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iPhone SE – Did Apple really pack the power of an iPhone 6s into a 4-inch device?

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Two weeks after clicking that order button, Apple’s latest introduction to their smartphone family finally arrived at my door… The iPhone SE.

After a quick trip to the local pound store for an emergency SIM card (another story for another time), I was able to power up and activate my new phone and begin to see what this new beauty had to offer.

It’s probably worth noting that my previous phone was Apple’s very popular iPhone 5c (which I originally bought as a temporary replacement phone but ended up keeping for well over a year), so I think it’s pretty fair to say that no matter which iPhone I bought next, it was always going to feel like a massive improvement.

The decision to go for the SE came down to how it was marketed; all the power and (most) features of the iPhone 6s packed into a conveniently sized 4-inch device.

Naturally I was quite sceptical about whether this really would be the case, as I’ve fell victim in the past to this kind of marketing (notable examples include the Sony Xperia Z Compact and the Samsung S4 Mini) and felt rather disappointed with what kind of phone I really got.

But it turns out Apple really have done a solid here. This phone really is a 4-inch iPhone 6s! Well, pretty much.

I went for the Silver 64GB model, added Apple Care+ and also threw in the Midnight Blue Leather case, to bring my purchase to a total of £547. Had I have gone for the 6s equivalent (which I really almost did, mainly to save myself the two week dispatch time for the SE), I would have ended up spending £763.

But was that saving of over £200 worth it?

What’s in the box?

Inside the always ever so beautifully packaged Apple box:

  • An iPhone SE
  • Apple EarPods
  • 5W USB Power Adapter
  • Lightening to USB Cable
  • A few papers/booklets (presumably manuals and/or warranty info I didn’t care to read)
  • SIM Card Tool

Pretty standard stuff, although new earphones included are always a nice touch.

Visuals

The iPhone uses the exact same design as the iPhone 5s. The only differences that tell them apart is that the SE has the a small SE marked on the back of the device, and the SE can also be bought in Rose Gold. This pretty much means that if you choose any of the other colours, and you have the phone facing screen up, you really can’t tell which is the SE and which is the 5s.

Performance

Like I said earlier, coming from an iPhone 5c, it was always inevitable that the difference in performance was going to be awesome. But even without comparison, this phone really does live up to its 6s counterpart in terms of performance. I was able to get my hands on a 6s to compare the two properly, and both phones are just as fast as each other. I downloaded a couple of games that I could never enjoy properly on my 5c, mainly due to slow performance, and gave them a try on the SE (I’d say San Andreas and WWE 2K were the two most demanding games I played) and I had no issues playing them whatsoever. Performance wise, it felt like I was playing them on the 6s.

The only real difference I noticed between the two was that the iPhone 6s was slightly faster at unlocking the phone via Touch ID. I wouldn’t say this is an issue though as normally you wouldn’t be using the SE in one hand whilst using a 6s in the other to actually notice the difference (or maybe you would, who knows?).

One other difference is that the SE doesn’t have the 3D touch feature introduced for the iPhone 6s. Personally this wasn’t a problem for me, it probably wouldn’t work as well on the SE anyway due to the difference in size between the two devices.

Battery

The battery is where my main concern for this phone lay. I also use an Apple Watch, which means I always need Bluetooth enabled on my device.

The battery on my 5c wasn’t particularly great as it was, but with the purchase of an Apple Watch and always having Bluetooth turned on, the battery on my 5c wouldn’t even make it through the day.

With the SE, I’ve found that I can start my day with full charge, and end the day between the 40-50% mark. I personally don’t like leaving things charging overnight (extreme paranoia on my part), which as you can imagine was an issue with the 5c, I’d usually wake up to a drained phone. The SE however hardly loses any battery life during the night. I do leave the device in Do Not Disturb mode whilst I sleep, and I always have Mobile Data turned on (I avoid using Wi-Fi wherever possible as I pay for unlimited 4G data). So it’s safe to say I am really pleased with the SE battery.

Now I’m aware this won’t always be the case. Mobile batteries do eventually lose their full capacity and will start to drain quicker. Fortunately, I will be covered for this thanks to including Apple Care+ with my purchase (£79 for the SE), as part of the service includes ‘coverage against battery depletion of 80 per cent or more from original specification’.

Still, it sucks that the batteries don’t last all that long, but I guess that’s just the way she goes.

Camera

The camera on the SE is probably my biggest surprise. If Apple were going to cut short any features from the 6s for the SE, I would have bet it would be camera. But again, this isn’t the case. The SE packs a camera which is of the same standard as that of the 6s.

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Photo taken on the SE

It has the 12 MP rear iSight camera found on the 6s, which includes the ability to shoot video in 1080p at either 30 or 60fps and the ability to shoot in 4k at 30fps.

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Another SE photo

The slow-mo video feature is also present with options to record in 1080p at 120fps or 720p at 240fps.

The front facing camera is a slightly different story though. Rather than the 6s 5 MP front facing, the SE packs a slightly less 1.2 MP front facing camera, but is still capable of shooting 720p video recording. Not a massive deal for me personally but the differences are there.

Also included with the SE camera is the Live Photos feature. This cute little feature basically means that your iPhone will capture the first second or so before and after taking a photo so when looking back at the photo, you can hold it to display a small, live video clip of the photo. It’s nothing ground-breaking but it has provided me with some laughs in the short time I’ve had the phone, particularly when looking back at the countless selfies my friends decide to take after stealing my phone when I’m not looking. Really hilarious, guys….. -_-

Other Features

One of my favourite features included on the SE is Apple Pay, a contactless transaction feature introduced with the iPhone 6.

Providing your bank supports it, Apple Pay allows you to make debit card transactions seamlessly through your phone using NFC.

You add your debit card to the phone’s built in Wallet app, confirm it with your bank, then when paying for something simply bring up the debit card on your device (an option to bring it up by double tapping the home button is available), place your Touch ID finger on the home button and once prompted, hold your device next to the contactless reader and wait for the confirmation. I’ve seen a lot of mixed reactions about whether or not contactless transactions should even be a thing, but personally I find Apple Pay to be quite convenient, especially when using on Apple Watch (despite the odd looks I get off employees behind the counter at my local KFC).

The Verdict?

It isn’t common for a company to release a compact version of their flagship product without making some pretty hefty sacrifices. With the iPhone SE this really isn’t the case. For a minimum price of £359 (or $399), minus a couple of features that don’t negate the overall performance of the device at all, you really are getting a compact version of the iPhone 6s.

I am genuinely very impressed with the iPhone SE and am so glad I didn’t give in to my temptation to spend the extra £200+ for what would have essentially been the same phone but .7 inches bigger.

I understand that a lot of people out there really do prefer the bigger screen size, and as such, this isn’t the phone for you. But if you’re a current owner of a 4-inch iPhone and are looking to upgrade, but have been perfectly happy with your current device’s display size, the iPhone SE really is the perfect upgrade, at a pretty unbelievable price!

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