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iPhone 7, 7 Plus vs iPhone 6s, 6s Plus: What Should You Buy?

The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus have made their debut, and they’re Apple’s most powerful phones yet. But for the most part, they’re also incremental upgrades from last year’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, which are still great phones in their own right. All four iPhones will soon be available, but which one is right for you? We put Apple’s lineup side-to-side help you decide.

Design

Surprisingly, not much has changed here. The iPhone 7 and the iPhone 6s both have the same rounded edges and 7000-series aluminum construction. On the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, Apple finally cleaned up the antennae lines that were so prominent on the older model. The 6s comes in space gray, silver, gold and rose gold, and the iPhone 7 comes in a glossy jet black and matte black as well as silver, gold and rose gold. Due to the new camera, the lens casing is larger on the new iPhone 7.

The displays are the same dimensions, too, with 4.7-inch, 1334 x 750 screens on the iPhone 6s and 7 and 5.5-inch 1920 x 1080 screens on the larger plus models. Apple claims that the iPhone 7’s screen is 25 percent brighter than the 6s.

The biggest change is that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus don’t have a headphone jack, so if you’re attached to your current headset, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus may be more attractive than ever (although Apple is including an adapter for those headphones with the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus). In the headphone jack’s place, the iPhone 7 has new stereo speakers — one speaker at the top of the phone and the other at the bottom.

Apple also made the home button touch sensitive on the latest models, which gives feedback through the Apple’s taptic engine. In general, though,  it will still work just like it always has.

MORE: Trading-In Your iPhone? Expect to Get Half of What It Sells For

Specs

A new year, a new processor; The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus come with Apple’s newest A10 Fusion four-core processor. As you might expect, that should mean better performance than the 64-bit A9 CPU powering the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus — about 40 percent faster, according to Apple.

Apple didn’t announce it, but the 7 is rumored to use 2GB of RAM, while the 7 Plus is thought to have 3GB. The company says the 7 will have two more battery life than the 6s and the the 7 Plus will last an hour longer than the 6s Plus. Apple is finally getting rid of the 16GB storage option — the 7 and 7 Plus will come with 32GB, 128GB and 256GB storage options.

In addition to that A9 CPU, the 6s and 6s Plus come with 2GB of RAM. The 6s packs a 1,715-mAh battery, while teardowns have revealed that the 6s Plus has a bigger one: 2,750 mAh. Apple is upgrading the storage options on these older models to 32GB and 128GB storage options; previously, they had started out at 16GB.

Camera

Apart from the improved processor, the camera marks the biggest change to Apple’s latest phones. Specifically, the iPhone 7 Plus has two 12-megapixel cameras on the back — one wide-angle, and the other with a 56mm telephoto zoom. This enables up to 2x optical zoom and 10x software zoom, and a portrait mode with a depth effect.

The regular iPhone 7 camera has a 12-MP rear camera with a f/1.8 aperture that should let in 50 percent more light. Both new iPhones offer optical image stabilization — something only available on the iPhone 6s Plus previously. Up front, the new iPhones have a 7-MP camera and a new quad-LED True Tone flash.

The 6s and 6s Plus both have 12-MP rear shooters and 5-MP front-facing selfie cameras. Both phones are capable of support Apple's Live Photos feature, which adds a little more than a second of audio and video to your photos.

Special Features

Apple has made the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus water resistant, meeting the IP67 protection standard. As mentioned, they’re also the first iPhones with stereo-speakers.

The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus introduced 3D Touch and Live Photos — features you’ll find on the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, too. Touch ID, 3D Touch and other mainstays are also coming along for the ride, and the iPhone 7/7 Plus extend the touch-sensitive capabilities with a home button that's now sensitive to force.

Price

When Apple keeps an older generation of phones in its product line, it usually shaves some money off the price tag. That's the case with the iPhone 6s, which now costs $549 — $100 less than it used to. Coincidentally, that old $649 price tag is what the iPhone 7 starts at.

Apple also knocked $100 off the iPhone 6s Plus, which now costs $649. That's $120 less than the $769 starting price for the iPhone 7 Plus.

Outlook

It’s not exactly mind-blowing that Apple released two new phones, and it’s not a surprise at all that they’re better than last year's models. Smartphone photographers will want to give the iPhone 7 Pro a serious look, but other changes are incremental, and the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus’ new low prices make those great phones an attractive bargain, especially if the lack of a headphone jack puts you off.