• Full Review
  • Specifications

Full Review

iPhone SE Review: First Impressions

The iPhone SE is an unusual product for Apple, launched at an unusual time. It’s not the company’s next flagship, instead it’s a compact 4.0-inch phone that’s designed as a cheaper alternative to the iPhone 6S.

But despite starting at just £359, or £31 per month on Three contracts, it’s also not really a successor to the budget iPhone 5C, as it’s far higher end than that phone ever was. That all sounds promising, but is it any good or are you better off sticking with Apple’s established range of phones? Read on for our full review.

Screen

The iPhone SE has a 4.0-inch 640 x 1136 screen with a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch. That’s the same pixel density as the iPhone 6S, so it’s quite sharp. The 4.0-inch size will seem positively tiny to anyone used to most recent smartphones, but that’s one of its main selling points, as it makes it easy to use one-handed and easy to slip into a small bag or pocket.

iPhone SE Review: First Impressions

It doesn’t feature the 3D Touch pressure sensitive technology of the iPhone 6S, but otherwise the iPhone SE’s screen seems almost as good, with accurate colours and good viewing angles.

Design

The design of the iPhone SE is heavily inspired by the iPhone 5S. In fact, it’s almost identical. It has an aluminium body in silver, space grey, gold or rose gold, with strips at the top and bottom in a different colour.

It’s slim at 7.6mm thick, but not quite as slim as the iPhone 6S and it’s not as rounded either. It’s somewhat subjective as to which phone looks best but the iPhone SE undeniably looks good and high-end.

Power

There’s a 1.84GHz dual-core Apple A9 processor and 2GB of RAM powering the iPhone SE, which is the same as the flagship iPhone 6S. That makes it very powerful indeed and easily capable of running the latest apps and games.

iPhone SE Review: First Impressions

In fact, it can just about rival the latest flagship Android phones for speedy performance, so don’t think of the iPhone SE as a budget handset.

Camera

The iPhone SE has a 12MP rear camera with large pixels that let in more light than most smartphone snappers, making it better in low light situations.

It also has a dual-LED flash, so that colours come out naturally when using it and it supports Live Photos, allowing you to combine several images with audio, to make a sort of short looping video. It’s feature-packed then and capable of taking top quality stills.

Its video skills are strong too, as it can shoot in up to 2160p at 30fps or 720p slow motion at 240fps.

The one area which isn’t quite as impressive is the front-facing camera, as this is just 1.2MP and doesn’t have an LED flash. However, it can light up the screen to far beyond its normal brightness and use that as a flash and the overall quality of pictures and videos taken with it still seems reasonable.

Features

The iPhone SE isn’t lacking for features. It has Touch ID for example, so you can secure the phone with a fingerprint. It also supports Apple Pay for contactless mobile payments.

iPhone SE Review: First Impressions

Thanks to its M9 motion coprocessor it can accurately track steps and other activity without engaging the main processor and wasting battery. That same chip also allows you to use Siri hands free, by simply saying ‘hey Siri’. In terms of software it runs iOS 9.3, which is slick and polished, with a rich app ecosystem.

Battery life, memory and connectivity

The iPhone SE is thought to have a 1642 mAh battery, which isn’t massive but it has reasonable life. Apple claims it can last for up to 14 hours of talk time, 13 hours of internet use, 13 hours of video playback, 50 hours of audio playback or 10 days of standby time. In practice that translates to easily a day of life, but it’s not going to stretch to two days unless you're very frugal in your use.

The iPhone SE comes in 16 and 64GB sizes, but be aware that like other Apple handsets there is no microSD card slot here and the OS uses up a chunk of the space, so 16GB can feel very limiting.

Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC (though only for Apple Pay).

Conclusion

The iPhone SE might not be Apple’s next flagship but it’s almost as exciting. If you’ve been waiting for a high-end compact phone this could be the handset for you, as it combines a small screen with top tier specs and all the polish you expect from Apple.

The battery isn't perfect and it's a slight step down from the iPhone 6S in a couple of ways, such as the front-facing camera and lack of 3D Touch, but these are small complaints, especially given the lower cost. Overall the iPhone SE is a fantastic handset, the phone the iPhone 5C should have been and the successor to the iPhone 5S that we’ve been waiting for.

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Specifications

Specifications

Dimensions (mm): 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6
Weight (g): 113
Battery capacity (mAh): 1642
Colours: Space Grey, Silver, Gold, Rose Gold
Screen size (inches): 4.0
Resolution: 640 x 1136
Pixels per inch (PPI): 326
Processor: 1.84GHz dual-core
Processor make: Apple A9
RAM: 2GB
Internal storage: 16/64GB
Expandable storage up to (GB): N/A
Camera: 12-megapixel and 1.2-megapixel
Operating System: iOS 9.3