iPhone and iPad Product Reviews

iPhone SE Review

Tim Brookes 08-04-2016

Apple’s newest iPhone is the smallest produced by the company since the release of the iPhone 5s in 2013 Should You Choose The iPhone 5s Over The iPhone 6? Before you go straight for the new iPhone 6 or even the 6 Plus, why not look into the iPhone 5s instead? That's what I did – and I couldn't be happier. Read More . Despite being crammed with the latest hardware, you’d struggle to tell the two apart on face value.


If Apple’s decision to release not one but two larger iPhone models Should You Buy The Bigger iPhone 6 Plus? The term "phablet" very much applies to Apple's recently announced iPhone 6 Plus, but there's more to it than just a bigger screen. Read More displeased you, the company is now offering the iPhone SE as a peace offering — but can a smaller iPhone still fit the smartphone-shaped hole in your life? Let’s find out.

In With The Old

Physically, the iPhone SE looks and feels identical to the iPhone 5s. Absent are the smooth rounded edges found on Apple’s post iPhone 6 smartphones, the camera doesn’t protrude awkwardly out the back, and the power button has once again migrated back to the top of the unit.


That’s because the iPhone SE uses an identical chassis, with only an extra gram added to the weight this time round (113g). Complete with small round volume buttons, the SE I reviewed even looks a little bit like the stainless steel iPhone 4 thanks to the choice of reflective metallic grey and black accents.

Under the hood it’s a different story. Apple has crammed the internals of an iPhone 6s (our review iPhone 6s Review and Giveaway Spoiler alert: if you like iPhones, you’re probably going to love the iPhone 6s. But are you really surprised? Read More ) in there, complete with A9 processor and a mighty 2GB of RAM. As expected, iOS flies with barely a stutter, and that extra gigabyte of RAM improves multitasking performance What's New in iOS 9? Want to know what features your iPhone will be getting with the release of iOS 9 in September? Curious as to whether your device will be compatible? You're in the right place. Read More so tabs and apps don’t fall out of memory like they do on older iPhone and iPad models.



The 4″ screen means a return to the iPhone 5’s resolution of 1136 x 640. Brightness is comparable with the larger models, but I did notice that the SE display seems a lot warmer, bordering on “yellowish” at points. The contrast ratio is noticeably worse than my iPhone 6, and the whites really could be whiter, though you’ll probably get used to it after a while.

Photo and video performance is also on-par with the iPhone 6s, which means you can shoot 12 megapixel still images, 4K video at 30 fps, 1080p video at 60fps, as well as 1080p and 720p slow-motion video at 120 and 240 fps respectively. The 6s is no longer the only iPhone that can shoot Live Photos Here Comes the iPhone 6S: What’s New & Should You Upgrade? The good news: the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus has just been announced. The bad news: your iPhone is now out of date, and you'll need to sell a kidney for the latest model. Read More , with the iPhone SE capturing a few seconds of videos with each photo (if you want it to).



TouchID seems just as fast as the iPhone 6s (it’s faster than my iPhone 6), and the quoted 14 hour battery life is accurate based on my usage. That’s surprising given the fact that the battery gains that accompanied the iPhone 6 were attributed to a larger chassis making way for a larger battery. Apple has managed to squeeze more power out of a smaller cell, which hopefully signals some even bigger gains from flagship models in future.

Not Quite a 6s

Obvious differences aside, the iPhone SE differs from Apple’s flagship smartphones in a few other crucial ways. One feature that’s missing is 3D Touch, which might be a big deal if you like the latest and greatest technologies Why 3D Touch Might Make You Switch to an iPhone Android fans: we can no longer claim we have the best smartphone. Read More in your iPhone.


3D Touch adds pressure sensitivity to the iPhone’s touchscreen, which allows you to interact with your iPhone in a couple of neat new ways Everything You Can Do With 3D Touch on Your iPhone 3D touch is really just a fancy name for a pressure-sensitive screen, but adds a whole array of extra input options to iOS. Read More . You can squeeze a link in a message to see it pop up in a Safari window without leaving the app, or press hard on an app logo to be given a list of available functions, like taking a selfie with the camera. You can even use the feature to accurately position the cursor by squeezing and dragging, but all of this functionality is absent on the iPhone SE.


This is probably a side-effect of Apple reusing older technology, which would also explain the poor contrast ratio and off-whites. It wouldn’t be such a talking point if the feature didn’t feel like such a game-changer on the flagship models, but coupled with a slightly lacklustre LCD panel it means that the iPhone SE’s display is one of the weakest parts of the package.


