iPhone SE: Is Less the New More?

Dr. Mac’s Rants & Raves
Episode #176


Apple introduced the iPhone SE earlier this year and I’ve been testing a 64GB model for the past couple of months. While it looks like an iPhone 5 or 5s from the outside, inside you’ll find thoroughly modern guts based on the iPhone 6s.

Apple calls it, “the most powerful phone with a 4-inch display” and I see no reason to quibble. For starters, its 64-bit A9 processor makes it up to three times faster than an iPhone 5s, and its integrated M9 motion coprocessor lets you use more features with less drain on the battery.

Speaking of the battery, although the iPhone SE is significantly smaller and lighter than iPhone 6 or 6s models, with less space for batteries, I was surprised that its battery lasted almost the same as my significantly larger iPhone 6s Plus. Part of this was surely due to fewer pixels to light up on a 4-inch screen but it was impressive none the less. I fully expected the iPhone SE to have shorter battery life than it did, but that wasn’t the case.

Sizing up iPhones (left to right): iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone SE
(photo courtesy Apple, Inc.)

In addition to processor upgrades, the iPhone SE sports the same highly-regarded 12-megapixel iSight (back-facing) camera as the iPhone 6s, with support for all the goodies the 6s brought to the party last year: Live Photos, HD and 4K video, and frame rates up to 240 frames per second. And while the FaceTime (front-facing) camera is still the older 1.2-megapixel design—not the 5-megapixel model in today’s iPhone 6s and 6s Plus—it supports Retina Flash with TrueTone lighting, so it captures better images with less noise than the iPhone 5s (but not as good as 6-series iPhones).

I like the 3D Touch feature on my iPhone 6s Plus and was disappointed it’s not available on the iPhone SE. But I got used to not having it pretty quickly. Another thing I noticed is that while the iPhone SE does support Apple Pay, it uses the first-generation Touch ID sensor, so it takes slightly longer for it to recognize your fingerprint. That’s not a huge deal, but after using the iPhone 6s Plus with lightning-fast fingerprint recognition, I definitely noticed.

But neither of those would have been a deal breaker for me. I really liked the iPhone SE’s size. It slipped into pants pockets too small for my iPhone 6s Plus so easily, and worked in shirt pockets where my 6s Plus is awkward.

Sadly, while I really did prefer the iPhone SE’s smaller size, my big fat fingers and aging eyes prefer the bigger screen and virtual keys of my iPhone 6s Plus.

So, although the iPhone SE wasn’t the right iPhone for me, it may be right for you. The only way to know is to visit your local Apple store and hold one in your hand. You’ll know within minutes if smaller is better for you.

And that's all he wrote...

iPhone SE. Available in Silver, Space Gray, Gold, and Rose Gold for $399 (16GB) or $499 (64GB). www.apple.com.