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iPhone SE Review: First impressions

iPhone SE Review Scoring Summary

Style & Handling
User Friendliness
Feature Set
Battery Power
Overall Score grey star
Pros Cons
+ Speedy processor - Disappointing front camera
+ Good price - No 3D Touch
+ Premium design - Average battery

Verdict: The iPhone SE is a top tier compact handset. It doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but it excels at the basics.

iPhone SE Review and Specification

As popular as the iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus are there are still a large number of people who miss the days of 4-inch iPhones. Thankfully it seems those days aren’t quite over, as Apple has just launched a new one dubbed the iPhone SE.

Other than being small the iPhone SE is almost a match for Apple’s latest flagships, with a powerful processor and a great camera. Yet with prices starting at £359 it’s a lot cheaper. So is this the phone that fans of the iPhone 5S have been waiting for? Read on for our first impressions.



There are no corners cut in the design of the iPhone SE, though rather than following the look of the iPhone 6S it’s heavily inspired by the iPhone 5S. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same.

The phone is clad in an aluminium shell that’s 7.6mm thick, in gold, silver, space grey or rose gold. Its edges are a lot less curvy than the iPhone 6S and it arguably looks a bit more dated for it, but it’s still a gorgeous design and avoids the ugly antenna lines of the iPhone 6S.



The main selling point of the iPhone SE is its compact 4.0-inch screen. But while it’s small it’s every bit as sharp as the display on the iPhone 6S, with a pixel density of 326 pixels per inch. That’s thanks to a resolution of 640 x 1136.

There are sharper screens, especially over on the Android side of the fence, but the iPhone SE’s display is still quite crisp and it’s high quality too. It’s not quite as bright as the screen on the iPhone 6S, but the contrast is good. The main thing it’s lacking is 3D Touch, so the interface won’t respond to different amounts of pressure.

But for most people that’s likely to be a small loss and something that’s worth losing if you particularly want a compact handset. The iPhone SE is small enough to easily operate with one hand or fit in the smallest of pockets.

Of course the flip side to that is that it can be cramped to type on and doesn’t bring video to life in the same way as a larger screen, so it’s definitely not for everyone.


The iPhone SE has a 1.84GHz dual-core Apple A9 processor paired with 2GB of RAM. That’s exactly the same spec as the iPhone 6S, so this is no second-rate handset. It’s got flagship power in fact, easily enough to blast through any apps and games you can throw at it.

Importantly this also helps ensure it will continue to deliver solid performance years from now. This is all the more impressive given that the iPhone SE is a lot cheaper than the iPhone 6S and is likely to be seen as a relatively budget handset.


For the most part it’s good news on the camera front too, as the iPhone SE inherits the 12MP rear snapper from the iPhone 6S. This is a great camera that also outperforms most smartphones in low-light.

Plus, it has a dual-LED flash and supports Apple’s recent Live Photos feature, so you can turn your images into short clips. The video camera is similarly powerful, as it can shoot in up to 2160p at 30fps or in slow motion 720p at 240fps.

The reason we say that it’s only good news for the most part is because the front-facing camera hasn’t been treated to the upgraded lens found on the iPhone 6S. Instead it’s got an older 1.2MP one. It can still take reasonable quality shots, especially as the screen can be used as a flash, but it’s a bit of a disappointment when most of the hardware is a match for Apple’s latest flagship.



If you’ve ever used an iPhone you’ll instantly be familiar with the interface on the iPhone SE. But even if you haven’t it’s easy to get around. It runs iOS 9.3 which is arguably the most intuitive and slickest mobile interface there is.

Feature wise there’s not really anything new here, but it has the Touch ID fingerprint scanner and support for Apple Pay. It also has an M9 motion coprocessor, allowing it to track steps and other activities without using the main processor. That same chip allows you to activate Siri by just saying ‘hey Siri’, so you can use it hands-free.

Battery Life, Memory and Connectivity

Apple hasn’t revealed the size of the battery in the iPhone SE, but it’s thought to be a 1642 mAh. More important than size though is how long lasting it is and that Apple has revealed. The company claims that it can keep going for up to 13 hours of internet use, 13 hours of video playback, 14 hours of talk time, 50 hours of audio playback or 10 days of standby time.

That translates to at least a day of life. In fact, for most people it will probably last beyond 24 hours, but it’s not going to stretch to two days unless you really don’t use it a lot.

Memory comes in at 16 or 64GB of built in storage. It’s a real shame that Apple insists on sticking with 16GB and isn’t offering a 32GB option, which would be far more useful. As it is we’d recommend stumping up for the 64GB version, since there’s no expandable storage.

Connectivity options include Wi-Fi, 3G, 4G, Bluetooth 4.2 and NFC. Though note that as with other iPhones, NFC is only useable for Apple Pay.

Early verdict


Based on our first impressions the iPhone SE looks to be a near perfect combination of the style and size of the iPhone 5S and the power and features of the iPhone 6S. That could be a winning combination, especially given its low (for Apple) price.

It’s not quite perfect. The lack of Touch ID and mediocre front-facing camera are two areas where it loses out to the iPhone 6S. The limited storage options are unfortunate too and Apple still hasn’t made a phone with two-day battery life.

But if you want a compact handset with flagship specs the only other one even worth considering is the Sony Xperia Z5 Compact and if you want a small iPhone the iPhone SE really is the only worthwhile choice.

iPhone SE Specification

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: 640x1136 pixels 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
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