The latest 6s and Plus-model refresh added an improved 5 megapixel forward-facing FaceTime HD camera, but the iPhone SE doesn’t have this either. Though Apple has improved selfies through the use of Retina flash (which uses the display itself to brighten and balance exposures), the camera itself remains at a functional 1.2 megapixels.

The SE only comes in two capacities: 16 and 64GB. If you’re not going to be shooting tons of Live Photos and 4K video Live Photos & 4K: Why You Shouldn’t Buy a 16GB iPhone 6s If you want to take advantage of the new iPhone 6s camera, you'll probably want to avoid picking the 16GB storage option. Read More , you might get on ok with the smaller model; but if you’ve got a hunger for 128GB you’ll need to go for a 6s or Plus instead.



As a package, the iPhone SE feels quite different to Apple’s larger models. It’s not as thin as the flagship, it doesn’t feel as sophisticated, and aesthetically it’s something we’ve all seen before. In the hand it feels angular and a bit old hat — but that might be because it reminds me of the iPhone 5 so much.

Despite the impressive hardware and camera performance, the SE doesn’t feel like a brand new iPhone. The hardware may be new, but the using the phone feels a bit old; and it’s going to feel a lot older when the next wave of flagship iPhones arrive in September.

You, Me, and the iPhone SE

But what the iPhone SE lacks might not matter a whole lot to you, because there are benefits to be had too; the most obvious being the price. You’ll pay $399 for a 16GB iPhone SE, compared to $649 for an iPhone 6s. You can even save a few bucks and use your old iPhone 5 or 5s case.


If you like your smartphones small, this is a truly pocketable iPhone you’ll have no trouble using with one hand. I’d forgotten how nice it was to have so much room in my pocket since upgrading to the iPhone 6. Being an iPhone it comes with pretty much everything you’d expect from Apple in terms of smartphones — Apple Pay, TouchID, Siri, and Apple Watch support too.

The phone itself has the best hardware we could have expected from a “cut-price” iPhone. It’s a bit of a stretch to expect a company to debut new processors and technologies in anything other than its flagship, and the inclusion of 2GB of RAM means it should remain snappy for a few generations of iOS yet.


It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but nor was the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus when they were first introduced. Even if you were resistant to Apple’s changes when they made the leap from 4″ to the 4.7″ screen standard, you might not find yourself convinced to accept a smaller device again.

I went in search of some anecdotal evidence to confirm this. My partner only upgraded to the iPhone 6 when she had to, and even to this day has issues fitting the larger model in her pockets and using it one-handed. She’s already one-strike into her accidental damage Apple Care cover after dropping it and cracking the screen, but she still told me that she wouldn’t choose the SE over the 6s as it felt like a downgrade.


If you’ve been holding out for a few years with an iPhone 5 or 5s, then you might think very differently. It feels just like a faster, up-to-date 5s. It’s not hard to get along with, because it’s a well-built, high quality smartphone that’s powered by a well-supported, stable and secure operating system.

But be warned — going from a larger device to the smaller SE is a jarring experience. Things feel a lot more cramped on the smaller screen, and typing feels challenging again. I made a lot more typos inputting usernames and passwords, and autocorrect goes a long way when typing at speed elsewhere.

To SE or Not to SE

If you’ve already adjusted to a larger iPhone, the iPhone SE probably isn’t for you. But if you’re upgrading from an older model or you’d simply like an iPhone without paying top-whack, the SE offers the Apple user experience in a budget package. If you only upgrade your phone every 3 or 4 years (or longer), the iPhone SE may suit.


If you’re done with Android (or Windows Phone) and you’re looking for a more affordable entry point into the Apple ecosystem, the SE is may be a step down from the flagship models but you’ll get access to the App Store and enough power to run everything in it. This may be favourable if you’re not bothered about a massive screen, which seems to be a hallmark of many Android devices.

If you really struggle with larger phones and you’ve been craving a smaller iPhone, the SE should tick the boxes but you’ll wish it felt a little more purpose-built and less recycled. Maybe you’re just not bothered about the latest and greatest technologies, and a simple user experience, solid camera and wide array of available software is what is most important to you — the SE will do the job.


If you’re budget conscious and looking for a large screen, you might be better of opting for a larger Android device like the Nexus 5X ($349), provided that iOS and Apple’s ecosystem isn’t one of your prerequisites.

