Apple iPhone SE evaluate: A compelling mix of previous and new

Despite the fact that all of us knew it was coming, Apple’s iPhone SE announcement nonetheless managed to boost eyebrows … and loads of questions. Is there nonetheless a marketplace for a four-inch iPhone? Is Apple enjoying it protected with its design? Arguably, the reply to each these questions is sure, however after every week of utilizing the iPhone SE, I can safely say that none of that issues. No matter Apple’s causes for making this factor, the iPhone SE is a stunning smartphone for iOS newcomers and small-handed customers alike.

Engadget Rating
Poor

Uninspiring

Good

Wonderful

Key

Execs
  • Nice efficiency
  • Superb battery life for an iPhone
  • Begins at $399
Cons
  • Screentoo small for some
  • Previous frontcamera, Contact ID sensor
  • Base mannequin solely has 16GB of storage

Abstract

Simply because the iPhone SE appears like an previous system doesn’t suggest it acts like one.Apple squeezed flagship-degree efficiency and one of the best battery life we have seen from an iPhone in years into a well-known (and comparatively cheap) body. The telephone lacks a few of the6s’s niceties and its display is simply too small for some, however the iPhone SE is the most effective compact telephone Apple has ever made.

Hardware

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Apple iPhone SE review: A compelling blend of old and new

It is an iPhone 6s within the physique of an iPhone 5s. Growth, accomplished, see you guys later.

Kidding, kidding. Nonetheless, whereas that sentiment is a bit of too reductive, it is principally proper. Almost all of the issues that make an iPhone 6s an iPhone 6s are again, simply squeezed right into a physique we thought we had seen the final of. Apple might have gone the fee-acutely aware route and given us an iPhone 6 in a smaller physique, and I am equal elements stunned and happy they did not. I am going to dig extra into efficiency later, however the A9 chipset (with its M9 movement-monitoring processor) discovered within the SE is a lifeless ringer for the one in Apple’s present flagship iPhones, from its clock velocity to the 2GB of RAM it is paired with. Lengthy story brief, the SE does not really feel like a second-class machine.

Gallery: iPhone SE evaluation | 26 Pictures

That extends to the SE’s design, too. As I stated in my preliminary palms-on, the iPhone 5/5s’s look nonetheless stands as my favourite, and I half-want Apple would deliver again this extra angular aesthetic. (Fingers crossed for September.) The iPhone SE is as mild and properly constructed because the 5s was two years in the past, with few bodily variations to talk of. In truth, apart from the rose gold colour choice that the 5s did not supply, there are simply two telltale modifications: the SE emblem on the again aspect and the matte chamfers that run across the telephone’s flat edges. When you appreciated the previous-faculty iPhone 5s design, then, you are going to really feel proper at residence right here. And should you did not, nicely, you were not going to purchase this telephone anyway.

There’s a third camp, although: individuals who loved the 5s’s design after which embraced a era of larger screens. If that is you, I do know what you are considering, and sure, going again to a small iPhone after two years with the 6 household is bizarre. In case you peeked inside my Messages app (please do not), you’d see a number of texts to pals and colleagues posing variations of the identical query: How did we use this stuff for therefore lengthy? Every week in and I nonetheless cannot bash out textual content messages on that cramped onscreen keyboard as reliably as I used to. Hell, I am sometimes annoyed by how little textual content I can scan by way of directly on the smaller display.

Apple iPhone SE review: A compelling blend of old and new

Nonetheless, the dimensions has its upsides. After months of utilizing huge smartphones — the iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy Notice 5 and Nexus 6p, principally — my proper hand is in fairly tough form. It will get sore and drained shortly, particularly once I’m utilizing my pinkie to cradle the underside of the telephone and stretching my thumb throughout the display to faucet one thing within the nook. I am 27, however my hand feels prefer it’s forty. Utilizing the SE for the week, then, has been like a mini-trip for my gnarled claw. The small-display way of life is not for everybody, however there is no denying the iPhone SE is a damned snug little system.

Anyway. My evaluate unit was rose gold (due to course it was!) and got here with 64GB of inner storage (asking worth: $499). Nicely, roughly sixty four gigs, anyway: After you issue within the area iOS 9.three takes up, you are left with fifty five.7GB of usable storage. That the entry-degree $399 mannequin comes with solely 16GB of storage is not shocking, however this is hoping that is the final time Apple ships an iPhone with so little area to play with. That is simply one of many compromises you will be making once you go for this type issue at this worth. Neither mannequin has 3D Contact. The Contact ID sensors within the residence buttons are first-era fashions, which is to say it isn’t as quick because the one within the 6s. And the entrance-dealing with cameras are a 1.2-megapixel throwback to the times of the iPhone 5.

