New four-inch iPhone SE is set to replace the older version, but is it really all that different?
If you’re one of the millions still using one of Apple’s four-inch iPhones, then the company has plans for you.
Last week Apple released the iPhone SE, to replace the almost three-year-old iPhone 5S. The iPhone SE is the first of up to four handsets the company may launch this year and bolsters up the lower end of the range.
As well as first-time buyers and those with a smaller budget, the tech giant is targeting customers who haven’t upgraded to the larger iPhone 6 handsets. Many users prefer the smaller dimensions of the older phones over the phablet-style of newer devices. Customers had “pleaded” for a new handset that bucked the trend of ever larger screens, said Apple at its keynote event on Monday.
But apart from the size, what else does the iPhone SE have to offer?
iPhone 5S users will find little in how the phone looks to tempt them to upgrade. It’s not because the SE is unsightly, but rather its design is practically identical to the older device. The only differences are a matte finish on the bevelled edges and a new rose gold colour option.
Both phones feature aluminium cases measuring 4.87ins x 2.31ins x 0.3ins with round volume buttons, flat sides and glass caps top and bottom. The SE is a fraction heavier, at 3.99oz to the 5S’s 3.95oz.
Again, there’s no real change here. Both devices use a four-inch LCD screen with a resolution of 1136 x 640 and a pixel density of 326ppi, although Apple says the SE’s screen is up to three times brighter than the 5S’s.
Pre-reveal, some touted that the iPhone SE would get Apple’s pressure-sensitive display, allowing it to have 3D touch capabilities as on the iPhone 6S. The rumours were quiet ones, though, and rightfully so – for now, 3D touch will remain an option on flagship iPhone models only.
While the design and display is virtually unchanged – maybe not such a vital thing, considering Apple is selling much of this phone on its size – the hardware is new, with much of it plucked from the iPhone 6S.
The iPhone 5S uses an eight-megapixel rear-facing camera with a 1.2-megapixel setup on the front. On the SE, this is bumped up to a 12-megapixel camera capable of 4K video recording. It has a wider f/2.2 aperture, too, meaning it should outperform the 5S in low light. Also new are the 240 frames per second (fps) slow-motion capabilities and Live Photos.
The SE retains the 5S’s 1.2-megapixel front-facing FaceTime camera but with the addition of Retina flash, which also allows for better photos in low light.
Inside the identical casing is an iPhone 6S-inspired overhaul. The iPhone 5S uses Apple’s A7 chip mated to 1GB RAM. This is bumped up to the A9 chip from the iPhone 6S and 2GB RAM. Apple claims the new phone has double the processing power and four-times the graphics performance of its outgoing entry level phone.
The iPhone SE also has an NFC chip, bringing ApplePay to all iPhones in the current range, and the battery has been upgraded. Gone is the 1560mAh cell used in the iPhone 5S and in its place is a 1642mAh unit. Combined with processor upgrades, Pocket Lint reckons users should see a decent leap up in battery life.
Specs-wise, the SE retains the 16GB entry level storage option. A 32GB phone is off the cards – the only other choice is a 64GB handset.
SIM-free prices for the Apple SE start at £359, a £20 drop on the price of the iPhone 5S. The 64GB option weighs in at £439.
Tesco Mobile has the cheapest deal of the networks who have announced their tariffs so far. The £26.50-a-month offer for the 16GB model gives 1,000 minutes, 5,000 texts and 1GB of data, with no additional costs.
You can get the same model at Carphone Warehouse on its iD network for a one-off fee of £99.99 and a monthly cost of £21.50 over 24 months, giving you 300 minutes, 5,000 texts and 500MB of 4G data.
If you don’t fancy any upfront payments but want more data than just the standard 500MB, USwitch.com recommends grabbing the handset from EE for £29.99 a month. This tariff comes with 1GB of data, 500 minutes and unlimited texts.
The 64GB iPhone SE is markedly more expensive on all UK networks.
Of course, if you’re not convinced by Apple’s new offering, the 16GB iPhone 5S is now available from all the major networks for around £18 a month with no upfront handset cost.
Full reviews are yet to surface, but early hands-on impressions suggest Apple has added a compelling smartphone to the bottom of its range.
According to Slashgear, the SE presents a familiar experience but with optimised hardware that really makes a difference. It feels “significantly faster” and introducing some of the latest machinery means it’s been fairly future-proofed. The SE and the 5S are in “different leagues”, it adds.
Engadget is also impressed, saying the iPhone SE feels like a “compelling blend of old and new” and that Apple’s entry level option no longer feels like a second-rate device.
However, not everyone is convinced. Kate Knibbs, writing for Gizmodo, says the SE is more a “shrewd marketing strategy” than a new handset, arguing that there’s nothing fresh in terms of design and software and that the phone is just an 5S with a “moderate gut upgrade”.
As such, Apple really has to market the hardware if it is to encourage iPhone 5S users to upgrade – although the SE could be a bit of a coup for first-time buyers, who are getting an iPhone 5S with iPhone 6S goodies at a slightly cheaper price.