Apple is trying to expand the iPhone line by offering an enticing model in the 4-inch segment. The iPhone SE, which stands for “Special Edition,” but the SE could very well be considered a rehash of the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5s, which haven’t been made available as new products in over two years. With the success of the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus in various markets, it made sense for Apple to focus on the holdouts. More than 50 percent of iPhone users haven’t upgraded to the iPhone 6 format and there are very good reasons for that which the iPhone SE aims to answer.

  • An important factor. Price could very likely be the main reason why Apple loyalists have avoided going for the larger iPhones. These are the most expensive iPhones ever sold—even the 16GB variants cost a lot in comparison to other smartphones.
  • Looks familiar. The look and feel of the iPhone SE is identical to the iPhone 5 family. Subtle changes include a shiny Apple logo like that found on the iPhone 6s (the older version was etched), the SE branding at the lower bottom of the rear and the addition of a matte chamfer around the iPhone SE’s border. There’s also a new Rose Gold variant, which looks different in various types of light and can look pink, gold, or copper depending on the surroundings.

Sample shot from the iPhone SE

  • Blast from the past. The iPhone SE has the same exact display as the iPhone 5s and because of the unibody design, it also has the older 720p HD iSight camera. I’ve used the iPhone SE for two weeks as my main smartphone (a challenge, considering I had both the LG G5 and the HTC 10 in my possession). Coming from larger smartphones, the first thing I needed to adjust was my eyesight as well as having to fumble through the smaller on-screen keyboard.
  • Size matters. What I love about the iPhone SE is that it’s small and can easily fit in my shirt pocket or in my jeans without that feeling that the edges are tearing through the fabric. Small is beautiful and it’s also convenient. I forgot how awesome it is to whip out a phone and with one quick gesture, be able to take a photo. I like how I can access all four corners of the iPhone SE with one hand and just how solid and friendly the phone felt in my hand.
  • New accessories not necessary. A big bonus is that I have a lot of iPhone 5 cases that I really liked and the ones I didn’t give away still fit the iPhone SE perfectly, including the Mophie case which, apparently, I no longer need because of the iPhone SE’s exceptional battery life.
Sample shot from the iPhone SE.

Sample shot from the iPhone SE.

  • More power than ever. Just like how carmakers sometime revive a popular consumer model and soup it up with a powerful engine, race-tuned suspension, and upgraded brakes, the iPhone SE feels very much like a supercharged iPhone 5. With the same Apple A9 processor as the iPhone 6s and 2GB of RAM, the iPhone SE actually puts its smaller size to good use. In a smaller screen, there are fewer pixels to push and spaces to fill so the iPhone SE just feels incredibly fast. iPhone SE handles multitasking well.
  • A shooting maven. It’s a great smartphone for people who love to take photos. iPhone SE has the same top-shelf 12-megapixel camera found in the iPhone 6s. It can shoot 4K video as well as access a wide range of apps and controls that make taking photos incredibly rewarding. I was simply delighted to see some of the photos the iPhone SE took on a bright sunny day, thanks mostly to the f/2.2 aperture, 12-megapixel resolution, and Apple’s built-in post processing which gets it right for most shooting conditions. Too bad though that the older iPhone 5 display on the iPhone SE doesn’t make it a great place to view those photos or videos.
  • Putting it all in. Apple has smartly decided to put the best specs and camera in the iPhone SE, which gives many of the premium features users of larger iPhones love. Best of all, the thicker case of the iPhone SE makes it possible to place a better camera without the camera bulge that many believe is an eyesore on the iPhone 6 line of devices.

Sample shot from iPhone SE.

  • Time for an upgrade. Apple has long relegated older iPhones as their entry-level option. The iPhone SE is a new approach. It uses familiar hardware and desired performance and features into a seamless and compact form factor that will easily get lovers of smaller iPhones to upgrade. The iPhone SE gives you better performance from the latest processors, larger RAM, and makes available the impressive iPhone 6s camera in a smaller, cheaper body.
  • Juice up. Battery life is also surprisingly adequate and surpasses the iPhone 6s mostly because of the smaller, lower resolution display as well as the thicker case, which can maximize the battery life.
  • It’s not perfect. The iPhone SE also inherits some of the issues that plagued the iPhone 5. My first review unit had to be sent back when the on/off button stopped being responsive, the second model worked just fine.


The Apple iPhone SE may have diminutive stature but it has the features that count where it matters the most. Using the device, I remember the time when the best smartphones were smaller and felt more compact and innovative. Funny that it took six-month old technology in two-year-old device hardware to make me appreciate this.

Apple iPhone SE (2)

Test: iPhone SE
Form Factor8
Build Quality8
Ease of Use9
Value for Money8
8.6Overall Score
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About The Author

Gadjo Cardenas Sevilla

Gadjo is a freelance journalist based in Toronto. He has covered technology, business and lifestyle for a variety of publications. He currently a technology columnist for international magazines, newspapers and websites.

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