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iPhone SE review

evan kypreos

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Summary

Our Score:

8

Pros

  • Compact body
  • Great camera
  • Excellent performance
  • Solid battery life

Cons

  • Average screen
  • Poor front-facing camera
  • Still 16GB starting storage

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Key Features

  • 4-inch IPS Retina screen
  • iOS 10
  • A9 dual-core processor
  • 2GB RAM
  • Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • 1624 mAh battery
  • 16 or 64GB storage
  • 12MP rear camera
  • 1.2MP Facetime front camera
  • Live photos
  • Manufacturer: Apple
  • Review Price: £359.00

What is the iPhone SE?

The iPhone SE is no longer Apple's latest phone, that honour goes to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. They might not be radical redesigns, but new features are plentiful. Both are water-resistant, have stereo speakers and a wider colour gamut screen. You'll have to say bye to the headphone jack though, as it's been ditched.

Phones getting bigger and bigger, but the iPhone SE totally bucks the trend. This is a phone that's easy to use with one hand. Yes the the Samsung Galaxy S7, HTC 10 and iPhone 6S Plus are great handsets, but for many of us they’re simply too large.

How can a phone with a three year old design do it? Apple has given people a choice with the iPhone SE. The compact body is rare these days, but even though it's small it packs a mighty punch. This is a very powerful and capable phone. It can boast the same top-notch internals as the iPhone 6S, a snazzy pink (sorry, Rose Gold) hue and support for Apple Pay. Normally small phones are hamstrung, the iPhone SE isn’t.

Watch our iPhone SE video

Related: iPhone 7

iPhone SE – Design, Screen and Audio

A surprising amount of people I speak to say they want a small phone that packs all the features of a full-fat flagship. Sony is the only manufacturer to have previously attempted anything like this, but even its Xperia Z5 Compact has a not-so-tiny 4.6-inch screen and it's quite thick. The iPhone SE is much smaller and much easier to handle.

Anyone who's used an iPhone 5 or iPhone 5S will feel at ease with the iPhone SE – it looks and feels almost identical, except now you can get it in a fetching rose-gold colour and its cut edges are matte rather than shiny chrome.

Those phones have an iconic design and I have no problem with Apple reusing it, especially if it means they can keep costs down and pass the savings on. The best thing about the design of the iPhone SE is that it still feels quality. The brushed aluminium back is both hard and cool to touch, the buttons are solid, and it’s easily small enough to use one-handed, regardless of the size of your hands.

iPhone SE 3

Coming from using the giant iPhone 6S Plus and Huawei Mate 8 I also found it a relief to be able to bend my leg again when I put a phone in my front pocket.

In other ways it’s taken me time to adjust to the smaller screen. It’s not just that I have to move it closer to my face to read text, like my granddad reading the morning paper, I also struggle with the small keyboard. Ironically I often have to use both my hands and thumbs on the phone to minimise the potential for embarrassing autocorrect fails. I've gotten more used to it, but I still don't find it comfortable after a few weeks of using the phone non-stop. The small screen also means watching video is a little cramped and, while the iPhone SE is more than powerful enough to play all the best games, trying to maneuver precisely requires daintier digits than mine.

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While the iPhone SE still looks good there are a couple of aspects of the design that aren’t perfect, and others that feel dated. For starters, if you don’t use a case with the iPhone SE you might find the edges a little harsh, particularly if you’re more used to the rounded metal sides on contemporary phone designs. The screen bezel is also rather wide – especially at the top and bottom – and that means you don’t get a lot of screen for the size of the phone.

iPhone SE 11

That’s not the only problem with the screen.

It packs the exact same display as the 5S. While the 1136 x 640 resolution provides a perfectly sharp 326 pixels per inch the screen lacks punch and has a reddish tinge that is exacerbated when it’s tilted at some angles. Compare it to Samsung’s colour-packed Super AMOLED screens or even the newer LCD technology on a phone like the HTC 10 and it really starts looking its age.

Still, it's quite acceptable – bright enough to be used outdoors and sharp enough to read websites on the go without noticing any fuzzy edges to letters.

iPhone SE 10

The speaker located at the bottom of the phone is decent rather than outstanding. Top-level volume isn’t as high as some other phones, but the quality of the audio output is surprisingly good from such a small package – sound is balanced, if a little thin, and there’s no distortion at the highest volume.

Call quality is also strong. The ear speaker is clear and loud and the noise-cancelling mic does a good job of clearing up any distracting external noises when you're on a call. There are louder call speakers out there but I didn't have any problems hearing or making myself heard even on windy days with lots of traffic noise around me.

Neither the design, screen or sound quality excites the blood much – so far the iPhone SE isn't very different at all when compared to its predecessors. That all changes, though, when I scratch the surface and take the camera for a spin around London.

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Dead Words

April 12, 2016, 1:24 pm

Seems decent. I'm a fan of larger phones that don't run iOS though, haha. I understand why Apple released this phone and it does fill a small slice of the market that was previously practically vacant, but I've honestly been surprised by the terrible reception this phone has been receiving. It has divided people straight down the middle.

Raymond Mathias

May 22, 2016, 6:05 pm

iPhone 6, 6s, SE and more are now on sale only at NewSmartphoneDeals;com

RoyB26354

June 11, 2016, 5:23 am

How much they pay you for this? Left my new iPhone SE on the charger overnight. Unplugged it at 10.00am. It's 3.21 and I have done nothing with this phone all day and it's sitting at about 20% now. I've spent most of today listening to the old 4s - still pumping tunes. I am returning this terrible phone that I bought based on reviews of it's battery life.

marlene1020

October 17, 2016, 1:59 pm

I bought the 5s when the 6 came out because it was too big. It felt like a step backward using a tablet to make a phone call! If I want a large screen I'll use my ipad or a laptop. I bought the se last week and love it. I looked at the 7's before I did and have no regrets. I did buy the 64gb...it's only $50 more with AT&T. Mine charges very quickly but I've found if I leave privacy, location services off, it lasts a long time--a full day. I really believe it depends on what you have happening in the background on your phone as to battery life when it's just sitting there--such as background refresh on your apps. Be selective and refresh at a time you choose and you should see a difference. Or carry a portable power bank for security. It's very fast, great pictures, great sound, great reception and costs $80 less than the 5s 2 years ago. BTW I know about ten people in my small group of friends and coworkers who have purchased this rather than buy a larger phone so there's big demand for a small phone. They considered going android until the se came out.

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