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Apple’s iPhones are one of the best selling phone ranges of all time. They combine classic Apple styling with great internals, and some serious cool factor. However, iPhones tend to be far from affordable, unless you’re willing to go for an older model. Which is where the new iPhone SE comes in. This is Apple’s nod to the mid range market, it’s affordable, and more than that, it’s a true iPhone, with plenty of features and great performance.
Why should you look at investing in the iPhone SE? Well, there’s plenty of power on board, the camera set is pretty nice, performance and battery life are both excellent. But the main selling point here is going to be the price, saving you a solid £250 or so over the cost of a top end iPhone 6S. The iPhone SE just goes to show that Apple can dominate not only the top end market.
In looks, the iPhone SE is exactly what you’d expect, it is an iPhone after all. Lines are slim, design is minimalistic, and corners are curved. The SE takes its lightweight metal chassis from the iPhone 5, and it looks almost identical to its older brother. The phone does sit very neatly in the hand, it’s small enough to feel secure even with one handed use.
Aside from those classic iPhone looks, the SE has some impressive internals. There’s lots of processing power and a great Apple chipset, along with more than enough RAM and some decent cameras as well. Plus, there are some nice extra features, which we’ve come to expect from Apple.
Yes, this is a mid range phone, a first for Apple, but performance doesn’t suffer at all. You’ll be getting an excellent device that not only looks great, but that can also do everything you need and then some.
So, let’s take a look at that performance. Apple are notoriously secretive about their processing power, but the SE appears to be running a dual core 1.8 GHz processor with the new Apple A9 chipset. Add in a full 2 GB of RAM and you’ve got more than enough speed for whatever you need to do.
This is an Apple product, so obviously you’re running iOS, in this case you’ve got iOS 9.3 out of the box. This gives you more stability and security than older iOS versions, but also a few nice new features, such as more proactive suggestions from voice assistant Siri, some new built in essential apps, and tweaks to existing stalwart apps like mail and messaging.
Performance here is great, particularly for a phone that’s being marketed as mid range. Whether you’re gaming, surfing, calling or emailing, the iPhone SE is fast and responsive, and fantastic at multi tasking.
Moving on to the display, and here you’re getting a four inch screen. Though top end phones get around the five inch mark, four inches is actually more than enough space for comfortable on screen typing. More than that though, the SE is simply more portable, it’s easy to slide into your pocket, and easy to use one handed, things that can’t be said about larger screened devices.
When it comes to resolution you’re getting 640 x 1136 pixels, working out to around 326 PPI. That’s not fantastic resolution, but in practice pictures on the SE were bright and clear, with great colour reproduction. In part this is due to the fact that this is an LED blacklit LCD display, including IPS for great viewing angles.
The SE does have a small screen, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, since it makes the device easier to carry around. Resolution numbers are actually better than they look, and though the display isn’t HD, it is still sharp and crisp.
The camera set on the SE is both good and bad. Let’s start with the bad news. The front facing cam is a mere 1.2 MP device, which isn’t great. However, for selfies and video calling it should be more than good enough.
But head to the back of the phone and you’ve got a fantastic 12 MP camera, with tons of features. There’s dual tone LED flash, phase detection auto focus, HDR and 4K video recording. Plus, the SE can simultaneously record 4K video and take 8 MP still images, meaning you get the best of both worlds.
Whilst that front cam is a little disappointing, the rear camera on the SE more than makes up for it. You’ll be taking amazing pics here, helped by Apple’s intuitive camera interface which makes getting great shots easy.
There are a couple of other features that really deserve a mention here. Firstly, there is a fingerprint scanner on the SE. This not only gives you added security, but also means that you can use various online payment services that require fingerprint authentication. Plus, there’s NFC so you can use the Apple Pay system too.
Secondly, there’s that battery. iPhones are not known for their great battery life, but the SE is going to be the exception to that. There’s a 1624 mAh Li-Po battery on board that’s going to give you tons of juice. It’s good for around 240 hours of standby time, about 14 hours of active talk time, and around 50 hours of music play. That means it should be more than capable of lasting through a regular 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|
There are plenty of mid range phones on today’s market, but not many of them combine the beautiful styling and great performance of the iPhone SE. With solid cameras, lots of power, and an excellent battery thrown in to the mix, the SE is more than just your average mid market phone. iOS fans will be more than happy with the SE, and Android and Windows users might want to take a second look at Apple.
You’re getting all the expected connectivity options, so that’s 3G, 4G, WiFi and Bluetooth. Internally you’re getting only 16 GB of memory, and this is Apple so there’s no SD card slot, which means no extra storage can be added. However, you will get an Apple Cloud account, so low storage space might not be a problem.
Bottom line time, what don’t we like? Screen resolution could be improved, though the display was better than we expected given the resolution specs. That front facing camera is a little disappointing, but again, the rear camera more than made up for that. On the whole, this is a fantastic and affordable mid range phone that has great performance, and we really can’t complain too much. If you want an iOS mobile but don’t want to break the bank, then the iPhone SE is going to be the perfect choice.
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.