being championed by Apple as a major change in the way its touchscreen devices are used.

"Tapping, swiping and pinching have forever changed the way we navigated and experience our digital world," said Apple's chief design officer Jonathan Ive. "Until now these gestures have been defined by a singular plane in two-dimensional space. For iPhone 6s and 6s Plus we're introducing an entirely new interaction and whole new dimension to the way you experience your iPhone. For the first time, along with recognising familiar gestures, iPhone also recognises force, enabling new gestures, peek and pop."

Both actions are felt through a haptic feedback response, which creates small vibrations in the device, and are built into the functionality within the new operating system, iOS9.

"This is a dynamic system, deeply integrated into iOS9," Ive added. "You can dip in and out of where you are without losing a sense of your context. It provides distinct tactile feedback for your actions, letting you know exactly what you've done and what to expect."

Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Plus

The system works by using sensors to measure minute changes in the distance between the device's glass screen and its back light. This data is combined with information from the phone's touch sensor and accelerometer to interpret pressure and movements into digital commands within the software.

Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s Plus

The phones will be available to preorder from 12 September 2015 in four finishes: the existing silver, gold, grey and a new rose gold, touted by Apple as an "entirely new aluminium" created from an alloy developed specifically for the company.

The new Apple products were unveiled yesterday at the company's annual product launch at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.