Apple doesn’t do budget phones, why would it, there’s more money in high-end devices and people seem to like the aspirational nature of Apple’s devices in the same way we lust after expensive cars and nice fashion. But the SE is the answer to a different problem for Apple, namely how to get its hardware into the hands of people who want to spend less each month, or just people who like small phones.
And the SE is a clever idea indeed because it leverages a design Apple already spent money developing, and uses hardware from the company’s newest handset. You don’t have to be an Apple fanboy to appreciate how that gives the company something which can be sold affordably, without shortchanging the people who buy it wanting a modern smartphone.
For me, the iPhone SE is a great reminder of how much I liked the 5S. Back when that phone came out I remember thinking that this was the moment the iPhone became a device I wanted to carry on using, rather than just happily handing back at the end of its loan period. That’s a feeling that I got with Samsung’s Note range, and then the Galaxy S6 too. I tend to rely on that as my instinct about a device, and if it’s something I’d pay my own money to own.
These days I think I’d still go for the 6S, but the SE works for another type of user primarily, and that’s my wife. Like a lot of people she’s sick of sub-par cameras and slow user interfaces. The SE offers the antidote to that, and it’s small too – something else she’s very insistent upon. Not everyone loves a phablet as I do, and that’s fine. It’s these people who will likely rejoice over the SE, because for the first time in a long while they’re not having to compromise performance for the sake of a smaller phone.
Apple offers the SE in 16 and 64GB variants. I’m not telling you anything you haven’t probably heard before here, but please don’t buy the 16GB model. These days with a few apps, some 4K video and your Spotify offline music and you’ll be looking at a full phone. I’d rather there was no 16GB model offered, but I can see that the advantage its lower price offers to those looking to cut their outgoings. Indeed, conversations I’ve had with people have suggested this remains an issue for some. Even so, my “paper napkin maths” strongly suggests that the jump in price from 16- to 64GB is well worth the $5 per month you’d end up paying.
I only collected my iPhone SE last week, but I wanted to post some initial thoughts as I start my testing process. My initial reaction to the SE is that it feels like rekindling an old friendship. The phone feels familiar, but at the same time offers a selection of new features that will give people a reason to buy this phone rather than battle on with their aging 5S. As a parent with small children, Live Photos and that 12-megapixel camera with fast autofocus remain important to me, so I’m glad they’re here. In terms of size, I think it’s a touch smaller than I’m used to, but hey, we used to manage with smaller phones!
I’ll have a full review soon, in the meantime these images should whet your appetite. Questions? Put them in the comments and I’ll make sure I consider them for the full review.