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It seems like everyone these days wants one of Apple’s best selling iPhones, but with price tags ranging close to a thousand pounds for top end flagships models, for many of us an iPhone is out of budget. And then along comes the iPhone SE, Apple’s first mid range device, with its affordable price and great performance too. Apple show us that not only can they dominate the top end of the tier, but they’ve got the more budget conscious covered as well.
Why should you want an iPhone SE? It’s got some serious power under the hood and it’s certainly fast, but it’s also got a great rear camera as well, and an improved battery to boot. Whether you’re an Apple fan or not, this is a fantastic choice for a mid range hand set.
The iPhone SE looks almost identical to the older iPhone 5 model, which is hardly surprising since they use the same light metal chassis. And this could only be an iPhone, with those slim, sexy lines, rounded corners, and minimalistic design. The SE feels premium and sturdy, and sits neatly and securely in the palm of your hand.
Aside from those stunning looks, the SE gets some nice internals as well. You’re looking at top end Apple processing power, and a top end camera as well, not to mention that much improved battery. If you’re looking for decent performance at mid range prices, then you’ve found it.
For many, the low price tag on the SE is going to be its major selling point, given that it’ll set you back around £250 less than a top end model. However, the SE has a lot to give, and that performance really is excellent. If you’re mid range shopping, then you definitely need to consider the iPhone SE on your list of options.
Performance should be the first thing you look at on a smart phone, though it’s difficult to compare Apple spec number with those of Android, particularly since Apple are pretty closed mouthed about actual numbers. The SE looks to be running a dual core 1.8 GHz processor with Apple’s newest A9 chipset, and about 2 GB of RAM. That means a fast, responsive device that’s great at multi tasking as well.
As an iPhone it should come as no surprise that the SE is running iOS. You’re getting the new iOS 9.3 out of the box, giving you that familiar and intuitive user interface that you love with some new tweaks. Siri, for example, now gives more proactive advice and suggestions. Plus, you get added stability and security with the new OS version too.
Ignoring the tech talk for a second, the average user is going to find that the iPhone SE is more than satisfactory. Performance is fast and responsive with no hint of lag, even when running multiple processes. The SE will do anything you need with plenty of speed.
Obviously, some compromises have had to be made to get that low price, and the screen is one of those. First up it’s a four inch display, which isn’t as bad as it sounds. Four inches is more than enough real estate for comfy on screen typing, and it does mean that the SE is very portable. Putting the device in a shirt pocket or bag is easy, and you hardly notice it’s even there, a refreshing change from today’s big screened devices.
Resolution wise you’re not getting HD, the SE comes in with 640 x 1136 pixels, giving you about 326 PPI. In practice though, the picture is sharp and colour resolution is very good. This is an LED backlit LCD screen, complete with IPS, giving you great viewing angles no matter where you are.
No, it’s not HD. However, for general use the display on the SE is decent, and at these prices, can we really complain? As long as you’re not watching HD video you’re unlikely to notice much difference at all, and colours are particularly good, blacks are deep and whites are bright.
The excellent rear camera is one of the main features of the SE. But first, let’s deal with that front facing cam. At the front you’ve got a mere 1.2 MP device. That’s not great, but since you’re likely to be using it only for video calling or the odd selfie, it should be fine.
Moving around to the rear though, and you’re getting the same 12 MP camera that you find on Apple’s top end iPhones. It’s got dual tone LED flash for great natural lighting, phase detection auto focus, HDR and 4K video. You can also record 4K video and take 8 MP pics simultaneously, giving you the best of both worlds.
Whilst the front cam is a slight disappointment, that rear cam is simply excellent. Add in Apple’s easy to use camera software and you’re looking at perfect pictures every time. Apple make solid cameras in general, and the SE is no exception to that rule.
There are two other things that we really should talk about with the iPhone SE. The first is that you do get that fingerprint scanner. Obviously, this gives you better security on your device. However, it also allows you to use digital payment systems that require fingerprint authentication. You’ll have NFC as well, so you can use Apple Pay, the manufacturer’s digital wallet system.
Maybe more importantly though is the improvement in battery life. Generally, iPhones don’t get good juice, but the SE is going to change that with its large 1624 mAh Li-Po battery. This should be more than enough juice to see you through the day, and Apple are claiming you’re getting around 240 hours of standby and about 14 hours of active talk time on the SE.
|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|
As a rule iPhones are must have devices, but with huge price tags they can be purchases that are tough to justify. The iPhone SE changes that. It’s got great performance, nice features, beautiful styling, and its affordable too. Mid range shoppers have a whole new option now that there’s the iPhone SE.
When it comes to connectivity you’re getting the usual: WiFi, Bluetooth, 3G and 4G. There’s 64 GB of internal memory built in, but there is no SD card slot, so no adding extra external storage. Apple do give you a cloud account though, so you’ll have extra storage space there should you need it.
Right, what don’t we like? That’s tough. We understand that compromises had to be made, including that screen resolution and that front camera. Though we’d like these two things improved, we’re willing to sacrifice them for the low price. And in honesty, the screen is just fine. All in all the iPhone SE is a great mid range hand set choice, and Apple fans in particular are going to love it.
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.