Best value Apple iPhone SE

Apple iPhone SE Review

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Lowest price Product: Apple iPhone SE - 16GB Factory Unlocked - Space Gray (CR) - $239.99
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Price history for Apple iPhone SE - 16GB Factory Unlocked - Space Gray (CR)
Latest updates:
  • $239.99 - November 14, 2017
  • $239.00 - October 13, 2017
  • $259.99 - September 15, 2017
  • $264.92 - September 3, 2017
  • $279.99 - August 25, 2017
  • $445.59 - August 16, 2017
  • $265.00 - July 20, 2017
  • $269.94 - July 2, 2017
Since: June 17, 2017
  • Highest Price: $445.59 - August 16, 2017
  • Lowest Price: $239.00 - October 13, 2017
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“New-ish wine in An old bottle”

Finally, there’s a new iPhone in town, but it’s not what you might have expected. The iPhone SE is not a successor to the iPhone 6S, but a smaller, more affordable cousin. It is the most affordable phone the company has ever launched and is aimed at people who don’t want any of the large screened devices currently available but prefer a more portable solution.

This new 4-inch device has specs which are reminiscent of the 6S with many of the internal components staying the same. With prices starting from $399, it is also the Apple device which can entice people who are on a tight budget to make the switch to iOS.

Design

The iPhone SE is almost identical to the older iPhone 5/5S. This makes the handset much smaller than the current generation iPhones, and consequently, easier to handle. The design is iconic and Apple is probably reusing it to keeps costs down. It still oozes quality, however, with the aluminum body feeling solid. The buttons are strong and the device is small enough for one hand operation no matter how small or large your hands may be. But, because of the limited space, people with larger fingers might take a while to adjust, especially if moving from a larger device.

There are a couple of design elements that aren’t perfect with the SE. For instance, the screen bezel is a bit wide, meaning that you don’t get a lot of screen area. If you are used to the rounded metal edges on newer, you may find the edges on the SE a bit sharp, if you don’t use it with a case.

Display

Apple has retained the same 1136×640 display it had used in the iPhone 5S. With a pixel density of 326ppi, the screen is sharp but lacks the punch of newer displays. It also has a reddish tinge to it which becomes pronounced in certain angles. Compared to newer displays like on the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge or even Apple’s own iPhone 6S, this screen really looks its age.

Having said that, overall it is pretty decent and is sharp enough for web pages and bright enough to use in sunlight.

Camera

Photography has always been one of the stronger suits of an iPhone and the SE packs the same 12MP shooter found in the iPhone 6S. Even though it may seem inferior to the cameras found in the Samsung Galaxy S7 or the LG G5 on paper, this camera delivers exceptional images in a variety of settings.

Not only is the photo quality excellent, it is also very simple to use. The lens is quick and uses “Focus Pixel” technology for fast focusing. Noise is minimal and photos look lifelike and natural compared to some of its higher-end competition. In low light, image quality does suffer a bit. A narrower aperture and lack of optical image stabilization cause to the loss of photos details in dark environments.

The camera lets you record 4K video at 30fps. Moreover, there is a slow-mo option which records videos at 120fps in 1080p and 240fps in 720p.

While the rear cam is excellent, the front cam is disappointing. It is only a 1.2MP lens which takes much poorer shots than almost all competing models. This is a complete step down from the 5MP lens of the iPhone 6S and it is a surprise that Apple has decided to go for such a weak front-facing camera.

Performance

The SE has the same dual-core A9 processor as the 6S which helps it perform like a true champion. In fact, because the screen resolution is lower than the 6S, the SE manages to outperform its older brother in some hardcore gaming tests. Even with all the power it has, the device doesn’t heat up a lot and some small but important features, like the Touch ID work like a breeze.

Performance is nearly identical to the 6S but improvements in efficiency mean that A9 processor uses less battery life. The M9 co-processor further reduces power drain when the phone is on standby or waiting for a signal. One major feature that the SE lacks is 3D Touch which lets you access certain additional features by pressing down on the screen. But, if you are not used to this technology, you may not even notice that it is gone.

Unfortunately, Apple continues to feel that the storage for an entry level device should be 16GB. This is very limiting especially because the iPhone doesn’t support expandable memory. There is no 32GB option either, which makes the 64GB variant a more worthwhile buy.

Battery Life

The battery in the SE is only slightly larger than the 5S, but Apple claims that battery life has been improved by 50%. The phone does have impressive staying power and easily lasts for about a day-and-a-half of normal use. Netflix streaming over Wi-Fi at 70% brightness lasted for around 11 hours which is great! While battery life certainly beats the iPhone 6S, it doesn’t quite reach iPhone 6S Plus levels.

Compared to many Android flagships, the SE lacks wireless charging and fast charging capabilities. But, one hour of charging with a Lightning cable gives fills the battery about 60% and the phone can charge fully from zero in about two hours.

Final Thoughts

PROS:
  • Compact size
  • Excellent camera
  • Great performance
  • Long battery life
CONS:
  • Sub-par front camera
  • Average display
  • Starting storage only 16GB

It may not be the most cutting-edge device that Apple has produced, but the Apple iPhone SE has plenty to excite buyers who are looking for a cheaper iPhone which is portable and performs well.

9.7 Total Score
Excellent!

Design
9.1
Performance
9.8
Camera
9
Battery Life
9
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