Show and sound

Apple iPhone SE review: A compelling blend of old and new

For all intents, the iPhone SE has the very same display because the one within the iPhone 5s. Meaning it nonetheless runs at a decision of 1,136 x 640, which additionally means the maths nonetheless works out to a pixel density of 326ppi (similar because the iPhone 6s). Look past the numbers, although, and you will see that this throwback of a display is as vibrant and nicely saturated as within the previous days. That stated, the show may take a bit getting used to in case you’re coming from a 6s. The display’s a tad much less brilliant than that of both the 6s or 6s Plus, and the colour temperature is somewhat hotter, too. If something, the most important distinction right here is the lack of 3D Contact, which some will really feel extra acutely than others. I am going to admit, I used to be very bullish about 3D Contact gestures when the 6s first got here out, however now I not often use them. Present iPhone customers won’t miss them, whereas newcomers will not even discover their absence.

Apple iPhone SE review: A compelling blend of old and new

In the meantime, the only speaker tucked into the SE’s backside edge is punchier than I anticipated, particularly with highs and mids. You will nonetheless need a pair of headphones for any sort of lengthy-time period listening, however there’s sufficient energy right here to offer YouTube movies and the Hamilton soundtrack some wanted oomph.

Software program

Apple iPhone SE review: A compelling blend of old and new

The iPhone SE ships with iOS 9.three, which does not add a lot in the best way of whiz-bang options. If something, probably the most notable addition is Night time Shift, a function that may mechanically heat up the display’s colour temperature to ease eyestrain at night time. It isn’t precisely a brand new concept — apps like f.lux have been doing this for years on the desktop — however a hotter display does certainly make night studying simpler than a traditional white one. Relatively than arrange a selected Night time Shift schedule, you possibly can manually modify how heat the display is. Theoretically, cranking up display heat to the max ought to assist ease your screwy sleep cycle, however you are left with a jarringly orange show consequently. None of this helped me crash quicker at night time, however hopefully it does somebody on the market some good.

Now you can additionally lock particular entries within the Notes app; opening them requires both a password or placing your finger on the Contact ID sensor. Eventually, my listing of “Definitive Karaoke Jams” will get the safety it deserves! Additionally, for those who’re a Verizon individual, you possibly can lastly begin WiFi-calling your mates as of this replace (the opposite huge three carriers have had this for some time). In the meantime, the Well being app now highlights software program that pipes in motion and vitamin knowledge, which is particularly good on the SE; its smaller measurement makes it a extra nice exercise buddy.

Oh, and Apple Information has gotten barely higher at determining what sorts of tales I truly need to learn. (It nonetheless overestimates how a lot Donald Trump information I would like, however that is in all probability a symptom of a bigger challenge.) There are additionally a number of latest 3D Contact app behaviors in iOS 9.three, however clearly none of them work right here. C’est la vie.

Unusually sufficient, I bumped into a number of bizarre Siri hiccups after establishing the “Hey Siri” voice activation. Whereas listening to an audiobook in Audible, sure passages — ones with phrases that do not sound a factor like “Hey Siri” — would convey my digital assistant to life and puzzle her with random bits of dialogue. I performed the identical e-book on an iPhone 6s to attempt to replicate the difficulty, with no luck. Ditto for simply placing the telephones subsequent to one another; in any case, the identical sound ought to set off Siri on each, proper? Nope, it solely occurred on the SE. It stopped after some time, however I nonetheless cannot work out what was happening there.

Digital camera

Apple iPhone SE review: A compelling blend of old and new

Spoiler alert in case you have not but learn our iPhone 6s evaluation: The digital camera is nice. And due to the Transitive Property of Element Transplantation (it’s going to turn into a factor, simply watch), the iPhone SE’s digital camera is nice, too. Truly, it is higher than the 6s’s digital camera in a single delicate means: Because the iPhone SE is a barely thicker telephone, it does not have the awkward digital camera nub seen on members of the iPhone 6 household. See? There’s an argument to be made for thicker telephones.

Anyway, I might go on about how Apple’s “deep trench isolation” retains mild from spilling into adjoining photodiodes, however that is not likely mandatory. All you actually need to know is that the iPhone SE is able to capturing some remarkably detailed, properly coloured photographs. Shock, shock. I have been capturing with each the SE and an iPhone 6s Plus for the previous week, and the outcomes they put out are almost equivalent. (The 6s Plus pulls forward in terms of motion photographs and low-mild conditions, as a result of it has optical picture stabilization.)

Gallery: iPhone SE digital camera samples | 31 Pictures

Talking of low mild, the iPhone SE does a good job holding noise to a minimal in dim settings, although I might usually give the nod to the Galaxy S7 as the higher smartphone digital camera. The iPhone SE additionally shoots 4K video, which usually seems to be clean and evenly uncovered, even when monitoring shifting topics. It is good to have, positive, however in case you’ve acquired a 16GB SE — and lots of of you’ll — you will in all probability by no means need to shoot movies at such a excessive decision.

Two different issues are value stating. First, the iPhone SE helps capturing Reside Photographs, shifting pictures that add slightly aptitude and context to your photographs. Since there is no 3D Contact right here, an extended press on a Reside Photograph will make it spring into motion. The opposite factor is that your selfies simply do not end up as good as they do with the 6s. Apple did not hassle upgrading the 1.2-megapixel entrance-dealing with digital camera that sits atop the display, although the 5-megapixel sensor within the 6s does not take up rather more area. The result’s muddier pictures that, whereas completely superb for Instagram, lack the liveliness the larger sensor is able to. At the least the SE has its Retina Flash, which lights up the display so as to add some additional brightness.

