It happened, Apple finally released a new, small screen iPhone that’s not a compromise like the iPhone 5c. The iPhone SE starts at $399 (which in Apple speak is pretty cheap), looks and feels like the 5s, and most of its components come from the 6s. Simple enough right?
There’s a bit more to it than that. If you’re thinking of buying a new iPhone or you’re the person all your friends and family go to for gadget advice, we’re here to help you out when it comes to making sense of the iPhone SE.
1. The Most Powerful 4-Inch Phone Indeed
In the past 2 years, the world has kind of neglected the compact phone. Sony kept releasing its compact phones but they were never good enough – they were always a compromise. Plus, it wasn’t an iPhone.
The good news is that SE isn’t. It’s got most of the components from iPhone 6s, the current flagship iPhone. A9 processor, 2 GB RAM, Apple Pay, that amazing 12 MP camera, 4K video, Live Photos, and a lot more. The combination of the processor, GPU and the 2 GB RAM make iPhone SE a screaming powerhouse.
— nic nguyen (@itsnicolenguyen) March 25, 2016
For the first time in 2 years, buying a 4 inch phone doesn’t feel like you’re intentionally missing out. After all, SE does stand for Special Edition.
2. It’s the iPhone 5s Many Loved
While the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s design is curved and slippery. iPhone 5s instead is squared, edgy and kind of macho. And even after 2 and a half years, it doesn’t look bad. You might even say it’s a classic, that’s if you’re a fan of the design. And for a change, you can actually put this in your pocket or hold it in one hand without any sort of awkwardness.
The SE looks almost like the 5s. The only difference is that the edges are matte instead of all shiny. The Apple logo is anodised according to the color you choose. Oh and there’s a new Rose Gold option.
3. The Little Differences
Yes, everyone is comparing SE with 6s instead of 5s because it’s got more in common with the current flagship. But it’s not exactly like 6s in a smaller body. There are some minor differences.
For instance, SE has the first generation Touch ID sensor, like the 5s. This is not a big difference. Unless you’ve used the 6s. Touch ID 2 is amazingly fast. Too fast. After it came out, people complained that it was so fast that they could no longer wake up the phone using the home button and expect to interact with the lockscreen notifications. As soon as you press your scanned finger on the home button, you were instantly transported to the homescreen.
Also, there’s no 3D Touch. Honestly, that’s nothing to be jealous about. 3D Touch is still a cool technology, nothing that’s revolutionizing how we use our iPhones.
But something that might be a bit less forgivable is the fact that the front facing camera is 1.2 MP, instead of 5 MP in the 6s. This is a big deal. The front facing camera on the 6s takes great selfies. The SE won’t. But there’s front facing Retina Flash so that’s something.
But there’s also a lot of good stuff.
4. The iPhone SE Is All Modern
The best thing about 6s internals is not the performance. It’s that users get the new features that will considerably improve their iPhone experience. First of all, there’s Apple Pay. Then there’s the always on “Hey Siri” functionality. Not to mention the always on M9 motion co-processor that’s great at recording background activity including the steps you took and the flights of stairs you climbed.
5. Better Battery Life Than 5s
Another good news for people who might be upgrading from 5s and below – the battery life is improved. On paper, SE has 50% more battery life compared to 5s.
Based on the chart below, the battery life is now on par with the 6s.
But according to The Wall Street’s journal’s stress test, it’s actually even better. Here’s the quote from the article:
“In my lab stress test, which cycles through websites with uniform screen brightness, the SE lasted 10 hours—more than two hours longer than both the iPhone 6s and iPhone 5s, and nearly three hours longer than the Galaxy S7.”
When it comes to really getting to know battery life, we need a couple of weeks. But the first reviews are in and they paint a rosy picture. In moderate use, you should make it an entire working day without any issue.
6. Storage Tiers Are Still the Same
The SE still starts at 16 GB for $399. While that might make enthusiasts shudder again, it makes sense for a phone this cheap. And of course, there the 64 GB option for $100 more. But that’s where it stops.
7. May Be It’s Not for You. But…
It’s important to note that not every product Apple releases is for us – the enthusiasts. After all, Apple is no longer the underdog it used to be. So for people rocking the 6s or the 6s Plus (like myself), the SE might seem like a head-scratcher.
I don’t see 6s or 6s Plus or (“phablet”) users going back to the 4-inch size. It just doesn’t seem right. The keyboard is a mess and you need to scroll a lot. Reading or media consumption just isn’t the same.
But we just need to accept that SE isn’t for us (like the new MacBook isn’t) and try and understand who it’s really for.
Which brings me to the next point.
8. The Phone You’ll End up Recommending
The fact that the SE only costs $399 to begin with (Rs 39000 in India, but I’m sure it will drop to 27-30k in 2 months, as iPhones always do), means that it opens up the iPhone to a lot of people. With this pricing, Apple is expanding the top-tier smartphone space and bringing it quite a bit down.
In the west, I can see the SE can be the perfect phone for kids, teenagers, people with small hands or grandparents. But I’m sure west isn’t the market SE was made for.
It’s China and India that will get the most out of the SE. This pricing is going to divert many people from Android to the iPhone.
9. What the Reviews Say
Lauren Goode from The Verge says “For people who want a smaller or less expensive iPhone, the iPhone SE is just enough iPhone.”
Nicole Nguyen from BuzzFeed echoes “It’s a blazing fast smartphone for those who don’t think bigger is better.”
So here’s the gist. If you want a small phone, get the SE. If you want a cheap iPhone, get the SE.
It’s the best at what it does/is.