Chris Pirillo
Oct 23, 2015 · 6 min read

Admittedly, I’ve always been more of a software enthusiast than a hardware fan; new designs don’t impress me much without a good operating system experience in tow. Specs are largely irrelevant in an age where a sub-standard piece of software can render a great piece of hardware into a piece of junk.

When the iPhone first launched, it was amid an array of rather lackluster mobile software experiences. It didn’t take much to win users over because the competition was clearly years behind.

iOS 7 was a part of Tim Cook’s Apple, and it signaled a dramatic change in software quality control for the juggernaut (design ethos change notwithstanding).

For some inexplicable reason, the treasured smoothness of an iOS experience was wholly abandoned with the eschewing of skeuomorphism a few years back, and Apple has unapologetically done little-to-nothing to address it with subsequent iOS releases.

New hardware comes with every iteration of the iPhone. These are always steps forward (even if their benefits aren’t clearly explained, or if the upgrades are iterative instead of revolutionary). Tech reviewers — journalists and non-journalists alike — are there to let us know that it’s better.

But it’s not getting better.

I’ve long complained in social about the sloppiness replete throughout iOS 7, 8, & 9 — yet it seems this is not deemed important by those who value their relationship with Apple. I’ve never received an invite to an Apple event, I don’t receive review units from Apple, and I don’t live my life around Apple. I have nothing to lose by upsetting someone there.

And I’ve already lost enough frames to last a lifetime.

Some people were born without the ability to detect subtle differences in actual frame rates — but for those of us who see the difference, every dropped frame is jarring. The difference between 30 frames per second and 60 frames per second is palpable.

I’ve upgraded to the newer iPhone every year and have learned that the experience is the least of all evils — which is not exactly a ringing endorsement.

This year, I opted for the iPhone 6s Plus, having heard nothing troubling from iPhone 6 Plus reviewers. I trusted them, and that trust was misplaced. Even iPhone 6s / 6s Plus reviewers didn’t bother to let anybody know about the glaring differences in performance between the two flagships.

Shame on them.

While frame rate issues (let’s say anything less than a consistent 60 frames per second) can happen intermittently and without a way to replicate, there are sure-fire ways of triggering performance snags on the iPhone 6s Plus. Since this is the latest iPhone series running the latest version of iOS, it’ll be my focal point for letting you experience a living demonstration of the problems I’ve been seeing since iOS 7 was chucked out of the slop bucket.

Again, not a single reviewer — blessed by Apple or not — has bothered to point this out.

If you don’t have both an iPhone 6s and an iPhone 6s Plus sitting side-by-side, walk into a store and try what I’m about to outline for yourself. This is not an argument — this is incontrovertible proof that Apple is providing a sub-standard experience with the iPhone 6s Plus compared to the iPhone 6s.

To see the differences, perform these operations on both the 6s and the 6s Plus:

  1. Invoke the 3D Touch Menu (HUGE Difference)
  2. Toggle the Task Switching (Multitasking) Menu
  3. Trigger Most (All?) Peek / Pop Features
  4. Exit Out of Swipe-Down Search Feature (Subtle, but Present)

In each instance, the iPhone 6s outperforms the iPhone 6s Plus. You can’t see this demonstrated in a video that is recorded and rendered at less than 60 frames per second, either. See it for yourself. This isn’t a judgment, this is the obvious.

I’m sure there are other places where the performance differences are noticeable, but if you don’t see a series of consistently dropped frames between these two devices in these particular examples… that doesn’t mean they’re not happening.

Even scrolling in the Google Photos app (obviously crafted by a third party) is different between the two iPhones — which leads me to believe that iOS isn’t optimized for anything apart from the “smaller” iPhone. The hardware simply can’t handle the amount of overhead that hasn’t been cleaned up in iOS.

Without consistent, clean animations, iOS is a lackluster experience. And, even though the iPhone 6s currently provides the smoothest iOS experience, it is still fraught with jarring frame drops throughout everything provided to us by Apple.

I thought Metal was supposed to change all of that? Perhaps Apple has not come around to porting over every aspect of iOS to take advantage of Metal yet? Perhaps they never will.

Each operating system version gets steadily better with features and steadily worse with performance simultaneously — even on newer hardware. You might even argue that a point version update of iOS would make things better, but while performance slightly improved between iOS 9.0.2 and 9.1 on the iPhone 6s Plus, it became markedly worse on the iPad Air 2.

What the hell is going on with Apple’s platform quality control department, and why did no reviewer tell me that the iPhone 6s Plus suffers from frame rate issues? Why do new versions of iOS make the devices run “less better” than they did prior?

Even toggling “Reduce Motion” and “Reduce Transparency” don’t go far enough to cleaning up the lack of optimizations that Apple’s offering (though, you’ll notice, that while “Reduce Transparency” uglifies the OS, it mitigates the frame rate issue with the 3D Touch menu invocation on the iPhone 6s Plus).

I want things to get better, but the first step in addressing a problem is admitting there is one. I’m not hating on Apple or tech reviewers so much as I’m holding them accountable for their oversights because I appreciate their respective roles in my own life.

However, I don’t think Apple will be talking about this anytime soon, and I’m sure that whatever possibility I had to receive an Apple event invitation went right out the window along with those frames that have been lost to the ether.

And what about all of those iPhone reviews that didn’t bother mentioning this? Seems that writers and tech video producers largely focus on hardware, which only tells a fraction of the story. I’d be surprised if any of them covered this issue with the attention it deserves.

If “antennagate” and “bendgate” were a thing, then why can’t “framerategate” be one, too?

Published in #SWLH (Startups, Wanderlust, and Life Hacking)

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Chris Pirillo

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Geek. Dad. Toys. Weird. Creator. Video. Advisor. Consultant. Star Wars. LEGO. Pixel Art. Tech. Seattle. Retro. Reviewer. Entreprenerd. Kidult.

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