iPhone SE Hands-on Review

Nice phone. 400 at the Apple Store. I bought it because I am looking to get a new car radio and Apple Car Play is currently better than the android alternative. The build quality is top notch. It’s definitely the most reasonably priced of Apple’s phones. Samsung and Apple are always really expensive though. In my opinion Android is the better OS due to how flexible it is. However, for every day use the difference is negligible.

iPhone SE
iPhone SE

Having tried an iphone 6s, and owned nearly every version up through an iPhone 5s, I’ve concluded that the iPhone SE is my favorite iPhone. If, like me, you value portability and ease of operation with a single hand over larger screen viewing area, this phone may be what you’re looking for.

The SE has the exact same form factor as the 5/5s. If you’re familiar with it, you know what you’re getting. If you’re not, and only know the 6 series, then you’ll find the SE is a half millimeter thicker, but considerably smaller in area. It also has a more squared off shape along the edges, in contrast to the rounded edges of the 6. Look carefully at the product photos for the distinction. I find that the harder edges of the SE give me a better grip on the phone than the rounded contours of the 6 series, and of course, being smaller, it will be easier to grip in any event. I like that I can use this phone with one hand. My hands are just large enough that I could use the 6s okay with one hand, but the SE is much more comfortable for this. The display is also the same as the one in the 5s. It’s nothing special, but it’s a good, solid display.

The marriage of the SE’s smaller size with the power of the 6s is the real advantage of this phone. Internally, it is for the most part an iPhone 6s, meaning an A9 processor, a full 2 GB of RAM, and most of the other bells and whistles that come with that added processing power, such as Touch ID. In actual operation, iOS 9.3 runs quickly and smoothly on the SE, and it’s speed at performing tasks is indistinguishable from the 6s. The Touch ID on the SE is the version from the older iPhone 6, but I find it works just as well and about as fast as the newer Touch ID system on the 6s. Comparing to online videos of the 6s Touch ID speed, my SE is maybe just a tiny bit slower than the 6s, but it is also just a tiny bit faster than the 6. Graphics are also as fast as the 6s, in some cases measurably (but probably not noticeably) faster because of the lower power demands of the smaller screen. The rear camera is excellent, the very same 12 MP iSIght camera that’s also on the 6s. It also takes Live Photos, as well as HDR photos, and can capture 4K video. Battery life is great. I can go for a day with calls, text, maybe thirty minutes of internet use, and an hour of gaming, and walk away with about 70% charge. Like the 6s, it also has Apple Pay, but I don’t use it, so I have no comment about it. The WiFi specification has been upgraded from the 5s, and is now 802.11ac.

So, what are the tradeoffs? The 6 series, of course, has bigger screens than the SE, which also means they have higher resolution. The 6s screen did look better and appeared brighter to me. Likewise, normal two-handed typing is also easier on the 6s. I have to pay more attention while typing on the SE. Also, the SE does not support 3D Touch. For those unfamiliar with it, 3D Touch is a pressure sensitive screen input system that allows you to perform certain actions by the intensity of a touch on the screen. I personally didn’t find it very useful, but others are quite happy with it. The front-facing camera on the 6s is quite a bit better than the one included on the SE; selfie artists and Face Time users should take note of this. The maximum storage for the SE is 64 GB, so anyone needing more will have to look to the 6 line. Evidently, the SE’s modem does not include support for as many LTE bands as the 6s, and this may be in issue if you plan to use the phone in some foreign countries. Also, the 6s has MIMO WiFi so it should have faster maximum throughput than the SE.

Bottom line: this is a compact, easy-to-handle, yet really powerful phone. It’s a big performance step up from my 5s. I prefer a phone I can keep for at least 3 years, and I think the SE has enough power that it will be able to run future iOS versions well enough for me to do that – time will tell. At least until iPhone 7 is released, the SE will give me a phone that’s nearly as powerful as Apple’s top of the line, but which I can easily put into my front jeans pocket (well, more easily than the 6s, anyway) and that’s exactly what I was looking for.


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