iPhone SE: Hands-On Review
“SWITCHING TO THE IPHONE SE HAS TAKEN ME BACK TO THE ERA OF THE IPHONE 5, A SIMPLER TIME WHEN IPHONE CONSUMERS HAD FEWER SIZE CHOICES.”
Everything old is new again, thanks to the iPhone SE. Apple's 4-inch iPhone features most of the guts of the iPhone 6s in the familiar casing of the iPhone 5s. For some users, this form factor may turn out to be just right.
If you dismissed the Apple iPhone SE ($399) as an entrylevel smartphone for the masses, you would be mistaken. While the SE is the cheapest of Apple's lineup and likely the most attractive to cost-conscious consumers, there are a number of reasons why the SE is better than larger iPhones at any price. Millions of users, this writer included, prefer the smaller, pocketable size of the 4-inch iPhone. I'm also partial to the squared-off edges of the SE as opposed to the slippery, curved edges of the iPhone 6s, which make the device easier to drop. Another perk of the SE is that it works with all iPhone 5 cases, giving you a greater number of features, colors, and prices to choose from.
After two years of owning larger iPhones, switching to the iPhone SE has taken me back to the era of the iPhone 5, a simpler time when iPhone consumers had fewer size choices. Truth be told, I prefer the smaller size, even though the trend has been toward larger phones in recent years.
The SE is Apple's recognition that there's a market for a smaller iPhone. Indeed, the numbers bear this out. According to mobile analytics provider MixPanel.com, more than 30 percent of iPhone owners are using older models such as the iPhone 5, 5s, 5c, or even iPhone 4 and 4s. Given that larger iPhones have been available for two years, it's likely these customers prefer the size, are cost-conscious, or both. In either case, the iPhone SE would be the next logical upgrade for them.
APPLE’S EXPANDING ECOSYSTEM
Thanks to Apple's mobile ecosystem that includes the Apple Watch, the iPad mini, and larger iPads, the iPhone no longer needs to be my primary device. For example, if I didn't own a tablet, I might feel compelled to buy a larger smartphone to more easily browse the web, read books, play games, and watch videos. But since I own an iPad, I don't need my iPhone to have a big screen.
Similarly, having a smartwatch means I don't have to dig out my smartphone to view and respond to notifications, text messages, or even phone calls. As a result, the size of my phone isn't as important as it used to be.
The iPhone SE is $250 less than a comparable iPhone 6s. Those savings can help justify spending on an Apple Watch, iPad, or, as I would recommend, more storage for the iPhone SE.
That's not to say that the iPhone SE offers everything the iPhone 6s does. 3D Touch is missing, which detects harder presses on the screen and reacts accordingly. However, to be honest, I found that feature to be a gimmick, and I don't miss it at all. The iPhone 6s also has a 5-megapixel front-facing camera for FaceTime and selfies compared to 1.2 megapixels
for the SE. That's a significant distinction, especially if you are creating selfies to try to break the internet!
The other minor advantage of the iPhone 6s is that it uses a newer, faster Touch ID sensor. I haven't noticed any delays with the SE, except during the initial fingerprint programming process, which seemed to take longer. STORAGE LIMITS
I originally bought a 16 GB model, but even without photos, videos, music, or even games, I could not manage to install all of my apps. Ultimately I ended up exchanging my phone for a 64 GB model. Unlike the 6s, there is no 128 GB model for the iPhone SE. But once I upgraded to 64 GB, my storage problems went away. THE IPHONE 7 DILEMMA
My dilemma will come in September, when Apple should release an iPhone 7. The 7 is expected to mimic the styling of the iPhone 6s. There will be a base model and a Plus model, but both will be larger than I prefer. However, if Apple adds wireless charging, significant battery life, and a more rugged screen—all of which would remove the need for a protective case—then that could be a compelling reason for me to switch.
Pros: • Most of the features of the 6s in a smaller size • Costs $250 less than the iPhone 6s • Squared-edge design appeals to many Cons: • Selfie camera is lower resolution than iPhone 6s • No 3D Touch, if that matters to you • Touch ID sensor isn't as fast as iPhone 6s THE FINAL VERDICT:
With millions of users, young and old, one size doesn't fit all. Fortunately, with the introduction of the iPhone SE, those of us who prefer the compact 4-inch form factor don't have to compromise on features, with the exception of the selfie camera.