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The iPhone tops bestseller lists year after year, but Apple tend to focus on top end products, meaning that iPhones are hardly the cheapest models around. But with the new iPhone SE the company are finally offering a mid range mobile, and what a mobile it is. Lots of great features, and lots of power, with an affordable price tag all mean that the SE is likely to be a huge hit this year.
Why should you be anxious to get your hands on one? There’s lots of processing power and RAM, meaning it’s a speedy device, there’s some solid cameras, and of course, there’s the sexy Apple look as well. And given that the SE will save you around £250 over the price of the top end 6S, it’s likely that you’ll be saving some cash too. Can Apple dominate the mid range market as effortlessly as the top end niche? Absolutely!
The iPhone SE uses the familiar metal chassis of the older iPhone 5 model, and in looks is almost identical. Styling is minimalistic, lines are sleek and slim, and corners are slightly curved. It’s certainly light weight, but it also feels solid and fits very nicely in the palm of the hand. This is unmistakeably an iPhone.
Looks aside, the SE has some impressive internal specs as well, many of which are identical to what the top end 6S model sports. You’ll have tons of power and RAM, a decent rear camera, a great Apple chipset, and some nice added features as well. All in all, the SE looks to tick all the right boxes.
Despite being a mid range mobile, the iPhone SE isn’t a compromise when it comes to performance. Yes, it’s more affordable, but it’s also fast and responsive, and great looking to boot, making it one of the best mid market phones around.
We’ll start by looking at performance, since that’s obviously a big factor in your decision. Apple aren’t great about giving away specs, but the SE looks to be running a dual core 1.8 GHz processor alongside the new Apple A9 chipset. Throw in 2 GB of RAM and you’re getting lightening fast speeds and a very responsive device indeed.
As an iPhone you’re obviously going to be running iOS on the SE. In fact, you’ve got the new iOS 9.3 out of the box. This improves security and stability, whilst adding in some nice new features. Siri, Apple’s voice assistant, is more proactive, for example, and several essential apps like mail and messaging have had some nice upgrades too.
Performance wise it’d be difficult to find better at this price point. The iPhone SE is more than capable of doing anything you need, with no lag and no freezing. Even multi tasking is a breeze with the SE.
The display is the compromise that Apple have made to get that low price, but it’s not necessarily bad. In size you’re getting four inches, which seems small compared to top end five inch displays, but in actuality that’s more than enough space for comfortable typing. Plus, it does mean that it’s easy to use the SE one handed, and that the device is very portable and comfortable to carry around with you.
Resolution isn’t terribly good, coming in at 640 x 1136 pixels, which is around 326 PPI. However, there is a clear, sharp picture with good colour reproduction. This is due to the fact that the SE has an LED backlit LCD display, complete with IPS for wide viewing angles.
Yes, the screen is small, and no, resolution isn’t amazing. Having said that the display is good enough, and it’s actually difficult to see the difference unless you compare the SE with a higher resolution display mobile side by side. In short, you’ll be more than satisfied.
Cameras on the SE are also more than satisfactory, as long as you take into account both cams. At the front you’re only seeing a 1.2 MP device, which isn’t great. But since most people only use the front cam for selfies and video calling that’s not really a big deal.
The main event is at the rear, where you’re getting a top end 12 MP cam with plenty of great features. There’s phase detection auto focus, HDR, 4K video, and a nice dual tone LED flash as well. And the SE can take 4K video at the same time as snapping 8 MP pics, so you can get both video and pictures of the same event.
The front camera on the SE is a bit of a disappointment, but that rear camera is absolutely fantastic. You’ll get excellent picture quality, and the intuitive camera software means that you’ll get great shots every time.
There are two other things that really warrant a mention when it comes to the SE. First up you do get a fingerprint scanner. This gives you more security, of course, but also lets you use online payment services that require fingerprint authentication (there’s NFC so you can use Apple Pay as well!).
Then there’s the battery. We’ll be honest and say that iPhones don’t generally get great battery life, but the SE looks to be an exception to that rule. It’s got a large 1624 mAh Li-Po battery, so you’ll get lots of juice. You’re looking at about 50 hours of music play back, 14 hours of talk time, and a massive 240 hours of standby time. That should be more than enough to get you through the day.
|Dimensions||123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6 mm (4.87 x 2.31 x 0.30 in)|
|Weight||113 g (3.99 oz)|
|- Apple Pay (Visa, MasterCard, AMEX certified)|
|Type||LED-backlit IPS LCD, capacitive touchscreen, 16M colors|
|Size||4.0 inches (~60.8% screen-to-body ratio)|
|Resolution||640 x 1136 pixels (~326 ppi pixel density)|
|CPU||Dual-core 1.84 GHz Twister|
|GPU||PowerVR GT7600 (six-core graphics)|
|Internal||16/64 GB, 2 GB RAM|
|Primary Camera||12 MP, f/2.2, 29mm, phase detection autofocus, dual-LED (dual tone) flash, check quality|
|Features||1/3" sensor size, 1.22 µm pixel size, geo-tagging, simultaneous 4K video and 8MP image recording, touch focus, face/smile detection, HDR (photo/panorama)|
|Video||2160p@30fps, 1080p@30/60fps, 1080p@120fps, 720p@240fps, check quality|
|Secondary Camera||1.2 MP, f/2.4, 31mm, 720p@30fps, face detection, HDR, FaceTime over Wi-Fi or Cellular|
|Alert types||Vibration, proprietary ringtones|
|WLAN||Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, hotspot|
|Bluetooth||v4.2, A2DP, LE|
|GPS||Yes, with A-GPS, GLONASS|
|NFC||Yes (Apple Pay only)|
|USB||v2.0, reversible connector|
|Sensors||Fingerprint, accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass|
|Messaging||iMessage, SMS (threaded view), MMS, Email, Push Email|
|- Active noise cancellation with dedicated mic|
|- Siri natural language commands and dictation|
|- iCloud cloud service|
|- MP3/WAV/AAX+/AIFF/Apple Lossless player|
|- MP4/H.264 player|
|- Audio/video/photo editor|
|- Document editor|
|Battery||Non-removable Li-Po 1624 mAh battery (6.21 Wh)|
|Stand-by||Up to 240 h (2G) / Up to 240 h (3G)|
|Talk time||Up to 14 h (3G)|
|Music play||Up to 50 h|
|Colors||Space Grey, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold|
iPhones look great, have great performance, and are very expensive. The only difference with the iPhone SE is that it’s no longer going to break the bank. Performance is fantastic, specs are great, it’s portable and easy to use, and it’s also affordable. What more could you ask for in a phone? Fans of iOS will love the SE, and a fair few others might make the switch to Apple too…
Connectivity wise you’re looking at the usual suspects. There’s 3G, 4G, Bluetooth and WiFi. You’re getting 16 GB of internal memory, but there’s no SD card slot, meaning you can’t add any external storage. Apple does give you a Cloud account, however, so lack of internal storage shouldn’t be too much of a problem.
So, what don’t we like? At this price point, with this kind of performance, it’s difficult to really complain. Yes, we’d like slightly better screen resolution, and a better front facing camera. But on the whole, the iPhone SE is better than the majority of phones at its price point, so complaining seems petty. If you love Apple, you want an iOS device, you want great performance, but you don’t want to spend a fortune, then the iPhone SE is going to be the perfect buy.
by Dan Forster, Mobile Phone Expert
Dan is our mobile phone review expert helping customers make better buying decisions. With a passion for technology and taking things apart Dan single-handedly reviews all the phones listed on the TigerMobiles.com website.