Efficiency and battery life

Apple iPhone SE review: A compelling blend of old and new

The iPhone SE is far extra highly effective than its previous-faculty seems recommend. The mixture of Apple’s present-gen A9 chipset with 2GB of RAM is sufficient to maintain issues operating easily, from swiping by way of residence screens to switching between apps to firing up graphically intensive video games. The final time Apple launched a price-acutely aware four-inch system — the second-class citizen that was the iPhone 5c — it felt dated from the get-go. For Apple to squeeze crucial elements of its flagship cellular right into a small, $399 iPhone is refreshing. For the primary time in years, you should purchase a four-inch iPhone with out feeling such as you’ve needed to sacrifice efficiency for measurement.

Simply to drive the purpose residence, take a look at the benchmarks under. They’re kind of similar to the costliest iPhone you should purchase.

iPhone SE iPhone 6s iPhone 6s Plus iPhone 6 3DMark Limitless IS 27,729 24,601 27,542 sixteen,689 Geekbench three (multi-thread) four,440 four,427 four,289 2,885 Basemark OS II 2,378 2,354 2,428 1,441 SunSpider 1.zero.2 (ms) 227 230 220 351 SunSpider: Decrease scores are higher

When Apple refused to speak concerning the capability of the battery contained in the iPhone SE, I used to be greater than somewhat frightened. I should not have been. It’s going to be a short while but earlier than the inevitable teardown reveals the battery’s measurement, however you’ll be able to relaxation straightforward figuring out the iPhone SE will get you thru a full day after which some. (For those who’ve learn my previous evaluations, you will know a typical day for me includes firing off plenty of emails and Slack messages, taking calls, listening to podcasts and enjoying video games within the toilet.) After pulling the SE off its charger at about 9 within the morning, it will make it via eleven-hour days with between 30 and forty % of its cost left. I’ve routinely had the telephone go over 24 hours while not having a cost (although, in equity, I used to be asleep for that final stretch). Suffice to say, I am very, very happy.

Turning to our video rundown check (looping an HD video with WiFi on and the display brightness set to 50 %), the iPhone SE hung round for thirteen hours and forty minutes. Whereas that is not fairly nearly as good because the 50 % enchancment Apple has claimed, the iPhone SE nonetheless has the most effective battery lifetime of any iPhone we have examined up to now two years. That is plenty of energy packed into such a tiny package deal.

The competitors

Apple iPhone SE review: A compelling blend of old and new

The iPhone SE’s mixture of worth and energy — the 16GB mannequin is the most cost effective new iPhone Apple has ever launched — means it occupies a kind of charmed area within the firm’s cellular lineup. There’s formally no purpose to purchase an iPhone 5s from a service, so the most important query is whether or not would-be iPhone house owners can purchase an SE or a 6s. (One might go for an iPhone 6, I assume, however the 6s is simply $one hundred extra with no contract. Why settle?) As I’ve talked about advert nauseam, the 6s shares the iPhone SE’s horsepower and packs a extra spacious four.7-inch display that is strain-delicate as well. That greater measurement continues to be fairly snug to make use of, although you will lose out on the SE’s lengthy-lasting battery within the course of.

In case you’re trying to spend about $four hundred on a smartphone and are not tied to Apple, think about LG and Google’s Nexus 5X. It, too, provides good efficiency at an inexpensive worth, however its plastic physique does not maintain a candle to the iPhone SE’s first-fee construct. On the plus aspect, although, there’s loads of energy to be wrung out of its Snapdragon 808 chipset, and we already know it is going to run Google’s forthcoming Android N (full with cut up-display multitasking!).

Wrap-up

Apple iPhone SE review: A compelling blend of old and new

It is clear that the iPhone SE is not for individuals like me: individuals who have embraced the arrival of extra spacious screens regardless of the bizarre bulges they type in our collective denims pockets. Whenever you take a look at the SE as a newcomer’s iPhone, although, all of it kind of is sensible. It is fairly low cost — an attractive proposition for individuals lastly ditching their flip telephones. Its small measurement may also attraction to individuals who stopped upgrading their iPhones once they began getting too huge. And most necessary, it is highly effective. Apple followers itching for extra of a recreation changer ought to sit tight till September; this factor was by no means meant for you. However in case you’re on the lookout for a primary-price smartphone that will not break the financial institution — or your hand — the iPhone SE deserves a spot in your brief listing.

Photographs by Will Lipman.

Chris spent his youth taking aside Sega consoles and writing terrible fan fiction. To his utter shock, that zeal for electronics and phrases would ultimately lead him to overlaying startups of all stripes at TechCrunch. The primary telephone he ever swooned over was the Nokia 7610, and to this present day he cringes every time anybody says the phrases “Bengal Boy."He additionally actually hates writing about himself within the third individual.