Two smartphones side by side.
Enlarge / The iPhone 6S (left) and first-generation iPhone SE (proper) working iOS 14.

It’s September, and you already know what which means: shorter days, the primary tentative tinge of chill within the night time air, Halloween sweet on the grocery retailer, and—most relevantly for us—a brand new model of iOS.

Apple helps its personal telephones with new software program updates for years longer than any of the Android telephone makers do, however that doesn’t imply that utilizing a brand new model of iOS on the oldest-supported {hardware} is all the time nice. For iOS 14, that {hardware} is the iPhone 6S and the unique 4-inch iPhone SE, the identical because it was for iOS 13.

Initially launched in late 2015 (the 6S and 6S Plus) and early 2016 (the SE), each telephones embrace an Apple A9 processor and 2GB of RAM, and each units boast the naked minimal you want for issues like augmented actuality apps or {hardware} accelerated decoding of h.265/HEVC video. Within the transfer from iOS 12 to iOS 13, we discovered that the telephones slowed down somewhat however remained completely usable; the identical was true of iPadOS on older {hardware}, which we didn’t re-test this time round. This 12 months, we have been pleasantly shocked on the efficiency entrance, however the second-generation iPhone SE makes upgrading a lot simpler to justify now than it was final 12 months.

iOS 14 received’t decelerate your telephone

For this efficiency take a look at, I did a recent set up of iOS on every machine, signed it right into a take a look at iCloud account, and let the telephones sit for some time to finish any indexing or different behind-the-scenes duties. I then opened every of those apps thrice and averaged the outcomes. Prior to now, this take a look at has been a reasonably dependable indicator of how every telephone will truly really feel in day-to-day use. If opening an app and ready for it to load on a recent iOS set up feels gradual, that often signifies that the remainder of the telephone (together with ready for the keyboard to pop up, ready for pages to load, and different duties) will really feel gradual, too—particularly as you obtain extra stuff and join extra accounts.

(Observe that the chances are right here for reference, however these instances are so quick that something inside 10 % is definitely inside the margin of error.)

iPhone 6S efficiency
Utility iOS 13.7 iOS 14.0 GM Distinction (%)
Safari 0.93 seconds 0.89 seconds -5.0%
Digital camera 1.01 seconds 1.07 seconds +5.6%
Settings 0.63 seconds 0.65 seconds +4.3%
Mail 0.85 seconds 0.78 seconds -7.9%
Messages 0.69 seconds 0.63 seconds -8.2%
Calendar 0.72 seconds 0.74 seconds +2.8%
Maps 1.63 seconds 1.84 seconds +13.3%
Notes 0.77 seconds 0.75 seconds -2.2%
TV app 2.54 seconds 2.48 seconds -2.2%
Chilly boot 12.26 seconds 12.84 seconds +4.7%
First-generation iPhone SE efficiency
Utility iOS 13.7 iOS 14.0 GM Distinction (%)
Safari 0.88 seconds 0.96 seconds +8.3%
Digital camera 1.04 seconds 1.08 seconds +3.8%
Settings 0.61 seconds 0.61 seconds -1.1%
Mail 0.83 seconds 0.79 seconds -5.2%
Messages 0.68 seconds 0.63 seconds -6.9%
Calendar 0.66 seconds 0.60 seconds -8.6%
Maps 1.46 seconds 1.59 seconds +9.2%
Notes 0.75 seconds 0.78 seconds +3.1%
TV app 2.35 seconds 2.50 seconds +6.5%
Chilly boot 11.73 seconds 12.67 seconds +8.0%

It’s exceptional how constant efficiency is on these units—these instances are just about inside the margin of error throughout the board, and iOS 13 and 14 on the iPhone 6S or first-generation SE will really feel a lot sooner than iOS 12 did on the iPhone 5S or the iPhone 6. Maps does appear to be barely slower to open in iOS 14, and boot time persistently takes infinitesimally longer, however general the variations do not persistently level in a single route or the opposite. For reference, examine these numbers to iOS 8 on the iPhone 4S (which was clearly slower than iOS 7) or iOS 12 on the iPhone 5S (which was clearly sooner than iOS 11).