Nice Things, Small Packages

The iPhone SE feels a little mis-matched in Apple’s current iPhone line-up. In terms of look and feel, it doesn’t really fit in with the direction the smartphone took with the arrival of the iPhone 6, though reusing the older chassis does have a certain “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” charm to it.

But this doesn’t stop it from being a brilliant 4″ smartphone, if you can live with a slightly disappointing smaller display and those sharp edges. The iPhone 6 and 6s may have spoiled us in terms of feel, features and screen real estate but that doesn’t mean Apple’s new budget iPhone doesn’t pack the punches where it counts.

Our verdict of the iPhone SE:
Don’t write it off just because it’s smaller and looks like the iPhone 5, but be prepared to admit you may have outgrown the dated 4″ screen since Apple introduced larger displays.
7 10

Send your products to be reviewed. Contact James Bruce for further details.

Related topics: iPhone SE, MakeUseOf Giveaway.

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  1. Amaan reshi
    February 28, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    The iphone 5SE comes with a digital fingerlock which is quiet different from the previous models and it makes a hell lot of difference by its 12 megapixels facing camera which makes it unique though it adds a better exprience for the users who are intrested in buying even smaller and compact sizes of iphone .It infact is the best version from all other models and provides the best feature of VOLTE.I would love to get one from Apple....

  2. Madkeda
    September 24, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    I really want one my I love them so much

  3. sam
    August 24, 2016 at 11:49 pm

    could I have an iPhone se, please

    August 4, 2016 at 7:25 pm

    I would love to win. The iPhone se is perfect for me and I have an old messed up phone. THANKS!!!

  5. Roman Zhylinsky
    July 10, 2016 at 11:18 am

    I don't trust

  6. Amy Serra
    June 18, 2016 at 9:07 pm

    i never had an apple product its very expensive here in Portugal.. ive tried many times .. well hope i win *-* . Good luck all

  7. awesomejunior1
    June 6, 2016 at 7:00 pm

    Please give it to me

  8. Iya
    May 25, 2016 at 5:40 am

    i want to win an iPhone SE desperately. i love its features . I'm so tired of my old android phone. It keeps on lagging and it has low memory. So pls letme win this

  9. Anonymous
    May 3, 2016 at 8:00 am

    I won, ahahaha.. I hope so..

  10. Jarrah JS
    May 2, 2016 at 7:48 am

    Who Won!!!!! :D

  11. Enoch Lim
    May 1, 2016 at 4:45 am

    Who won the contest?

  12. Bunny98
    April 30, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    Really hope I win! Been stuck with a Windows phone for 5 years and its just decided to break!

  13. Jiri Sedlar
    April 29, 2016 at 1:09 am

    Seems like a good move by Apple. This could be my first iPhone.

  14. Stevan Valdez
    April 26, 2016 at 3:16 am

    Iphones are the best ever phone... We all admit it... I will be the happiest and Luckiest individual if I will have such wonderfull Apple Iphone Operating System thing... In any of it... ^_^

  15. Dave Carpena
    April 26, 2016 at 12:44 am

    Hello, there. I'm either getting this phone through a stroke of genius of the claw machines or just waiting until if I have the money to get a new one. My iPhone 5 is malfunctioning to due to problems with battery consumption. Either this will be a remedy or i'll just find another way. Carry on, makeuseof. I humbly wait in 4 days time until the final countdown. Good luck with the growth on this website, it counts!

  16. Shweta
    April 23, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Can I please please please have this phone??? I have been obsessed with it for sooo long now and it is really expensive here in India!!

  17. Logan
    April 17, 2016 at 11:48 pm

    PLEASE OH PLEASE. All I have is this computer I live in a country of bombings if I could get this I could call my friend who fled with his family.

  18. jefferson buenaflor
    April 17, 2016 at 12:06 pm

    i wan't to have even one iPhone :)

  19. Paras
    April 17, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Would love love love it!

  20. Dinsel Amores
    April 16, 2016 at 6:51 am

    Hi, I don't have enough money to buy these things :(. Please choose me, please give it to me. ;(

  21. Sandy
    April 14, 2016 at 4:46 am

    I want this one please ??

  22. Rap
    April 13, 2016 at 6:58 pm

    Want this

  23. anes
    April 13, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    i hope that! algeria sender

  24. KFC
    April 13, 2016 at 5:37 am

    Really, I'd be the luckiest person to win this rather a million dollar lottery.

  25. David
    April 13, 2016 at 4:22 am

    Some people seem to think the iPhone SE is bad because it uses an old chassis. Well, I for one, never really liked the look of the new iPhone. So, cut it out.

