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iPhone 6S and 6S Plus debut with 3D Touch, Apple says it 'changed everything'

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Apple revealed two new touch-sensitive iPhones today — the iPhone 6S and the iPhone 6S Plus — at an event in San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

3D Touch

Apple refers to these touch-based features as peek (a light press) and pop (a heavy press). Apple's senior video president of software engineering, Craig Federighi, demoed several apps and their new functionality.

  • Mail: Federighi's demo focused on how those pushes make browsing Mail's lists faster, eliminating the need to tap to view messages. A light touch or peek opens a message's preview. Press deeper for a pop, and it'll open the message just as if you'd tapped on it. With a light touch and a flick up, you can bring up more actions. Swiping to the side will let you trash the message or reply.
  • Messages: Allows you to peek on text to bring up more information or touch on an image to take a quick look as the text fades into a blurry iOS background.
  • Maps: Peeking lets you get information like addresses or directions based on what you push on.
  • Springboard: Push lightly on the side of your iPhone, and that'll invoke an app switcher that lets you browse through recently used apps. Tap on application icons, and you'll find shortcuts to its innards. Press on the Settings app, for example, and you'll invoke a menu with options like getting directions home, marking and sending your location and searching nearby.
  • Instagram: On your activity feed, which displays tiled lists of images grouped by users, you can peek to load up individual images or pop to load whole feeds.

The phones

The new iPhones will be released on Sept. 25, and pre-orders start this Saturday, Sept. 12. iOS 9, Apple's latest operating system for iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches, will be released Sept. 16.

Following Apple's regular schedule of updates, the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus are evolutions of last year's 4.7 and 5.5-inch models. Under the hood, though, the new iPhones will allow users to press on the screen to bring up contextual actions, like making images full screen or, when clicking on icons, invoking shortcut menus.

As usual the new phones will arrive at the same price points as their predecessors: iPhone 6S starting at $199 and the iPhone 6S Plus starting at $299. The phones are available in silver, gold, "space gray" and "rose gold."

Apple will continue to sell the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus models, but each price point will drop $100. The iPhone 5s becomes the free phone with a 24-month contract.

Apple also unveiled a 24-month installment plan, which will allow those enrolled to receive a new, unlocked phone every year, directly from Apple, not carriers.

Both new iPhones use Apple's A9 processor. Say, "Hey, Siri," and you'll be able to invoke the digital assistant, whether you're plugged in or not.

The cameras

The new iPhones sport 12 megapixel cameras, adding 50 percent more pixels than their predecessors. As usual, they allow for ever more detailed photography. As it does every year, Apple showed several photos taken with an iPhone. Of note, several weren't taken in direct sunlight, offering a view of the large new sensor's capabilities shooting in low light.

For the first time, iPhones will be able to shoot 4K video, which Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, said captures 8 million pixels per frame.

The front FaceTime camera has been upgraded to 5 megapixels. When taking selfies with the FaceTime camera, Apple will use the the screen as a flash. Engineering allows Apple to light the screes up to three times bringer than normal for powerful flashes of light and even match the ambient tone of the world around the iPhones.

Pressing with 3D touch in Photos invokes Live Photos, which allows users to take bursts of full resolution, 12 megapixel animated photos. Schiller was quick to point out that they are actual photos, strung together — not movies.

For more on the phones, press play below to see Apple's video introduction. You can learn more about Apple's copious announcements today in Polygon's StoryStream, which corrals news about the new Apple TV and iPad Pro, too.