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One of the most recognisable names on the mobile market, Apple are king of the top end smart phone. But now they’re looking to expand into the mid range niche with the new iPhone SE. With all the looks and power you’d expect from an Apple product, the SE also has an affordable price tag. Can Apple dominate mid range phones? With the SE it truly looks like they can.
Just why should you be excited about the iPhone SE? It’s certainly good looking, with signature Apple design, but it’s also got top end processing power and a great rear camera as well. Throw extended battery life into the mix and you’re looking at an excellent mid market smart phone. Whether you’re an Apple fan or not, you’re going to want to check out the new iPhone SE.
The SE could only be an iPhone. Using the metal chassis of the older iPhone 5, the SE sports sleek, slim lines and gently rounded curves, giving you a minimalistic, sexy profile. It feels premium and sturdy in the hand, and thanks to its small size and light weight it sits very securely in the palm of the hand.
Under the hood you’re getting some impressive specs for your cash too. The SE not only has the rear camera of the more expensive iPhone 6S, but also the same chipset and power specs. That’s pretty sweet, but thanks to a smaller screen size, the SE adds in longer battery life than on any other iPhone.
Of course it’s going to be the price that’s tempting for most, since you’re looking at saving around £250 on the SE versus the top end iPhone range. But cost aside, the SE is a great little device, with solid performance and some very nice specs indeed.
Initially, you’re going to be looking for some great performance, and the SE definitely delivers. Apple don’t always release specific specs, and remember that you can’t directly compare an iOS device to an Android number-wise. However, it seems that the SE runs Apple’s new A9 chipset, plus around a dual core 1.8 GHz processor and about 2 GB of RAM. Add that all up and you’re looking at great speed and responsiveness.
Obviously your operating system here is iOS. And you’ve got the newest iOS 9.3 out of the box. That means you get the added stability and security of a new OS version, along with some nice new features. Yes, the interface is as intuitive as ever, but old friends have been modernised. For example, Siri, your voice assistant, is now more proactive and smarter, offering better suggestions and even advice.
Ignoring the tech jargon for a moment, the SE gets great performance. There’s no lag, even when running multiple processes, it’s fast, and very responsive to user input too. All this means that you’re getting a great phone that’s not going to let you down.
The SE is affordable, but to get that low price Apple have had to make some compromises, and the display is one of those, though the news isn’t as bad as it might seem. First, you’ve got a four inch screen, which might seem small. Remember though that four inches is more than enough for on screen typing, and it also means that the SE is immensely portable. Slip it into your pocket and you’re barely know that it’s there.
You’re not getting HD resolution though, the SE comes in with 640 x 1136 pixels, so around 326 PPI. That being said, we found images to be crisp and sharp, and the colour reproduction was especially good, with bright whites and deep blacks. That could be because you’ve got an LED backlit LCD display, and there’s also IPS for broader viewing angles.
We said that the news wasn’t as bad as it sounded, and it’s really not. Yes, the display here is a compromise, but it’s not a terrible one. Display quality was actually very good, and you’re unlikely to notice much difference unless you’re watching a lot of HD video.
Moving on to the camera set, and it must be said that the SE’s front camera is another compromise issue. At the front you’re only getting a 1.2 MP cam, though since most of us use this front cam only for a selfie or two or for Face Time, that’s probably not going to be a big deal for most.
The rear camera more than makes up for that front cam though, since it’s the same cam as you’d find on the top end iOS models. You’re getting a 12 MP device with all the bells and whistles. There’s dual tone LED flash for natural lighting, 4K video, HDR, and phase detection auto focus too. You can also simultaneously record 4K video and take 8 MP pics, giving you both moving and still images of the same thing.
Sure, the SE doesn’t boast the world’s best front cam. But that rear cam is a beauty. Couple is with Apple’s awesome and easy to use camera software, and you’re going to be taking some amazing pictures.
Finally, we do have a couple more things that we want to mention here. The first of these is that the SE does sport a fingerprint scanner, meaning you get added device security and you can use digital payment systems. It’s got NFC too, though you can only use that for Apple Pay, the manufacturer’s proprietary digital wallet system.
The second thing is something that’s a bit of a surprise. iPhones don’t get good battery life, in truth, but the SE is about to change all that. It’s got a hefty 1624 mAh Li-Po battery on board, which should be more than enough to get you through the day. That means around 240 hours of standby, plus about 14 hours of constant active use from one charge.
|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|
You do have a lot of options in the middle of the mobile market, but the new iPhone SE definitely deserves your consideration. With great performance, a fantastic rear camera, added battery life, and those stunning Apple good looks, there’s a lot to love about the SE. Plus, if you want that iPhone but don’t want to spend a fortune, then the SE is the obviously sensible choice.
Connectivity is what you’d expect to see, you’re getting Bluetooth, WiFi, 3G and 4G. Internally you’ve got 64 GB of memory, a fair chunk, though you don’t get an SD card slot, so you can’t add extra storage. You do get an Apple Cloud account though, so you can always expand your storage online.
Okay, so, what don’t we like about the SE? We’re not huge fans of that low resolution screen, or the low resolution front camera, for that matter. But we do understand that they were sacrifices made to get an affordable price, and neither are as bad as you might think. On the whole, the iPhone SE is a fantastic choice for any mid range mobile shopper. If you’re on the hunt for a great little device, then you could definitely do worse than the iPhone SE.
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.