Review: Apple iPhone SE | iLounge

Review

Review: Apple iPhone SE

B+
Recommended

Company: Apple

Model: iPhone SE

MSRP: $399-$499

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Phil Dzikiy

Pros: A smaller, lighter iPhone. Reasonably priced. Users with smaller hands should find it easy to use. Familiar 5s design is still an attractive winner. Upgraded internals (A9, M9, 2GB of RAM) allow phone to leap past the iPhone 5s and compete with the iPhone 6/6 Plus — it’s faster than you might expect. Camera is largely on par with iPhone 6s. Battery life is excellent. Has no issues with running newest iOS update at this point, and shouldn’t for a while.

Cons: Smaller phone means smaller display. Not introducing any new technology. No 128GB option, and we wouldn’t recommend the base 16GB option to anyone at this point. No 3D Touch. Outdated FaceTime camera. Onscreen keyboard harder to use for those with larger hands. Slower Touch ID. Standard LTE/no MIMO Wi-Fi.

If you’re familiar with the design of the iPhone 5s, you won’t be surprised by what you see in iPhone SE. It’s almost the same phone, externally. The handsome metal-and-glass body is the same. (If you are downsizing, we doubt you’ll miss the antenna lines or camera bump found in the larger iPhones). The dimensions are the same — 4.87” x 2.31” x 0.3” — with the SE barely heavier, at 3.99 ounces compared to the 3.95-ounce 5s. Touch ID, circular volume buttons, speaker, sleep/wake button located on top of the iPhone….all the same. Apple points out the SE’s all-new matte-chamfered edges and stainless steel, color-matched Apple logo on back. They’re nice, but you may notice them once, and then move on without ever really thinking of these tweaks again. Even though this is basically a 2013 iPhone design, some users still consider it one of the most attractive, nice-to-hold iPhone designs — if not the best — ever created. If you’re of that mind, the SE will make you happy. And now you can get a rose gold version of that design.

Anyone moving from the iPhone 5s should obviously have no issues with adjusting to the SE’s form factor, and it won’t be much of a challenge for users of other smaller or older smartphones. But how does it feel for those planning on downsizing from an iPhone 6/6s or iPhone 6/6s Plus? Unless you have gargantuan hands, handing the phone itself won’t be much of an issue. It’s smaller, so obviously, you’ll be able to reach all the physical buttons easier with one hand, to say nothing of how much easier it’ll fit in your pocket. The tradeoff, just as obviously, is a smaller display. It’s a 4” Retina display with a lower contrast ratio and a lack of the dual-domain pixels found on the larger iPhones, which cuts down on the SE’s viewing angle a bit. So you don’t get the big screen, and yes, it probably will be missed. It sounds simplistic, but it’s true — it’s hard to get a smaller, less impressive display and feel like you’re not cheating yourself a bit.

The other issue with the smaller screen comes into play as soon as you starting using the iPhone SE. Unless you’ve got small hands, typing just won’t be as easy on the SE’s onscreen keyboard as it is on the iPhone 6/6s/Plus. We found ourselves making a number of uncharacteristic, unforced errors while typing. Now, some people do have small hands. Others may simply prefer to text and type one-handed, and the SE is better in this regard. But the feel and size of a device are personal thing, and we still think the Plus is best for texting and typing.

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Editors' Note: iLounge only reviews products in "final" form, but many companies now change their offerings - sometimes several times - after our reviews have been published. This iLounge article provides more information on this practice, known as revving.

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