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The iPhone SE is substantially identical to the iPhone 5S on the outside. It has the dull edges and the Apple Logos on the back, it is made of Aluminum 6000, and on the bottom, we can see the iPhone inscription combined with the abbreviation SE, with a style that recalls the iPhone 6 and 6S. The most significant aesthetic variant is the “new” rose gold color, which is added to the three already existing ones.
Thanks to its smaller size, but also to its narrow-size, the new and ergonomic iPhone SE sits comfortably in the palm of your hand and you can reach with your thumb even the farthest corner of the screen – although in this case, it is perhaps preferable to change the grip.
The 4-inch screen has a resolution of 1136×640 pixels, and a PPI of 326. It does not display as much content as larger models (the iPhone 6S reaches 1334×750 pixels, the 6S Plus 1920×1080). And it’s certainly not possible to use the 2-story view in the full view mode, which is available on the 6s.
Everyone who is used to a larger model will certainly have a bit of a claustrophobic impression at the beginning, a suddenly smaller window for the Internet and applications. But after getting used to it, you don’t seem to notice anymore. Conversely, you do not have to move your hands to reach all the commands or to activate one-hand mode (Reachability Mode). In some cases, it is very comfortable.
For those downgrading from a bigger iPhone, you will miss the 3D Touch, the feature that makes the screen sensitive to the amount of pressure applied to make the controls more responsive. Some will not care, but for some, it will be a defining feature.
The iPhone SE uses the Apple A9 SoC, a 64-bit, a dual-core chip with a frequency of 1.85GHz. The GPU is a PowerVR Series 7XT and there are 2GB of RAM. It’s powerful enough, and it’s also associated with a screen with (relatively) few pixels to manage; performance is as expected at all times.
The M9 co-processor, like the one on the iPhone 6S, is used to constantly monitor movements, allowing constant listening for the “Hey Siri” command, without compromising energy consumption.
The cheapest model has only 16GB of space, which many will find inadequate. We know that this product exists mainly to promote the 64GB model and basically help Apple maintain high margins, but there are definitely some consumers who can live well with only 16GB available. For most people, though, the 64GB version is the one to get.
As for autonomy, Apple officially declares 14 hours of conversation, 13 hours of browsing and video playback, 50 hours of audio playback and 10 days of standby. After our test, which involves intensive use of the smartphone, the result is 12 hours and 38 minutes of autonomy.
The iPhone S was developed with iOS 9.3. For this model, in particular, it is important the introduction of Night Shift, a software function that changes the color temperature of the screen, towards warmer colors, in the evening hours to prevent the blue light sleep disturbance. It should be more useful for people who use their mobile phone right before going to sleep.
There is also the possibility to protect your Notes with a password or fingerprint and keep anything you want strictly confidential. It would be nice if this option were present on all installed applications, but for now, we have to settle for the Notes.
There is also the Apple News app: it is basically a news aggregator that takes articles from different sources and presents them in a personalized form. The Health app now includes a list of compatible apps and integrates data collected through Apple Watch. Finally, there’s Car Play that integrates your iPhone into your car – if you have a compatible vehicle or an aftermarket car radio that supports it.
The rear camera is the sharpest improvement compared to the iPhone 5S, a smartphone that in its time was a benchmark for mobile photography. The result is deep trench isolation and Focus Pixel.
The first term is a solution aimed at isolating pixels from each other, preventing them from contaminating each other by creating aberrations in the final image. The other is to help better the quality and speed of the focus. The camera sensor is 12MP.
The image signal processor (ISP) integrated into the SoC manages the balancing, exposure, face detection, dynamic adjustments, image selection, and tone mapping to preserve sharpness and detail in various lighting conditions. These are the things you need to make your images more real. The iPhone SE camera can also shoot 4K video at 30 FPS, as an alternative to 1080p/60 FPS.
On the front we have the same camera already seen on the iPhone 5S, improved by the new ISP and Retina Flash (the use of the screen to illuminate the scene). The 5MP sensor we find on the iPhone 6S would have been preferable, given how many consumers usually use it for selfies and videos.
There is also the Live Photos function, a combination of images and videos to create “Harry Potter” shots. It’s not a feature that everyone needs or will like, but those with children or animals can certainly appreciate it. In addition, with iOS 9.0, Live Photos are a little faster.
The iPhone SE integrates a 19-band LTE modem with 150 Mbit per second and Wi-Fi 802.11 ac without MIMO technology, with a theoretical maximum speed of 433Mbps.
Who should get the iPhone SE?
The new iPhone SE is the most natural choice for those who already own an iPhone, have to change their device and want to stay with Apple. This new model costs less than the iPhone 6S and, more importantly, it’s an answer for those people who find the 4-inch format the ideal one.
The new iPhone SE can also be of interest to consumers looking for their first smartphone. It can also be a good option for those coming from a different operating system and want to dip their toes to the iOS world, as long as the size fits the bill.