    I also have multiple opportunities to use the iPhone 6S, and I just don't like it. Sure, the screen is bigger, but it's heavier, quite a bit larger, and can't be used comfortably with one had.

    Hope I get one.

  26. Ed Roth
    April 12, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    This would sure beat the cheap phones I always have to get.

  27. Emil
    April 12, 2016 at 1:37 pm

    It's great to have an option to get an updated phone that fits all my existing cases. I really like the smaller size, and my wife will be glad to not have too much new to learn when she finally replaces her 5s.

  28. Anonymous
    April 12, 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Enter everytime but never win..
    Cross my fingers and wish good luck to everyone!

  29. Tom Louwell
    April 12, 2016 at 10:10 am

    I cant even afford that phone, i can only afford $20 Android Phone, How sad, Just give it to me.

  30. Anthony
    April 12, 2016 at 9:13 am

    Thank you so much i received my package today !!! i love the SE .. thank you apple

  31. Harib Al Rawahi
    April 12, 2016 at 8:10 am

    With all these features and capabilities, I will be most happy to own such a smart smart i-phone

  32. Fredrik Andersson
    April 12, 2016 at 7:56 am

    I have a non smartphones and I must in fact get one.
    Hope I hope to win this amazing mobile phone.
    Love Fredrik

  33. Paul
    April 12, 2016 at 7:33 am

    Brilliant, a smaller phone, with better than average performance, for small hands.

  34. Anonymous
    April 12, 2016 at 6:53 am

    Great giveaway. :)

  35. temp temp
    April 12, 2016 at 6:38 am

    Perfect for me

    good giveaway.love to test this

    Looking for a long time this size phone

    that has advanced hardware

  36. Jon
    April 12, 2016 at 5:55 am

    Perfect for my son's 16th Birthday

  37. VJ
    April 12, 2016 at 5:37 am

    Wow!! Wish to win.

  38. Edward
    April 12, 2016 at 4:21 am

    I love to win this for my mother trying to get her in to Apple. I don't know if we get to pick a Color but she loves the Rose gold. Thank for the opportunity Great review videos

  39. Rishu Kumar
    April 12, 2016 at 4:00 am

    Crazy about iDevices but can't afford one. :P Though it has hell lot of specs for a price like this by apple.

  40. Alfred C
    April 12, 2016 at 2:58 am

    Great giveaway. Love to try it out. Thanks guys.

  41. Anonymous
    April 11, 2016 at 11:17 pm

    Difficult to believe, I know but I've (still) never, ever owned a smartphone. I've never owned anything 'Apple' either. I entered the Galaxy Edge comp (alas, no win) and now thought I'd try this too.
    Good luck to me, lol.

  42. Florette Small
    April 11, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    I would love to own this little phone.

  43. Anonymous
    April 11, 2016 at 3:39 pm

    Good battery & good call quality.

  44. Anonymous
    April 11, 2016 at 7:01 am

    The iPhone SE clocked over 12 hours of video playback which is about 20 percent better than the iPhone 6s it means Great battery life also for new features like Live Photos looks great on the iPhone SE, because color balance is great. i love to buy it from infibeam.com

  45. Artpic
    April 11, 2016 at 12:41 am

    Horrible video review. The guy contradicts himself repeatedly, not aware of adjusting settings to suit his eyes, and plain doesn't understand the concept of this phone in its price point yet at the end of the video he touches on it, thus another contradiction to his earlier opinions.

    • Tim Brookes
      April 11, 2016 at 4:04 am

      Which settings should I be adjusting to suit my eyes?

      I'm more than familiar with the concept of a cheaper iPhone, but this iPhone is still not "cheap" when compared to the rest of the field. I do mention this in the review — I'm pretty sure I recommended it to those looking for a budget iPhone who don't need the latest features and can live with a smaller screen.

  46. Barb
    April 9, 2016 at 10:03 am


  47. Edmond
    April 9, 2016 at 2:21 am

    Thank you for the awesomeness, the contest, and generosity. :)

  48. Anonymous
    April 8, 2016 at 1:56 pm

    Hi i tried to download the app in my Android 2.3.6 but it was not compatible, still got that entry by luck....so this time it had to be me.

    • Anonymous
      April 10, 2016 at 2:23 am

      You get the entry by visiting the Google Play page, not by downloading the app...but, jeez, dude(tte)...upgrade; Android 2.3.6 is ancient and likely insecure. Protect yourself by upgrading to at least 5.1...

  49. Jerice50
    April 8, 2016 at 1:45 pm

    Oh, please!