This is sensible, given how mature the iPhone’s {hardware} and software program each are 12 years in. They’re in the identical place that the Mac has been for some time now—new iPhones actually really feel sooner than previous ones, however the previous {hardware} continues to be quick sufficient which you could set up new software program updates with out turning your machine into an unusable mess.

Assume again to iOS 7 on the iPhone 4 or iOS 8 on the iPhone 4S or iPad 2; newer iPhones have been nonetheless routinely doubling the speeds of their predecessors, and new software program releases have been including tons of options and complexity because the {hardware} grew to become extra succesful. Because of this, previous units routinely missed out on all types of options, and a few couldn’t even run the identical graphical results as newer telephones and tablets. That’s not likely an issue anymore.

Past these illustrative-but-limited exams, I used an iPhone 6S working the iOS 14 GM construct as my predominant telephone for 2 days, which is lengthy sufficient to present the telephone time to revive information from iCloud and end all of its indexing. And even coming from the iPhone 11 I usually use, issues typically really feel strong! The telephone bogs down some should you’re putting in apps and making an attempt to do different issues on the similar time. Scrolling by way of apps like Slack and Tweetbot sometimes hitch in a method that they don’t on newer telephones, and efficiency is certainly extra borderline with Low Energy Mode turned on. Nevertheless it doesn’t really feel unhealthy, should you can stay with the opposite non-performance-related issues.

Efficiency is ok. All the opposite stuff is… much less advantageous.

The problems with iOS 14 working on previous {hardware} are principally the identical as they have been final 12 months, however let’s recap.

For the iPhone 6S, the problem is battery life. Even when it was new, the iPhone 6S didn’t final so long as the iPhone 6 that it changed or the iPhone 7 that changed it. And in comparison with an iPhone XR or any iPhone 11, which may simply survive a full day of use with battery to spare, the 6S’s battery life is especially depressing. And that’s with a gently used battery working at one hundred pc of its authentic capability—a years-old battery will probably be even worse.

The display screen measurement of the unique iPhone SE is undoubtedly nonetheless a promoting level to a shrinking set of die-hards. However for anybody who purchased it as a result of it was low-cost, its display screen feels extra claustrophobic than ever when you begin including widgets to your house display screen.

Because the father or mother of a one-year-old, although, the factor I seen probably the most in every day use was the digicam. That the 6S nonetheless takes OK footage in respectable gentle is a testomony to Apple’s telephone cameras, however you positively miss the additional element, the superior low-light efficiency, and the higher video stabilization you get in newer iPhones.

That’s the primary motive why, if I have been nonetheless utilizing the 6S or authentic SE as my on a regular basis telephone, I’d take into account wanting very arduous on the second-generation iPhone SE. It positively makes much more sense than buying and selling in a 6S or the unique SE for the iPhone 8, which is what you’ll have had to do that time final 12 months. The brand new SE’s design is dated—from the entrance, it seems to be precisely like a 6S—but it surely’s a brand new telephone with a brand new processor and a brand new digicam, and it’s going to get software program updates for the subsequent half-decade or so. For those who can afford it, you’ll positively discover an enormous distinction. It particularly is sensible should you’re already contemplating a $49 battery alternative to your present telephone. The brand new SE can be nonetheless sufficiently small (particularly in comparison with the iPhone 11 or simply about any Android telephone) {that a} consumer of the unique SE ought to be capable to get used to it with somewhat time and somewhat willingness.

An iPhone 6S or first-generation iPhone SE nonetheless does OK with iOS 14. Efficiency isn’t as much as the extent of an iPhone 11 or second-generation iPhone SE, but it surely’s completely acceptable for day-to-day duties. For those who’ve obtained a more recent telephone that breaks, or should you’re giving one among these older telephones to somebody as a hand-me-down, you’ll be able to relaxation assured that the majority apps are going to get the job accomplished more often than not. It’s good that efficiency isn’t the issue that it was once for older iPhones and iPads, but it surely’s additionally arduous to disregard the digicam enhancements, higher battery life, and different advantages that you simply’ll get should you’re in a position to purchase newer {hardware}.

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